"The Iris X1 is one of the most formidable options in the budget arena. We put it to the test, and here's how it fares."
The smartphone buyer of today is more educated and choosy than ever before. While brand names were the major deciding factor in the past, today it’s all about software and specifications. Displays with better resolutions, a good camera set-up, powerful processors, extra RAM and most importantly, the latest software, are among the checkmarks that buyers tick off before they make their final choice. Indian manufacturers like Micromax, Lava, XOLO and Intex constitute a large chunk of the smartphone market in the country, and while they don’t often launch flagship-calibre devices, they are quick on the take. One of the Moto E’s main selling points has been its KitKat platform. The latest OS on a budget handset was unheard of in the past, but with more people realising the importance of new software and timely updates, the trend looks like it’s shifting towards the way of the consumer. Micromax was quick to launch the Unite 2, which as you might have seen from our review, is a serious threat to the Moto E. The other handset which comes close is the Lava Iris X1, which we've spent a fair bit of time with. Here’s how it fares.
At first glance, the Iris X1 looks like a cheaper, plastic version of the iPhone 4. According to Lava’s website, the phone will be available in a choice of black, white, silver and blue colours, although we’ve only seen evidence of the black and white variants until now.
|Short on time? Check out the Lava Iris X1 review in pictures|
The bezel on the top encases the front camera, earpiece, LED notification light and duo of proximity and ambient light sensors. The phone gives onscreen controls a miss, and opts for a row of invisible capacitive Android keys on the fascia that light up when pressed. Strangely, Lava has chosen to add a menu button instead of the recents key, which doesn’t really add much value, since KitKat has the menu functionality within the operating system itself. Below the buttons, you’ll find a tiny pinhole for the microphone.
The top edge is home to the 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB port, while the spines hold the volume rocker on the left, and the power button on the right.
The back panel features the primary camera and dual-LED flash, a secondary noise-cancelling microphone and loudspeaker.
A cut-out on the bottom left lets you peel off the rather flimsy back panel quite easily. Inside, you’ll find the 1,800mAh battery, microSD card slot, and dual-SIM slots, consisting of a regular SIM and micro-SIM.
The Iris X1’s 4.5-inch display sports an average resolution of 854 x 480 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 217ppi. While the screen won’t win any pixel wars, the IPS panel renders it vibrant and crisp, with natural colours that are a pleasure to view on a smartphone at this price range. Brightness is a strong point, and the display was legible even under sunlight. The Iris X1’s screen offers a viewing angle of 178 degrees, which makes it ideal to watch videos.
However, when it comes to responsiveness, the display was a bit of a let down. There are noticeable lags when scrolling and typing. Even the capacitive hardware buttons are slow to the take, requiring a second press or longer wait to jump into action.
The Iris X1’s camera setup is definitely one of its strong points. Boasting an 8-megapixel shooter at the back clubbed with a dual-LED flash, and adding a 2MP camera in the front, you won’t be disappointed. The camera app offers all the regular features, like a choice of scene modes and controls for focus, ISO, metering, exposure and white balance. There’s also a timer, and contrast and sharpness controls. You can take panorama shots, and shoot videos in 720p.
Unlike most budget smartphone cameras, the Iris X1’s snappers actually churn out decent results. The primary snapper is great for macros and daylight shots, and gave us sharp, detailed results. The only issue we had was that images look washed out when transferred to a computer, something you won’t notice on the phone’s vibrant display. Shots taken at night were also usable, although banding is an issue. In low-light, pictures are grainy, but the dual-LED flash is a handy tool in these situations.
The front camera was surprisingly usable for selfies. The fact that Lava chose to add a 2-meg camera instead of the usual VGA cameras you find on most budget handsets is a big win.
Here are a few image samples from the Iris X1’s camera. Click on the thumbnails to view them in full resolution.
|Related read: Lava Iris X1 camera review|
The Iris X1 runs a plain vanilla version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat, and we’re not complaining. There are minimal changes to the interface, and the only preloaded apps are WhatsApp and OfficeSuite 7. You also get a few utilities like a torch and FM Radio.
While the Micromax Unite 2 has added in a host of third-party apps, taking away precious storage space, on the Iris X1 you get more user-available storage, although not too much.
Giving MediaTek the cold shoulder for this one, Lava has equipped the Iris X1 with a 1.2GHz quad-core Broadcom BCM23550 processor, accompanied by a whole gigabyte of RAM. The device certainly isn’t as zippy as the Snapdragon 200-powered Moto E, and is quite sluggish, both when it comes to opening apps and responding to basic commands.
Graphics are handled by a Videocore IV GPU. The phone is fine for light gaming, but try playing something more intensive, like Riptide GP2, and the Iris X1 gives up. Apart from constant frame drops, we also noticed that every time we tried using the ‘boost’ mode, the game freezes for a few seconds.
While the Iris X1 has both a proximity and ambient light sensor, we found that the former often malfunctions when on a call. Call quality however was a strong point, with no disturbance on the other end.
The Iris X1 packs in an 1,800mAh battery, which required a charge after a day of usage, especially when both SIMs are inserted. If used sparingly, you could stretch it to a day and a half. In our standard video loop test, the phone ran for 6 hours 45 minutes before the juice ran out.
The Iris X1 is a dual-SIM standby device, which means that when you’re on a call, the other SIM will be unreachable. There’s not much you can do in SIM settings, except the usual renaming and assigning default SIMs for calling, texting and data usage. Even though it’s not unusual to see the combination of a regular and micro-SIM card on dual-SIM handsets, in the Iris X1 the full-size SIM (SIM 2), is the one that supports 3G. It’s usually the opposite on most smartphones, so that’s a puzzling feature.
Out of the 4GB of internal storage, a little over 2GB is user available, but that’s pre-partitioned. There’s about 0.91GB available for apps, and around 1.3GB available for media. A microSD card can take the storage up to 32GB.
As far as connectivity options go, the Iris X1 offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, USB OTG and A-GPS.
At its MRP of Rs 7,999, the Iris X1 is priced at Rs 1,000 more than the Moto E and Micromax Unite 2. While the higher price is justified for the mostly mid-range specs it offers, the sluggish performance is a cause of concern. Lava's own Snapdragon 200-powered Iris 406Q (review) fared much better in this aspect, and incidentally, is priced at Rs 6,999. That said, if looks and cameras score high in your list of expectations, and zippy performance is something you’re willing to compromise on, the Lava Iris X1 makes for a compelling option.
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