“Coolpad's debut smartphone offers a solid hardware at an enticing price, making it a compelling buy in its segment. Here’s our review”
All the action in the smartphone segment seems to be shifting from China to its neighbouring country India. Within the last year or so, we've seen quite a few Chinese smartphone companies entering the subcontinent – Xiaomi, Huawei's sub-brand Honor, MEIZU, vivo and OnePlus being some of the notable names. Adding its name to the list is Coolpad, which is among the top five manufacturers in China. The brand has done its homework for the price-sensitive Indian market well, by debuting with a budget smartphone, the Dazen 1 (unboxing | first impressions) and a mid-ranger, the Dazen X7 (unboxing | first impressions).
While both devices are attractive, the Dazen 1 no doubt is more appealing considering its price point, and the fact that this segment has recently gained a lot of capable devices such as the YU Yuphoria (review | FAQs), Lenovo A6000 Plus (review | FAQs) and second-gen Moto E (review | FAQs). We've been using the Dazen 1 since past few weeks to find out about the device and how it fares against the competition. Read on for our review.
The Dazen 1 features the usual candybar look with a dual-tone finish... black at the front and white at the rear. The device is also available in an all-black finish, though we prefer the colours sported by our review unit. The device has been designed to fit the hand easily, thanks to its compact build and lightweight body weighing 155g. With 9.3mm thickness, its seems thicker than the competition, but that also gives a reassuring feel in the hand.
The front features minimal design aesthetics, with a 5-inch display panel being the centrepiece, flanked by an earpiece and a front-facing snapper above and three buttons for navigation below. However, the only centre home button with its oval shape is visible, and the other two buttons can only be seen once the device is awake. The good thing is that the buttons are backlit.
Up top lies a 3.5mm audio socket, while a micro-USB port is available at the base. The power toggle can be found on the right edge, whereas the volume buttons are placed on the left.
Towards the back, you’ll find the main camera unit along with an LED flash and a speaker grille at the bottom. The back panel features a smooth finish, which means it can get slippery if used for long due to sweaty palms. Prying open the rear cover exposes the removable battery and slots for a pair of micro-SIM cards and a microSD card.
The Dazen 1 sports a 5-inch display which is among the best in its segment, since it sports a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. The IPS display offers vibrant colours and clear text along with good viewing angles. The brightness might not be that impressive which might make it difficult to read anything under sunlight. Sadly, the display misses out on any kind of protective layer.
The Dazen 1 also comes with a glove mode, allowing the user to use the touchscreen even while wearing gloves.
Following its Chinese compatriots, the Dazen 1 also features a custom UI. The smartphone comes with Android 4.4 KitKat which is layered with the company’s proprietary skin called Cool UI. The basics of the interface remains the same like most UIs we have come across lately – homescreens which double up as an app launcher as well, a theme manager to change the look-and-feel of the OS, and double-tap-to-wake, among other things. But that’s not all, as the handset has quite a few other features in its arsenal to enhance the user experience.
The homescreen might get cluttered easily if you’ve installed too many apps, and to simplify that, the phone has a useful feature called Sort out. One click on its icon, and all the apps are automatically organised in to different folders. If you simply want to change the wallpaper, then you don’t need to open the homescreen settings or use the in-built theme manager as there’s an interesting app called Rock wallpaper, which allows you to change the wallpaper with a simple tap. The most interesting and useful feature is the option that allows you to switch to the traditional homescreen format, with a separate app launcher.
To make it easier to access the quick toggles, they have been placed the bottom of the screen and pop out when the options button is long-pressed for viewing recently-opened apps. This is quite convenient, especially if you’re using the Dazen 1 with a single hand.
Similar to Samsung’s split-screen mode, the Dazen 1 features a Multiview mode. It allows the user to open two apps simultaneously, though the number of apps which support this functionality is limited.
Unlike devices which are crammed with bloatware, the Dazen 1 comes with just a few useful apps preinstalled such as Facebook, WhatsApp, WPS Office, etc. Overall, the Cool UI might not seem as refined and feature-packed as MIUI and others, but is stable and smooth.
When it comes to the camera department, the Dazen 1 comes equipped with an 8-megapixel camera at the back, which is supplemented by an LED flash. On the front, it features a 2MP snapper for capturing selfies. The camera app has a number of options on offer, and some of them aren’t available on devices of its price band. With the pro mode, it gives the option to adjust ISO, exposure and white balance. There are also live filters such as to tweak the images.
The images captured by the smartphone turn out to be reasonable. They score high in terms colour variance, however they tend to lose sharpness when zoomed in. Be it landscape shots or macro ones, the device can handle all sort of situations, although we found that it faces difficulty while focussing. It also struggles in low-light environments. Here are a few sample images to gauge the imaging prowess of the Dazen 1.
The 2MP camera at the front is decent for clicking selfies or making video calls. For video recording, unlike the competing devices, the main camera can shoot videos in full HD resolution.
Just like the competition, the Dazen 1 falls in the budget-performance category and flaunts powerful internals. The processing duties are handled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, which offers four Cortex-A53 cores thrumming at 1.2GHz. The processor boasts 64-bit architecture, though the device can’t make use of that till the software gets updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Complementing the chipset is generous 2GB RAM, ensuring that the smartphone can take anything thrown at it without breaking a sweat. Right from basic navigation to browsing, from using multiple apps to playing high-end games, the Dazen 1 delivers lag-free performance.
Taking care of your storage needs is 8GB of flash memory on board. It offers around 3.5GB of space for installation of apps or saving files and documents. The Dazen 1 also support memory expansion with the use of microSD cards up to 32GB. Sadly, the mobile misses out on USB On-the-Go support to plug in flash drives.
For connectivity purposes, the Dazen 1 is a dual-SIM handset which supports next-gen 4G LTE on its primary slot (which is labelled wrongly as SIM 2). It also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Fuelling the Dazen 1 is a 2,500mAh user-replaceable battery. In our day-to-day usage with a few calls, connecting to the internet via 3G for browsing and WhatsApp, the device easily lasted more than a day. The phone was able to run a 720p video on loop for more than 10 hours as part of our battery test, while both the brightness and volume were set at 50 percent level.
In terms of specs, the Dazen 1 is neck-to-neck with the rivals, namely the Lenovo A6000 Plus and YU Yuphoria. However, the device is able to one-up them with its pricing. Initially priced at Rs 6,999, the brand was quick to undercut the competition with a price reduction of Rs 1,000.
With a price tag of Rs 5,999, the Dazen 1 is the most affordable smartphone with 2GB of RAM. It’s also quite affordable for the features that it sports – HD display, 4G support, future-proof hardware and much more. As of now, the smartphone seems to be the best buy in this segment, however if you increase your budget slightly, then the YU Yuphoria manages to offer the latest build of Android along with an attractive metallic frame.
However, if you're on a tight budget, the Dazen 1 comes across as a loaded smartphone that manages to offer quite a lot for its price.
Photos by Raj Rout
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