SKK Chronos Cross Review - Capable Phablet For Less?

Even in the entry level segment, the competition is still as fierce. Manufacturers, local and foreign alike have been vying for each category, and we're seeing a variety of handsets that come with neat new features and performance that were once only exclusive to the high-end flagship race. 2.5D display panel, capable hardware, big screens, classy design language, fingerprint sensor - handsets with such features are getting cheaper by the minute.
SKK Chronos Cross Review - Capable Phablet For Less?
SKK Chronos Cross review

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

What we have today is SKK's Chronos Cross, and it goes in for the kill in the entry level segment with a whopping 6-inch screen and gorgeous design. The company offers the handset with an eye-popping 3,299 price tag. Skeptics as we are, we just have to put it to the test and see if SKK made several trade-offs to reach such a price point.

SKK Chronos Cross Specs

Display: 6.0 Inch qHD IPS 960 x 540 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass at 184 ppi
CPU:  1.3 GHz SC7731 quad core processor
GPU: Mali 400
RAM: 1 GB
ROM: 8 GB expandable via micro SD card slot
Back Camera: 8 MP w/ LED flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP w/ LED flash
Battery: 2,800 mAh
OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth, dual SIM
Price: Under 3,299 Pesos

Note: We received quite a barebones package here. It's just the handset with a leather case. While we're digging the Cross upfront, we would have wanted to see if SKK will be offering it in a packaging as classy as its design. We'll just dive deeper into its performance and usability to see how it holds out.

Build Quality / Design

View at the back, showing cameras and speakers
View at the back, showing cameras and speakers

SKK looks to go all out with the Chronos Cross in its build and design. It comes with a metal trim running at its side, and feels impressive to the touch. Its chamfered edges are giving it a design boost as well. The volume rockers and the power button on the right hand side of the handset are also metallic.
Phone opened, showing the batteries, dual SIM and micro SD card slot
USB charging port and 3.5 mm jack on top
USB charging port and 3.5 mm jack on top
Microphone visible below
Microphone visible below
Power button and volume rocker on the side
Power button and volume rocker on the side

On the front end, the Cross really gives a premium vibe. The 2.5D display panel adds a bit of flair to the device, so this could be your cue if you want to have one on the cheap. The capacitive keys are done in good taste – while it's not backlit, it doesn't take design cues from the Android days of old. There's also a single LED flash setup that sits beside the front-facing camera, while the ambient light sensor and the LED notification light are located at the opposite end.

On the flipside, there's the 8 MP shooter beside its LED flash, while further down south will bring you the branding and the speaker grille. This is where we nitpick - although the back panel emulates a metallic aesthetic, its design and color appear somewhat tacky. It's a matter of personal preference, and it just looks “off,” so to speak. Thankfully, SKK bundles a smart cover that can easily solve the problem. So, props to them.

Display Quality

Screen performance
Screen performance

It's quite obvious that the crowning glory of the Cross is its display - a 6-inch, 2.5D panel that looks svelte on top of the device. Screen-to-body ratio, it's on average. And yes, there is a “however” in such a case, and it's not looking for power users. On paper, the handset only comes with a 540 x 960 resolution. That's qHD, folks, and it translates to a low 183ppi. Now that may sound bad, but on practice, it's still quite acceptable. You will start to notice pixelations on some screen elements, and it even gets more obvious at close inspection. Do take note you're questioning a 3K handset here.
Multitouch test

However, if there's one true gripe that needs to be mentioned, it's the quite limiting 2-point multitouch that can really hamper its usability. In a display this big, SKK could have done better with the panel's functionality. That's a point we're taking away.

Audio Quality

SKK is complementing the Chronos Cross' massive 6-inch display with some capable audio performance through its speakers. It can easily fill up an entire room, which is actually good if you're out in the streets and you need something that can be heard. It doesn't pack in some solid bass punches, but at least it doesn't crackle when you crank the volume into overdrive. However, the placement isn't what you could actually call optimal. When laid flat, the handset itself muffles the audio quality, so you have to lay it against something or turn it upside down for the music.

Another thing - listening through the headphones isn't really savory. Audio elements aren't blending naturally here. Percussion sounds are isolated on one side, while the vocals and other instruments are on the other.

Battery Life

Battery test result
Battery test result

We're seeing some good numbers here. The Cross managed to cough up a 7 hour 42 minute (7.7 hours) up time through PCMark's Work battery life benchmark. Backlighting the 6-inch display could take a toll in the battery life, but the small pixel density isn't even taxing on a 2,800 mAh battery. On practice, we were able to get a maximum of 17 hours. That's relatively mixed usage - more on watching TV series during the bus ride and upon arrival at home as well as making rare calls here and there. Of course, your mileage will always vary.

Update: We discovered that the Chronos Cross only has 2,500 mAh of capacity after peeling the sticker off on its battery.

Camera

Selfie camera with flash
Selfie camera with flash

We're not holding our breathes for cameras on smartphones that don't go past the 4K mark, we want such devices to surprise us should they hide some tricks hidden up their sleeves. Unfortunately, the Cross' pair of cameras aren't really anything to write home about. You'll heavily rely on sunlight to achieve optimal stills, and that's not really saying much. Taking photos in dim lighting conditions will also produce results that are mediocre at best.

The 5 MP selfie camera with LED flash can do its job, but again, despite the LED flash giving the lighting conditions a boost, it's not enough when the lighting conditions are unfavorable. The flash does help, but it's not something you'll find yourself using plenty of times.


Rear Camera Samples

Daylight shot
Daylight shot
Daylight shot 2
Daylight shot 2
Close up photo
Close up photo
No flash
No flash
With flash
With flash

Selfie Camera Samples

A little blue-ish selfie
A little blue-ish selfie
Used the flash to correct the colors
Used the flash to correct the colors
Selfie dark
Selfie dark
Selfie flash
Selfie flash

Performance

Benchmark scores
Benchmark scores

Spreadtrum chipsets have started making their way into affordable handsets, and they are looking to follow MediaTek's reputation in the bang-for-the-buck moniker. The Cross is equipped with a Spreadtrum SC7731G with a 1.3 GHz quad-core A7 CPU, Mali-400 MP2 GPU and 1GB of RAM. There are no obvious hiccups when navigating through the homescreen, but obvious signs of sluggishness starts to appear when you're running multiple apps. Launching one will take up some time than the usual by that time, so do keep it to a minimum whenever possible.

Another thing - while it can run several graphic-intensive titles including Modern Combat 5, Hearthstone, Chaos Rings III, and the like, you'll be weirded out with the experience. It's 540 x 960, upscaled to fit a 6-inch display. Sure, they can run, but there aren't exactly many pixels to push.
Chronos Cross UI
Chronos Cross UI

SoftwareThe Chronos Cross currently runs Android 5.1 Lollipop that looks like an EMUI skin, which at this point is showing its signs of age. It's also close to the stock Android experience, so it could be your cup of tea if you're not one with OEM customizations. The only additions on the software are apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber, Clean Master, an SKK app (it's actually a shortcut to the company's website), Notes, and Sound Recorder, with the last two impossible to remove. Both have its uses so feel free to use them when the opportunity arises. Google Apps save for Gmail and Maps are nowhere to be found, but all it takes is a quick stop to the Play Store and you're homefree.

Pros - 6-inch display is welcomed, 2.5D curved display looks impressive, metallic edge looks classy, speaker performance is great, battery life is great, smart cover included is nice, LED flash is a plus should the need arise

Cons - low qHD resolution is off-putting, back panel design needs improvement, speaker isn't at its optimal position, weird sound output through headphones, 2-point multi-touch display is very, very limiting for its screen size

Verdict

SKK isn't limiting its target to one market with the Chronos Cross. The massive 6-inch display and rocking audio quality are great for people that looking for a portable multimedia handset for a fraction of the price. For selfie aficionados, there's the front-facing camera with an LED flash so you're pretty much covered with that. While it doesn't have the flagship-grade hardware that comes with high-end phones, it's still a capable runner. There are gripes here and there that need to be worked on and ironed out by SKK, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for them should version 2.0 does arrive in the future. But with everything said, you just can't go wrong with it. That's a Php3,299 well spent.

GIZ Rating: 3/5 Stars
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