We have a feeling that 2015 will come to be recognized as the start of the era of the Chinese budget phone, which means it’s also likely to be the beginning of a surge in online handset buying. What this means for the main street phone retailers is anyone’s guess, but the signs are that things are going to get pretty precarious, pretty quickly.
The problem is the gap between low cost phones and high end brands is closing up in terms of specifications and real world performance. Sure your new $700 Samsung Galaxy S6 may have class leading benchmarks to boast about, but will the average punter in the street care, if they can run Real Racing 3 at a decent pace on their $299 budget? Doubtful. Anyway, here’s a new entrant to the market, and it’s really offering a remarkable set of specifications for the money.
The SISWOO Monster R8 is not so much a phone, as a tour de force. The specifications speak for themselves. It features a 5.5 inch 1920 x 1080 Full HD touchscreen, 1.7GHz octa-core processor, 3 GB RAM, Android 4.4, 32 GB of internal storage, 13 megapixel rear camera, NFC, GPS, FM Radio and a massive 3350 mAh battery. It also features twin 4G SIM slots (one nano, one micro) and a gesture sensing user interface. Take a look at our video below for a hands on impression.
The first sign that the SISWOO people are trying to do things differently lies in the design of the packaging. Flat, sleek, and containing two boxes with the typical accessories you expect. As well as the charge block, headset and a simple user guide, there’s also a full screen protector application kit, and an OTG cable for attaching external accessories via USB cable. Oh and because this is a unibody design, you get a small SIM removal tool to release the caddy for the twin SIM slots.
Well first things first. Did we mention this is one powerful phone? Well it certainly comes out that way in the benchmarks. We’re not fans of relying on benchmarks, but as a comparative tool they’re pretty useful, and in this case we’re talking a phone which manages to deliver around twice as much punch as your standard quad core handset of yore. With 43052 worth of ranking, this is one mean beast!
But raw speed is not the only criteria we should judge by. There’s also the basic functionality and ergonomics to consider, and in this regard again the phone manages to score well. Bear in mind however that this is a large screen phone, just one step down from a phablet, so you’ll need big hands and a wide pocket. But it’s no larger than the original Samsung Note, which remains one of our favorite handsets for sheer versatility.
As you’d expect with this specification, the Monster R8 flies through all apps and tasks with not a murmur. Satellite navigation, web browsing and games all deliver crisp and instant response, and the screen is responsive and clear. If we have to pick out two things it would be the lack of external microSD storage and the lack of a removable battery, which we still believe are the features that make the Android platform so powerful. However now that Samsung has decided to do away with both features on its new S6, maybe that will change. We really hope not.
Battery life on the handset is also decent, although we did have to engage power saving mode from the outset in order to slow down the battery drain with ordinary use. We’re not sure whether the phone has a default setting which is not power friendly, or whether it was just our early test model, but it’s something users should watch out for perhaps. But the phone still easily gives a day’s worth of general use, so that shouldn’t be a worry at all.
As far as the camera goes, you’re getting what we now consider to be the absolute standard MediaTek camera output. In other words it’s perfectly fine for day to day snaps, but you’re not going to want to rely on it for those low light or extra special shots. You can see our sample photos below (they haven’t been tweaked, just resized down).
The Monster R8 is not a trivial phone in any way. It’s a solid – hefty even – handset which is clearly designed to do the business. The speed of general operation is superbly fast, satellite lock on, app downloads and start ups all work like greased lightning. If you’re serious about your phone computing, then this is a handset which will deliver. You will need to enjoy having a large screen phone in your hand, but the plus side is you get a gorgeously crisp display which can deliver a great browsing experience with less scrolling hassle.
The downsides for us traditionalists are the lack of expandable storage and no way to remove the battery, which we feel are backward steps, but the market is clearly polarizing into those who love carrying around their music and photos on microSD cards from phone to phone, and those who don’t care. But the one ace in the hole for this formidable smartphone is the fact that it comes with dual 4G SIMs, which is probably one of the first budget phones on the market to offer this. If high speed data is your thing, then this is the puppy you need.
Price: $299.99 / £199.44
OS Version: Android 4.4
CPU: MTK6595 Octa Core
Processor Speed (max): 1.7GHz
Internal Memory: 32GB
Display Size: 5.5 Inch
Display Resolution: 1920×1080
Touch Screen: Support Capacitive
Multi-touch: Support 5 Point
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz;
3G: WCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz;
4G: FDD-LTE: B3/B7/B20, TD-LTE: B39/B40/B41; TD-SCDMA: B34/B39
Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot (3G Tethering)
Sensors: Proximity, Magnetic field, Accelerometer, Gravity, Gyroscope, Light, Linear acceleration
Mic and Speaker
Battery Size: 3350mAh
Usage Time: About 1000 Mins
Battery Standby: About 200 Hours (Single card)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n
Camera Resolution: 5MP Front/13MP Back (Interpolation 8Mp Front/ 18MP Back)
Video Resolution: 640×480 Front / 1920×1088 Back
2 (4G/WCDMA/GSM) SIM card slot – 1x Micro SIM, 1x Nano SIM
3.5 mm Audio out port