You may remember we first came across the Prestigio Multi Phone 8500 DUO at Computex earlier this year. It’s a now available in Germany for 150 Euros ($200 USD), where our buddy Roland has given it a thoroughly good looking over. Join Mobile Geeks as we review an affordable 5 inch Windows smartphone from one of Microsoft’s newest hardware partners.
After the Microsoft / Prestigio press conference during Computex, we managed to get a first chance to really compare the efforts of previous Windows Phone vendors Nokia, HTC, Samsung and the new kid on the block, Prestigio, a lesser known smartphone vendor from Cyprus. It was clear to us at that stage that Microsoft were reaping the rewards of their close relationship with Qualcomm which was enabling them to deliver a reference platform to new partners that would make a solid base around which they could then build their Windows Phone devices. It is this ability to devise prepackaged platforms that have been optimized to work with the Windows Phone OS that is helping to drive down costs and produce really affordable devices like the 8500 DUO.
Don’t forget to watch this awesome video from our buddy Roland who brings us an unboxing plus video review of the Presigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO:
The story in terms of hardware is relatively simple to tell. The Prestigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO is a 5-inch device that uses an LCD IPS panel with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor (MSM82122) which is an affordable quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 SoC clocked at 1.2 GHz. There’s support for HSPA+ up to 42.2 Mbit/s, 1GB RAM and 8GB of flash memory, microSD support, an 8MP camera on the back with an LED flash and auto-focus. The device includes two SIM card slots and has a 2000mAh (7.4 watt-hour) battery.
Despite the low cost of the device, it’s good to see the Prestigio arrive with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, which actually turns out be reasonably sufficient seeing as Windows Phone 8.1 is very effective at managing its system memory footprint. Multi-tasking with several apps is pretty pain-free as is the case with gaming. This is in contrast to cheap devices with only 512MB of RAM. Where storage is concerned it is true that 8GB of flash memory will probably not last too long, but the addition of a microSD support means you can easily and relatively cheaply add an additional 32GB. Currently I have 7.28 GB of actual internal memory with 2.7 GB free. 2.32 GB of internal memory is used up by the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, plus about a gigabyte of offline map data and 650MB of app data.
Externally speaking the Prestigio MultiPhone DUO 8500 has no major features, but the design itself is actually reasonably attractive with a matte black finish and a silver trim around the edge. The back cover looks good and has a finish that will not attract fingerprints, although you might see small smears if your hands are greasy enough. The phone is solid under pressure although there is a little give with very slight creaking from the cover.
The front face is basically one piece of Corning Gorilla Glass but there is no special finish to prevent slippery-ness, and like the back cover, it can suffer when used by greasy fingers. Below the screen we see the usual three Windows keys, which are added as actual illuminated hardware buttons – there are no on-screen buttons.
At 8.3 millimeters and 140 grams, the Prestigio is not particularly thin, but is actually pretty light. The device is not exactly compact, but considering its functionality and price, we would consider the design to be a fair compromise. It doesn’t feel like a real high-end device, but then neither does it try to. The build quality is totally decent enough for this price segment.
The IPS display of the Prestigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO has 1280 × 720 pixels squeezed in to its 5 inch panel. When first turning on the device I was surprised by the quality of this 720p display. This is in contrast to the pre-production sample we saw at Computex 2014 which had clear, visible stripes. The production model has no such issues which is a relief.
For a TFT display the black levels are perfectly fine and the contrast ratio too seems to pretty good without needing any manual configuration. The panel is not exceptionally bright however, so you may find yourself seeking some shade if you are outside in bright sunshine. Then again we have certainly seen far worse. I would argue that it actually performs better than the Nokia Lumia 630, against which it competes in the lower, entry-level Windows Phone sphere.
Thanks to IPS technology the viewing angles are stable and there is no visible area where the colors are distorted. You could easily read your neighbors emails sitting on the subway. One thing I did notice was that, the font on the Windows Phone UI is displayed significantly smaller compared to other devices we have looked at, for example the Lumia 930, which is a significantly higher 1080p resolution, but the same size along the diagonal. The fonts do indeed become a little bit too difficult to read being so small, but this is likely to be a software issue more than hardware, needing a tweak with an improved configuration. Who knows, with enough complaints they may even fix it.
Overall however the display is good value for this level of device and it would be interesting to see this the same panel running Android , just to see how it compares. In terms of the touchscreen, there are no issues. Double-tap to wake works well, although I don’t see this as a real and necessary feature in all honesty.
The camera provided by the Prestigio MultiPhone DUO 8500 is an 8 mega-pixel, which is actually a surprisingly high resolution for a phone in this price range, especially as there is also auto-focus and an LED flash on the back. The front camera is a more rudimentary 2MP sensor. There is no image stabilization or dedicated shoot button of course, but hey we can accept these omissions without complaint.
Cranking up to 8MP resolution pics will give you 3:2 aspect ratio, but you can of course turn this down. Probably due to the limitations of the Snapdragon 200, the video recording is limited to a maximum of 864 x 480 pixels. This is a pretty paltry resolution once you have been become used to Full HD video, and you may be forgiven for considering this a deal breaker. On the other hand the photos we have taken look reasonably good if you take your time and find the right conditions. The auto-focus is a little slow, so be sure to keep a steady hand.
The camera app is functionally equivalent to the standard we have seen before on Windows Phone 8.1 devices, including various configuration options, so you can adjust white balance, ISO, and the like via the onscreen menus. You can make changes yourself although there are lots of ready-made settings to choose from.
We are not expecting miracles but the in conclusion, the camera here on the Prestigio is actually better than others we have looked at in this class, including for example, Android competitors like the Motorola Moto G.
The Prestigio Multi Phone 8500 DUO has a single speaker located on the rear of the device, which unfortunately seems somewhat overwhelmed by the by the maximum output of the device during media playback. If you turn up the volume beyond 20 in the Windows Phone 8.1 OS you will begin to notice a degradation of audio quality, that becomes a distorted mess by the time you reach 30. In fairness, between 20 and 30 you are not seeing an increase in volume, more of an increase in distortion.
In music playback the audio playback is not too bad and you can even hear the bass in certain tracks. During telephone conversations the sound is about average and the volume is also decent, but not exceptionally high.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 with its four 1.2GHz Krait cores is a sufficiently powerful processor for any Windows Phone 8.1 device, including the Prestigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO. Of course the chip is not Qualcomm’s high-end model, so would be unfair to expect top performance levels like we see on high-end Android phones. If we compare synthetic performance with the Nokia Lumia 930, which runs the Snapdragon 800, we see approximately one third of the performance. This can be somewhat misleading however as Qualcomm and Microsoft have work hard at making sure the processor and the OS are very well optimized.
When it comes to dealing with apps opening and closing in daily use, the fluidly smooth transitions tend to stutter on occasion. The problem could be related to the above mentioned scaling issue that the Adreno 302 graphics processor encounters. Scrolling for example can be an issue at times with noticeable lag when heavy graphical content is due in the browser.
It’s only fair to see this in context however, and if you regard the Prestigio as an entry-level device, the performance overall is quite sufficient. The device actually performs better than several other affordable Windows Phone devices we have come across. We do hope however that Prestigio are working on software optimizations that could improve the overall user experience and iron out those minor creases.
In view of the price tag and the overall hardware base we have on the Prestigio MultiPhone 8500 DUO, the 2,000mAh battery is actually fairly generous. The Snapdragon 200 chip is fairly economical and knows how to get the power down to very low levels when in idle state, which helps a great deal to get the device through a full day’s usage. In fact we found that two days usage was not out of the question.
Indeed, in a normal working day, the Prestigio will match you pace for pace, so you will not need a battery pack or charger. In the two weeks that we used the device we often found that we needed to charge only once every two days. If you want to enjoy long bouts of serious gaming or other heavy tasks, you may find a rather different picture, as you would expect. Constant video playback with saw the device manage 12 hours, which is actually pretty impressive.
Windows Phone 8.1 is a pretty uniform experience across the board, so I won’t go into too much detail about the overall Windows Phone experience here. There is relatively little in the way of customization, but that is more than made by complete package that Microsoft is giving you. The Prestigio Multi Phone 8500 DUO is the first device from Cypriot manufacturer Prestigio but the maturity of the Windows platform conveys itself to mature Windows experience.
The capabilities of the Windows Phone 8.1 platform continue to expand with regular updates that gradually evolve the OS. The 8.1 refresh sees a new Action Center, a revised notifications center and the ability to create folders. It is fair to say that Windows Phone has grown to a level where it can now compete with Android.
When it comes to apps and the general app eco-system, Windows Phone is still a good way off the beat but there are of course some really exceptional offerings. One killer feature that we enjoy is the offline maps service available through the Here app. This is some of the best mapping software around, and it works very well offline which makes it very valuable when you are traveling without a network.
Again, I must, however, point to the lack of fluidity between the operating system and the hardware when switching apps. Sometimes you will notice that when returning to the start screen that the animation can feel a little jerky at times. We hope that Microsoft, Qualcomm and Prestigio can work out what is happening here and fix the issue. In 2014, these kinds of stuttering and laggy animations should be a thing of the past. I hope these minor issues can be resolved and prove that the Windows Phone 8.1 experience can indeed be flawless on an affordable device.
The Prestigio Multi Phone 8500 DUO offers some really compelling functionality, and does it for a really reasonable price. The decision from Microsoft to include smaller OEMs in the partnership program should be welcomed, especially if phones like this are in evidence. You are getting a decent display, sufficient performance, a good camera, good battery life and fairly good looking device too. There is nothing overly exceptional about the phone’s aesthetics, which are more derived from function than fashion, but so be it. At this price it is looking good.
For 150 Euros or around $200, the Prestigio Multi Phone 8500 DUO is a damn good phone. The issues regarding the software can be resolved with subsequent updates and we don’t lay the blame at Prestigios feet – rather Microsoft needs to do a little extra to help out and I hope they do.
In summary, if this is a glimpse of the new affordable Windows Phone segment, then the future looks good.