Micromax’s YU may be doing well with its geeky Cyanogen-powered smartphones, but the Indian smartphone vendor hasn’t forgotten about the masses. While it has frequently launched smartphones in its Canvas range, it has been nearly two years since it launched the Canvas 4. Earlier this month however, the company launched the fifth iteration of the flagship smartphone – the Canvas 5. Unlike its predecessor which was priced close to Rs 18,000, the new smartphone is much more aligned with the current trends, and is aggressively priced at Rs 11,999. We have spent quite a bit of time with the Canvas 5, and here is our review.
The moment you take the Canvas 5 out of the box, the first thing that hits you is just how un-Micromax-like the new smartphone is. In fact the only evidence of it being a Micromax device is the company’s logo placed at the back. The front is dominated by a 5.2-inch screen with the curved glass melting towards the edges. It is not only pleasing to the eye, but when the display is off, the all-black effect makes it look much bigger than its actual size.
There is a metallic frame that holds the device in place, with the volume rocker and the power button on the right side. The left side is completely spartan, with the audio jack at the top, and the micro-USB port and mic at the bottom. The removable rear panel boasts a faux leather look, and hidden underneath are the two SIM card slots, microSD card slot and a non-removable battery.
The overall look and feel of the smartphone is quite pleasing, and Micromax surely surprises on that front. Most of the people I showed the handset to wouldn’t believe it was a Micromax device, and only when I turned it around to show the logo did they believe me. With a 5.2-inch screen, the overall footprint isn’t too big either and it is easy to use with one hand, even for people with relatively smaller hands – like yours truly.
The 5.2-inch display is one of the highlights of the Canvas 5. It’s still uncommon to find a smartphone flaunting a full HD (1920×1080 pixels) display at this price, and the one on the Canvas 5 is a treat for the eyes. Color reproduction is stellar and despite not being an AMOLED display, blacks are deep and the whites really bright. Viewing angles are good, and legibility under the harshest of lights is good as well. If we were to nitpick though, the adaptive brightness was less than impressive and it was quite slow in adjusting to the lighting conditions. There were times when the screen was too bright for a room with low (or no) light or too dim when stepping out in the sun. Our other grouch was with the screen, which is a fingerprint magnet and needs frequent wiping.
Under the hood is a MediaTek MTK6753 octa-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz and with 64-bit capabilities. Paired with the processor is 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. During our time with the smartphone, it was able to handle everything we threw at it – from day-to-day tasks to heavy-duty gaming. Even with multiple apps working in the background, games like Marvel’s Contest of Champions and Angry Birds 2 worked with little to no stutter. During long periods of gaming, the smartphone did tend to get a bit warm, but it wouldn’t reach uncomfortable levels.
The smooth levels of performance is also largely due to light UI that Micromax has pasted over Android. For one, there is no App Drawer, and all the apps are stored on the homescreens ala Apple’s iOS. This has become a common sight on smartphones from most Chinese OEMs.
You also get a few gesture controls like double-tap to wake up the screen, or the ability to scribble a ‘C’ or an ‘M’ to fire up the camera or music app respectively. One annoying aspect though is the frequent ads that crop up as notifications when the display is on standy mode. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way of disabling these ads, except for swiping them away like a normal notification. We have reached out to Micromax to explain the advertisement pings and will update this review when we hear from the company.
The Canvas 5 offers 16GB internal storage, of which around 11GB is available for users out-of-the-box. The smartphone comes with a few pre-loaded apps like SwiftKey, Quikr, Hike, Scandid, Hotstar, Saavn, Amazon kindle, and Snapdeal to name a few, but most of them can be easily uninstalled. Micromax has also added the ability to expand the internal storage to up to 64GB using a microSD card.
Moving on to the photographic front, and the performance is a mixed bag of sorts. At the back is a 13-megapixel snapper with Samsung 3M2 image sensor and different shooting modes like HDR, Panorama, Sports, Night, Picture-in-Picture, as well as a professional mode that lets you tweak different settings like ISO, white balance, exposure and color balance. The camera also supports Phase Detection auto-focus that the company says helps in focusing on a subject in about 0.2 seconds. This is however far from the truth. The camera is quite slow to focus on a subject, be it automatically or manually, and it takes a bit of time to click a photo even with zero shutter delay enabled.
(For full resolution camera samples, click here)
In Normal mode – which is what everyone will use most of the time – the camera was able to capture some beautiful shots under ideal lighting conditions. The photos were rich in details and color reproduction was good as well.
The quality of the shots though goes down as the lighting deteriorates. Indoors under ambient lighting the photos captured had a lot of noise, and due to the slow shutter speeds more often than not the photos were blurred as well. It is not always easy to keep the phone rock steady till the camera focuses on the subject and clicks a photo. The dual-LED flash does a decent job in lighting up a subject in dark conditions without it looking overexposed.
Up front, there is a 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash, and shooting modes like Face Beauty, Panaromic selfie and Picture-in-Picture. As is the case with the primary camera, the selfie camera too is only good as long as the lighting conditions are ideal. While the LED flash helps in clicking selfies in dark conditions, quality of the snaps leaves a lot to be desired.
Making sure everything ticks is a 2,900mAh non-removable battery, which simply put is good enough to last the day on a single charge. Under heavy usage we were able to get through till evening before needing to charge the smartphone. This involved two email accounts pushing notifications, social accounts like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, a constantly buzzing Slack account and WhatsApp, calling and playing games. With a more judicial usage involving Wi-Fi connectivity and less chatting and gaming, we were able to get through the day before needing to charge the device.
Charging the battery though takes quite a long time, even with the charger Micromax has bundled with the smartphone. What’s more, every time we used a different charger or a power bank we got a message warning us that the device was charging slowly and asking us to revert to the original charger.
The Micromax Canvas 5 then presents an interesting conundrum for buyers. It has a lot going for it like its design and build quality, its stellar display, good performance and battery life. The annoying ads and the camera’s mixed performance though seem to be holding it back. Micromax is further tempting buyers by offering double data offer from Airtel, and also a 7-day doorstep service policy from Micromax.
Competition though is strong in this segment, and it will have to face off against the likes of the Motorola Moto G (third-generation), Xiaomi Mi 4i, and the Asus Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) among others. That said, it looks quite capable to hold its own against the aforementioned rivals.