Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 review: a 3G Android smartphone for the masses

“It’s priced quite low, but involves making a few compromises”

Datawind11 After stirring the Indian Android devices market quite a bit, Datawind announced the launch of not one but three low-cost smartphones under the Pocketsurfer range, designed to offer cost-effective web browsing to users. While the cheapest device is based on Linux and offers bare minimum features and functionality, the flagship device, the Pocketsurfer 3G5 is an interesting device that offers 3G internet connectivity in a sub Rs 6,000 price range. Additionally, the company has added its popular Ubisurfer application to the device, which promises huge savings on data costs – a boon for 3G users, especially those on pay-as-you-go data plans. Let’s find out how well the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 justifies its price, and how it performs in the real world. Datawind03

Sturdy build but no eye candy

In terms of looks, the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is an average-looking device as compared to most devices that are available in the market today. It has a fairly simple design and makes use of plastic as its building material, which has been adopted in order to keep the production costs down. However, the device makes use of both high density as well as normal density polymers in manufacturing of different parts to give the device its desired sturdiness. The frame for instance, is built using high-density plastics, which add strength to the device, while the back cover makes use of regular polycarbonate plastic. Datawind01 The smartphone has just been made available in black, and it looks good. The sides of the device have been treated in dark chrome that definitely help enhance the looks of the device. The Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 has an overall weight of about 175grams, at which it is definitely not a lightweight device but at the given price tag and with the amount of features and functionality the device brings to the users, it makes up for a useful device. Datawind06 The phone has some design characteristics similar to popular phones, for instance, the power key design has been borrowed from Sony Xperia devices and several of its characteristics take inspiration from global brands. Overall the look and feel of the device is good and more that a good-looking device the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 comes across as a sturdy handset.  

Vibrant display overshadowed by low resolution

The device is built using a 5-inch LCD display keeping in mind the cost aspect, which had to be kept low. For this Datawind has resorted to a non IPS LCD panel for the device. However, even without an IPS panel, the display on the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is good and offers bright and vibrant visuals. Datawind19 The viewing angles offered by the device are also good and quite wide, and do not hamper its use. The colour saturation is towards the higher side but has not been set too high, resulting in natural-looking colours but a shade or two above the neutral tone of the colours. Datawind20 The colour reproduction of the display is good but the resolution offered by the display is a very basic 480 x 800 pixels. The lower resolution on a bigger display results in pixelated visuals, which are visible through naked eye as well. The display is a disappointment during internet surfing as the detail is missing and visuals seem pixelated. However, in terms of multimedia and gaming, the display offers good utility all along thanks to its wider viewing angles and vibrant colour reproduction. Overall, it is not bad at the end of the day and for someone looking at an entry-level device, it should not be a problem. Additionally, the touch sensitivity of the device is a bit on the lower side, and it takes a little effort to get the action registered on the screen. This has a few side effects, such as issues playing games like Temple Run. However, the problem is only prominent during gaming, but other tasks such as web browsing and other productivity apps aren’t affected much. Datawind04

Good hardware specifications that promise performance

In terms of hardware specifications, the device offers the bare minimum, but Datawind is known for tweaking the software to offer the best possible performance to users. The same is the case with the Pocketsurfer 3G5, even with a 1.3Ghz dual-core processor and a meagre 512MB of RAM, the device performs with full heart. We tried a number of apps and games on the device, and even though there was noteiceable lag in terms of the application load times, which is obvious because of the lower RAM, there was no significant difference in the performance offered by this device. Datawind24 In terms of internal storage, the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 offers 4GB of onboard storage, which is low but can easily be expanded to an additional 32GB with the use of microSD cards. The beauty of this device is its faster response, which we have not seen in any device within this price range. Within the moment you hit the hardware buttons, the user interface does its task of either bringing the application up or switching between two apps. We tried opening a number of apps and then switching between them and we noticed that after a few apps have been opened, the device tends to slow down a bit. However, this device has been targeted at beginners and for them this would just do fine. In terms of gaming performance, the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 offers easy playability for basic to mid-range games, while the graphic intensive games put the CPU under a lot of stress resulting in lower frame rates and heating issues too.  

Software that reminds us of the Aakash tablet

Right from first glance, the UI on the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 reminds us about its bigger sibling the UBI slate or the Aakash tablet, as we all know it.

Screenshot_2010-01-26-18-31-25Screenshot_2010-01-26-18-31-31 Datawind has done little to differentiate the user interface of this smartphone from that on their tablets and the only big difference that is visible is the smaller display size. Right from the wallpaper to the preloaded applications, most of the content is similar and there is hardly any change. Screenshot_2010-01-26-18-30-25 Having said that, we would like to clarify that even though the software looks similar, the utility is still the same and overall it is very simple to use and very functional as well. There are a number of applications and games preloaded on the device that are more focussed towards education and not just pure entertainment. With all these apps and games preinstalled, the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is left with about 1GB of storage available for app installations, so users would have to invest in a memory card right away along with the purchase of this device. Datawind14 Based on Android 4.2.2, the user interface has been presented in the most unaltered way. Although, there are a ton of applications added on top of the stock Android, users are free to remove any any they don’t want. The software however, has been optimised to offer performance with the low-end hardware and offers great utility while allowing the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 to serve as a great device for the users. Screenshot_2010-01-26-18-31-14 The Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 comes preinstalled with the Ubisurfer app as well along with the stock web browser. The Ubisurfer browser is Datawind’s patented web browser that makes use of server-side data compression technology offering up to 90 percent savings on data charges to users. Essentially, this web browser works both on the device as well as on Datawind’s servers and when the user wants to surf the internet, it logs the user on to server. Whatever search is made by user is first shared with the server, which in turn opens the web page and sends it to the device in a highly compressed form. Screenshot_2014-04-09-09-46-54 This allows the data consumption to be reduced. Although the technology allows for data saving, it’s still not seamless and causes a number of problems for the users. Firstly, users are logged on to the server before use, which consumes some time. Secondly, since the servers are based in the UK, performing a Google search using this browser, the default page is shown as UK, so searching for products and solutions from India would require additional efforts. Datawind18

Good for multimedia use as well

With its 5-inch LCD display and 3G cellular connectivity the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is a good entertainment tool for users. The device has no issues playing HD and full HD videos, although the resolution of the display limits the experience of HD videos quite a bit. While playing full HD videos, there is a bit of lag experienced on the device, but closing background processes resolves the issues. Datawind16 In our battery drain test, the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 managed to give about 4 hours and 40 minutes of continuous video playback time. During this time, a 720p resolution video was played on loop with 50 percent brightness and 50 percent volume level, with data connectivity enabled. However, in regular day-to-day use the device manages to complete a day’s worth of work without any complaints with moderate use of Wi-Fi and data connectivity. IMG_20140407_080734 The Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 gets a VGA front facing camera for making video calls and at the back, there is a 2-megapixel fixed focus camera as well. Although the quality of the images from both the front as well as the rear cameras are almost similar, we found the front -acing camera to be a tad better than the rear camera. The rear camera is supplemented with an LED flash for illumination but sadly, the flash just managed to illuminate itself and not the subject. Datawind02

Verdict

The Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is priced at Rs 6,500, but presently it’s available for purchase for under Rs 5,500 making it the cheapest 5-inch, 3G-enabled Android smartphone available in the market. Additionally in terms of features and functionality, this offers maximum value for money to the users. What makes the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 unique is Datawind’s data compression technology that allows for data savings while offering faster internet access speeds as well. Datawind29 Ultimately, it is a device that is aimed at users who are new to Android and are looking out for a device that is sturdy and offers them most features while keeping the purchase within their budget. If you have a similar needs then the Datawind Pocketsurfer 3G5 is definitely worth a shot. Editor’s rating: 7 / 10 Pros
  • 3G enabled with dual-SIM connectivity
  • Sturdy build
  • Preloaded UBI surfer web browser for data savings
Cons
  • Average camera
  • Average battery life
  • A tad bulky
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