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January 30, 2014

Cherry Mobile W900 LTE Review

As early as October last year, the Cherry Mobile W900 LTE has already garnered a lot of attention for being the first LTE-capable smartphone from a local brand. But I think we can all agree that 4G connectivity alone isn’t gonna be enough to sway the demanding Filipino consumer. So how does CM’s new W900 stack up? Find that out in our full review.

Design and Construction

Despite having the same name as the first W900 which we reviewed nearly two years ago, the W900 LTE’s design is more akin to the Flare HD than its predecessor.

Cherry Mobile W900 LTE

As a matter of fact, it can be quite tricky to differentiate the one from the other if not for the metallic grey lining that runs on the side of the W900.

Needless to say, there’s nothing really striking about the W900 LTE as far as design is concerned. The handset looks like your typical rectangular slab of plastic with rounded edges.

The ports and buttons are scattered along the sides of the smartphone; volume rocker on the left, Micro-USB on the right and the Power Button at the top which is accompanied by the audio jack.

CM W900 LTE

Found on its underbelly is a 12MP rear camera which sits in between the built-in flash and speaker grills.

Underneath the non-glossy back cover are the usual suspects comprising of a full-size SIM card slot, Micro-SD card tray and the W900’s 1,810mAh battery pack.

Display and Multimedia

The W900 LTE sports a 4.3-inch OGS display panel with 720p resolution which equates to a respectable pixel density of 342ppi. Despite the lack of IPS panel, the viewing angles were astounding and the light/color fall-off is barely noticeable even at extreme angles.

W900 LTE

Sadly, the brightness level leaves a lot to be desired. The screen’s luminance is sufficient enough for indoor use, but the moment we stepped out of the comfort of our HQ, we struggled to see anything on the screen without squinting or shielding the phone from the sun’s glare.

To its credit, the W900 LTE was able to handle video playbacks quite well. Rarely did we notice stutters even when watching high-resolution clips and with the help of a third party app (MX Player) we were able to play almost all file types on it.

But this supposedly great attribute was ruined by the lackluster sound output coming from the handset’s lone speaker. Because of it, we usually find ourselves cupping the underside of the W900 or just plugging a headphone or external speakers.

W900 LTE Philippines

OS, UI and Apps

Much like its recently released siblings, the W900 LTE also runs on Android Jellybean out of the box. The interface of the device is mostly untouched and there aren’t a lot of bloatwares pre-installed on it apart from the Cherry Fun Club and eWarranty.

Installing and loading applications on the new W900 is a breeze, and there aren’t a lot of hiccups either for the most part. Surprisingly, despite running on a dual-core processor, the device was able to handle resource-heavy apps like Dead Trigger and Asphalt quite well.

W900 LTE UI

Furthermore, we didn’t have to deal with the scarcity of storage as the W900 comes with an 8GB of storage. It isn’t huge by any means, but it’s a welcome improvement from the 4GB memory we’re used to see on rebranded handsets.

Performance and Benchmarks

The W900 LTE is powered by a dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz and backed by 1GB of RAM. But before you roll your eyes at its seemingly underwhelming engine, it’s best to check the benchmark test results we got from the new W900.

W900 Benchmark

AnTuTu: 16,399
Quadrant Standard: 5,353
NenaMark2: 54fps
Vellamo: 1866 (HTML5) / 639 (Metal)

To put things in perspective, the MSM8260A ran circles around the quad-core MT6589 processor found on the Flare HD, and most budget smartphones for that matter. In real-world use, the difference in handling is also noticeable; the UI is much smoother, apps loads/runs more seamlessly and switching from app to app is more fluid.

W900 NenaMark

Camera

Unfortunately, as impressed as we were with the W900’s performance, the same cannot be said for its 12MP rear camera. Regardless if we’re shooting under broad daylight or in low-light conditions, the camera failed to consistently focus on a subject.

But not only does it have trouble zeroing in on a subject, its focus detection system (if it has one) is also totally messed up. A number of times, it will tell us that it’s got the focus right (signified by the Green-colored Crosshair) when in fact it is slightly off or worse off by a mile.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pictures we took lacked contrast and the colors appear washed out. Furthermore, the dual-flash setup didn’t produce enough power to illuminate our subject in dim situations.

The autofocusing woes we had in stills extend to video recording. But instead of a haywire autofocus, the W900 only has fixed focus on video mode. In short, the camera isn’t exactly the W900’s strong suit.

Connectivity and Call Quality

Luckily, the wireless connectivity has never become an issue for us during our time with the W900 LTE. It consistently detected LTE signal whenever it’s available, and it had no problems switching to a lower frequency when it’s not.

CM W900 LTE Philippines

In terms of call quality, there were a handful of instances where our voices were a bit muffled according to the people we contacted. This might just be a signal-related flaw, but for the most part, we were able to use the phone for voice calls without any issues.

Battery

Having a similar configuration as the Flare HD, we expected our mileage per charge with the W900 to be in the same margin as its cheaper sibling. Indeed, the W900 LTE gave us 5 hours’ worth of juice when we pitted it on our usual battery test which involves looping a 720p video while the phone is on Airplane Mode and the brightness and volume set to 50%.

W900 Battery

We also measured the mileage when we tried tethering the W900’s LTE connection. From 100% state, the W900 lasted for a total of 6 hours before its 1810mAh battery was drained.

Here’s the screenshot of its battery status during this test:

W900 LTE Battery

Cherry Mobile W900 LTE specs:
4.3-inch HD OGS display, 1280×720 @342ppi
1.5GHz MSM8260A dual-core processor
Adreno 225 GPU
1GB RAM
Expandable 8GB internal memory
12MP camera w/ two LED flashes
1080p video recording @30fps
HD 720p front-facing camera
LTE, HSPA
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth
GPS w/ A-GPS
Single SIM (Full-size)
Android 4.2.2 Jellybean
1,810mAh battery

Conclusion

By and large, the Cherry Mobile W900 LTE is a decent smartphone with a 720p screen and a very snappy engine setup to go along with its 4G capability. Furthermore, that extra 4GB of internal storage can go a long way for some who stores a lot of files and install big apps on their device.

But just when we thought that CM has a keeper in the new W900, small issues like the rather dim screen brightness, sub-standard sound output and the appalling camera performance started to creep in which became an annoyance over time rather than minor shortcomings.

Cherry Mobile W900 Philippines

All things taken to account, we think that the W900 LTE is going to be a tough sell for its current retail price (Php11,499). At that price point, users can either get the Flare HD (Php5,499) and just get an LTE Pocket WiFi like the Huawei E5776 (Php4,995 off-contract) if they really want the LTE connection.

Better yet, they can opt for a used or brand new (grey market) Xperia V or Xperia SP for roughly the same price, maybe even less.

What we liked about it:
* 720p OGS display
* Stock Android UI
* LTE connectivity
* Snappy performance

What we didn’t like about it:
* Subpar screen brightness
* Weak built-in flash and poor image quality
* So-so battery life
* Weak sound output

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This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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