March 6, 2013

MICROMAX QUBE X550 REVIEW


Micromax is one of the few Indian cellphone companies that is making its presence felt very strongly - thanks to the massive advertising campaigns running in the media. They recently also did what inexpensive phone makers are expected to do sooner or later; take the openly available Google Android OS and slap it on one of its models, which gave birth to Andro A60.

But today we're taking a look at one of their non smart touchphone offerings - the Qube X550. It is a decent-looking phone under Rs. 5,000 that may catch the attention of many. Its USP is supposedly the "3D Cube User Interface". Let's see if it is any good beyond its dazzling UI effect. 

Micromax Qube X550


Design and Build
I wasn't too enthralled by Micromax Qube X550's appearance, but a couple of people who saw it said otherwise. You've got to give it to Micromax for one thing - build quality. Other than the slightly weak-ish build of the Q7, all other phones I've encountered have always had sturdy build quality. And the Qube isn't different, the phone feels pretty solid in hand and should take some serious beating before its anticipated death. The phone has a decent feel to it, the velvety back cover adds a nice touch. There's this metallic purple rim surrounding the entire shell and a similarly colored home button that didn't really appeal to me; maybe it will to you. Have a look for yourself:
Micromax Qube X550 home button


Going by the iPhone design philosophy, the Qube has just that one button on the front-face of the phone. The UI design aspects are also similarly "inspired". The screen is a 256K colors, 240 x 400 pixel resolution and measures 3.2 inches. Being a sub-Rs. 5,000 phone, we can't expect it to be capacitive in nature, and it is not. For a resistive screen though, the touch response isn't as bad as you'd imagine. And after getting used to applying a little more pressure than usual as well as making good use of your fingernails, using the phone's screen isn't that bad. If things go bad (and trust me they do), there's also a stylus (Yikes, I can't believe i said that) placed in the body of the phone itself. The clarity is decent, but you're barely able to read the content under direct sunlight. 
Micromax Qube X550 side

Micromax Qube X550 back


Around the phone you've got the 3.5mm headphone jack, a microUSB port to the bottom. Surprisingly, there are volume controls (something I've not seen on a Micromax till date) and even a camera-shutter button to the right. There's a power button to the top. Lastly, there's a camera sensor and a speaker-grille at the back.  

User Interface
The Micromax Qube X550 runs a touch-optimized version of a proprietary OS. As we hinted before, the interface is quite "inspired" from the UIs of other smartphones. For example, the "Slide up to unlock" or the big digital clock from the HTC Sense UI, or the call connection menu, which is a complete rip-off of the iPhone - are all inspired. Anyway, the home-screen has many clickable elements and quick access shortcuts to apps and often used settings. Some of them simply represent the menu in different styles. For example, you can view the menu in a Pearl necklace like arrangement, a regular page-by-page one, and the "3D Cube" way. 
3D cube menu


The last one can be described as nothing more than a gimmick, as it simply represents all the menu items on the walls of a three-dimensional cube that you spin around; the motion of which isn't very fluid. It served me no real purpose and I would access the menu in the regular way any day. The UI speed is otherwise fairly swift. The menu animations are also fairly attractive. The touch response is also pretty decent for a resistive screen. You can manage most of the interface with your fingers, except for one part explained below where you'll eventually want to pull that stylus out. 
Micromax Qube X550 QWERTY


Moving on to the first and the most irritating aspect of the device; the input options. Despite the screen being a little too narrow to fit a full keyboard in portrait mode, the phone makers felt it would be alright to still cram a QWERTY in there somehow. The way they did that was by increasing the number of rows, due to which the layout is now totally messed up with characters to the end of the display flowing on to the next row.

For anybody used to a regular QWERTY keyboard layout (I would assume most of you reading are), this input method becomes very unintuitive and I wasn't able to get used to it despite using the phone for several days. As a saviour, there's an alpha-numeric pad text input mode with T9 support. But it somewhat sucks too as you cannot add new words to the dictionary. To top it all, using the keys with your thumbs (especially if you have fat thumbs like mine) isn't very accurate and it will make you eventually pull out the stylus.

For web browsing, there's Opera Mini pre-installed, which renders full websites pretty well on a low-power device like this. But since this is the same Java version that runs on even non-touchscreen phones, the menu layout isn't optimized to be used with the fingers; you'll be compelled to pull out the stylus for this one as well. The Java text input issue, where it opens another window to type into a text-box and requires three clicks before you can actually place those words there, still exists.

While it is acceptable in apps like Opera mini, where you don't have to enter text very often, chat clients like Nimbuzz will suffer this plague badly. For other internet-related applications like Twitter, Facebook etc., there's an integrated app called Snaptu. You can minimize apps, which is a good thing and something that cheaper Nokia's cannot do, but there's not enough CPU power and/or RAM to run two Java apps at a time.

Appearance wise, the Micromax Qube X550's UI isn't a charmer, it still needs polishing, especially the type of fonts used. 

Performance
Like all Micromax phones, the Qube X550 also follows the tradition of having two SIM card slots. As a phone, the X550 is a little unsatisfactory, as the network reception wasn't as good as it generally is on most other phones. There were noticeable call-drops, especially if you cup the phone entirely with your hand. The sound from the earpiece also wasn't as clear as we'd like. The loudspeaker is fairly loud though.

There isn't much to talk about the Multimedia of the phone. The 2 megapixel camera, in sufficient lighting takes bearable images; the quality of which deteriorates further once the light levels fall. The audio quality delivered when you connect a decent pair of ear-phones is just about bearable.

Battery life is pretty good; the phone lasted me for two days with moderate phone-call usage.

Price and Verdict

The Micromax Qube X550 sells for Rs. 4,200, which is not too much to ask for. But in the same range, you have a few models like the Samsung Champ. Comparing the two, the Champ's got a smaller, lower resolution screen, but it beats the X550 in UI and ease of use. The Micromax Qube X550 has got decent looks and the UI isn't entirely horrible to use. But the issues that we pointed before stop us from recommending this phone.

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