Starmobile Knight Elite Review! The Sleek Midrange Worthy Phone Loaded With Special Camera Features!

The Knight series of Starmobile has always been their premium line packed with innovative features. Last October of 2015, they released the Knight Elite, a phone at appears to change the local midrange photography game once more by providing several camera innovation that's unknown in the sub10k price category before.
Starmobile Knight Elite review
Starmobile Knight Elite review

Fast forward this first quarter of 2016, we were finally able to get our hands full with the device as we used it as our secondary phone for the past two weeks. Does it live up to the hype or just a marketing strategy? Let's all find out in this review.

First let's take a look on what this phone can offer in the specs department.

Related: Starmobile Knight Spectra Review, Still The Local Flagship To Beat This Early 2016!

Starmobile Knight Elite Specs

Display: 5 Inch FHD IPS JDI 1920 x 1080 w/ Gorilla Glass protection at 441 ppi
CPU: 1.5 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 615 octa core processor
GPU: Adreno 405
RAM: 2 GB
ROM: 16 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 32 GB
Back Camera: 13 MP AF BSI w/ flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP FF w/ flash
Battery: 2,600 mAh
OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, GPS, Dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Graviity, proximity, magnetic, light
Dimensions: 142 x 70 x 6.3 mm
Weight: 143 g
Price: 9,990 Pesos (6490 Pesos Sale Price)

Unboxing / Accessories

Unboxing
The Knight Elite box

The Starmobile Knight Elite looks elite even from just taking a look at its packaging. You'll be greeted immediately by a classy looking box that entice you that you'll be opening something special.
Inclusions inside
Inclusions inside

After opening the box, you'll find more than what's normally found in a basic smartphone package. This one is loaded and complete with everything you need to start with. You'll get a 1A wall charger, thick tangle free flat charging / data cables, earphones with mic, screen protections in front and back, slim transparent case, SIM card ejector and micro fiber cleaning cloth.

Build Quality / Design

Glass back
Beautiful glass back non-removable cover

At first glance, the Knight Elite is a testament that you don't need to spend top money to experience near premium build quality. It's made out solidly impressive materials that includes a metallic polycarbonate frame that feels durable enough and Gorilla glass in the front panel and at the back.
On top
Camera, flash, sensors, 3.5 mm jack and microphone visible on top
Speakers
Speaker grills, microphone (left) and speakers (right) below
Buttons on left side
Volume rocker and power button on the left side
SIM tray
Removable hybrid SIM card / micro SD card tray on the right

In terms of design, it borrows a page from the book of Xperia's omnibalance structure with the reminiscent of the old iPhone 4 / 4s. As a result, that combination is excellent. It looks great and has the right size to fit my small hands perfectly. The ovetall grip is also great overall grip and the minor sharp edges at the back will be removed once you placed the free screen protector.

I also liked that even if the back is made out of glass, it isn't that prone to smudges that keeps it neatly and appealing most of the time. It's also one of the slimmest local phone today at 6.3 mm.

Ports and button placements is also quite okay as most of the parts were located in places they should be except for the power button (w/ LED notification) and volume rocker on the left side of the device. It may just make you unfamiliar with that type of setup at first, but so far everything is okay with this phone in terms of design, build and feel.


Display Quality

Screen quality
Great screen of Knight Elite

This phone uses a 5 inch screen with a truly high resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels at 441 ppi. Combine that JDI glass with IPS technology ensures you to get one of the best display experience on a fairly small phone today.
Display options
5 points multi touch and screen options

Just like what we expected, the results were very good. It was able to produce sweet to the eyes color tones with super sharp details. Even if the colors weren't as eye popping compared with AMOLED panels, some might even prefer this due to that less saturation effect.

The JDI screen was also able to provide better visibility and nice viewing angles that's outstanding for viewing photos and watching videos on the go. Brightness is also great that makes it easy to read even under direct sunlight.

Sound Quality

The speaker quality of the Knight Elite has a slightly above average quality that has good loudness and decent clarity that must be great enough for most. I liked that Starmobile placed the speaker below instead at the back which we really hate from other handsets.

In terms of the headphone quality thru the unknown DAC used by Starmobile here, it's another testament that smartphones nowadays doesn't lag that much anymore in terms of audio performance.

I was able to get that HiFi grade sound with a little warmer tone that's fairly analytical, balanced and easy on the ears. There's just some minor bloats in the sub-bass region, but its totally acceptable for me especially if you lessen it by a dB or two with the use of the equalizer.

What's wonderful with the sound of this device is the amazing clarity of the mids that's great for both male and female vocals. The even with some instrument heavy tracks by BP Valenzuela, I was able to hear her voice neatly. Aside from that this is also one of the very few music phones aside from the HiFi ready Gionee Elife E8, Galaxy A8 and Huawei G8 that was able to make the unclear, background voices from JB's No Pressure song shine.

That means that this is a music player that can produce audiophile friendly output that can drive even source picky in ear monitors such as the Havi B3 Pro 1 and Auglamour R8 Silver at around 80% of volume. This phone is also good enough to tame some of the piercing highs of my VSonic VSD5 without lessening micro details.

So far this is the only local phone that sounds a little better than the Flare 4 according to my ears. Yes, this also sounds better than both my Honor 6 Plus and Asus ZenFone Selfie.

While I'm not really suggesting that it can truly replace your dedicated entry level HiFi player like the FiiO X1, this phone won't make you miss them that much as well. It's that good.

Note 1: Again, make sure to turn off the Snapdragon Audio enhancements in order to achieve better audio quality
Note 2: Call and microphone quality of this phone also did an okay job as a whole

Battery Life

Battery test
Battery test and options

If I have some criticisms with this phone, battery life is one of them. While it isn't bad performing, I'm expecting more from devices with Snapdragon 615 chip paired with 2,600 mAh of battery in a 5 inch screen. Maybe, that's the toll of having a Full HD JDI panel. I got a result of 3 hours and 25 mins under super heavy usage and battery drain with everything on.

Under normal usage, I was able to use it from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm on a single charge with occasional calls, WiFi or 3G all the time and random picture taking.

Charging time is also slower than expected with a recorded time of 3 hours and 10 mins. (6:40 to 9:30 am)

Camera

Touted as a photography centric phone for mobile, I have high hopes for this phone. Gladly, it did not disappoint. The Knight Elite is one of the most capable camera handsets even over 10K Pesos today.

Starmobile used an unknown type of rear sensor here that's fairly capable and optimized. I was able to get close to natural color accuracy, fine details and decent low light performance.

It can also take macro shots even on very close subjects up to an estimate of a little less than 2 inches. Focus speed is pleasing under lively natural lighting and lags for 1 to 2 seconds in challenging low light conditions.

The Selfie camera on the other hand is also no slouch as it has one of the nicest details out of a 5 MP cam in the market today. It also has the strongest selfie flash I tested that won't over expose the subject.

Arguably the best camera software coming from a local brand, it goes with a plethora of features from panorama, beautify, filters, different modes and etc.
Star camera
The Star Camera interface

What's special here is the introduction of the Star Camera that comes with 3 main functions. The ReFocus tech that lets you choose the focal point of a photo even after taking it ala Honor 6 Plus and Knight Spectra.

While it isn't that refined, the refocus tech is still one of those features you'll find useful from time to time.

The Chroma Flash on the other hand lets you take two photos at the same time with flash to give you natural looking and avoid overexposure with your low light shots. Lastly, the Opti Zoom, takes multiple photos to combine them to give you sharp images even at max 6x zoom.
ReFocus in action
ReFocus in action

The Knight Elite also enables you to take 1080p videos at the back and supposedly 720p videos only in front. However, we discovered that the front camera saves 1080p videos as well. And that's a great thing!

Both sensors don't have OIS function so you'll need some steady hands to avoid shaking.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight shot
Gloomy daylight shot (nice accuracy of colors)
Showing sharpness and balance
Showing sharpness and balance
Macro sample
Macro sample (refocused)
HDR test (left normal)
HDR test (left normal)
Opti Zoom sample
Opti Zoom sample
Dim light shot featuring Angel Macaraig (Check out how clear and nice this shot is)
Night shot
Night shot
Normal flash (left) vs Chroma flash (right)
Normal flash (left) vs Chroma flash (right)

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie good lighting
Selfie good lighting
Selfie with the use of its impressive flash
Selfie with the use of its impressive flash

Video Sample


Performance

Antutu and Geekbench scores
Antutu and Geekbench scores

Given the fact that this phone utilizes the same Snapdragon 615 octa core chip and 2 GB that's commonly found with more expensive midrange devices from well known international brands, the Knight Elite proved to be a well rounded performer.

Even with the slightly lower score than were used to with the Snapdragon 615 SoC, we rarely felt hiccups and even minor slowdowns in running casual task and applications. It can run virtually any known Android app, moving from one app to another is pretty smooth and the general experience is great by far.

By far, we only experienced frame drops when we played games with heavy graphic requirements of very high settings. Don't get me wrong, they're still playable especially when you lower the settings, that's something not possible with device with lower configuration.
UI of the phone
UI of the phone

The UI of the device is much like stock Android with Google Now launcher that delivered an easy to use and snappy feel. Bloats are also almost non-existent except for some pre-installed apps like clean master and Starmobile apps. 

However, the File Manager software feels limited as there's no way you can move or copy your files from your USB OTG storage to the phone memory. (I hope that it will be fixed via OTA soon) For now, you may download other file managers via Google Playstore.

We also like the way that this phone has complete and nice connectivity from OTG, LTE, Bluetooth and GSM signals as it didn't gave us any problem at all. It also goes with one of the most responsive full double tap to wake function just like LG's knock code tech.

There's just little heating when you turn on LTE and play games or watch videos at the same time, fortunately, its tolerable. 

Pros - Speedy performance, premium looking design, extra sharp display, great performing audio DAC, nifty camera features, LTE connectivity, full double tap to wake function
Cons - Average battery life, mild heating issue, bad file manager software

Verdict

The Starmobile Knight Elite is a midrange offering that's often overlooked by individuals who only look in specs on paper. Fortunately, the experience of using it speaks a different story. Even up to this date, it's still a good performing handset great for everyone who needs a 5 inch phone with extra sharp full HD screen great for one handed use. Aside from that, it's also loaded with nifty photography wizardry not commonly found among under 10k phones.

However, I'm still expecting a price cut soon due to the amount of competition popping left and right to make this solid phone more competitive.

Update! We GOT OUT WISH! The Knight Elite is now priced at just 6490 Pesos, making it possibly the best deal in that price range!

GIZ Rating: 4/5 Stars
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