Micromax is India’s second biggest smartphone company. But that is what market research firms say. Over 16% market share of Micromax is a fact. It is not a perception.
In the minds of consumers, Micromax is a local company. Few consumers put it in the league of Sony or LG even though Micromax sells more smartphones than both in India. The perception is that Micromax makes smartphones that are affordable but not necessarily top class.
For over a year now, Micromax is fighting, and fighting hard, to change this perception.
In 2013, Micromax launched Canvas HD, Canvas 4 and Canvas Turbo with an aim to show that it can make and sell phones that match the quality and finish of global products. The company did not hit the home run in its attempt but largely it succeeded. All three Canvas devices were better than anything else it had sold earlier.
Knight A350 is the next flagship Micromax phone. And it continues the company’s quest to win the respect that it feels it deserves. This time, in our opinion, it hits the home run.
Build and design
Knight A350 is a phone unlike any other Micromax made earlier. Though when compared to devices sold by companies like Sony and Apple, Knight A350 doesn’t look all that different.
The phone uses a glass and metal body. The back cover and the front of the screen is topped with tough – but not of Gorilla variety – glass. Except the protruded camera module on the back, it is all smooth glass. The phone looks similar to Sony’s Xperia Z phones, which too use glass and metal body. But there are some differences. Unlike the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 compact, which have rounded edges, Knight A350 has edges that follow the pattern set by iPhone 5.
Knight A350 has chamfered edges, though they are not as shiny as what you get on iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S.
Knight A350 has a slim – and a little tall – profile. The tall profile means it is not as wide as some other 5-inch phones out in the market. The slim and tall profile of Knight A350 makes holding and using the phone quite easy. It is possible to use it with one hand.
Overall, we like the design and build quality of Knight A350. The glass feels tough and while it will inevitably collect scratches – it is glass, after all – it is nice to see Micromax not going for some cheap materials here. The finishing, especially the way glass bonds to the metal frame and how the buttons and edges feel, is also good.
That said, we have two minor complaints. Knight A350 attracts smudges easily and because of shiny glass body, these smudges are very much visible. Also, glass, or for that matter metal back covers, tend to absorb the heat from the processor inside the phone and make the device feel hot to touch, especially if you are playing a game on it. It happens with iPhones and it happens with Knight A350. If you are playing a game or browsing a few websites on Chrome, the back cover on Knight A350, especially under the camera module, gets warm.
Knight A350 has a 5-inch screen with a FullHD resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. For a phone that costs less than Rs 20,000, A350 has a very good screen. It shows punchy colours and has good viewing angles, which means colours don’t fade or lose contrast when you look at it from a different angle. The high-resolution means it shows sharp text and images. Even the level of brightness is good. Unless you are going to be directly under the sunlight, the screen on A350 remains legible during outdoor use.
A350 is powered by Android 4.2.2. That is an older version of Android – the latest one is Android 4.4 – but in terms of features there is not much difference. Micromax is using a customised version of Android in A350 but there are not many tweaks or user interface changes. The biggest change is the launcher, which uses different icons and theme. The default icons for apps like Phone Dialler and Camera in Knight A350 have square shape. It also has a translucent background in the app drawer, which is available in the stock Android 4.4, but not in stock Android 4.2.
By and large, the changes in the Android user interface in A350 are minimal, which is good. User interface on A350 will feel familiar to anyone who has used an Android phone before.
A350 comes with some third-party apps installed by default. These include BBM, Hike, True Caller and Kingsoft etc. While some of these apps will be useful to some users, we prefer phones that don’t have third-party apps installed by default. Users who require these apps can always get them from the Android app store. But when they are installed by default, users who don’t need them can’t uninstall them.
A350 has a primary camera that shoots 16MP images. We all know that number of mega pixels doesn’t matter much when it comes to image quality. Thankfully, the camera in A350 is a decent performer. In good light, it clicks images that have lots of details and right amount of contrast.
In low light, the images tend to have some noise but unless you are shooting in really dim light, for example in a restaurant while having dinner, you will get images that are good enough to be shared on a social media site.
What about video? A350 can shoot videos in 1080P aka FullHD resolution. But the video format is 3GP, which is not as nice as MP4 that other smartphones use. The videos we shot with A350 showed that the camera can record footage that is clear and where subjects are in good focus. But it also over processes videos. It bumps up the colours and they look too rich to be real. It also tries to reduce the colour noise very aggressively and that makes objects look smoother than they actually are. That said, given the price of the device we will call video recording in A350 acceptable.
The front camera can snap images in 8MP. But don’t get excited about the big number here. The performance of the front camera is just average. It works for occasional selfies and video chats but don’t expect it to click stellar 8MP images for you.
A350 is powered by MediaTek’s MT6592T processor. It is an 8-core processor capable of running at 2GHz. However, don’t let the 8-core moniker fool you. The processor uses A7 architecture from ARM which is aimed at providing mainstream performance and not high-end performance. While 8 cores matter, they will not be properly utilised unless there is an application that can use all these cores simultaneously.
Currently, no popular app can utilise an 8-core processor properly. More important here is the 2GHz speed. MT6592T is a fast processor, capable of handling the everyday work load with ease. Combined with 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage, MT6592T provides Knight A350 with good enough hardware to deal with web browsing, multimedia playback of videos in various formats and photo editing etc with ease. While there is some lag from time to time, especially if you are multi-tasking or scrolling through a list quickly, it is barely noticeable and rarely a factor that affects the experience.
GPS in the phone works well and reliably. While making calls we found the call quality to be good and we never had to shout in the phone to make the person on the other hand hear what we were saying.
One area where, Knight A350 really excels is the speaker. While it is a mono speaker, it is very loud. This helps while playing games or watching movies on the device.
The battery life is where Knight A350 stumbles. When used with a 3G connection, the device lasts around 9 to 10 hours. This is 2 hours less than what we typically see in an Android phone.
The MT6592T processor in A350 has four core of Mali 450 for graphics processing. While this is not a cutting-edge graphics, it is capable of handling most of the current Android games. During our test, we played casual games like Angry Birds and demanding games with high quality graphics like Asphalt 8 on A350. In both types of games, we had a good experience. In Asphalt 8, we played with graphics quality set to maximum and the game ran without any lag or dropped frame rates.
It is easy to like Knight A350. Its design is good, performance satisfactory and screen best in its class. Even camera is decent. We feel Knight A350 is worth Rs 19,999, the MRP Micromax has set for it.
However, if you are looking to buy a smartphone with a budget of less than Rs 20,000, our first recommendation remains Motorola Moto G, which is available for Rs 13,999. Overall, Moto G is a better value for money. It is also slightly faster – though not in games – than A350 and has a much better battery life.
But if you decide to give Moto G a pass, A350 is a very good choice. It has a bigger (and sharper) screen, a better camera, more graphics performance, 2X internal storage, extra 1GB RAM, and a much more attractive design.