Cloudfone Excite 501o Review
A new challenger appears!
A new year and once again honey trickles down from the technology tree. Well, it's just economies of scale at work and come 2015, we finally have an octa-core smartphone in the market dropping below the 5,000 Php mark. The price bracket below 5,000 Php is arguably the most contested since most international brands don't have a smartphone presence in this bracket. It's interesting to follow the trickle to the lowest price points because it's also an indicator of the saturation of the local brand smartphone market.
Just a recap of what we had in the first half of 2014 for under 5,000 Php: quad cores, 5"+ IPS displays, OGS screens, and true 8 megapixel BSI cameras. Most had a combination of 2 or 3, but only the MyPhone Agua Rio had 4 (it doesn't have an OGS screen). So what do we get now?
Design and Build Quality
The Excite 501o can be aptly described as a Nexus 5 at the front and a Galaxy Note 3 at the back. It's a fairly generic design up front, with faint back-lit capacitive touch key icons at the bottom that gives the phone a clear black appearance. The back cover actually isn't faux leather, but plastic molded with a leather design. Still, it provides a nice change of texture that makes the phone nice to hold. The display is not fully flush but the finger slides off the edge due to the rounded corners on the bumper. The bumper around the phone has a crown mould design with a dark grey lacquer finish with a tinge of blue that gives it a sharp sheen as light runs through it. It's a refreshing design choice compared to the usual chrome accents, which too much of can make a device look cheap.
Combined with Note 3-like back, its faux leather and metal emboss surrounding the camera, the Excite 501o has a very executive vibe. It isn't premium by any means, but it has understated class in terms of aesthetics. It doesn't look as cheap as its selling for, but I can't help not notice the relatively wide bezels once you turn on the display. A thin bezel is the only thing missing and it would've added a lot of points in the style department.
Like its looks, it doesn't feel too cheap either despite being constructed entirely of plastic. It's a solidly constructed phone with a nice 147 grams of heft that doesn't creak when you squeeze it tightly. I just wish the buttons on the bumper could be better fit. The volume rocker and power button feel loose compared to the rest of the device.
Ergonomics is a mixed bag. The leather texture and grooves on the bumper makes the phone feel good to hold. The placement of the ports could be better as the 3.5 mm port and USB port are slightly on the left of the top and bottom of the phone respectively. When both ports are occupied and you hold the phone in landscape mode, the ports will get in the way of the area between the thumb and index finger. The back cover has a slit on the lower corner of the phone, but I still found it a bit difficult to remove if you don't have nails. And again, the bezels could have been thinner so one-handed operation could be better. The Excite 501o's dimensions are 145 x 72.5 x 8.6 mm.
Lastly, there are two SIM card slots but the second slot can only occupy a micro SIM. The micro SD card slot is not hot swappable due to the battery blocking the insertion point.
The Excite 501o comes with a screen protector installed out of the box. You just need to peel the thin plastic off the display and a screen protector is underneath it. Here is a checklist of what comes inside the box:
- 1x Cloudfone Excite 501o
- 1x 2250 mAh battery
- 1x 1000 mA charger
- 1x USB cable
- 1x Headset
- 1x User's manual
- 1x Warranty card
The Excite 501o is equipped with a 5" qHD (960x540) IPS display which has a refresh rate of 58.7 Hz and supports 5 point multitouch. IPS panels provide great viewing angles with even color uniformity as you look at it from different angles.
Although this is an IPS display, this is still one of the cheaper IPS-equipped displays around. They were not able to laminate the display or fit an OGS unit to eliminate the gap between the actual LCD panel/cell and the glass screen. As a result there is a very subtle contrast shift when you tilt the display off-center. Thankfully, the gap is minimal and the glass display is very clear which ensures little to no diffusion and loss in light transmission. This ensures none of the Excite 501o's brightness is wasted, which tops off at a little over 400 nits making it pretty bright. Brightness scaling is linear although at 0% brightness the display is still outputting 51 nits. People who play with their phones right before sleeping may still find this bright. There is also a light sensor that allows the phone to automatically adjust brightness and it takes a few seconds for the phone to adjust to changes in lighting.
Brightness, White (cd/m²)
Cloudfone Excite 501o
Starmobile Up Lite
MyPhone Agua Rio
LG G2 Mini
Apple iPhone 5
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Contrast is decent with good white contrast and average black contrast, which means shades of white are easily discernible. Hue is a bit skewed towards blue and yellow which can make light green hues more prominent. Color saturation is on the pale side for an IPS display, with solid reds and blues not as punchy as on IPS displays on more expensive phones. Solid whites also have a very subtle blue tinge which highlights its colder color temperature. This is most likely due to the cheaper WLED (white LED) backlighting, where cheaper WLEDs aren't purely white and still have a slight blue to them which affects the LCD's color performance. Color calibration could've been done to improve color accuracy but at the expense of luminosity and I feel that for mobile devices a brighter display is more important. All these considered, it's still a good looking display so long as you don't go around comparing it to high-end IPS displays.
Sunlight legibility is average. The screen does not have any special coating applied to it nor is it OGS, but it doesn't introduce too much haze under harsh lighting and the glare is quite tolerable under harsh lighting due to the bright display.
In terms of resolution, qHD (960x540) at 5.0 inches which equates to 220 PPI should be more than adequate for most users. Icons and other UI elements in apps and games are very readable. When text size on Android is set to large, text looks almost as sharp as on a 720p (1280x720) display. Likewise, slightly increasing text size or scaling in the browser allows desktop-size webpages to be readable in landscape mode while fully zoomed out. For those who like using very small text, you will want at least a 720p (1280x720) display.
Overall, it's a good display given the phone's price. It's not one of the best as there are other phones with 720p IPS displays with OGS in this price range. But the Excite 501o's display is bright, has good viewing angles, and has decent contrast, color reproduction and sharpness.
The Excite 501o is equipped with the MediaTek MTK6592 which has eight Cortex A7 cores of the r0p4 revision capable of running between 728 Mhz and 1.7 Ghz. Its graphics processor is a quad core Mali-450 GPU running at 700 Mhz. The MTK6592 is manufactured on the 28 nm HPM (high performance mobile computing) node which features HKMG (high-K metal gates) transistors. This is currently the most advanced mainstream process node and as such, mostly high-end chipsets are manufactured on this process node such as the Snapdragon 800, 801 and 805. The 28 nm HPM node allows lower voltage and better thermals which high-end chipsets require to due their high performance targets. With the MTK6592, having all eight Cortex A7 cores and the Mali-450MP4 GPU running at full speed continuously without significant throttling represents the need for better thermals.
Thanks to the relatively low display resolution and MTK6592 chipset, the Excite 501o is a very snappy device. It uses two cores at most during UI navigation in most apps, and considering the Cortex A7 itself is also relatively old, this is quite good in terms of efficiency. Most applications never use more than four cores, however. But generally the 1.7 Ghz Cortex A7 cores don't feel that they lack a lot in speed even when comparing them side by side with devices equipped with the Snapdragon 600 or 800, where their Krait cores which have much higher single core performance. For synthetic benchmarks which are optimized to make use of all eight cores, the MTK6592 can practically tie with the Snapdragon 600 but falls flat in portions that emphasize single thread performance.
Cloudfone Excite 501o (MediaTek MTK6592, 960x540)
Samsung Galaxy S4 i9505 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T, 1920x1080)
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974AB, 1920x1080)
AnTuTu Benchmark 5
Vellamo - Multicore
Vellamo - Metal
Geekbench 3 - Multi core
Geekbench 3 - Single core
3DMark - Ice Storm Extreme
Maxed Out* / 16258**
Basemark X - Medium Quality
Epic Citadel - High Quality
Basemark ES 2.0 Taiji
* - 3DMark shows "Maxed Out" score in Ice Storm Extreme and does not display a numerical score
** - Note 3's score in Ice Storm Unlimited, a more demanding version of Ice Storm Extreme
The Mali-450MP4 graphics is also very fast, but slower than the Adreno 320 on the Snapdragon 600, and much slower than the Adreno 330 on the Snapdragon 800. Even with the Excite 501o's relatively low qHD resolution, the Adreno 320 on the Galaxy S4 still beats it. This already considers the S4's much higher resolution of 1080p. That's four times the number of pixels of qHD. 2,073,600 pixels vs 518,400 pixels. However, there are little to no devices shipping with the Snapdragon 600 at the moment. Compared to the Snapdragon 800 which is used on most high-end devices, there is no comparison. The Snapdragon 800 completely crushes the MTK6592. Regardless, the Mali-450MP4 is much faster than the Mali-400MP2 on the MTK6582. It should be noted that the MTK6582 already offers a good gaming experiece at qHD resolution.
As seen in the gaming demonstration below, the MTK6592 is overkill for the qHD display. I haven't found a single Android game, barring some emulators of course, that can tax the chipset enough to a crawl. Graphically demanding games like Asphalt 8 and Real Racing 3 run smoothly even with the high graphics settings enabled. Gamers will have nothing to complain about in terms of performance except perhaps when it comes to PSP emulation. PSP emulation via the popular PPSSPP application is notorious for putting beasts like the Snapdragon 800 to its knees. The MTK6592 fares no better.
Surprisingly, the phone does not get uncomfortably hot during long gaming sessions. There is also an option to "limit CPU performance" under the Battery section in Options, supposedly to lower consumption under load. But I have benchmarked repeatedly with this option on and off, and there appears to be virtually no notable difference either in benchmark scores and actual gaming performance. I surmise this regulates how aggressive the processor will throttle down under load to save battery.
There is 1 GB of RAM onboard which remains plenty for any application. It also allows the user to multitask lighter apps like messaging, calendar, browser, notebook and calculator. The multitasking experience on the Excite 501o is especially nice thanks to the octa-core processor. Switching between apps is very fast and offers no discernible difference compared to high-end devices equipped with the Snapdragon 8xx chipsets.
The MTK6592's DSP is more advanced than the ones found on prior MediaTek chipsets. It supposedly can now decode video content H.264 video in 4K resolution as well as decode H.265 video, more commonly known as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), which is the successor to H.264. In my testing however, the Excite 501o wasn't able to play 4K H.264 video using the hardware decoder.
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 3 reference frames
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.0, with CABAC, 5 reference frames
1920x1080 @ 60 FPS, AVC Baseline Profile L3.0, with CABAC, 1 reference frame
4096x1716 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L5.1, with CABAC, 4 reference frames
317 Kbps, 6 channel AAC
306 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
132 Kbps, 2 channels, AAC
640 Kbps, 6 channels, AC-3
Plays via hardware decoder?
Plays via software decoder?
Yes, but with dropped frames
More interestingly, the MTK6592 has a feature called ClearMotion which is implemented on the Excite 501o and can be found under Display in Options. This is very similar to what 120 Hz LCD TVs do to lower frame rate sources. It interpolates the frames by interpreting the difference between frames, creating a new frame out of that, and inserting that frame in between. This basically makes any 30 FPS video feel like a 60 FPS video. It makes the motion smoother. This makes it a big treat watching movies with fast paced action sequences.
Unfortunately, ClearMotion only works on videos played back using the hardware decoder, and videos played using the YouTube app don't benefit from it. Still, the ClearMotion feature is particularly special because it's enabled by the MTK6592 chipset itself. Even flagship phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Sony Xperia Z3 don't have this. The video below, which is recorded in 60 frames per second, demonstrates this feature. The video must be watched in 720p60 or 1080p60 for you to see the difference. The smoothing effect by the ClearMotion feature is more pronounced in person.
The Excite 501o is equipped with an 8 megapixel auto focus camera with a single LED flash. I cannot ascertain the camera sensor used on my unit, but there are two drivers listed, which means it can have either the following: a Toshiba T8EV4 or an Aptina AR0831. Both are identical in specification as both are 1/3.2" 8 megapixel FSI sensors with a pixel size of 1.4 µm. Lens aperture is f/2.8.
Although the Excite 501o already runs on Kitkat, the camera interface is still stock Android Jellybean. The still shot and video recording facilities share the same interface, which may make framing video a bit tricky. When video recording while still shot is set to 4:3 ratio, it will appear to "zoom in" because recording is in 16:9 ratio and will only use the 16:9 crop of the 4:3 sensor.
There aren't too many shooting modes on the Excite 501o. In addition to auto mode, there is also live photo mode which takes a short clip and saves it as a .3gp file, face beauty mode which air brushes facial imperfections, and panorama mode. There are several shooting assists in auto mode such as ZSD or zero shutter delay which captures the image immediately the moment the shutter is pressed, face detection which automatically tracks faces in the viewfinder and focuses on them when you shoot, smile shot which automatically takes a photo while a smiling face is detected on the viewfinder, HDR or high dynamic range which merges into one photo an overexposed and underexposed shot, auto scene detection which automatically adjusts the scene mode, and continuous shot which is basically burst shooting when you hold the shutter. Without ZSD enabled, I measured shutter lag to be between 340 and 450 ms in decent lighting, with the camera already in focus. During HDR shooting, shutter remains unexpectedly fast, with only additional 100 to 150 ms between the low and high range shot. I assume this is because of the faster ISP (image signal processor) on the MTK6592.
As for manual settings, you can manually adjust common parameters such as sharpness, hue, saturation, brightness and contrast. You can also adjust exposure (+/- 3 steps), apply a color effect/filter, adjust white balance, manually choose from preset scene modes, and adjust ISO (100 to 1600).
In terms of image quality, it's quite decent in good lighting, particularly when the subject in focus is well-lit. Both sharpness, contrast and overall detail is decent when focused properly. Color is detail is decent and fairly accurate in most lighting conditions, including low light. Fine detail isn't good as the heavy compression smears very fine detail. There was almost no improvement from the MTK6582 in terms of compression efficiency or quality. 8 megapixel images still weigh around the same, around 1 to 1.5 MB on average, and the quality is still the same.
My main gripe with the camera is its poor dynamic range which hurts shadow detail a lot. The culprit for this is the FSI sensor and f/2.8 aperture. You have a sensor using older tech that requires more light and a lens that doesn't let a lot of light in. As demonstrated in the comparison photo above, the Excite 501o seriously lacks details on shadows and highlights which impacts image quality. In shots where the exposure is set to focus on darker areas, the ISP tries to compensate for the lack of light by boosting sensitivity and FSI sensors have naturally more noise compared to BSI sensors. This can result in shots with plenty of noise.
Despite more noise than the usual, the camera is commendable for doing its best to preserve as much detail as possible even at the expense of noise. This goes for low light shots too as they have surprisingly decent color detail. For prints, lots of noise is unacceptable. But as you can see in the sample photos, they're less noticeable for web use. My other main gripe with the camera is that it uses cheap optics with no special coating. This is evident when you shoot in conditions with harsh lighting (i.e. strong sunlight, shooting highly reflective objects) which can overwhelm the camera. The lens cannot filter out elements which cause unwanted effects such as hazing, flares and tinting. In cases where tinting occurs, usually in under the sun, color correction can still be applied either using an app on the phone or using photo editing software such as Photoshop or Lightroom. Below is a comparison of a shot taken by the Excite 501o, the first one stock and the second one color corrected.
As a camera, the Excite 501o is quite reliable. By reliable, I'm talking about how fast the camera handles. The ISP on the MTK6592 appears to be much faster than the one found on the MTK6582. Processing focus and exposure adjustments are quick even if the auto focus on this camera module isn't very fast. Once in focus, the shutter is fast and takes the shot quickly even in less than optimal lighting. In comparison, phones equipped with the lower-end MTK6582 chipset are notorious for having their slow shutter in less than optimal lighting which leads to blurry shots more often since not everyone is rock steady while taking a shot.
Low light performance is decent in both image quality and ease of use. Like I mentioned earlier, it manages to retain good amounts of color detail in low light, provided there is still some light available. It's still ineffectual in very low light conditions. i.e. lone yellow street lamp in a very dark street. The big difference is the superior ISP on the MTK6592. It's both faster and smarter than the ones on the older MediaTek chipsets. In low light, the shutter is noticeably faster than on phones with the MTK6582. You don't need to hold your hand still for as long to get a blur-free shot. The new ISP also handles the balancing of ISO and exposure in low light better, which means you get more usable shots in low light, even if images do come out quite noisy. In very low light scenarios, you can count on the LED flash to adequately illuminate small to medium sized subjects up to between 1 and 1.5 meters away.
Excite 501o Sample Shots (Good lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Excite 501o Sample Shots (Indoor lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Excite 501o Sample Shots (Low light)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Excite 501o Sample Shots (LED flash)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Excite 501o Sample Shots (Macro)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Excite 501o Sample Shots (HDR)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Videos can be recorded at a maximum of 1080p30, encoded in H.264 with a bitrate of 17 Mbps. Audio is mono and is encoded in AAC with a bitrate of 128 Kbps. A minute of 1080p footage ('Fine' setting) consumes up to around 110 MB. The encoding is almost identical to the MTK6582. It's still not very good when it comes to fine detail and the frame rate is still halved in night mode, but the motion is now smoother and doesn't fluctuate as much which can be seen when panning or shooting moving objects. Image quality for video is approximately the same as what you'd get from MTK6582 phones in this price range, but with notable deficiencies in sharpness and dynamic range. The image is soft due to the cheap optics and again, the combination of the FSI sensor + f/2.8 aperture produces comparatively dim video recordings.
Here's the lowdown on the Cloudfone Excite 501o's camera:
- Average performance in decent to good lighting, with average resolved detail and color preservation. Images have noticeable amounts of noise, but detail is retained. White balance can be easily off in harsh lighting which affects color accuracy.
- Above average macro shooting.with generous shooting distance (up to 5 inches close). Can also create a decent looking bokeh for creative emphasis.
- Average 1080p recording, with solid framerates in most lighting conditions. Fine detail is lacking due to the soft focus and shadow details suffer black crushing due to low dynamic range. Video performance is average at best in this price range, particularly in terms of image quality.
- Above average low light still shot performance, with a decent focusing range and color preservation, and relatively fast shutter in low light. Relatively fast shutter allows easier shooting in low light. Plenty of noise, but detail is intact when in focus. Cannot perform in very low light without flash.
- LED flash is adequate and allows the user to illuminate people as well as small and medium sized objects from 1 to 1.5 meter distance.
- The fixed focus front facing camera is interpolated and not sharp at all. Selfies still look decent when indoors as long as the face is lit. Front facing cam should not shoot against the light source.
The Excite 501o is equipped with a 2250 mAh battery. That's about 12.5% more than the usual 2000 mAh on most 5" models from local brands regardless of price. My doubts concerning efficiency of the MTK6592 chipset are confirmed in my battery test.
The following are the test conditions for the three tests. Note that the display is calibrated to 150 nits which is 40% of the Excite 501o's brightness bar for all tests and that the battery has been calibrated prior to testing:
- Looping video - a 1 1/2 hour 720p H.264 video is played on loop until the battery level reaches 20%. Hardware decoding is used for the video and software decoding is used for audio. Earphones are plugged and volume is set to maximum. ClearMotion is enabled.
- 3D gaming - a graphics-intensive 3D game is run on loop until the battery level reaches 20%. Built-in loudspeaker is used and volume is set to 50%.
Battery Test - Results
6 hours 8 minutes
5 hours 24 minutes
2 hours 25 minutes
Most reviews of MTK6592 devices by reputable tech sites have indicated good battery life when idle and poor battery life when active. I can say mostly the same for the Excite 501o which exhibited low drain on standby and moderate drain even for lighter tasks such as web browsing. The high drain can be attributed to the high base clockspeed of the MTK6592's Cortex A7 cores which is 728 Mhz. In comparison, the Snapdragon 800's Krait cores have a base clockspeed of only 300 Mhz. This trend can also be seen on the MTK6582 and MTK6589, where the MTK6582's cores have a base clockspeed of 598 Mhz while the MTK6589's cores have a base clockspeed of 497 Mhz. The MTK6589 exhibits tangibly better endurance than MTK6582 -- battery capacity and consumption of other components already accounted for.
Still, the Excite 501o's endurance isn't too bad considering it's much faster and offers about the same battery life as MTK6582 devices with similar battery capacities (around 2000 mAh). A 2 hour movie should drain around 1/3rd of the battery at 50% display brightness with earphones on. Turning off ClearMotion and lowering brightness should give you an additional hour of video playback. Gamers can expect at least 2 1/2 hours of 3D gaming on the highest graphics settings before the battery is nearly drained. 24 hours of standby with a single SIM, with an occasional peek at the screen every other hour, drains less than 10%. Call and texts will have minimal impact on battery life unless the screen is at full brightness while texting. The battery meter is fairly linear and accurate, and should give you a reliable information to help you budget your battery.
Charging speed using the stock 1A charger isn't very good, taking at least 2 1/2 hours to charge the Excite 501o to full from 10%. For those buying a power bank, it's ideal to get one with a 2.1A output for faster charging.
Audio quality on the Excite 501o is similar to what you'd find on other devices with a MediaTek chipset. You'd expect a higher-end chipset like the MTK6592 to have a decent DAC (digital to analog) converter, but it doesn't. Frankly, it's tiring and upsetting because even low-end Snapdragon 200 chipsets offer noticeably superior audio quality if your earphones or headphones are good.
Like MTK6582 devices, the Excite 501o is a bright source. Unlike them though, the Excite 501o out of the box has almost no bass presence and a very neutral sound signature, but not analytical in any sense because its dynamic range in terms of audio isn't good. It lacks power delivery to the sub-bass region which means you won't have that rumbling subwoofer-like "boom-boom-pow" even on heavy basshead IEMs. Thankfully, the power delivery is clean and plentiful, and adding a lot of bass boost or increasing the volume on the lower frequencies doesn't introduce distortion until you're close to maxing it out.
Even with bass boost applied, it's best paired with heavy bass oriented audio gear to offset the bright sonic disposition. Regardless, applying a bass boost is highly recommended before playing any music. For bassheads though, the bass lacks body and feel, and the thumping sensation can only be achieved if the mids are also lowered. At best you'll get a mid-centric sound with elevated bass, not thunderous bass, from a combination of bass-oriented audio gear, bass boost and equalizer tweaks. The good thing is the soundstage is relatively wide (but not deep) without compromising the body on the mids which makes the Excite 501o good for classical, orchestra, pop and female vocals in general.
The sound quality through the 3.5 mm port isn't terrible by any means, but those picky with audio will definitely want to look at something else, preferably one with a Qualcomm chipset. Also, the 3.5 mm port is CTIA compliant which means headsets that work on newer (2012 or later) Android phones from international brands like Samsung and Sony will work on the Excite 501o. Last thing worth noting is the poor volume of the loudspeakers. Only regular, monotonous sounding ringtones are loud enough to be heard when the phone is inside your pocket.
The ROM is 8 GB in size with only 4 GB available for storage. The other 4 GB is reserved for the operating system. The 4 GB available for storage is partition into 2 GB each for internal memory and storage memory. This is expandable to 64 GB via the micro SD card slot and the phone supports the installation of apps onto the SD card. Just set the default storage to 'SD card' under Storage in Options. Once set, any app installations including their data and OBB files are saved to the micro SD card. Pictures and video taken by the camera and screenshots will also saved to the micro SD card.
It's good to know that they finally consolidated the storage as both the app data itself and extraneous data (Android/data or Android/obb) are saved on the micro SD card unlike before, where most implementations would store the app data onto the internal storage and the extraneous data onto the micro SD. This means that if you remove the SD card, you can still open the app on the phone, but it may not run because the additional data it needs is on the SD card. This is usually the case for big games which have a lot of additional data. On the Excite 501o, if you remove the micro SD card, any apps installed on the SD card will not appear on the phone unless you put it back.
Regarding software and other goodies, Cloudfone kept the Excite 501o mostly stock except for some bloatware apps which are thankfully removable without rooting. But two features stand out: ClearMotion and HotKnot. I already showed ClearMotion is the Performance section of this review. HotKnot on the other hand is a feature that is similar to NFC. You can exchange data by simply making two HotKnot-enabled phones "kiss", as they put it, by making the phones' screens touch each other. Basically, the technology works by translating to data the electrical charge changes that occur when two capacitive screens touch each other. Like NFC, HotKnot is a near-field communication solution that can be used to pair devices and exchange information. The best part is that it does not require any special hardware like NFC aside from a change in the touchscreen controller to translate the electrical change to data. From a manufacturer's perspective, this is like having a free alternative to NFC since you don't need to include an additional antenna on your device. This means HotKnot has potential as MediaTek has leverage on touch controller manufacturers and at the same time has a sizable share in the smartphone market, specifically emerging markets. This means they can possibly ship all their future devices with this feature.
I unfortunately do not have any other device with HotKnot to demonstrate with the Excite 501o, so I will refer you to a video embedded below that demos its use:
USB OTG function is also available which means you can plug various USB devices onto the Excite 501o such as keyboards, mice, flash drives, gamepads/controllers, etc. I have tested various devices and external hard drives cannot be read by the Excite 501o because its USB port cannot supply enough power to make the hard drive run.
Call quality is pretty good on the Excite 501o for both the caller and the receiver. The microphone has good pickup and isn't susceptible to volume spikes and wind noise. It's also decent at filtering ambient sound so the receiver can still hear you clearly in noisy environments. But I found that due to the lack of a noise cancellation mic, nearby chatter is still picked up by the Excite 501o and it is advised that you take calls in places with fewer people or that you cover the microphone while taking calls inside a café or restaurant.
Wifi normally isn't a strong point of MediaTek chipsets, and the Excite 501o's wifi is surprisingly very good and has range and strength as nearly as good as devices with Qualcomm or Intel chipsets. Signal strength is particularly good as it manages to latch on to a signal even with plenty of physical obstructions.
GPS performance also wasn't a strong point of MediaTek chipsets and the Excite 501o has noticeably better lock-on performance than any of the previous MediaTek devices I've tested. It could either be due to better antennas and/or the chipset. It's still nowhere near as fast as Qualcomm chipsets in this regard though. It took only 2 minutes 3 seconds to get my very first lock-on without any A-GPS data. With the A-GPS cache cleared but already calibrated due to the first lock, the Excite 501o only took 43 seconds. In comparison, the Starmobile Up Lite with its MTK6582 chipset took 3 minutes 31 seconds on its very first lock and 1 minute 11 seconds on its second lock with the A-GPS cache cleared. The Galaxy Note 3 with its Snapdragon 800 managed to get a lock with A-GPS cache cleared in just 19 seconds.
While lock-on performance is still not as good as Snapdragon chipsets, the accuracy is pretty close. Stability is even better on the Excite 501o, as can be seen in the GPS track logs below I took with both the Excite 501o and the Galaxy Note 3. However, I do have some doubts with the result as both phones were sliding around while I was driving. I will be doing another GPS log tracking session with both phones properly mounted on the dashboard and I will be updating this soon.
Lastly, the Excite 501o also has a magnetic sensor which means it can be used as a compass offline.
The Excite 501o isn't revolutionary by any means. Aside from its octa-core MTK6592 chipset, its performance in other aspects are matched or exceeded by phones at the same price point. Its display is nice and bright, but it's a standard fare qHD IPS display. 720p IPS or qHD IPS OGS displays with a size of 5" have been around at the same price for some time now. The 8 megapixel camera is only FSI and isn't one of the better ones in terms of image quality, but its image quality isn't too shabby and it's actually 8 megapixels. Its battery performance also isn't any better.
The value really comes from the octa-core MTK6592 chipset. It offers performance close to upper mid-range phones from international brands and thanks to the relatively low qHD resolution, the MTK6592 provides flagship-level gaming performance. Every game you play, some emulators excluded, will be smooth and playable at the maximum available graphics settings. The MTK6592 also enables the camera to be more reliable because of faster shutter speeds and it also enables better GPS performance. Lastly, the MTK6592 also provides ClearMotion which should give people who watch a lot of video on their phone something to smile about. It really enhances the video viewing experience on a smartphone. I'm honestly stumped as to why Qualcomm or Intel haven't implemented a feature like this yet for their higher-end chipsets.
The selling factor here is that it has a big performance leap against the currently available quad cores under 5,000 Php. Combine its performance with its 5 point multitouch display, USB OTG, relatively low temperature under load; it's an excellent budget gaming smartphone. The good thing is it doesn't skimp too much on the other stuff. It's a good phone all-around that it doesn't falter in any critical metric against phones with the same price, except the loudspeaker. The Excite 501o's loudspeaker is laughably weak. Just make sure to manage your expectations and the 501o will not disappoint.
+ MTK6592 chipset currently provides best in class performance
+ Excellent gaming performance; games run smoothly even on high graphics settings
+ 5.0" 960x540 IPS display is bright and offers good viewing angles
+ ClearMotion tangibly improves experience of watching video
+ Camera is fast and reliable
+ Has USB OTG
- Very weak loudspeakers
- Still shot quality is average at best and takes poor pictures against light sources; shots have a lot of noise
Official Cloudfone Excite 501o Specs
5.0" qHD IPS Display, 960x540 resolution
1.7GHz MediaTek MTK6592 octa-core processor
1GB of RAM
8GB of ROM, with micro SD slot expandable up to 64 GB
8 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash
5 megapixel front camera
Wi-Fi, Wireless Display, USB OTG, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, HotKnot
Dual SIM, Dual Standby
2,250 mAh Battery
Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
SRP: 4,999 Php
This section may be updated in the future. Here, I'll include phones that compete best with the Cloudfone Excite 501o.
Cherry Mobile Me Vibe
Current price: 3,999 Php
The Cherry Mobile Me Vibe is now officially the cheapest octa-core device on the market: a whole Php 1,000 cheaper than the Excite 501o. It also has a 5.0" qHD IPS display. However, the Me Vibe is equipped with the lower clocked MTK6592M which has Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.4 Ghz and the Mali-450MP4 graphics clocked at 600 Mhz. It also has a smaller 1800 mAh battery and only 2 point multitouch, which makes it a poor pick for gaming. The Me Vibe reportedly has a 13 megapixel camera though. But knowing Cherry Mobile, this is most likely false and the Me Vibe is most likely to have a 5 or 8 megapixel camera which interpolates images to 13 megapixels.