The budget smartphone market is getting very competitive these days, especially with the Indian players like Zen giving the likes of Samsung, Sony & Nokia a run for their money. We were given a unit of Zen Ultrafone 701 HD for review. My initial impression was Wow!! I hadn’t expected anything like that from a phone which was priced at a little under 12k. The UI was very smooth & it didn’t have any major lags.
Anyways, after having played with the device for over 1 month, here is my detailed review of Zen Ultrafone 701 HD.
The Box contained the usual accessories like charger, headphone and the USB cable. Let me tell you, you won’t be very impressed at the look and feel of them. You also get extra cases (2 in number) and a scratch guard.
The design is pretty much conventional. Well expecting something different from a 12k phone would be wrong in itself. But you will over all like the way it looks and feels. It has rounded corners and a curved back, pretty standard. The Handset fits in well in the hand and you can very well operate it with just one hand.
The front of the phone has the 5 inch 1280×720 IPS LCD screen, covered by glass throughout. The 294 ppi pixel density display is as sharp as you’d expect it to be. Above the display you have the ear piece, the usual pair of sensors and the front facing camera. On the left is the notification LED. It is one of the better screens in this price range with a balanced colour reproduction, good brightness and contrast. You may have issues looking into the screen outdoors and may have to stare for a longer duration to make out things. You may over come this by setting the brightness to full, but still reflectivity is an issue.
The Zen smartphone sports some impressive hardware that includes a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels and pixel density of 294 ppi, an 8MP primary camera and a 2000mAh battery. Out of the available 1 GB of RAM, only 972 MB is usable, and is good enough for most tasks, even gaming.
If you are worried about the Apps using up the internal memory, then you can easily specify the micro SD card slot as the default installation media. So it’s pretty handy.
The Zen Ultrafone 701 HD runs on Android 4.2.1 JellyBean. The interface is almost 98% true to stock with the exception of the messaging app, the camera and some other additional apps that have been modified, but you will almost get a very recognizable stock experience from this device.
Few Google apps and a lot of third party apps like Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, Saavn, MX Player, file manager, ToDo, Sound recorder, flashlight and a colornote app and Times of India come pre installed. Music player and the video player are modified to a greater extent. The FM radio app could playback and record stations in stereo.
Zen specific apps include the Zen update centre for quick firmware updates over the air and the Zen mini store for a curated list of apps from the Android Play Store.
I did come across a few software glitches. First being, the Photos didn’t just appear in the gallery. Also I came across a situation where, though there were images in the gallery, I wasn’t actually able to see them. It kept saying “No Thumbnail”. I had to restart my phone a couple of times, before I was finally able to access the images properly. May be an isolated case, but just thought of mentioning this because if you too are facing such a problem, there is no need to panic, a few restarts or at max, a software upgrade and you should be fine!
If you ask me one major let down of Zen Ultrafone 701HD, I would say it’s the camera. It’s a 8 megapixel rear facing with back side illuminated sensor and a LED. You can get decent shots in the daytime but expect them to be far from natural! The real problem arises when there is low light, the pictures are of terrible quality. Here again one would argue, it’s just a 12k phone; well, we have had better Cameras even at this range! The 3.2 MP facing camera is good enough for video calling.
The camera UI is very similar to the other MediaTek based devices and offers extensive control over the various aspects of still and the video camera. While the HDR mode proved of no use, the sweep panorama mode called multi angle and the auto-scene selection mode were useful at times. You may want to give the other features like face beautification and the normal panorama mode a try, but nothing to be really enchanted with.
Connectivity and call quality
One of the major reasons why you will buy this phone is it being Dual Sim compatible. Let me tell you, you will not be let down. The dual SIM features works quite well, and the SIM management settings were robust with granular control over each SIM’s voice and data parameters.
The device is packed with all the connectivity options you’d expect, like WiFi b/g/n, 3G HSPA, Dual SIM(GSM+GSM), Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. The call quality was good, but the external loudspeaker didn’t prove to be a good option for conference calls, as it was too quiet even for loud music. As a consequence, the ringtones were quiet too.
The 3G speeds were fast and WiFi held on as good as other devices.
With a 2000 mAH battery, the Zen Ultrafone 701 HD gets through a day very easily. In fact, it was much better in performance than the competition, having tested most of them. There are no fancy power saving modes or anything, as there is not much need for it.
The Zen Ultrafone 701HD is a great performer at its price-range and stands tall at the top in most benchmarks. Here’s a comparison between benchmarks of Zen Ultrafone 701HD, Xolo Q1000 & Micromax Canvas HD.
Comparison : Zen Ultrafone 701HD, Xolo Q1000 & Micromax Canvas HD
Well, I do understand it’s pretty confusing which phone buy when there isn’t much of a difference between what they have to offer. Here’s a comparative table, which shows how similar their specs are!
So the only differentiating factor there, seems to be the Price!!!
Most of the phones in this price range are targeted towards cost conscious individuals, so obviously even a difference of a thousand bucks is significant. Even otherwise, it is the value for money that matters the most. If you are looking for a phone under 12k and if you are not too much of a perfectionist and can do with minor compromises, Zen Ultrafone 701HD is the phone for you! The Zen Ultrafone 701HD is a very good buy especially considering that it’s less expensive than both the Micromax Canvas HD and the XOLO Q1000, and provides equal, if not better, performance in almost all departments. If you’re looking for a smartphone that does justice to your music and videos, the Zen won’t disappoint you.
• Great Value for Money
• Excellent battery-life
• Solid build
• Great performance
• Camera in low-light
A Word of Caution
The Facebook page of Zen Mobile has few comments from people who reportedly found glitch in the phone’s screen after using it for just a few weeks. This is likely to be an issue with specific units but it also looks like that Zen is having some quality control problems.
Do let me know your hands on experience or if you have any doubts, will be happy to help!