Cherry Mobile is getting the right formula in rebranding "foreign" phones and delivering it to the Filipinos. This can be seen with the stellar sales of their Flare phone, and with supplies getting scarce in various points nationwide, the local vendor agressively channels the public's interest with their dual-core newbies.
Before the year 2012 ends, the local fruit company came into fruitition of three new fiery handsets - SkyFire, Blaze and Flame. And we know that it's not about three new phones, it's about the way of doing business. Cherry Mobile may have so many cooks in their kitchen, but all is salivating over this Galaxy S III look-alike, the Cherry Mobile Blaze. (You can also check our Cherry Mobile Flare and Flame reviews)
So we are looking into a 4.7-inch device and is arguably the most important of the three handsets. It is powered by a 1GHz dual-core MediaTek processor, 512 MB RAM, 8MP camera and 4GB internal storage. Ofcourse, us having tagged it as the best in the flock is just an assumption through paper-specs, but we will definitely test this puppy to know if it live up with our expectations.
Build and Design
If Cherry Mobile phones were to judge base on their looks alone, this handset would've been the runaway winner. It's just a pretty phone from top to bottom. Holding the white CM Blaze gives you the same feeling of holding a Samsung Galaxy S III, though its screen is 0.1-inch short. The stunning round corners compliments the seamless matte plastic finish of the phone. The silver lining that wrapped the phone's side dimension looks premium-ish, absolutely fanatastic.
Going through the physical buttons and layout, the CM Blaze is more than just a Galaxy S III clone. Looking at the front panel of the device gives you the flagship-sized 4.7-inch screen with a thin bezel on sides. It is accompanied with a set of sensors, front camera and earpiece receiver on the top part. Downwards, you can see a familiar S3-ish home button with the virtual menu and back buttons on both sides.
All the way to the top, you'll see the Power/Sleep button and the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Left side is the home of the micro-USB port and there are no hardware buttons at the bottom of this handset. The volume rocker is immersed in the silver band on the right side of the device, the rocker has exactly the right length and texture (for me), hitting it with the thumb is like a breeze.
The Back panel houses the more interesting stuff. Once you'll look at it, you can barely miss the imposing 8MP camera, and before I forget, unlike the CloudFone Thrill 430x, you can't see any dedicated camera buttons in this handset. The LED flash is beside the camera, likewise the speaker grill can be found way below the back panel. One good thing I've noticed is how Cherry Mobile did with the branding. It is intricately brushed in a light silver color - way better from what they have done with Flare and Titan.
And make no mistake, CM Blaze is an attractive phone. The white version does not attract dirt due to its glossy appeal. The silver band gives the phone a premium look and once held by the hands, you definitely think that this handset is made for a post Php 10K price. Cherry Mobile Blaze deviates to the notion that budget phones are ugly, well at least in build.
Cherry Mobile Blaze's display sits between the Flare and the Titan brothers. In other words, its FWVGA is better than Titan's (5-inch) and settles down below Flare's WVGA (4-inch). Color reproduction and temperature is quite legit. The only thing that bugs me is the poor viewing angles. For me, it is acceptable. Just like Flare, its non-IPS screen scrambles when viewed above 45 degrees on either left or right. Output becomes negative when viewed futher on the right especially in landscape mode.
But the fact that it sports a 4.7-inch display, Blaze is more capable than the lower spec-ed Flare. Texts and pictures are easy to read in this handset with its 208 ppi pixel density. There is also the feeling of satisfaction while reading (or browsing) in a bigger screen compared to the sub 4-inch frames. However, it is not the case when it is brought outdoors, you'll need to adjust your brightness settings for that.
Underneath the premium-ish appeal is the 1GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6577 CPU which brings a legit responsiveness to the phone. The PowerVX SGX 531 graphics card could also get the job done in backing up the main driver. Just like what we have done in our previous reviews, we ran a couple of benchmarking tool suited for the Blaze to test it muscle and brain.
In the Quadrant benchmark, it can be classified above the high-caliber Galaxy Nexus with regard to CPU, I/O and graphics performance. However in Antutu benchmark, it sits below the latter and just above the Optimus 2X. Scoring 6925, the Blaze outstandingly performs well in different given gategories. The 1001 MHz dual-core CPU is rated at 2643 in the said benchmark tool. Other specifics also coincide with paper specs.
With Blaze having a larger screen with 1500 mAh battery rating, I initially though that the battery life is the Achilles' heel of this device. After all the CPU is comprised of two cores spinning in at 1GHz and a dual-SIM capability will not exactly instill confidence that you're going to make it through a day in a single recharge. Well my instinct is right, battery is worse than Flare's.
I run through a reasonable battery test. I did a 30-minute video playback, spent 30 minutes in music sessions, played 30 minutes of Temple Run, simulate Tekken and Need for Speed Shift in 15 minutes, browse the internet through 3G accumulately for an hour, made two dozens of shots using the 8MP camera and 2 hours of reading ebooks, before my battery got red flagged.
But if you're an average user, it would basically last longer than that experience, the average that I got so far is 9 hours (that's light to moderate use). That being said, gamers and surfers need to have their charger at hand and be close to any outlets as possible. I also felt some uncomfortable surface heating at the back case while doing extraneous tasks (gaming and browsing at the same time).
Blaze is a far better communicator compared to its smaller brethren. Screen is wide enough for messaging and the G-Sensor is not flawed when you're typing characters. That means that you can easily transfer from portrait to landscape mode when typing. Calls are somewhat clear and there would also be ocassional dropped calls. Earpiece somewhat underwhelms, I always end up using Apple's earpods to take calls just to have clearer voice outputs.
I tested the 3G reception throughout Cebu City hotspots. I could say that it's neither good not particularly bad. Likewise, I also did a WiFi test wherein I tethered it to an iPhone, it could barely manage to stay connected at once. However, it connects with ease using a WiFi router.
Unlike the Starmobile Crystal, video playback is smooth in the native player. I had a great experience watching the Life of Pi in a larger screen. It even made me crave for a bigger screen like what the Galaxy S III have imprinted on my mind. Video forwarding and rewinding is a bit slow. From the moment that you jump into a specific scene, it could take a quart of a second to render the part.
The downside of being a low-budget phone is the audio quality. Sound coming out of the speakers is hard-to-muffle. The quality of the 3.5mm headphone jack's output depends on the kind of earphones that you are using. I suggest you pair this up with a good one and scrap the one that comes in the box.
Cherry Mobile Blaze takes all the things thrown at it with a breeze. Running the heavily-graphic games like Tekken, Need For Speed, Asphalt 7, Fruit Ninja and Temple Run 2 is just a walk in the park for the PowerVR SGX. However, responses for the Temple Run 2 is not as smooth as the one I have when I run the game in an iPhone.
Blaze took my Need for Speed Shift experience into a whole new level compared to running it with the Flare or Flame. Setting aside the ocassional app crashes, the graphics is very smooth. However, audio did not fare well. Overall gaming experience is a plus points. I recomend this unit for active gamers on a budget.
First of all, I could definitely say that the 8MP rating is just a gimmick. Flare and Flame could have an excuse to there poor image output (both have 5MP), but Blaze's case is a different story. In some ways, it circles below the Starmobile Crystal's output. Afterall, megapixels are just ratings, the true quality of a camera is determined by the class of sensor that it uses. If you're rooting for iPhone-ish 8MP quality, this could not be your piece of cake.
The camera struggles in lowlight eventhough it has an LED flash. Outdoors, it can capture good stills when there is enough light. Again, color temperatures in the outputs are quite noticeable.
Cherry Mobile's camera is decent but the time between pressing the shutter button and the actual time it takes the photo bothers me the most. Camera output is fair enough - it could be a great alternative to your usual point and shoot camera. Check out sample pictures below.
With Blaze, Cherry Mobile had concretely cemented the foundation that Flare had made in its pricing philisophy - a standpoint which circles around better features and functionality. In a Php 6499 price, I would rather say (again) that there is a little to complain about this phone.
With better features, no one could ever deny that this phone is an impulse buy. Camera may be a downside but I can tell that the overall user experience is the one that Cherry Mobile is rooting for. So yes, waving out that it's an S III knock-off, I think Blaze is a great phone. And modesty aside, I think it's one of the best locally-branded devices that I've used.
If you want a bigger phone that could be an alternative to the flagship devices of other premium brands, I will definitely say "Blaze be with you!"