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Starmobile has been keen in releasing their Android line-ups since the last quarter of 2012. But before the Flirt phone get a few rounds of spotlight in the market, the local manufacturer gave its best efforts in penetrating the Cherry Mobile-frenzied Philippine market by dropping the Starmobile Crystal last holiday season.

And since the competition is aggressively fierce, the Crystal has break into the scene with its capable features without sacrificing the price. With the trend that they are setting, Starmobile is not gunning for "cheap" phones, instead they give better features for an "affordable" price. Having in mind the Crystal as their major player, will they gain momentum in with this marketing strategy?

Cherry Mobile Flame and Starmobile Crystal


Design and Construction

So first thing's first, how does it look like? Well I got a hold to the black version of the device. And for one, I could really tell that its construction is a chic black slab. It's thinner than the CM Flame and even looks more engaging to hold. In comparison to the latter, both are centered around 4.5-inch IPS display. Its shell is brushed with plastic but I could tell the build is pretty solid basing on how firm it stays in your hand. The backplate is removable but it's as sturdy as a unibody device.



The black version is appealing to the eyes, the gray Galaxy S III-ish textured metallic side bezels adds a premium appeal to the whole device. When you flip it over, you can remove the battery but that doesn't give you the tradeoff that this is a thin device - well not as thin as the premium ones but it is a solid-feel device. The curved corners, however, are not much different to any other 4.5-inchers around.


For an unknown reason, the designer has opted to locate the Crystal's sleep/wake button on the right-hand side instead at the top of the device with the dedicated camera button on the left side below the volume rocker. And just like any other locally-branded device, speaker is a single horizontal slit that can be found at the lower back panel which unfortunately can get muffled if its on a soft surface. Top includes the 3.5-mm headphone jack and the microUSB port.




Speaking of the back panel, features something like a plastic surface but it feels like metallic to me.  But the net effect of its appearance is something that you get in Samsung phones - something looks dark at an angle but reveals metallic-gray pattern in a simple matte finish. Upper part houses the 8MP rear camera with BSI (Back-Side illumination) and LED flash. Ofcourse, you can find the 4.5-inch screen at the front panel together with the 2MP camera, earpiece and light sensor, if you go below you'll see the Android capacitive buttons - Menu, Home and Back.


Display

One of the Crystal's best quality is its screen. The IPS display looks stunning in a 245 ppi pixel denstiy (960 x 540 pixels). Just like the CloudFone Thrill 430x, it's a legit LCD panel that is fused with a glass so that pixels would appear closer to the surface of the screen. With it being an IPS display, viewing angles are okay (matching, if not better than, the Flame's display), colors aren't overblown. It has good color temperature - blues are given equal treatment to warmer tones.











Performance, Multimedia and Reception

Just like any other local phones, Crystal is rated with 1GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6577 processor tied with a 512MB of RAM and PowerVR SGX531 graphics processor. Whole experience is legit - it ranges from not so snappy to very zippy experiences.






































































The Starmobile Crystal occupies the same lofty space of CM Flame, CM Flare and CloudFone Thrill 430x when it comes to sheer benchmarking tests. All tests show that Crystal is beautifully responsive. Starmobile Crystal is found to have a good breakdown in our Antutu Benchmark Test where is scores 6651. On the Quadrant Benchmark, it placed just above the Motorola Atrix 4G with 2711 score.


Video playback is the Achiles Heel of this phone. There is a certain kind of lag when playing movies especially when playing in HD quality.

Call reception is clear, messaging is quite a breeze given that it has an ample screen real estate for your typepad. WiFi connection via router is fast, but it's a different kind of story if you connect it through a WiFi Hotspot (tethering) and 3G - connection is sluggish and intermitent.


Games involving hardcore graphics run smooth in this handset. With Android 4.0 running the show, you can tell that every frame has a smooth transition. Although there is an ocassional lag, Crystal offers an immersive gaming experience that every gamer would want to have. We ran Need for Speed Shift and Nova 3 in this phone and it seems like it could take anything you want to throw at it.



Camera and Videos

On paper, Starmobile Crystal has 8MP camera with BSI sensor. Although its camera output is decent, I could tell that being rated as an 8MP sensor does not mean that you can have the exact output as those of the premium brands. Its autofocus sensor is fast, but, just like any other rebranded phones, the the time it takes to capture a scene from the time you press the shoot button is  too inconvenient (that's for me since I'm used to getting pictures with an iPhone).



However, the camera software is a choke full of bows and frills. The stock Android camera app offers Panorama Features, HDR and other effects. But there's no doubt that the Starmobile Crystal trumps competition when it comes to camera output - crisp and clear pictures when taken outdoors and acceptable when taken in low light conditions. So far, Crystal's camera is the one that has edge in the local smartphone scene.

Unlike the Cherry Mobile Blaze, Crystal doesn't choke when shooting 720p videos.






























































Battery Life

Using the Starmobile Crystal for 10 hours or so drains the 1700 mAh battery to 20 percent. This includes minimum gaming time, ocassional calls, an hour-long of 3G connectivity, 4-hour browsing through WiFi and 30 minute music playback. Heavy users will tend to keep their USB chargers with them, while normal to medium users might have the battery running to about 15 hours.

The Wrap

With the Crystal, Starmobile has legitimately curved its name in the local smartphone scene. The reasons that this phone fetches several nods of tech enthusiasts: fast perocessor, premium-like build quality, excellent screen and better camera. Starmobile has impressively put all those pieces together with an excellent price Php 7990 standpoint.

It may have ocassional shortcomings with its camera shutter and video playback but a software update could nail this flaws into the ground. Taken as a whole, it's a crystal-clear thought that Starmobile has set consistency in all that it offers in the table. Likewise, it offers a great threat to other local players around.
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