Large screens have proven to be very popular with customers, and smartphone OEMs are cashing on this trend big time. It’s interesting to see that not only the top draw global OEMs are making strides in this space, but also many smaller ones as well. Obviously, there is an armada of Chinese OEMs out there, but let’s not forget our local vendors. They are doing a good job undoubtedly as Micromax has proven with the Canvas HD. Spice too is another player in this space, and it has the Stellar Pinnacle which strives to cash in on the popularity of large screen smartphones. Let’s see if it can take on some of the other contenders in this battle. Also Read - Nokia 5310 Review: A heavy bet on XpressMusic nostalgia
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When I first got my hands on the Spice Stellar Pinnacle, I immediately thought about the HTC Sensation that came a couple of years ago. The resemblance in the industrial design was incredibly striking, yet the Pinnacle was clearly a much larger device that had foregone the classy aluminium build of the Sensation. However, one must admit, with its rounded corners and bronze colored metallic shell, the Stellar Pinnacle never comes off as a cheap looking device, it looks like a very well built device. Also Read - Microsoft Surface Pro Review: The future is here...almost
Obviously, due to its 5.3-inch display, the phone is monstrous. Spice is making use of capacitive touch controls which are placed on the bottom end of the display.
Above the display, we find the 5-megapixel front facing camera, a small LED notification light and the standard suite of sensors.
On the right hand side of the device, we have the volume rockers. There is even a camera shutter button, which is a rarity on Android smartphones these days. This is a nice touch indeed.
The top of the phone houses the power button which we feel is not the ideal choice in terms of ergonomics because reaching it requires the user to make some gymnastic moves with one’s hand. Weirdly, even the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm jack is placed right next to the power key, which makes the top of the device a wee bit crowded. That said, this also means the left and bottom ends of the device are bereft of any buttons or ports.
The back is home to the 8-megapixel camera, other than this, the back plate has a nice matte finish which feels nice to hold and not cheap.
The Stellar Pinnacle may not be the most high-end smartphone in the market, but we believe it offers decent hardware for the price. It has a 5.3-inch display which has a qHD resolution. This converts to 206 pixels per inch. It is powered by a dual-core MediaTek SoC which is clocked at 1.2GHz. Additionally there is 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory along with a microSD card slot that is expandable by up to 32GB.
Its most unique calling card is its 5-megapixel front facing camera, but there is also a 8-megapixel camera in the rear as we have already pointed out.
It also has a rather massive battery which is rated at 2,550-mAh. One should note that this is rated higher than the original Samsung Galaxy Note and also bigger than rival smartphones like the Micromax Canvas HD, which competes in the same price band.
The display resolution on its own is a downer considering we are now starting to see 720p resolution displays quite consistently in the price range. Additionally, the display does not have the pop of an AMOLED panel and viewing angles per say were not that impressive. Colors too in our unit were pretty washed out and our review unit had a dead pixel too. That said, the dead pixel bit remains isolated to the review unit only and can be classified as a manufacturing defect, but still this is not very reassuring to say the least.
Spice has not tinkered around a lot with the core Android experience on the Stellar Pinnacle. However, we will be remiss to point out that it ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. We have heard that some of the newer units have been upgraded to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but also this is being only done via the service center and it’s not an OTA update.
We found out that Spice has changed the default configuration of the capacitive menu buttons and the app switcher can only be engaged after a long press to the home button.
As far as add-on features are concerned, Spice has learnt from Samsung’s playbook as features like Direct Call, Picture in Picture are in play. It even has an intelligent call answer feature and the handset will automatically receive the call if it is placed near the ear. Vice-versa, it also disconnects or mutes the call if the phone is flipped on the screen.
The biggest stumbling block remains the older version of Android, and the upgrade process which cannot be enforced by the average user without making a trip to the service center.
In our testing we found the Spice Stellar Pinnacle to be incredibly spritely. For a phone of this class the performance was buttery smooth and mind you we were not even using device Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Of course, it did have a relatively capable chipset beneath it in form of the 1.2GHz dual-core MediaTek CPU, supplemented by 1GB of RAM and a PowerVR SGX 531 GPU. Additionally, the rather low resolution of the display should also be considered, as this would have definitely helped the device to perform better than rivals on similar hardware but with higher resolution displays.
Suffice to say we were more than satisfied with the performance of the handset. It even managed to run games like Dead Trigger with much trouble and the frame rates never skipped a beat. Obviously, Nvidia Tegra 3 class graphics should not be expected, but for most this will be more than sufficient.
The camera performance of the device was at best patchy. The low-light performance of the rear camera was nothing spectacular, but that has to be expected at this price point. But if one compares the performance to say a Micromax Canvas HD then it is definitely inferior. In outdoor conditions the performance was much better, but again the images were a tad washed out, if we were to put it mildly. Video performance of the device was average at best, and it could not be compared to the likes of the Micromax Canvas HD.
As far as the 5-megapixel front facing camera was concerned, we found that the resolution advantage was a boon for better quality portraits, but other than that we did not find it to be much of an advantage. That said, the resolution advantage is a big deal if one intends to use these images for social networks as lower sub 5-megapixel resolutions make for poor imaging.
The battery life was average at best as we struggled to last the day on a single charge. Obviously our testing included two Gmail accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, SMS, a few calls, a bit of web browsing, playing the odd game and a bit of photography. We kept 3G always on, and we never used the device without 3G. This amounted to around 10.5 hours of battery life on an average over a period of two weeks, which is not adequate for a power user in our opinion. One can obviously get more out of the battery if the phone is used more conservatively or apps like Juice Defender are used to control the radios, sensors, display brightness and location services.
Call quality remained decent. It was more less similar as the Micromax Canvas HD, but not quite at the levels one would expect from a tier one brand.
At a price of Rs 13,990, the Spice Stellar Pinnacle offers good design and decent build quality when compared to similarly priced phones from other Indian vendors. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera is a unique proposition. However, the display resolution and camera quality leaves much to be desired, especially if one compares it with the Micromax Canvas HD, which is priced similarly. Nokia’s Lumia 620 could also be a possible alternative for those who are not constrained by the operating system.
Photographs: Rohit Sharma