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Intex Aqua i7 Review

on November 17, 2013 – 12:12 pmNo Comment

The mid range smartphone market in India is insanely competitive to say the least. We have been seeing tons of companies make affordable phones with some of the specifications that are usually only reserved for the top end phones. But due to the same cut throat competition, we have also been seeing many similar devices, with common attributes like the display and the chipset. In that sense, the current market trend is this – a 5 inch 1080p display and a MediaTek 6589T processor. The Gionee Elife E6, the Micromax Canvas Turbo and of course, the Intex Aqua i7 are all part of this trend, improving upon the 720p screen based phones earlier. But is it really worth the effort and upgrade? We find out in our review and are going to see if the Aqua i7 delivers the usual promise of “more for less”.

Box Contents

  • Intex Aqua i7
  • In-ear earphones with mic
  • Micro USB cable
  • Travel Charger
  • Flip Cover that replaces the back
  • User guide and Warranty card

The box contents are the usual except for the Flip Cover that we increasingly notice in big screen phone boxes these days. Here’s our unboxing video of the same -

Hardware Walkthrough

The design of the Intex Aqua i7 is not flashy, but it is sufficiently familiar and conservative. You have smooth curves and a matte plastic back, and along with the false chrome sides, it is as generic as it can get, but sometimes that’s a good thing. It sort of resembles the Oppo R819 overall but the similarities end when the build quality is in question. The Intex Aqua i7 has surprisingly good build quality thanks to the matte plastic back and usage of higher quality plastic overall. This is a trend we are seeing in these kinds of phones recently, which is a welcome change. It also helps that the device is really thin and light, making it a great fit in terms of ergonomics. We had no problems with grip or reaching the whole of the screen with a single hand, but people with tiny hands might find it problematic. Lets go through the hardware now.

The front is completely covered in glass, with the 5 inch 1080p display underneath it. Above the display you have the grilled ear piece, the front facing camera and a couple of sensors. We were bummed to see there was no notification LED here.

You also have the capacitive shortcut keys below the display for home, back and the contextual menu. They are backlit and of course, offer haptic feedback.

There is a chrome coloured plastic strip running through the middle on the sides. You can find the volume rocker on the left side.

Similarly, the power lock switch is present on the right, both the buttons made of metal.

Over at the bottom, you have the primary microphone and that alone.

Moving to the top, we have the 3.5mm audio jack and the micro USB port. There is no secondary microphone on this phone, so stereo audio recording is ruled out.

The back houses the 13 megapixel camera, the single LED flash and the loudspeaker. You also have the brand logos there.

Underneath the back cover we have the two SIM card slots, one micro SIM and one mini SIM slot. There is no micro SD, but we have plenty of in-built storage.

Display

The 5 inch 1920×1080 resolution IPS display on the Intex Aqua i7 is great. It has great viewing angles, brightness and even decent contrast. Watching videos on it was nice and there was no problem in outdoor visibility too. The phone came with a screenguard so we were not able to see the effects of it being a finger print magnet or anything.

One minor issue we noted is the refresh rate which sometimes is visible to the naked eye by means on miniscule banding at close distances, but is hardly noticeable otherwise. This is something we have been seeing in many Chinese as well as Indian mid range devices and we are guessing these are panels made by the same company. They are generally great, nevertheless. Overall a pretty awesome display at this price.

Camera

The camera on the back of the phone is a 13 Megapixel unit, with the sensor likely by Sony. Having witnessed poor performance in various 13 MP cameras from other phones in the price range, this one felt like a much better offering. The phone has a completely custom skin over the default apps, and hence the camera UI receives the same treatment. You can take a look at the camera UI and some samples in the camera review we did earlier -

The Aqua i7′s 13 megapixel camera is really decent. Captures the colours quite well and even the HDR photos were a revelation for us, as we have seen only washed out photos with other phones in the same price range. But as with any phone at this price range, there are a few caveats. We noted that taking macro shots were extremely hard with this phone, the focus distance is longer than usual, making it slightly irritating to take photos up close. The daylight performance produces colourful punchy photos but has softened details, and the low light performance on the other hand leaves much to be desired, with colour noise showing up in extreme low light conditions and flash doing no good. The HDR photos were a revelation for us, as we have seen only washed out photos with other phones in the same price range. But talking of price, this is a mid range phone, may be we are expecting too much.

You can take a look at all the camera samples here to make a fair judgement.

Note: Some photos have been resized to 80% because of file size limit. We can assure you that there are no major changes to the photos.

Daylight

HDR

Indoor and low light

Macro

Video Sample

The phone records in full HD 1080p resolution at 30 fps, but lacks a secondary microphone for stereo audio recording. The audio is quite bad due to that, and makes the video unbearable in windy conditions, but decent otherwise. The video quality on the other hand is average and falls prey to some over processing as usual.

Overall the camera is good for the price, and we suggest you use the HDR mode exclusively for daylight photos in case you are getting this phone. You might not get the details you need but it will be good enough for sharing on social networks.

Internals and performance

Sporting a 1.5 GHz MediakTek 6589T processor and the PowerVR SGX544MP GPU, one might wonder about the device’s performance, due to the main disadvantage of pushing a full HD display. The MTK6589 Turbo chipset is clocked higher than the 6589 and has added support for 1080p displays. But we still feel it is underpowered for that resolution, from what we have seen and used.

While the raw performance of the CPU is on par with the other Turbo chipsets and improves upon 6589 generally, the GPU performance is where it takes a hit, and of course, this slip is attributed to the resolution that the GPU struggles to handle. We ran a lot of benchmarks on the Intex Aqua i7 to find it consistently perform well in CPU tests while losing out massively in all the GPU tests, take a look at some of them here -

You can view the complete list of benchmarks that we did earlier. We also tried out a lot of games, but again, found it to be quite inadequate in this department. Here are some of the gameplay videos and the gaming review of the Intex Aqua i7.

Gaming review

Gameplay videos

In general, we found the custom UI of the Aqua i7 to be taking a toll on the performance, along with the dense full HD screen. The overall experience was really laggy for us, until we installed the third party Nova launcher which, finally, made things usable. We recommend you do the same for any full HD MT6589T phone because the default launcher is probably going to be a resource hog that derails the entire user experience.

storage-aqua-i7

Other internals include the storage, which is plenty on the Aqua i7. You get 24.3 GB of usable space out of the 32 GB of memory with 3 GB reserved for app storage and Android 4.2.1 taking up 4.17 GB of space. You also get 2GB of RAM, which, under heavy multi tasking lets you use almost 1.6 GB of it easily, with around 300-400 MB left. We felt multitasking was not a problem at all, only the time it took was a bit slower than usual, in terms of switching between apps.

Connectivity

The phone is Dual SIM, out of which one can access 3G HSPA+ while the other can 2G. This depends on priority mainly, so be it a micro SIM on the slot 2 or the mini SIM on the slot 1, the one you choose as the primary will have 3G with the other one being 2G. We had used the phone in both the modes and found no problems with connectivity on either. You can always set defaults for SIM1 and SIM2 within the SIM management options, like usual.

intex-aqua-i7-connectivity

Other connectivity options include WiFi b/g/n and Miracast support out of the box, and a ton of options for USB connectivity. The phone can work in mass storage as well as the MTP mode or it can even launch itself as a disk to let you install the drivers on your PC. It’s always good to have options.

Software

Coming to software, the phone comes with Android 4.2.1, but with a custom UI skin. It’s not good that Intex are going down this route because, frankly, all the other manufacturers have stuck to an almost stock skin and that seems to have worked out for them well. The almost stock UI on the other phones are not a deterrent to performance and look very much like Android, but the Intex UI here is everything opposite.

Right from the icons to the widgets and the wallpapers, the UI is modified to look nothing like Android, which is alright when it’s done well, but Intex doesn’t seem to have paid attention to that. But along with all the pretentious features, there are some useful ones too, like the quick toggles for direct access to different parts of settings and lock screen counters for missed notifications. But even if you could somehow learn to live with the UI, the slow performance doesn’t help at all. Partly due to the extra burden of a 1080p display, the default launcher is very slow, with unnecessary effects and general sluggishness as a result. A quick solution would be installing a 3rd party launcher like Nova, which will make things a lot better. But if you happen to be a fan of this UI, then you have a lot to look forward to.

The skin has options to choose a lot of themes locally and you can even download more online. There is a Simple theme which is very minimal, but you dont get the stock goodness like you get on several other phones. Changing the theme will also change the icon set. You can press the menu button to change the Theme, Wallpaper, Add widgets, homescreens and manage apps on the homescreen and you can have a total of 9 homescreens. All the apps are arranged on the home screen and there is no application list. You can also create folders by placing one app over another and press and hold the app and click the cross sign to remove the app, but everything from the home screen.

Coming to apps, the phone comes with a lot of pre-installed ones, virtually identical to every other mid range Intex phone, like the Aqua HD. The utility apps include, Calculator, Calendar, Clock, Compass, Gallery, File Manager, Flashlight, Notes, Sound Recorder and Torch. It also comes with the usual set of Google Apps. Other than these, you also get pre-installed apps such as B1 Free Archiver, Opera Mini browser, Hungama music app and RacingMoto game. TheVault app powered by NQ Mobile that lets you hide Hide SMS, Images, Videos and more.

The Intex Play app store inside the Intex Zone lets you download free and paid apps. The Intex Zone has shortcuts to Intex Games Club, option to download content from Intex HD Videos, Auto Call Record option and more. It also has Intex Cloud that lets you store up to 5GB content.

Media options include a custom Music player that can play a range of different audio formats and FM radio that can record, but does not come with the RDS feature. In our experience, the music player was alright, but sometimes skipped in between tracks, a small jerk in playback, which slightly ruined the experience sometimes. The loudspeaker is quite good and loud though, and the HiFi setting option made the music player more bearable. The video player, which is also custom, has “Pause on look away” feature that uses the front facing camera to detect your face movements and pause the video accordingly, when you are looking away.

aqua-i7-keyboard

Other interesting additions from Intex include the Maathrubhaasha keyboard, that has almost all of the Indian languages for input. There is always an option to switch to the basic Android AOSP keyboard when needed but for people looking at native language input, this should be extremely useful. The keyboard is responsive but honestly, we found the layout to be cramped and hard to type on, could have been better.

Battery Life

The Intex Aqua i7 comes with a standard 2000 mAH battery, which was downright doubtful as the 1080p display is a known power sapper, and right I was. The display indeed sipped enough energy to make the Aqua i7 last less than a day. Sometimes the battery drains fast when the device in constantly in use and slows down when in the pocket. We think that the display is too bright in Auto mode, so we had to resort to dimming the display manually to avoid this power drain. The situation slightly improved after a couple of days, with the device providing us a solid 14 hours of average use, but we figure it would be worse with a dual SIM arrangement. Overall, the battery is not up to the mark, and could have been beefed up or at least display could have been managed better to be dimmer in Auto settings, which is mostly preferable for most conditions.

Conclusion

The Intex Aqua i7 is part of this new affordable full HD smartphone range, and rightly so. Standalone, the display, the build quality and the decent camera performance is quite good for the price, but the main sticking point for us is the overall performance of the phone. Games are laggy and the UI performance in the default launcher full of stutter, but once you install a third party launcher, it becomes MUCH better. This is a pattern we are seeing with all these full HD options in the mid range, the performance is not quite upto the mark, and ironically that’s the price you pay for an affordable full HD smartphone. If you can live with the custom UI, the laggy performance and the average battery life, then the Aqua i7 is a good contender in the full HD selection. Summarizing, go for this phone if you are looking for an affordable full HD smartphone with above average build quality, a good display and a camera that takes decent photos, but it’s wise to look at other options too.

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Display is bright and looks good
  • Above average camera
  • Huge internal memory for the price

Cons

  • Below average performance
  • Custom skin and default launcher derail the experience
  • Average battery life
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Bharadwaj is obsessed with technology and is a self taught designer who covers news, writes features, reviews, loves to take photos and produces videos. He is currently using a review unit.
You can follow him on Twitter @bharadc23 and on Google+