by Alexei Rivera | December 19, 2011 8:29 pm
Speaking of another oldie (sort-of) – hot in the heels of the Cherry Mobile Nova review, we’ve had a chance to check out another one of the company’s lineup of 2010 Android devices. This time, it’s the 1Ghz large-screen Cherry Mobile Magnum HD. When it was released late last year it made waves as being the most affordable Gigahertz droid available – and to this day it commands a very welcome price of only PHP 11,999. To bring it up to speed with its contemporaries, an update to Gingerbread was released sometime this year, mostly to its merit. But does the extra affordability come with a price (pun), or is the Magnum HD blasting holes in the competition? (pun!) Check out our review below to find out!
How do you get started talking about the design of the Magnum HD? It doesn’t look like a phone from this era of sleek lines and curves. It belongs to a more straight edged, no nonsense “big and flat and metallic is beautiful” kind of philosophy. (See our unboxing video here.) Consequently, it probably won’t appeal to somebody looking for cute, colorful or exotic. Its pretty much an unapologetic rectangular block with a screen situated on the front – and reminds us more of an oversized business card or cigarette case. But we digress. The Magnum HD looks and feels premium enough, and if noticed can be mistaken for a unique mobile phone from a brand that makes men’s accessories. But that might be a problem though – since most of the design has no shape or eye-catching logos. The front is dominated by a 4.1” screen and is covered by most of the touch panel, which also houses the 4 Android buttons. A small lip is beneath that where the microphone is. And on top there’s a speaker grille with notification LED and a front facing camera – which they could have hidden better to make that part look less cluttered.
The back isn’t much of a looker either. With a large metal battery plate placed flush in the middle, accented by a Cherry Mobile badge at the bottom and a 5MP camera module with flash at the top. The sides aren’t much better – though there’s a silver strip surrounding it where buttons pop out to match the design. The top and bottom are completely flat and makes it look like the cigarette case we mentioned earlier. In fact, put a business card case on top of one and hold the sides and you probably wouldn’t know which was which.
All of these though, don’t necessarily make the phone look bad. In fact, exudes a little bit of subdued class that’s generally reserved for well dressed gentlemen. It will probably appeal to some women, but not as much as phones that are designed to be more chic. What’s great about it though is it’s solid build and tough materials. The battery cover is made of metal, and the rest of the boxy construction is tough – as one would expect.
It might not show too well in pictures, but this phone is quite a deal amount of large. And its not because of the 4.1” screen either, as comparing it to 4.3” screen phones shows that – not only is it bigger by dimensions – there’s a larger perceived heft and mass. (Most phones have more tapered, curved edges, while the Magnum HD does not.) We think that the device could have been made a lot smaller by shaving a few millimeters here and there – especially on the bezels and unused spaces. The effect that the large block of phone makes on your pockets is more than noticeable, as the edges can be seen through clothes. So folks with tight jeans or don’t want to look happy when they meet people should probably consider more pockets, a bag, or a different phone.
Aside from the size and design though, there are a few noticeable points. First, is an included mini HDMI port at the bottom, right next to the micro USB port – a nice addition, but only very few need. The USB port gave us some issues – as it was incredibly loose and disconnected quite often. We suspect that its only because the review unit has been around for a year, and the port might have been subjected to some serious abuse. Its doubtful that a new phone will have this issue, but check it out first to be safe. The volume rocker and power/lock buttons are both on the top spine of either side of the phone. While they are easy to press and return good feedback, its easy to hit one while trying to press the other. You’ll get used to it after a while, but definitely could have been improved upon. Finally, the speakers are situated on the bottom parts of the spine and return good, roomy audio.
One rather unusual design flaw is that there’s a large amount of backlight bleed on the lower left and right corners of the screen. We suspect its coming from the backlight of the capacitive buttons, leaking onto the corners. Its quite noticeable when turning the phone on, where it looks like two searchlights pointed to the sky. Thankfully, the issue all but disappears in regular LCD use – except if you spend a lot of time using apps with dark color schemes.
That’s a big phone, bro!
Overall, the Cherry Mobile Magnum HD’s design is very much an acquired taste. A taste for sleek, subdued metallic lines and edges. Far be it for us to judge personal preferences, it comes off as a phone that will appeal to men that’s probably got a suit somewhere in their wardrobes. While for the rest of us, it’s a simple bloc that does the job but might make you look like you’re 3 inches happier down there. And just so we’re not sexist here, ladies will probably pick this up only if they have something to match it with – like a nice cigarette case.
The Cherry Mobile Magnum HD launched late last year with a relatively new Android 2.2 Froyo out of the box – which made it a more preferable smartphone than some of its contemporaries. Since then of course – as with most of the company’s Androids – Cherry Mobile have released an upgrade to this device, bringing it to the even more decent Gingerbread update. (Check out our video on how to update here.) While Gingerbread doesn’t necessarily bring too many improvements to the software, there would be at least one thing you’d like about it – and we’ll discuss that later in the Features section.
Regardless if you’re running Froyo or Gingerbread, the phone will greet you with the usual 5 side-swiping homescreens and vertically scrolling app drawer. Most of the interface looks the same – except the lock screen. There’s a preset four-row lock screen that brings you to the Homescreen, Phone, Contacts, or Messaging apps. You choose which one by dragging each icon to a line an inch or so above it and will instantly launch the app or unlock the phone. However, we couldn’t find any setting on how to change these shortcuts – which is too bad since we’d love to chance one of the icons into the camera app. (Some would like to have Music / Twitter / etc apps on shortcut as well.)
TouchPal keyboard (left) and Gingerbread keyboard (right)
Keyboards that are pre-installed on the Magnum HD include a large boxy one called TouchPal input, and a smaller more elegant one that looks like the stock Gingerbread keyboard. Both versions perform well and respond quickly even with two-fingered typing – and have settings for haptic feedback for better typing. For old school texting fans, TouchPal has a T9 Alphanumeric layout and other versions of the keyboard interface if you swipe left or right. More keyboards are of course, downloadable from the Android Market and there’s a lot you can choose from – try something like Swype or SlideIT if you’re adventurous. You’ll also notice that the messaging app isn’t far removed from regular Android versions – with the threaded conversation view and contact images.
Speaking of contact images, one of the few extra customizations that the Magnum HD has is the Contacts app. Sadly, we feel that it isn’t working to its advantage – as the app has its own syncing process which doesn’t work as well as it should. Even if you log onto the contact apps’ sync feature with Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks the profile matching is done manually one by one – plus it takes a couple of days for it to pull down your whole friends list off Facebook. Stock Androids can do this task much better as the Facebook app has an option to match contacts for you automatically – but not if you’re using a custom People app like the Magnum HD does. Ultimately, we just didn’t bother matching names onto our lists.
Of course, the mantra of the Android repertoire has always been that if you didn’t like one feature or interface, change it. Custom solutions for widgets, contacts, wallpapers, unlock screens, and other such UI capabilities can be install via the Android Market or even installed from outside sources. Feel free to experiment! Minor extra customizations included on the Magnum HD include a scenes customization which kind of acts like a skin for some elements.
One issue we found during the use of the phone was that the touchscreen would become erratic and unresponsive every so often. Scrolling would jump back and forth and sometimes it would select items where our fingers aren’t touching. We found no way to get it back to perfect working order than to just weather the storm – after which the touchscreen would respond well again. It does affect the experience quite a bit so we had to contact Cherry Mobile to let us know if this was a universal issue. Their response was that the problem was an isolated case and that if anyone is concerned they should be rest assured that Cherry Mobile stands by their 15-day Replacement Period and 1 Year Warranty. In any case, just make sure to test your phone for a bit before leaving the store to prevent any hassles if any issues should arise.
The web browser supports Flash
The Cherry Mobile Magnum HD features the usual Android WebKit browser that works particularly well on most web pages. With the capable 1Ghz processor, websites load at a decent clip and are great to read and view on the very ample 4.1” 800×480 screen. What’s more, the phone supports full Adobe Flash 10 support – which means you get the “full” web experience that other smartphones (even some androids) can’t provide. (Pages will load longer with Flash installed though, so turn if off when not needed.)
With the aforementioned 4.1” screen, the device is just asking to be used as some sort of multimedia machine. Thankfully you get the usual Android versions of the Gallery, FM Radio, Music, and Video players which play your favorite media well – and with the side-located speakers returning ample volume and depth. The camera app though is a custom fit job – and while the imaging menus are pretty easy to catch and are reconfigurable to a certain extent, it doesn’t prevent the screen from timing out and turning off. Which means that you shouldn’t take too much time composing pictures – unless you want to keep touching the screen to prevent it from dimming.
Click for full size images
Speaking of the camera, it created some detailed 5MP pictures but weren’t particularly impressive. Images produced didn’t have punchy contrast or saturation – and there seems to be some issues when it comes to overexposure / underexposure when you have a shot with the sky. We might be mistaken in assuming that we should be comparing this phone from other 2010 flagship phones though – since its probably a particularly good shooter against its phones being sold for the same price. The camera app also features a panorama mode, but it doesn’t make sure the resulting parts are lighted the same way or stitched neatly – making the image look like a fancy Picasso impressionist version of the actual landscape.
The video capabilities of the Magnum HD are decent, though won’t be great for a lot of movement – since they only top out at 11FPS for the 720p version. The quality is similar to its still images – slightly washed out with not a lot of punchy colors. Thankfully there’s enough resolution in the video to make out some details and can provide some usable video for home use. The front facing camera provides VGA resolution video (& images) at 9FPS and is at considerably less quality – but should be good for the occasional video chat functionality.
And yes, speaking of video chat – the Cherry Mobile Magnum HD can be used to video chat through Skype! That’s right – probably the single most asked question we’ve been getting is the, “But will it blend?” question. You know, right before the, “Can it do Skype video?” question. Well, thankfully we can answer the latter – and it’s a resounding yes. Just make sure you’re running Gingerbread to get good front-facing camera support.
The Gingerbread update isn’t all candlelight dinners and long walks at the beach though – sometimes its more like a hands-on tour through a pig slaughterhouse too. The new version of the Magnum HD ROM includes a few apps that we didn’t particularly want – as they were designed to start with the phone and keep popping up even if we don’t need it. The most annoying of these would be the automatic UPNP networked media software and the Nero PC Sync app. We couldn’t find any way to keep these permanently turned off – so anytime you step into a WiFi spot with UPNP devices or plug it onto your PC, these apps will popup and remind you how much you hate them. If you’re as compulsive as we are, then you might consider looking for root options if you’re still interested in the Magnum HD.
Finally, since the phone comes out of the box with Froyo, you’ll get the WiFi Hotspot feature – which should prove popular to folks who keep more than a few gadgets around. The phone is also certified to have the Android Market enabled, so you can download as many apps and games to your hearts content – both paid and free.
PERFORMANCE & HARDWARE
Dual core phones generally score over 2,000 points. This single core guy did 1.5k.
As we’ve probably mentioned more than a few times now, the Magnum HD sports a rather large 4.1” 800×480 screen – that’s a good size and resolution in our books. The display won’t win any awards when it comes to brightness, contrast, and colors – but we should really be thankful that a phone at the PHP 12K price range even has a screen larger than 3.2” 320×480. Most people easily discount screen size and resolution, but we think its one of the biggest points to consider when buying smartphones.
As far as the battery goes, you get about 12-14 hours on a full charge. It still falls under the average, but is shorter by about an hour or two. It won’t change your charging regimens at all, but at this point any extra time can enable you to watch more video, leave tethering on, etc.
Performance of the Magnum HD was actually quite impressive – a standout even. It is by far one of the highest scoring 1Ghz phones we’ve ever tested with Quadrant – garnering 1,500+ points. And you can check out our new experimental Android Performance Database page to see how well it stacks up against a range of other droids. Games run at a very good clip and mostly doesn’t miss a beat. We’ve tried it on a couple of classic Android games like Angry Birds & Fruit Slice, but we also played a lot of other newer games like Battleheart & Defender. Scrolling around and navigating were smooth and returned good feedback. (Unless you had one of our touchscreen responsiveness problems.) For apps, you get a very welcome 1.1GB of space – more than enough for (we estimate) 100+ apps. And the total system RAM tops off at 350MB – a number that could be higher, but is a perfectly acceptable number.
One thing we noticed quite prominently was that the phone would really heat up when doing intensive tasks – whether it be through playing games or some heavy web browsing. The back panel of the device, with the metal battery plate, would become quite hot – as metal is definitely heat conductive. This is unfortunate since you hold the phone with most of your fingers over this plate and would definitely get quite warm. We’ve had a couple of phones get warm on us before, but the Magnum HD tops our list of “hot” devices. While it won’t necessarily burn your hand – and we doubt it can cause any damage to the device – it can get uncomfortable under more prolonged use. It’s a little inconvenient, and inelegant – so much so that you might want to tell your friends about it before they start playing on your phone, lest they get surprised from the heat and throw it away in panic. Wouldn’t want that to happen now, do we?
The Cherry Mobile Magnum HD is like one of those big, heavy, supercharged American musclecars. It is unapologetic in its design – doesn’t care that it doesn’t have sleek tapered lines like exotic cars; doesn’t care that it has a massive hood to house a 6 Liter engine pushing a two ton 2 inch thick metal body; doesn’t care that it lacks modern amenities like power windows and air conditioning; doesn’t care that the production of said power translates to excessive heat; and frankly doesn’t care that new cars these days can perform much more elegantly. It cares about power – affordable power – and that’s pretty much like the Android device we’re talking about right now.
The Cherry Mobile Magnum HD is a robust, powerful device that – while it lacks any sort of elegance and sophistication – more than makes up for it in sheer size, power, and affordability. Its blocky design isn’t something you’d call sleek, but could be considered a classic style like a decent, but average-looking watch. It’s sheer bulk can be somewhat of an issue – but some users won’t mind. We’d love to agree – as we’d prefer larger screens over smaller devices. However, the Magnum HD has nearly become too big for us, and our pockets. While we’ve tried several devices with larger screens, this one is even larger in comparison. Again, its because the device is unapologetic about these things.
Understandably, the device is probably the only one in its price range and class to offer the budget-conscious users a powerful 1Ghz phone with 4.1” 800×480 screen for such an affordable price. Much like how the muscle car was invented to put an affordable performance car in users hands, the Magnum HD is here to give smartphone buyers with understandably shallower pockets that same choice in Android form. That said, there are no other Android devices like it – except if you consider some of the small new 1Ghz Xperia phones from Sony. Those offer more elegant solutions and priced quite affordably, but generally does have smaller, lower resolution screens.
Considering that the device rocks the Quadrant score at 1,500+ points, its probably best to recommend the device to power-hungry users who wouldn’t mind some quirks. Skipping over the possible touchscreen issue, (that probably only affected us) the large boxy design, small UI & design niggles, average camera quality, unremovable pre-installed apps, and heating problems can turn off some potential users who would want a perfectly elegant and composed device. But for those who are on a budget but want something that could run games and apps that only more expensive phones can, then the Magnum HD is the phone for you.
We give the Cherry Mobile Magnum HD 3.5/5 Stars
Miscellaneous Note: The Cherry Mobile Magnum HD is an OEM branded Huawei Ideos X6.
To see more sample images taken with the phone’s camera, check out the gallery below.
For more pictures of the device and its UI, check out the gallery below.
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