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November 27, 2012

Star Mobile Astra Review

In the past, phones with TV functionality was a hit for some of our fellow Pinoys. Star Mobile looks to bring that fad back with the Astra. Catch the full review after the break.


Star Mobile has been making its mark on the local scene with their affordable products. But not only do their products are inexpensive; it also has a pretty decent build and performance which makes it a choice for most budget-conscious consumers. From the looks of it, the Astra seems to be just that: affordable and feature-packed.

Design and Construction

At first sight, the phone actually looks like an HTC Desire/Sensation with its curved edges painted in metallic brown with a small silver accent on the earpiece part. So if you’re a fan of Sensation’s design, you’re most likely to dig the Astra too.

Astra

The phone has a pretty straightforward layout. It has the Power button at the top in between the micro-USB and audio port and a pair of volume rocker on the right side.

Over the back is where the 8MP camera is located along with a pair of LED lights for flash. Still on the back side, towards the bottom part of the handset is a vent for the speaker and phones retractable antenna for the TV functionality.

StarMobileAstra

Lift its plastic back plate and you’ll be greeted with its 1500mAh battery, two SIM card slots and a micro-SD card slot.

Multimedia

As mentioned on our first impression, the Star Mobile Astra has a 4.3-inch IPS display with WVGA resolution. It should be enough to give users a pleasant viewing experience and wide viewing angle thanks to its IPS display.

The sound output was also pretty good. It’s a tad hissy for the most part, but still good enough to get your basic aural needs covered. Its loudspeaker is loud enough for the sound to be audible even when you’re 3-4 feet away from the phone.

MobileTV

There’s no denying that this phone’s main selling point is its Mobile TV app which lets user watch local channels using the handset. As mentioned on our first impression, the TV Tuner is only analog which explains the sub-standard quality, but it should be watchable especially if you have a good reception in your area.

Performance and Usability

Knowing your way around the phone’s settings and options will just be a breeze as the Star Mobile Astra makes use of a stock Android ICS. The same can be said for the default keyboard which also stock Android.

The keys are well-spaced and provides good feedback when pressed but it’s too laggy for my liking which makes it a little bit difficult (and irritating at times) to compose messages.

Keyboard

The phone doesn’t break any new grounds in terms of speed, but its dual-core processor should deliver a decent enough performance to handle your basic smartphone needs without breaking a sweat. I did, however, encounter a number of apps crashing, random restarts and lags that we didn’t experience with the recent dual-SIM, dual-core smartphones we’ve reviewed. In short, the performance was OK, but is a bit lagging when pitted against other smartphones of the same category.

We’ve also experienced a handful of dropped calls and reception-related issues while using the Astra. Of course, network coverage can factor in on the dropped calls, but since we’re using the handset on the same location and using the same network as the other units in the past, we’re inclined to think that it’s the phone that’s causing this.

Camera and Video

Having an 8MP camera w/ flash is a rare feature for dual-SIM handsets in the market. In fact, we only know two devices which are equipped with such snapper; the Star Mobile Astra and the MyPhone A919 Duo. But after taking a handful of pictures using the Astra, I have to say the slight bump in the megapixel count didn’t have a significant difference from those dual-SIM handsets with 5MP camera.

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No gallery with the ID Astra was found or you have not created albums for it yet.

The videos recorded using the Astra are usable for the most part, but don’t expect stunning quality out of it. The highest quality that this handset can go is 720p, but you’d have to manually set it on the camera settings because the default is 640 x 480.

Battery

Having two SIM cards is too much to handle for the Astra’s 1500mAh battery pack as it struggles to even last a day with light-to-moderate usage which includes SNS running on the background with feeds set to every 5 minutes, an hour’s worth of browsing over cellular data, 15-20 SMS, 10-15 minutes of calls, and an hour’s worth of playing Fruit Ninja.

Battery

Note that we didn’t even touch the Mobile TV functionality on that test. When we did use it, the phone only lasted 5 hours which includes two documentaries (Reel Time and Reporter’s Notebook), SNS running on the background with feeds set to every 5 minutes, an hour’s worth of browsing over cellular data and an hour’s worth of gaming.

Conclusion

The Star Mobile Astra has a desirable design, decent camera and of course Mobile TV. However, you’d have to live with the fact that the battery isn’t at par with its competition and is a bit laggy at times. But after using it as my main handset for a little over two weeks, I have to say that you won’t be disappointed shelling out PhP6,990 for this smartphone.

StarMobile Astra specs:

4.3-inch IPS display @ 800×480 pixels, 240ppi
MediaTek MT6577 1.0GHz dual-core Cortex-A9
PowerVR SGX 531
512MB RAM
4GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD (8GB included)
3G/HSPA, dual-SIM, dual standby
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.0
GPS w/ aGPS support
8MP rear camera w/ dual-LED flash
VGA front-facing camera
TV Tuner (analog)
Li-Ion 1500mAh battery
Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
Dimension: 130.5 x 66.5 x 10.9mm
Weight: 132g

What we liked about the StarMobile Astra:

  • Decent hardware specs
  • Really affordable price
  • Built-in OTA TV tuner
  • IPS Display
  • Dual-SIM Android ICS phone

What we did not like about it:

  • Can be a battery hog
  • Can be a bit laggy at times

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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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