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Spice Stellar 520 first impressions: a funky-looking contender in the sub-Rs 10,000 territory

|July 23 2014 |Android Phones, Android, Spice Mobiles

“The mainstay of the smartphone is the bright and funky hues of the rear panel”

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With the onslaught of mighty devices at affordable pricing from brands like ASUS and Xiaomi recently, it might seem that Indian manufacturers are starting to get worried. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Spice, which is ready for this bloody battle as it has revealed not one, but two Android devices in the budget segment today. While the Spice Stellar 526 (first impressions) is a fairly loaded device, its sibling, the Stellar 520 is targeted at value-for-money conscious people who want their smartphones to reflect their style. The devices were launched at the brand’s AndroidLand store in Noida and we got a chance to play around with both of them. While both the devices are priced similarly with a difference of Rs 2,500, they're quite different in terms of their specs. Here are our first impressions of the brand’s affordable offering, the Stellar 520.

The mainstay of the smartphone is the bright and funky colours of its rear panel. Available in red and yellow hues, the covers do add a lot of flair to the device. Sadly, apart from the interesting choice of colours, the build quality of the Spice Stellar 520 leaves something to be desired. The device looks chunky with both the display and the back prone to fingerprints and smudges. Furthermore, when comparing it to its sibling, the Stellar 526, it comes off as cheap.

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At the front, the smartphone sports a 5-inch OGS IPS display with HD resolution, translating to a pixel density of 294ppi. The display offers crisp visuals and sharp text. Above the display panel, there’s the usual set of ambient light and proximity sensors along with a front-facing camera, while the bottom has three capacitive keys for options, home and back. However, unlike the Stellar 526 which displays recent apps along with the option to access Google Now by long-pressing the center key, the Mi-520 opens up multitasking when the options key is long-pressed, and Google Now via the home key.

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In terms of port placement, one can find both the audio jack and a data-cum-charging micro-USB port on the top, while the bottom has been left barren. The buttons for controlling volume and powering on or off are available on the right spine, while the left side is completely free too. The rear is removable offering access to two full-sized SIM slots and a microSD card slot, along with the user-replaceable battery.

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Powering the show is the MediaTek MT6582 – a popular chipset among Indian vendors for their budget smartphones. The SoC offers a quad-core chip clocked at 1.3GHz. It’s backed by 1GB of RAM to ensure things remain smooth. During our usage, we found that the performance was decent, but there were some lags here and there, possibly due to poor optimisation of the OS. While it runs Android 4.4, just like its brother, the custom interface is quite different. While the preinstalled apps are the same, including the likes of QuickOffice, Quikr, WeChat, etcetera, there’s some redundancy as well. The device includes the stock camera app along with the Google Camera app which is compatible with KitKat devices only. There are two apps for accessing the gallery as well. Even though the interface of the Spice Stellar Mi-520 is closer to stock Android KitKat, the implementation seems to be half-baked when compared to the Mi-526. That’s not to say that the OS didn’t have anything useful. We did like the mem cleaner feature available in the toggles menu, giving the ability to close all running apps by a simple tap. There’s also an app permissions feature giving you granular control over permissions granted to apps and games. It also gets the SwiftKey keyboard, just like the Stellar 526.

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The storage department is taken care of by a paltry 4GB onboard memory, which sadly is further partitioned and thus gives users 1.6GB and 313MB in separate chunks. However you can expand it further up to 32GB. The Spice Stellar 520 sips juice from a 2,000mAh Li-ion battery. The connectivity options are standard with support for 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

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For shutterbugs, the handset is supplied with an 8-megapixel rear camera along with an LED flash. Based on sample shots we took, the images looked fine, however we’d be in a better position to comment about its quality once we do get it for a full review. There’s also a 2MP snapper at the front available for selfies and video calls.

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All in all, the device offers a decent set of specifications but offers nothing extraordinary at a sticker price of Rs 8,999. It faces a uphill task when it comes to the competition. Right from the similarly-specced Micromax Canvas 2 Colours to the Intex Aqua i5 HD, which sports far better hardware, not to mention the 8GB variant of the ASUS Zenfone 5 (review), there’s no dearth of options in its price bracket. That said, the Spice Stellar 520 is able to stand out with its funkiness and the latest version of Android.

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