Spice Stellar Mi-526: Good performance, poor battery life

Written by Debashis Sarkar | Updated: Aug 28 2014, 07:55am hrs
Recently, Spice Retail launched its first hexa-core powered smartphone, called Stellar Mi-526. The company aims to provide a premium experience at an affordable price (R11,499) with its new device. Despite the body being mostly made of plastic, the Stellar Mi 526 doesnt give the feel of cheap plastic at all. The brushed aluminium paint job at the back along with the metallic rim surrounding the glass, which covers the entire front-side, gives it a premium look.

Featuring an irremovable battery design, the device offers good build quality. At the front, it sports a 3.2 MP camera along with the three regular Android navigation capacitive touch buttons at the bottom. On the back side, the smartphone mounts an 8 MP snapper with flash at the top and speaker vents at the bottom.

The top surface has a 3.5 mm earphone port while the bottom surface has the micro USB charging port. The right hand side has the volume rocker keys and power/sleep button. The device can be considered thin and light weight. Despite being a 5-incher, you will have no problems carrying it in your pocket.

The phones 5-inch HD one cell IPS display does a great job. The viewing angles are good. Indoors, you will have no complaints with the display. However, once you step outside, the screen literally turns into a mirror! To make calls or read messages, you will have to find some sort of shadow. Even then, the visibility is poor. The screen will disappoint you under direct sunlight. The display of the Stellar Mi 526 is better indoors or best when its a dark room.

The Stellar Mi 526 houses a Mediatek MT 6591CPU based on ARM Cortex A7 architecture with six cores. The frequency ranges from 728 to 1496 Mhz. It also comes with Mali 450 GPU. The device scored 22043 on AnTuTu, which is good and supports large apps and multitasking.

Average to heavy users shouldnt face any difficulties whatsoever while playing graphics intense large games or apps or while multitasking. I played Blood and Glory on it seamlessly while using it as WiFi-hotspot device on my laptop. Background processes like a paused HD video, mail box and other minor activities were still running while I was playing. Throughout my usage, I did not encounter any lags or frozen screens at all. And for most users, I believe, performance shouldnt be an issue.

The major issue is heating. My sister was playing Angry Birds Rio on it, while I was using the device as a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect my laptop to Internet. After half an hour, the device got heated up like crazy. Even on normal usage, the device got heated up. However, the heating issue did not mar performance.

The phones camera is satisfying. Armed with an 8 MP auto focus rear camera, the image quality generated is decent. I tried to shoot images in almost every kind of daily scenarios and the results were satisfying. However, under low lighting conditions, the camera did not deliver much. Using flash helped, but then it did not give the desired results. Spice has also included HDR capability in this model, but low light images are far from perfect. The 3.2 MP front camera is just okay, nothing great.

The Spice Stellar Mi 526 comes with a few tweaks to the Android 4.4.2 KitKat interface. The icons looks better than stock Android. Gallery comes with live preview of video files to name a few. Spice has also bundled a lot of apps out of box, which might be good for some users as few of them are useful. Spice is also offering a separate camera app, which is better than the stock Android version. Also the device comes with a floating browser and video player. Other minor tweaks make the UI more user-friendly and attractive.

The battery is this phones major pain point. In my case, I had to charge the battery thrice as I viewed some HD videos for a while, played Blood and Glory, kept it running on 3G network along with some other normal usage. Overall, battery life is poor.

The Spice Stellar Mi 526 performance wise is good. Average users will have no issues with the device as such, but Spice could have made it even better without adding much to its expense. At R11,499, Spice has tried to deliver a pleasing device.

n Estimated street price: R11,499