We may not always notice this, but more and more new phone releases just don’t hit the west at all; least of which the technological backwater UK. A myriad of reasons are enough to keep them from our shores, but it nevertheless got us thinking: what are we missing?
The majority of these releases are focused on the Asian markets. It makes sense for companies, especially those based in China, to focus on the home ground, where there’s more freedom in what they can produce and no need to pay those expensive international shipping costs. For a great majority of them too, they’re often produced within the very same factories as their million-selling cousins, and often look remarkably similar to current models on the market. At least, on the outside…
To help get a feel for what we are missing, we imported the Star N8000, just such one of the phones you’ll never see in a store near you. In essence, it looks to be a competitor to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in the growing 5-inch phone market, and though the raw specs on Star’s phone fall short of Samsung’s flagship palm-hogger, the price blows it right out of the water – it’s just over £100.
For the most part, the N8000 stacks up well to its more power-hungry competitors; capable of running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to a good standard and the majority of applications we threw at it with apparent ease. When taking into account the N8000 packs just a 1Ghz processor and 800Mhz GPU under its shell, it’s fairly impressive, though in actuality will largely demonstrate just how far Google has come with Android if anything. Not that we haven’t experienced our fair share of slow-down, however, typically where multi-tasking and running multiple apps in the background (Android’s ‘Clear All’ button will become a much-used resource).
7 out of 10 - It does perform well, but the N8000 is far from as smooth as the majority of its competitors on the market. Expecting anything more would be naïve.
An area where the majority of cheaper imports fall down, the build quality on offer with the actual N8000 unit is surprisingly good, feeling sturdy in the hand and with only a couple of niggles here and there in how it’s been put together alluding to the device’s ‘cheapness’. For one, the display (a substandard 800 x 480 pixels for the record) is raised ever so slightly off the grip around the edge of the device, revealing the bezel and resulting in a slightly unfinished feel to the touch. The back, meanwhile, tends not to fit snug alongside the grip either, though it’s a very minor complaint.
6 out of 10 - The core build is stronger than you would expect, but there are definitely signs of cheapness to be found.
Labelling the N8000 as a ‘rip-off’ is a bit of a disservice to Star, since the device does offer a couple of things that you won’t necessarily be seeing from any of its high-end competitors any time soon, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing for at least one of them. The best of these is the fact the device is dual-SIM compatible - a particular favourite of ours – meaning you can have 2 SIM cards on the go at any one time, without the need to manually switch the two. Because while Research In Motion is busy touting the Blackberry 10’s ability to switch both ‘work’ and ‘personal’ accounts on the fly, dual-SIM offers very much the same for a fraction of the cost of an upcoming Blackberry, allowing you to consolidate your work and personal lives under the same device.
The other ‘feature’ might well have worked in the UK in a bygone era of analogue, and where portable TV players were all the rage. Oddly enough, the N8000 comes packed with a TV aerial (the old kind), which will prove beneficial (somewhat) in countries where analogue broadcasting is still a thing but less so over here. Still, it’s an extra, we guess…
For the regular stuff, the rear-facing camera is a paltry 5-Megapixels, and the front-facing a mere 0.3. With how common 8-Megapixel cameras are these days the lack of quality on show is to the phone’s detriment, but that’s not to say it’s a total let-down. Battery life is pretty good on the whole, with an added battery included within the pack a nice bonus, meaning you’ll have one to charge and one to drain right off the bat – because no matter how much juice they squeeze into a battery, we’re always going to run it flat at the worst possible times.
7 out of 10 – The camera is far from the best, with other smartphones leaving the N8000 green with envy. The inclusion of dual-SIM is welcome however, as is the device’s strong battery life. No need to comment on the analogue TV signal…
This isn’t a case of 'you get what you pay for', it’s not even close: you get far more. While you will have to pay over the odds on shipping, you’re still way under the competition on price. Never does the N8000 feels as cheap as it ought to (or so you’d expect for the price), and it often boils down to being not just a considerable clone of the real deal, but a great phone in its own right. Recommended.
7 out of 10 – It won’t blow you away, but the N8000 is nevertheless a worthy competitor to some of the 5-inch market’s most popular of handsets. Analogue aerial aside, there are some nice features to be had here, and performance-wise it’s decent too. Worth an import for this price? You bet.