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Cherry Mobile Flare S5 Review - The Proper Successor To The Great S4?

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Phones with fingerprint scanners are becoming even cheaper and the Cherry Mobile Flare S5 hopes to fill that need coming in around PHP 5,699 with great budget phone specs with 3 GB RAM, 16 GB of internal storage with micro SD card expansion and USB type C.
Cherry Mobile Flare S5 review!

The Flare 4 was a landmark achievement from Cherry Mobile with its design, construction and affordability last year. So the challenge for CM was how do they top themselves this time. We were excited for this moment, the moment when the Flare S5 was announced and we got our hands at one for review. Here is what we think!

Disclaimer: This Flare S5 is a loaner unit from Cherry Mobile for an honest review.

Cherry Mobile Flare S5 Specs

Display: 5 Inch HD IPS 1280 x 720 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass at 294 ppi
CPU: 1.3 GHz 64 Bit MT6753 octa core processor
GPU: Mali T720
RAM: 3 GB
ROM: 16 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 64 GB
Back Camera: 16 MP f/2.2 Samsung sensor w/ PDAF, BSI, and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.4 Omnivision sensor w/ BSI
Battery: 2,400 mAh
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE, GPS, A GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM (micro)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, proximity, orientation, sound, magnetic, gravity, gyroscope
Others: Fingerprint sensor, USB Type C
Price: PHP 5,699 (PHP 3,999 sale price)

Unboxing / Accessories

Everything inside the box
Everything inside the box

We get the phone, USB 2.0 to USB Type C cable, 1.5A wall charger, documentations and earphones. The power brick is light and solid to hold. The phone itself comes with the tempered glass out of the box. 

This is one of the first local brands to introduce a USB Type C device and the USB Type C cable is thicker than most of the competition and it never felt like it will break or fray easily. The earphones however are another story. It's the standard Cherry earphones we've been getting for years and we found the build design to be dated. We hope cherry will update it soon!

Build Quality / Design 

Top view showing the headphone jack and antenna lines

Out of the box, the Flare S5 is a stunner for a sub PHP 5K phone. The screen is covered with a 2.5D glass which is encased with a solid but refined edged metal frame. The back is a glossy faux metal polycarbonate back plate.


It feels like a phone more expensive than its asking price!

What caught our attention out of the box was the metal band that gives the rigid, premium feel when holding the phone. It is a thick phone but the chamfered edges makes it easier to hold and adds the illusion that is thinner than it really is. The only downside is that the metal band scratches easily so we recommend getting a case.
Microphone, Type C port, and single speaker below
Microphone, Type C port, and single speaker below
Left side of the phone showing the edges
Left side of the phone showing the edges
Power button and volume rocker at right
Power button and volume rocker at right

The front of the phones has 8 MP camera, sensors, earpiece and a notification LED on top. The 5 inch screen has a thick black border bezel surrounding it. Underneath is the recent apps button, the home button with fingerprint scanner and the back button. None of these buttons are illuminated.

The top of the phone has the 3.5 mm microphone jack while at the bottom has two grills, only one of them is the speaker and the other is the microphone. In the middle is the micro USB 3.1 port. The back cover has a brushed metal pattern. It has decent grip even if it looks shiny. The re a shallow camera bump that doesnt interfere when using the phone on th table. Underneath the cover is a mini SIM, micro SIM, a micro SD card slot up to 32 GB, and the 2,400 mAH of battery.

It is easy to hold even if it chunkier and heavier than other phones of the 5 inch form factor which surprised us given its over all thickness.

Display Quality

Bright and sharp!
Bright and sharp!

The 294 ppi, 5 Inch, 1280 x 720 resolution IPS display is sharp with good viewing angles but could be brighter and the colors feel a little short of saturated.We found images to be sligtly duller than most. It affected our experience with the pictures we took with this phone because they would come out dull in color but when we transfered it to another screen, the images looked better.

Aside from that, the 5 point multi-touch display is responsive and we never felt lag with any of our touch inputs. 

Audio Quality

The speaker audio volume at max is not that loud while the audio range is pretty narrow with sounds coming out as flat. The bass and treble were not that far from each other.

Speaker quality is where this phone falls short.

The headphones output did a better job. The bass and the treble has high dynamic range with noticeably less distortion and with each tone are well defined and meatier compared to the built in speaker.

For calls, microphone quality did an decent job. We've never had a caller telling us that they had difficulty with calls made to us with the Flare S5. Audio from our video recordings turned out to be decent as well. 

Battery Life

Almost 7 hours of battery life!
Almost 7 hours of battery life!

The 2400 mAh battery performed very well with our standard battery test. It even beat the Kata i5's 3000 mAh battery by more than an hour.

For real world use, we found ourselves at 100% at 8 AM and get home at 8 PM with 15% to 20% battery left after a full day's use of calling, texting, social media and some YouTube consumption. With LTE usage it runs out faster.

Charging time from 1 to 100 averages in the  90 minute ranges. It does get warm while charging but not that much.

Camera

The camera interface
The camera interface

Carrying a 16 MP f/2.2 Samsung sensor w/ PDAF, BSI, and LED flash (S5K3L8 interpolated from 13 MP), the flare S5 camera is better than the old S4's and is on par with most phones in its price range.

Camera software is mostly standard. There isn't a lot to make it standout from the rest. It does have the HDR, Panorama modes and only 9 filters. We find it short compared to the offerings of other phones in this price range. There is a feature where if the subject makes the peace sign, the shutter will release. Which is good for the peace sign makers when taking selfies. Auto-focus falters at low light.

Images have sharp enough details with good color saturation and acceptable depth rendition especially at bright lighting conditions. Under low light, noise or grain eat up most of the fine details but we find the images acceptable. 

The LED flash helps but pictures tend to have this harsh light that may turn off some people. Otherwise, it helps immensely with the low light situations.

Rear Camera Samples

Random daylight shot
Random daylight shot
Overexposed on super bright conditions
Overexposed on super bright conditions
It did a better job this time, good blurring of the background as well
It did a better job this time, good blurring of the background as well
Grainy indoor shot
Grainy indoor shot
Lowlight sample
Lowlight sample

The 8 MP f/2.4 Omnivision sensor w/ BSI (OV5648 interpolated from 5 MP) is quite good! It's sharp with decent color reproduction but sacrifices depth rendition. Otherwise we find it superior to most sub 5K phones out there. Low light does decrease the details but it isn't too bad. We recommend this for selfie lovers on a budget even with the lack of selfie flash or screen flash.

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie sample
Selfie sample

For videos, it can record up to 1080p at 30 fps behind. It has up to 720p support in front. Quality is not great, but usabale when needed. It has no stabilization.

Performance

Antutu and Geekbench scores
Antutu and Geekbench scores

Pushed by a 1.3 GHz 64 Bit MT6753 octa core processor with 3 GB RAM, this phone is a great multitasker!

We almost never experienced lag with daily use of social media apps, messaging apps, dialer apps, media playback apps and some games. We also left a lot of apps and chrome tabs in the background and we would forget that we left it on because of how big the RAM capacity is.

For games, it ran Asphalt 8 at high settings with an average of at least 30 fps which for most people would make them jump for joy! For heavier games like NBA 2K17, its Mali T720 GPU can load it nicely on mostly low settings.
Fingerprint shortcuts!
Fingerprint shortcuts!

It is loaded with the latest version of Cherry Mobile modified Android 6.0 Marshmallow. So it is near stock but with added features.

Some are gimmicky but most are useful like the fingerprint associated shortcuts and the gesture shortcuts. We could assign to launch the music player or the camera to a specific fingerprint which combined with the iPhone 5S like speed and accuracy makes the workflow incredibly quick! 

NEAR STOCK OS IS NEVER A BAD THING!

To complete the experience we like thats USB Type C port is OTG ready, Bluetooth works (a little slower though), telephony signal for calls / SMS is strong, and LTE connectivity is stable on places with proper signals.

Pros - Firm and solid design, 3 GB of RAM, one of the nicest selfie camera for the price, USB Type C, gyroscope works, fingerprint associated shortcuts are amazing!
Cons - A little heavy, speaker audio falls short, thus good earphones is a must have, display colors are not accurate

Verdict

If you want a budget phone with great selfie camera and solid build design then this phone is for you! We love the design even though its a little heavy. We find the 3 GB RAM the best thing that we could forget about apps in the background. The only real caveats are the speaker audio quality and color inaccuracies of the display, otherwise this is a great phone to have for the budget.

Build / Design - 4
Display - 3.75
Audio - 3.5
Battery - 3.75
Camera - 4
Performance - 4.25

Average - 3.75 / 5
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