There’s no doubt the market is heating up for low end budget Android smartphones. Whereas before it was hard to find anything at a low end price which didn’t run like a dog and look like one too, nowadays the budgets have all – mostly – grown up, which is good news for the buyer, even if there’s not so much profit for the retailers. We take a look at one of the newest budget smartphones on the market, and come away pretty impressed.
The InFocus M512 is a new budget phone which really packs in a huge amount of bang for your bucks. Gone are the dodgy screens, pitiful GPS and lousy battery life we’d expect from a super cheap handset. This puppy has the spec and the determination to give you the works, which it does.
The phone comes in a very presentable box, complete with everything you need to get going. Ah wait, actually perhaps not. For one thing the model we got only had a Chinese user manual, and there was no headset, just a power block and USB charge cable. But hey, that’s all you need to use the phone, so maybe that’s all you should get?
The presentation is nice, and there’s no shoddy bits about the phone at all. Unlike some other Shenzhen specials, there are no crude workings on the case, and the buttons and fittings look solid and professional. The back case fits snugly and the whole thing feels solid and chunky in the hand. The specs are pretty chunky too. We’re talking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, quad core processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 4 GB internal storage (with support for up to 32 GB microSD storage. A 5 inch Gorilla Glass screen, with 1280×720 resolution, Bluetooth 4, Android 4.4 KitKat, WiFi, A-GPS, NFC, OTG, 8 megapixel rear camera and a 2500 mAh battery pack (non removable).
The next surprising thing about the phone is how nice it is to use. The screen is very crisp and responsive, considering the modest specification, and the whole thing zips about nicely when you’re navigating from screen to screen. There are a couple of crazy things about this handset, one of which has to do with the fact that it’s a Qualcomm powered beast, namely the insanely fast boot up time. This thing will go from zero to full boot in about 2 seconds from pressing the button. We’ve never seen anything like it, and we’re inclined to believe that it never actually switches off, but instead goes into some sort of ultra-standby where it acts as if completely powered off. Weird. Check out our video run through below to see that and the other bits (including a *very* interesting run-off between 4G and 3G performance!)
The second thing is the fact that the launcher has no app drawer. This is really disconcerting when you first start using it, because you keep looking for the app area, and there isn’t one. Everything you install is immediately placed on a home page, and if you remove it from there, it gets uninstalled. Logical when you think about it, and apparently it’s very efficient on memory (i.e. RAM).
We’ve talked about the build quality above, but it really is pretty evident across the whole product, from the solid nature of the Gorilla Glass screen, to the rear structure under the casing. There’s only one SIM slot, surprisingly, and the battery is sealed in to the unit and can’t be removed by the user, but apart from that it’s fairly conventional, and everything works as it should, including the GPS and the NFC functions.
The app performance is also great. Despite it apparently ‘only’ being a quad-core processor, it’s more than a match for some of the cheapo octa-cores on the market, with an Antutu Benchmark score of around 17,199 or so. It’s not a screamer, but it will hold its own against most phones out there right now, and just remember the price, eh?
The same applies with things like GPS and app performance for things like web browsing and games. We could see no real problems with the gaming performance at all – as you’ll see in the video above – the GPS lock was fast and maps tiled smoothly and reliably. The only thing we noticed is the unit gets hot, and we mean hot, when used for turn by turn GPS satellite navigation, so you need to be aware of that if you do a lot of GPS work with your phone in the car.
The only other thing worth mentioning is the 4G performance, which is actually fine, except for the fact that 4G LTE is itself a bit of a moveable feast nowadays. So much depends on your location, the quality of your service provider and whether they’re throttling or not. And that doesn’t even include things like making sure your service provider is compatible with a particular mode of 4G LTE. In Europe most are using Band 20 (800MHz), although a few like EE in the UK also use the 1800MHz band. The upshot is this phone will work on some networks (like Three and EE in the UK) but not on others like 02 or Vodafone. It pays to remember and check this before you buy!
3G (left) vs 4G (right)
Even when you do get 4G, you may notice that it’s actually not as fast as you think it should be, and in our tests we found the download to be almost the same as HSDPA+ 3G, although upload speeds where around x5 faster. So make sure your service provider can supply you with the right kind of service, and don’t be surprised if you’re generally not blown away with the speeds you get in any one area. Ain’t technology grand? Take a look at this excellent report on UK 4G for an idea of what we mean.
The camera is also pleasingly really good considering that it’s ‘only’ an 8 megapixel unit. This shows that more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean better images, because the results from our shots are a lot better than most of the cheap 13 megapixel cameras on the MTK chipset phones around at the moment. The shots are clear, nicely colored and don’t suffer from the type of fuzzy edges that many 13 mp phone cameras exhibit currently. Nice one.
Image samples (click on thumbnails to expand. Images are not processed, only resized)
All in all this is an amazing phone for the price. The specifications are top class for a phone of this caliber, and to be honest there’s just about nothing more you will need if you’re going to tick the spec box on your way to buying a new phone. Sure, it won’t match the Tier 1 players in terms of sheer outright performance, but unless you’re planning on playing a lot of high end graphics games, you probably won’t notice. Our only caveat in fact is the heat issue with GPS navigation, but that apart, everything else about this phone is extremely cool indeed. Times have certainly changed in the budget smartphone arena, and we users are the winners once again.
Retail price is $169.99 / £95 (but see below).
[Note: our quoted price in this review includes a generous $10 discount from the advertised retail price of $169.99, which is being offered to Red Ferret readers by the Tabletland online store. To claim your discount (and make the final price $159.99) just enter in the code – CV4G7ND28. Buyers will also get a free 8 GB microSD card on all orders. Don’t say we don’t look after you!]
OS Version: 4.4
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8926
CPU Cores: Quad Core ARM Cortex-A7
Processor Speed (max): 1.2GHz
GPU:Qualcomm Adreno 305
ROM:(internal) 4GB, up to
External Memory: micro sd 32GB max
Display Size:5 Inch Corning Gorilla Glass
Display Resolution: 1280×720 IPS
Pixel density: 294ppi
Touch Screen: Support Capacitive
Multi-touch: Support 10 Point
-2G: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
-3G: WCDMA 850, 1900, 2100MHz
-3G: TD-SCDMA 1880-1920 MHz, 2010-2025MHz TD-SCDMA (Band 34, 39)
-4G: LTE 1800, 2100, 2600MHz LTE-TDD 1900, 2300, 2600, 2500MHz 4G: FDD-LTE (Band 1, 3, 7) TD-LTE (Band 38,39.40, 41)
Mobile network Technologies: UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, HSPA+, TE Cat4, TD-SCDA, TD-HSDPA
tracking/Positioning: GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n
Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot (3G Tethering)
Sensors:Proximity, Magnetic Field, Accelerometer, Gravity, Gyroscope, Light, Linear Acceleration
Mic and Speaker
Battery Size: 2500mAh Li-Ion
Talk time: 2G 9 Hours, 3G about 9 Hours
Standby time: 2G 400 Hours, 3G 400 Hours, 4G 160Hours
Sensor Model: Sony Exmor R CMOS
Camera Features: Auto focus, Continuous shooting, Geo tagging, Panorama, HDR, Face detection, Scene mode
2 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera + 8 Megapixel Rear Camera
Video Resolution: 1280×720 Front / 1920×1080 Back 30fps
3.5mm Audio Out Port
SIM Card Slot: 1X
Micro SD Card Slot: up to 64GB max
Main Product Dimensions:70.8 x 140.5x 8.7mm (L x W x D)
Main Product Weight: 155g