Cherry Mobile Cruize W280 Review
A Questionable Proposition of Value
Despite the lackluster release of Cherry Mobile's Omega as a result of changing the final OEM, they offer a cheaper reprise in the form of the Cruize. The Cruize came out as a surprise as there were no prior announcements several weeks in advance, just like the Blaze. More startling was the price of Php 4,499. That gets you a 5.2" Android ICS phone of questionable capability. Again, the point of focus here is the value of Cherry Mobile, which consistently offers cheaper (and often times better) Android phones than other local competitors like MyPhone and Starmobile.
I was hesitant to purchase the Cruize at first because of my experience with the Cherry Mobile Flare. I also bought a Flare back in December to review, but it came with too many compromises. The most devastating of the compromises being the incredibly low volume output via the 3.5 mm port. Not to mention the panel on the Flare wasn't an IPS as advertised as the top-side viewing angle resulted in posturization. An IPS has perfect viewing angles, regardless of position and angle. The screen was perfectly forgivable at the price, but the volume problem wasn't. The volume problem immediately reduced the capacity of the Flare as a proper media player. It was a terrible compromise which led me to sell the Flare immediately and dropped my plans to complete the review. I was afraid that the Cruize may bear such a compromise. I personally believe that a compromise that severely impedes usability is grave, and I speculated that the compromise may come in the form of game (in)compatibility due to the use of a Broadcom SOC that uses a very uncommon GPU, the VideoCore IV.
I found out that the Gfive G95 was the OEM of the Cruize before it officially arrived in the market and I had high hopes the "Broadcom CPU" used by Cherry Mobile in their teaser ads was a typo since the Gfive G95 is officially listed with a MediaTek MTK6575, the single-core variant of the MTK6577. The MTK6575 would mean that game compatibility wouldn't be a problem. Alas, the Cruize was finally released and the specs are confirmed to be a Broadcom Cortex A9-based SOC. Despite this, I decided to take the plunge as taking an unfamiliar SOC through the ropes was going to be interesting.
Design and Build Quality
The design of the Cherry Mobile Cruize is a bit similar to the Titan, but with more rounded corners. The Cruize comes in black or white and while the black variant has an "executive" look like the Titan, the white variant looks a bit more plasticky due to the chrome bumper's lack of sharpness, not to mention the white plastic they used is evidently on the cheap side. Hence, I decided to purchase the black variant instead.
The Cruize has a design profile that's similar to the HTC Sensation, but with a wider bezel and taller frame. The front is relatively minimalist, with a front facing camera to the right and light sensor to the left of the earpiece. Below the screen are the backlit softkeys, which from left to right, are the menu/options, home, back and search keys. I personally would've preferred that the dedicated 'search' softkey be removed as it isn't used very often.
The back of the Cruize has this "carbon fiber" look and finish that not only looks good, but is also textured and matte to ensure that your fingers have a good feel and better grip of the phone. The back of the phone contains the 8.0 megapixel camera, the single LED flash and the loudspeaker. The top of the phone contains the USB port for charging and plugging to the computer, and the 3.5 mm port. The bottom of the phone contains the mic. The left side of the phone contains the power button. The right side of the phone contains the volume up and down keys. There is no dedicated camera button.
Depending on how you put your phone in your pocket, the volume buttons on the right side of the Cruize is easily accessible with the right amount of softness and 'click' to it.
The Cruize may not be as solid as the Titan in terms of build quality, but it is not exactly shoddily built either. Then again, at this extremely low price point, it is difficult to ask for more. The device feels solid in hand and perhaps the excess of roundness and that fact that the phone could be a bit more compact lends to the feeling of it being more flimsy when it is in fact, pretty solid. Despite being 212 grams, which makes it technically heavier than the Titan (205 grams), the Cruize feels much lighter because the weight is more evenly distributed across the larger frame. Also, the roundness also makes it easier to hold the Cruize with one hand compared to the Titan because it contours to the grip whereas the Titan's edges are sharper and much less round. This also gives the illusion that the Cruize is thinner than it actually is despite being 10.9 mm thick compared to the 10.5 mm thickness of the Titan.
As usual, don't abuse it and it'll last you a while. The phone also comes attached with a screen protector out of the box.
Here is the checklist of what comes inside the box:
- 1x Cherry Mobile W280 Cruize
- 1x Earphones
- 1x USB cable
- 1x CM-800 Wall charger
- 1x User's manual
- 1x Warranty card
- 1x 2500 mAh battery
There were significant compromises accompanied by the much lower price tag. While the Titan was very fortunate to still have a VA panel at its price, Cherry Mobile could no longer accommodate the same and stuck with a TN panel on the Cruize instead. The response time on TN panels are as good as on an IPS, but viewing angles are normally bad. On the Cruize, there are two good and two bad viewing angles. The left and top are the bad viewing angles while the right and bottom are the good viewing angles. I would also like to mention that the left viewing angle is nowhere near as bad as the top viewing angle.
Here are some shots of the Cruize's screen demonstrating the aforementioned viewing angles:
The screen on the Cruize has fairly low contrast and saturation at higher brightness and it is advisable to keep brightness at 60% and below, or keep the brightness on automatic. The general impression of the screen is washed out. Despite the lack of "wow" factor, the colors are fairly accurate and the screen is relatively sharp for landscape ebook reading. Portrait reading is also doable, but with the use of sans serif fonts like Arial or Calibri. But given the low pixel density, portrait reading is really pushing it unless you're gifted with 20/20 vision.
As I've stressed in my review of the Cherry Mobile Titan, sheer screen size is a feature in itself as there are very few phones on the market with 5.0" or larger screens. The Cruize officially dethrones the Titan as the cheapest 5.0" or larger phone. The 5.2" screen of the Cruize allows you to easily view whole webpages, overviews of documents, ebook reading, etc. as you have more space to work with.
Despite the shortcomings of the Cruize's screen on picture quality, it makes up for it in size.
Below is a screen comparison between the Cruize, the 5.0" Titan and the 4.0" iPhone 5:
Processor and General Performance
The Cruize is equipped with a Broadcom BCM21654 SOC which contains a single-core Cortex A9 and a VideoCore IV GPU. Ice Cream Sandwich/ICS (Android 4.0) was not exactly design for single-cores. While the Cortex A9 is relatively fast, much faster than what you'd find on other low-end Android devices, implementing an unpolished ICS ROM on a single-core device would be a disastrous for user experience. The sluggishness of the UI and constant performance problems with ICS on single-core Cortex A8 (same performance class as single A9s) has been well-documented by Sony Ericsson and Motorola. Motorola has even refused to provide an ICS update to some of their devices (those devices being mostly single-core) with reason being there was a performance impediment they feel their users should not experience. Put simply, they thought the cons outweighed the pros. My personal experience with the ICS update for my QSD8250-equipped SE Xperia Mini (Cortex A8 + 512 MB RAM) was disastrous. The UI was much more sluggish compared to the previous Gingerbread stock ROM.
Where I'm getting to is this: out of the box, the Cruize's UI is pretty sluggish. Touch response and sensitivity is excellent, but there is some screen tearing when swiping or scrolling and it doesn't feel anywhere near as smooth as on dual-core MTK6577 devices. This is not exactly to blame the Cruize for being a single-core Cortex A9 with ICS, but the manufacturer for not polishing it. My Xperia Mini and my Samsung Galaxy S i9000, both single-core Cortex A8 devices, were both updated eventually to custom ICS ROMs that were very smooth proving that with a little effort, the proper ICS experience was doable on single-core ARMv7 devices as well.
To make the Android UI smoother, it is highly suggested switching to a 3rd party launcher like Nova Launcher or Apex Launcher. Also, it is suggested that "Don't keep activities" be enabled under Settings then Developer Options. Setting 'Background process limit' to 'At most 4 processes' also helps with the UI smoothness. It won't make the Android UI on the Cruize anywhere near as buttery smooth as on dual-core Cortex A9 devices like the Titan, but it will be much more tolerable now.
This is not to say that single-core ARMv7 processor + ICS affects the entire performance of the device. From my experience with the Cruize, it only affects the Android UI. All apps run very smoothly and without the sluggishness of the Android UI.
Another notable thing on the Cruize is the Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU. There is very little known about this GPU. If there was anything I found out, it was highly scalable as the Nenamark 2 database suggests since there were devices with VideoCore IV GPUs getting very high and low scores. The range was pretty wide and I was hoping we would get lucky on the Cruize. Unfortunately, we got the short end of the stick as the VideoCore IV GPU on the Cruize scores an abysmal 17.2 FPS on Nenamark 2. Regardless of the performance, my initial concern with the VideoCore IV GPU was compatibility with games since obscure GPUs are usually left with little to no support from game developers. Thankfully, the Cruize is compatible with many games. Games tested so far on the Cruize that work smoothly are Temple Run 2, Angry Birds, Raging Thunder 2, Eternity Warriors 2, Battle Bears Royale. Casual games such like these are no problem on the Cruize. More demanding games are a hit or miss though. Of the more demanding games I've tried so far, Race of Champions, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Dead Trigger work smoothly. Need for Speed Most Wanted and Modern Combat 3 worked, but were pretty slow. Virtua Tennis and Beach Buggy Blitz refused to run or didn't render the game properly.
The video below highlights some games being played on the Cruize:
Games aside, application compatibility is very good and as I've stated, little to none of the Android UI sluggishness I mentioned earlier is felt inside applications. That said, the single-core Cortex A9 is a godsend at this price, as phones in this price range are usually occupied by ARM11 (ARMv6) devices. Support for ARMv6 devices is continuously waning and devices such as the Galaxy Y and Optimus L3 may not be able to run any of the applications or games launched in 2013. The A9-based BCM21654 inside the Cruize ensures that compatibility is at least ensured for years to come, at least until the Cortex A15 is replaced (and A15-devices haven't even arrived to market yet as of this writing). The Cruize scores a respectable 3885 in AnTuTu Benchmark and 2052 in Quadrant. These scores also reflect onto applications as most applications run smoothly. The performance of the Cruize is comparable to Cortex A8-based mid-range Android phones from 2011 and early 2012 like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V, Samsung Galaxy W i8150 and Huawei Honor.
The two videos below highlight a more real world performance comparison between the Cruize (single-core Cortex A9) and the Titan (dual-core Cortex A9). To mix things up a little, I've thrown in the iPhone 5 as a benchmark as Apple has always put user experience above all else and has been focused on creating a good impression through a silky smooth, no frills user interface. Also, as of this writing, the iPhone 5 carries the latest in mobile processing with their Apple A6 chip which contains a dual-core "Cortex A15"-class processor.
The purpose of these two videos is to allow you, the reader, to assess for yourself the possible user experience you will have relative to its value. Basically, "is this satisfactory for me?", "is this enough/ok for me?". Personally, I find the user interface of the Cruize to be sluggish, even with the fixes I mentioned (using a 3rd party launcher, enabling "Don't keep activities", and setting max background processes to 4). This stems from me accustomed to fast and/or well optimized phones, not to mention that Cherry Mobile's very own Titan is buttery smooth at only 2,000 Php more. 2,000 Php may not mean much to some of us, but in price-sensitive Philippines, it makes a big difference in making a purchasing decision for many people.
Cherry Mobile may have skimped on the screen and processor of the Cruize, but they didn't on the camera. It was very unexpected of Cherry Mobile, not to mention the Cruize actually has an 8.0 megapixel camera, not 5.0 megapixels as officially listed in the specs and box.
The image quality of the still shot camera on the Cruize is absolutely stellar at this price. The amount of resolved detail in decent to good lighting conditions is excellent. The entire image isn't subjected to much post-processing, but the final result upon closer inspection is slightly noisy and oversharpened. This doesn't change the fact that the resulting images look very good and should look good printed on 3R or even 4R paper for those Kodak-moment picture frames.
In spite of the excellent quality the still shot camera offers, the amount of manual controls available are little to none. There is no option to change the ISO, metering, sharpness, hue, contrast, scene mode, etc. The only available manual controls are white balance, exposure, flash and color effect/filter (i.e. sepia, mono). The only special shooting modes available are panorama mode and burst shot mode. Aside from that, the only other main caveat with the camera is the slow shutter speed, meaning you have to hold your hands still for about 1 to 1 1/2 seconds after pressing the shutter to ensure your shot is clear and blur-free.
In relation to the lack of manual controls on the camera, the Cruize automatically sets the ISO for you when shooting in low light. The low light images end up with plenty of noise, but surprisingly still captures plenty of detail and avoids excessive amounts of black clipping. The camera also does not have any special focus features like macro mode, but tapping the screen to focus on the selected area works just fine, even for macro shots. Closest possible distance for macro shots is about 7-8 inches.
Below are sample shots taken by the Cruize:
Please note that all pictures were taken with white balance set to 'daylight'.
Cruize Sample Shots (Good lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cruize Sample Shots (Low light)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cruize Sample Shots (Macro shots)Click thumbnail to view full-size
The biggest letdown on the Cruize's camera is the video recording, which is only capable of VGA (640x480) resolution max. On the upside, video recordings by the Cruize take only little space, only around 12 MB per minute of footage. That's around 700 MB for an hour of video.
It's hard not to be impressed by the Cruize's still shot camera. I was expecting an even worse camera compared to the Titan when I got the Cruize, but truth be told, the still shots made by the Cruize blow the Titan away.
Here's the lowdown on the Cruize's camera:
- Excellent shots in decent to good lighting, with very good resolved detail
- Good low light shots
- Good macro shots, with good resolved detail
- Minimal manual controls
- Video recording is ancient and outdated at VGA resolution
The front facing camera is typical, nothing noteworthy. It's perfectly usable for Skype and whatnot.
Another highlight of the Cruize is the large 2500 mAh battery. Usage-wise, the battery is about the same as the Titan's. This Cruize should last at least a day on moderate usage and should last at least 2 days with light usage.
To stress out a point, I've decided to conduct a battery test via looping video playback. The application used to play the video is MX Player. The following were the conditions during the test:
- Screen brightness: 4/15 of MX Player brightness setting or about 30% of Android brightness bar
- Volume: 15/15 of MX Player volume setting or 100% of Android volume bar, with earphones attached to Cruize
- MX Player-specific settings: H/W+ decoder used for video. S/W decoder used for audio
The following are the details of the video file used for playback:
Video playback began at 1:15 am with battery registering 100% and 4.195V and was looped until 7:00 am where the battery registered 64% and 3.82V. The phone rested for nearly 3 hours and playback again began at 10:00 am. When battery reached 20% at 2:38 pm, I ended playback. Voltage was 3.68V.
The total playback time was 10 hours 53 minutes. The Cruize provided nearly 11 hours of video playback ensuring its viability as a media player that can still make calls.
Aside from the great still shot camera, there are other things the Cruize does right.
The call quality is particularly good, with the earpiece having plenty of clarity and loudness.
Volume output is thankfully not a problem, unlike on the Flare. The sound output of the Cruize is much like the Titan. It's clean and more than adequately powerful. It can drive all my IEMs. No hissing when there's nothing playing. Goes very well with Poweramp and its myriad of options to improve your listening experience. When paired with my FiiO E6 amp, it can even drive my Superlux HD 668B without problems. This is a decent phone for music playback. The Cruize also has FM Radio.
The loudspeaker on the Cruize is clear and loud enough, about as loud as the iPhone. But some phones are still louder, like the Titan and the Cloudfone Thrill 430x I recently reviewed.
Also, you can only use 3G/3.5G (UMTS/HSDPA) on SIM Slot 1. SIM Slot 2 is 2G only.
Wifi reception on the Cruize is very good, being able up to catch signal at 13 meters afar and with 2 feet of concrete in the way.
The Cruize's screen is also 5 point multitouch, ensuring that games and applications that require several fingers on the screen at once work, not to mention it ensures that the right characters are pressed during rapid texting. The rapid texting problem was prevalent on the Flare because it only supported 2 point multitouch and people with fast fingers occasionally experienced the wrong characters popping up when skin accidentally touches more than two keys. The touch sensitivity on the Cruize is about as good as on the Titan which means even light finger touches are registered.
The Cruize also has built-in GPS with apparent A-GPS support, as the 'Location services' menu under 'Settings' do not contain the option to enable A-GPS, which retrieves the latest data on the internet on the GPS satellites so the phone can lock-in faster. The performance of the GPS chip inside the Cruize is decent, being able to acquire its first lock a little over a minute. Subsequent locks near the time frame of a successful lock take less than 10 seconds. Performing a new lock without an recent locks (as the satellites have different coordinates now) take as little as 30 seconds in ideal conditions and a stationary position.
As usual, for users wishing to use Google's own Navigation software, their turn-by-turn navigation with voice is not available in the Philippines. However, you can still use Google Navigation to get directions and plot points for you whether you are driving or just walking/commuting. Also, you can use other navigation software on Android with turn-by-turn navigation with voice. Aside from navigation software, there are also maps like MapsWithMe from the Play Store that work well with the GPS to identify your location. MapsWithMe is particularly good as the map data for the entire Philippines is only around 75 MB and can be stored on your phone for offline use.
What's the value proposition? Who is the Cruize for? To start with, the Cherry Mobile Cruize is by far and without a doubt, the best cameraphone for under 5,000 Php. The big battery also ensures prolonged use with the device, not to mention this is also the phone in Cherry Mobile's line-up with the largest battery at 2500 mAh. The processor they stuffed on the Cruize is just enough and given the price this isn't surprising. The processor is relatively up-to-date, allowing it to run virtually any application on the Play Store and the processing power is just enough to run the majority of games.
The natural comparison with the Cruize with be the Cherry Mobile Flare, which offers a dual-core Cortex A5 at only 4,000 Php. To simplify things, this is my shortlist of why you should pick the Cruize over the Flare and vice versa:
Why Cruize over Flare?
- The Cruize has a giant 5.2" screen. The big screen enhances the experience of most smartphone activities like web browsing, games, video playback, document reading, etc.
- The image quality of the still shot camera on the Cruize is vastly superior to the Flare's.
- The 2500 mAh battery on the Cruize should last twice as long compared to the Flare. Note that battery drain isn't linear and varies at certain voltages. An increase of 1000 mAh isn't just an increase of 66% in capacity.
- The Cruize has 5 point multitouch while the Flare only has 2. Games that require more than 2 point touch and fast texting is problematic on the Flare.
- The Cruize has a more sturdy build and feels more solid compared to the Flare.
- Most important is, the Cruize does NOT have the volume problem found on the 3.5 mm port of the Flare, thus allowing the Cruize to be a dedicated media player.
Why Flare over Cruize?
- The Cruize has a giant 5.2" screen. The width of the Cruize is almost as wide as a credit card and people with smaller hands will definitely have a problem with one-handed operation. For people with large hands, it is most likely a non-issue. But for people with smaller hands, the Cruize is mostly a two-handed affair.
- The Flare has a dual-core Cortex A5 and Ice Cream Sandwich is optimized for multiple cores. The Android UI experience on the Flare is smoother compared to the single-core Cortex A9 Cruize.
- The Flare's TN panel has 1 more good viewing angle. The Flare has three (3) good viewing angles: the left, bottom and right side. The Cruize has only two (2) good viewing angles, the bottom and right side.
Given the strengths of the Cruize, it is most likely that is will be used as a media player and internet device more often than making calls or texts. It also has enough grunt to run casual games and not-too-demanding 3D games, but for gamers looking to run graphics intensive games like those offered by Gameloft, the minimum is a MTK6577 device. Even from my experience with the Titan, the MTK6577 may not even be enough for the absolute latest like Gameloft's Modern Combat 4. Hardcore mobile gamers should either wait for MTK6589 devices to appear, most likely by Q2 2013, or purchase mid-range phone from well-established brands instead. But overall, the Cruize is a very well-rounded phone for the price, particularly noteworthy is the surprisingly good camera. Is it the phone for you? That's up to you and your wallet.
+ Massive 5.2" screen
+ Image quality of still shot camera is incredible; the camera is peerless at this price
+ Single-core Cortex A9
+ Dual SIM
+ High capacity 2500 mAh battery
+ Great ergonomics and feels sturdy
+ 4,499 Php only
- 800x480 TN panel is not good; has 2 good viewing angles only
- Single-core + Ice Cream Sandwich doesn't go very well, UI out of the box is sluggish
- Incredible camera is let down by ancient VGA-only video recording
- Bezel is a bit thick and adds unnecessary width to the phone
Another thing we do know now is that Cherry Mobile has thankfully given their choice of phones a thought. None of the phones in their entire Android line-up have a processor lower than a Cortex A9 or A5, which means they are apparently aware that an ARMv7-based SOC is the minimum for a proper Android experience these days. To differentiate devices, they cut on other things like the camera, RAM, screen size and resolution, etc. But not the processor. Even their lowest-end Candy TV is equipped with a single-core Cortex A9-based MTK6575. This is product differentiation done right.
In contrast, the other local brands like MyPhone, Starmobile and Torque seem clueless as their lowest-end Android phones still consist on ARM11-based SOCs and this is unforgivable because half of the apps on the Play Store would be incompatible, not to mention they lack the processing grunt to play even Angry Birds. It automatically makes them "non-purchases". They might as well be feature phones.
Official Cherry Mobile Cruize W280 Specs
Broadcom 1 GHz processor
5.2" capacitive touch panel (800 x 480, 179ppi)
4GB internal storage
Up to 32GB via microSD
Up to 3G/HSPA 7.2Mbps
Quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
GPS w/ aGPS support
5-megapixel rear camera with flash
VGA front-facing camera
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
2500 mAh battery
212g with battery
SRP: Php 4,499.00
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Kyle Lopez-Vito