Cherry Mobile Flare S Play Review, Still The Budget DTV Capable Phone To Beat!

Few months ago, we have had the chance to play around with Cherry's Flare S Play, the lowest priced DTV capable phone with octa core processor, LTE and 2 GB RAM. At that time, we think that it really did a great job on implementing what it really has to offer to the masses. Fast forward 2016, we finally had a chance to take a look back at that phone to share with you guys if it is still worth all your bucks in this full Cherry Mobile Flare S Play review.
Cherry Mobile Flare S Play review
Cherry Mobile Flare S Play review

Disclaimer: This seed unit was provided by Cherry Mobile for an honest review

To read our review part 1: Cherry Mobile Flare S Play Unboxing And First Impressions, DTV For Everyone?

Display Quality

The HD screen
The HD screen

The Flare S Play incorporated an HD screen looks nicely vibrant, sharp enough and has brightness level that can be usable even under direct sunlight. It just looks a little tad blueish in my opinion, but it just looks fine for most including me.
5 points of multi touch is present
5 points of multi touch is present

Another thing that I like here is it doesn't hurt my eyes that much and the brightness level can go really low that's friendly to the eyes when used in the dark. Lastly, it also has 5 points of multitouch, 10 points could be better, but at least it's not like other who's still using the dreaded 2 points of touch.

It's not the best in terms of display for the price, but Cherry managed to place a very decent screen for the price.

Battery Life

Having a phone with DTV and LTE capabilties should have large battery life. That's the reason why I was disappointed when I found out that this handset only has 2,000 mAh of capacity.
Battery test

However, this also proves the saying that you shall not judge the quality of a device on paper only. The Flare S Play proves to be a very well optimized phone in terms of battery life. As a matter of fact I was very surprised that it was able to last with me for 2 days straight as my secondary phone. On our work battery life test under PC Mark benchmark tool it even beats the 3,500 mAh powered Lenovo K4 Note with over 8 hours of usage against over 7.5 hours only.

Charging time feels better than other CM devices I tested in the past clocking 2:10 hours using a 1A charger.

Audio Quality

A phone designed to have DTV capabilities should have loud speakers. For a regular smartphone, the said device features a decent speakers with fairly nice details and good enough clarity with noticeable distortion on max volume.

However, I would have liked it better if Cherry placed the speakers in front instead at the back and make it sound louder. For the price, I wouldn't really complain though.

In terms of audio out via headphones, it was just nice but not as special the Flare 4. Anyway it's flat sounding, the lows is somehow evident when needed and the mids is quite clear. The highs was just a little duller than expected, the soundstage isn't that wide and the volume was not that loud as well.

In terms of microphone setup, it should be good enough for most in calls and recordings that's quite surprising for a device that only uses a single mic setup.

Camera

Camera quality
Camera quality

This Cherry devices uses a 13 MP Samsung 4h5yc sensor with f/2.4 aperture, BSI tech and LED flash. In front it uses a 5 MP camera with f/2.8 aperture.

Going to the quality of the interpolated rear camera, I really didn't have high hopes on it. Fortunately, the results speaks the truth that it is a capable camera for the price. It's fairly detailed, clear enough, isn't that grainy, sharp at times, good for macros and doesn't look dull at all.

In the dark, it's expected that its f/2.4 lens won't fare that well, but luckily it has a strong yet not overpowering flash.

The HDR rendering may not be fast, could have better contrast, the tonal balance is a tad on the blue-ish side and there, washed out shots at times and it may not be as good as the camera of the Flare 4, but it's still on the more acceptable side compared with other bad cameras under 5K. Under good lighting condition you'll rarely have a problem with its rear camera.

Upon checking the selfie camera, it's fairly usable under good lighting situations, but don't expect too much. Even if it isn't not as grainy as expected, it's violet-ish in color and has slow HDR. Hopefully, there will be an update that will try to fix that color tones by default.

In terms of video capabilities, the rear camera performed as expected delivering not so shaky 1080p videos at 30 frames per seconds. Just don't use it in the dark and you'll get nice results most of the time. The selfie video on the other hand is usable, but clearly has a lot of room for improvement.

Rear Camera Samples

It's surprisingly decent in this daylight shot
It's surprisingly decent in this daylight shot
Can take really close macro shots
Can take really close macro shots (it produces good background blur in other shots too)
Regular photo vs HDR
Regular photo vs HDR
Panorama test
Panorama test (Good image stitching)
Falls short in lowlight
Falls short in lowlight
Fortunately, the flash can cover it up
Fortunately, the flash can cover it up

Selfie Camera Samples

Good light selfie with beautify
Good light selfie with beautify
HDR selfie
HDR selfie

Performance

Benchmarks
Benchmarks

Under the hood it uses a familiar setup commonly found in in bang per buck sub-5K handsets. The Flare S Play utilizes the old yet proven and still efficient MT6592m octa core chip clocked at 1.2 GHz paired with Mali 450 GPU. It's also one of the good phones who's using at least 2 GB of RAM in this price range and has a fairly large 16 GB of ROM that's expandable to 32 GB.

Those traits alone makes it a great phone for casual performance, general multitasking and some mid-level gaming that doesn't require high-end GPUs with not that much heating. We also liked that Cherry maintained its clean near stock Android type of UI that probably helped in making this device run as smooth as possible.

However, that's not the surprise here. The Flare S Play is one of the very few phones that has LTE connectivity paired on an MT6592m. If I understand correctly, the dedicated LTE chip did the trick here and the results were decent. Connectivity-wise, I rarely had a problem unless there's 3G or LTE signal in the area in terms of using the internet.


The main highlight of the Flare S Play is its DTV function. This device is one of the rare phones with DTV capability. To make sure that they beat the competition, Cherry placed that unmatched specs for a budget DTV phone.

Using the DTV is fairly easy as well. Just plug the antenna, open the app, search for digital signals and choose the channel of your choice. So far, in our area I can search for 11 channels at most. The quality is great, it's clearer than our own analog TV and I enjoyed using it.

When in travel, expect times that there are signal loss as there's always some interruptions in the air while you're moving. Lastly, you can also record the shows of your desire using the app.

I just have one comment, the antenna is easy to misplace as it isn't attached to the phone at all. Other than that, it's a good DTV phone in general.

Pros - Good performance, long battery life, decent rear camera, LTE connectivity and DTV function
Cons - Just an okay build, blueish selfie camera, tinny headphone out, speakers should be louder

Update: This device now retails at 3,999 Pesos only and comes with FREE Cherry Prepaid load of 1,200 equivalent to 100 Pesos per month with a minimum top up of 30 Pesos. Sweet deal!

Verdict

I have yet to see a phone that has this type of config for the price. Aside from being a capable sub-5k octa core phone with 2 GB RAM and LTE connectivity, the Flare S Play by Cherry Mobile is simply the best DTV capable phone in its category.

GIZ Rating: 4.25/5 Stars
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