The phablet race is moving at a scorching pace right now and more so in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment. While the leader of the pack, Micromax Canvas 2, is out of stock, many are vying to take its place in the market as well as buyers' hearts. Lava has launched its own contender in the form of Iris 501, but does it have what it takes to wrest some market share from the top-dogs?
Lava Iris 501 features a 5-inch TFT touchscreen with resolution of 800x480p and approximately 186ppi pixel density. The device runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor, paired with 512MB RAM and comes with 4GB onboard memory, with microSD support up to 32GB. For imaging, the device has a 5MP unit with LED flash on the rear, while a VGA unit graces the front panel. The loudspeaker grille is located on the back and the earphone and microUSB jacks are on top. This dual-sim phone runs on a 2,300mAh battery.
In terms of design, it seems as if Lava has taken a leaf out of Samsung's book while crafting the body of Iris 501. Despite the Galaxy S III-inspired look, the phone does not look as good and the hard cover (bundled in the box) does not help improve its appearance either. Lava Iris 501 has three haptic buttons below the touchscreen, while the usual sensors are placed on top. The volume rocker and power/lock keys are easy to reach and do not hinder the overall experience despite the big size of the device.
The all-new Lava Iris 501 comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) out-of-the-box, layered with the manufacturer's own user interface. Since there is no official word about an Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) update, the phone may lose out to rivals on that front. Preloaded apps in the smartphone include Hike, Saavn, Asphalt HD, Shark Dash and, Fusion (Lava's own music organiser app), among others. The operating system runs smoothly and there was hardly any lag, even when we ran heavy games and multiple apps.
Connectivity options in Lava Iris 501 include the standard fare of Wi-Fi, 3G, 2G, Bluetooth and microUSB. Call quality was decent and we found no usual problems, except in basements and metro trains, which was expected. Web browsing and downloads went on perfectly, but there was nothing extraordinary in the internet experience of Lava Iris 501 that would give it an edge over rivals.
Camera and music
Lava Iris 501 has a 5MP snapper and LED flash on the back, which can be disappointing for some buyers since rival phablets come with 8MP units. However, we were surprised by the picture quality delivered by the device as the level of noise in low-light photos was quite low, whereas daylight images gave decent detail and colour saturation.
Sound quality of the speaker is also great and we never felt that it loses out to rivals in this regard. Video playback became an issue while playing 1080p videos, but that is something that affects all phones with the MTK6577 processor. However, videos shot at 720p ran smoothly and we never faced any lag or app shut-downs.
The phone notched up a relatively impressive (for its price and features) score of 8561 on AnTuTu benchmark. This benchmark app tests the phone on parameters like SD card reading/writing speed, Database Input/output, display, CPU speed etc.
We enjoyed a lag-free user experience on Lava Iris 501 during moderate usage. The dual-core processor, 5MP camera and 2,300mAh battery give serious firepower to the phablet and help stand up on its own in a crowded market. We found it was easy to hold and had decent viewing angles as well as build quality, though looks could decidedly be better.
The chief rivals of Lava Iris 501 are Micromax Canvas 2 A110, Karbonn A21, Micromax A101 and its sibling Lava Xolo A700. All the above-mentioned phones, except Karbonn A21, have 5-inch screens and similar hardware specifications, but has a snappier processor (???? WHO). The high-selling Canvas 2 has an 8MP camera and dual-LED flash, but loses out in terms of internal storage and battery capacity. We say win some, lose some.
We feel that even though Lava Iris 501 loses out on some aspects to its rivals, it offers a decent package as a whole. At a selling price of Rs 9,499, it is a good option for those who want to buy a phablet other than Micromax Canvas 2 A110. It did well on most counts and if you like its looks, you will be surprised how good it can be as a first-time Android device for most buyers.