Starmobile Diamond X1: A hands-on review

Starmobile’s Diamond X1 is a premium octa-core phablet that delivers twice the power of its predecessor for under P14,000

OCTA-PHABLET. The Diamond X1 is the first octa-core smartphone from a Philippine manufacturer. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine smartphone manufacturer Starmobile is set to release before the end of January its first smartphone for 2014, the 6-inch Diamond X1 phablet.

The headline feature of the Diamond X1 is it’s 8-core processor. 

While we’ve seen octa-core-powered smartphones before – like on the non-LTE variant of the Galaxy S4, which came with an 8-core Exynos processor – the 1.7GHz octa-core MediaTek processor on the Diamond X1 uses all 8 cores at once. 

PERFORMANCE

BALANCE. While rather large at 6-inches diagonally, the Starmobile Diamond X1 manages to find a good balance between size and weight. At 7mm it is also Starmobile’s thinnest smartphone. PHOTO by Adrian Portugal / Rappler.

In the limited time we had with the phone, performance was snappy without any noticeable lag. The phone scores 27,101 on benchmarking app Antutu (the higher the score, the better). This is a huge improvement from the 13,533 scored by Starmobile’s other high-end phablet, the Diamond V7. For context, the premium Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet, which is twice the price of the X1, scores 35,165 on Antutu.

Other specs include 2GB of RAM and 8GB of free space. The built-in space is a bit disappointing – we would have wanted to see at least 16GB on the X1. The operating system takes up about 1GB of space, and pre-installed apps, another 5G, so you’ll benefit from an optional microSD card. Starmobile supports up to 64GB, but they recommend going with a 32GB card instead. 

While the X1 is now Starmobile’s top-of-the-line phablet, it doesn’t come with a Full HD display like the Diamond V7. We’re told this is to ensure the “best possible performance.” Surprisingly this shouldn’t make the phone any less desirable. In fact, the 720p IPS display looked pretty good, despite struggling under direct sunlight. In the future, we’d also like to see darker blacks, but this is really nitpicking; colors were vibrant under normal lighting conditions.    

WATCH OUR HANDS-ON REVIEW:

SPECS:

  • Processor: 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor
  • GPU: Mali-450MP4 @ 700Mhz
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 8GB (expandable to 64GB via micro SD card)
  • Display: 6-inch HD IPS (1280 x 720)  / Asahi scratch resistant glass
  • Camera: 18MP AF + BSI / 8MP BSI
  • Battery: 2300 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2.2
  • Dual SIM (one standard size, one microSIM)
  • Dual Band WiFi (2.4GHz, 5GHz)
  • WiFi / Bluetooth
  • Yamaha Speakers
  • 3G / HSPA+


CAMERA

SHARP SHOOTER. Starmobile promises the camera on the X1 is the best they've put on a smartphone yet. Photo by Adrian Portugal / Rappler

Starmobile writes its own image processing algorithms for its smartphones and, as a result, outperforms competition in the camera department. While we didn’t have the time to take comparison photos, Starmobile promises the X1 takes better photos than the V7.  

 

DESIGN

EXTRA LARGE. The 6-inch Diamond X1 is about a quarter bigger than the 4-inch iPhone 5. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

Aside from the octa-core processor, design is the other feature worth noting about the X1.

With this release, Starmobile veers away from the plasticky build that has been it’s trademark. The phone sports an aluminum back plate and frame that gives the phone a premium look and feel. 

When it comes to smartphones, first impressions matter, and when we first saw the X1, it immediately looked and felt like something we wouldn’t mind using.

Because the phone employs a one-glass solution (OGS), the X1 is Starmobile’s thinnest yet at 7mm. The 6-inch display is made of Asahi scratch-resistant glass, which we would have loved to test out but couldn’t, in deference to it being one of the first X1’s ever.

ALUMINUM BACK. The aluminum back-plate of the Diamond X1 is removable.  Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

The back plate is still removable, although removing it is not as straightforward as usual. Instead of just popping off the back case, you remove a plastic cover from the lower back part of the phone first, then slide the back plate off. 

INSIDE LOOK. Removing the back plate reveals the SIM and micro SIM slots, microSD card slot and 2300mAh battery. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

Inside, you have slots for a micro SIM, regular sized SIM, and microSD card. The 2300mAh battery is user-replaceable. 

Two Yamaha speakers located on the top and bottom of the back of the phone provide pretty good audio when playing music via the phone’s speakers. 


SOFTWARE 

ASSISTIVE TOUCH. We preferred the assistive touch buttons because the capacitive buttons were difficult to reach. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

Techies will note that the phone is almost identical to the Intex Aqua i17, which was launched in India in November 2013. While that may be true hardware-wise, Starmobile develops its own software tweaks in-house. 

Small touches – like adding a RETURN button to its texting app (because Filipinos like to text in length) and pre-installing a host of video codecs to its media player – are touches they are proud of. 

We also liked the iOS-like assistive touch feature, which made it easier to access menu, back, and home buttons. We preferred using these onscreen shortcuts than the buttons on the bottom of the phone which, on a tablet of this size, were quite a stretch to reach for. 

The company has also developed an app called Starmobile Sync that allows the transfer of contacts from any phone via Bluetooth.     


PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

The Starmobile Diamond X1 is available in white and black and will retail for P13,999 when it hits retail stores and kiosks on January 30. Rappler.com

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