American phone maker InFocus has been in the country for over a year now. Apart from making smartphones, InFocus is also into making TVs. InFocus has generally been associated with affordable smartphones - under Rs 10,000 price bracket - barring the M810 which is priced at Rs 13,999. With the Epic 1, InFocus brings in a smartphone with the 10-core processor housing Helio X20 chipset at Rs 12,999. So let us take a look at the phone
Build and Design: 8 / 10
The build quality on the InFocus Epic 1 is quite impressive. The first thing that grabs your attention is the metal casing with the brush metal finish on the rear side. The edges are neatly bevelled so that there aren’t any sharp edges. A circular finger print scanner is located in the top half in the centre, just below the 16MP camera unit and the dual LED flash unit. The metal casing is complemented with plastic covering at the top and bottom on the rear.
The top edge of the Epic 1 has the 3.5mm audio jack and the IR transmitter. On the right hand edge, you get the volume rocker buttons followed by the power / standby button whereas on the left hand side, you get the hybrid dual SIM card tray. At the base, there is the USB Type C port with a microphone on the left and a speaker section on the right. I found the dual volume rocker buttons placed in close proximity to the power/standby button quite annoying, as a lot of the times when I wanted to reduce the volume, I would end up making the device go to sleep and vice versa.
On the front, just above the display, you have the earpiece speaker which seems to have taken some inspiration from that found on the Nextbit Robin. It has the similar circular shape with perforations. To its right you have the indicator LED, proximity sensor and to its left you have the 8MP front-facing camera.
The phone has quite a slim profile, measuring just 7.6mm thick and weighs around 160 grams. The screen to body ratio of the Epic 1 isn’t the best. The build quality is good. The metal back does make it a bit slippery to hold.
Features: 7.5 / 10
The star feature of the Epic 1 has got to be the presence of the MediaTek Helio X20 chipset which houses a 10-core processor arranged in a tri-cluster formation. What that means is that instead of having two clusters of processor cores, the Helio X20 adds another cluster, thereby adding in more granularity. Of the 10 cores, you have two high performance Cortex A72 cores running at 2.1GHz, one cluster of quad-core Cortex A53 running at 1.85GHz for medium loads and another quad-core Cortex A53 cluster running at 1.4GHz for low power tasks. The chipset is paired with 3GB of RAM. The phone comes with 32GB of storage on board and you can expand it using a microSD card slot.
The InFocus Epic 1 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but it has its proprietary InLife UI interface atop it. Right out of the box, there is a lot of bloatware on the phone which is an immediate downer. There’s a 5.5-inch Full HD display on the Epic 1.
In terms of imaging, you get a 16MP rear camera with a dual LED flash unit and an 8MP front-facing camera. The Epic 1 supports Cat 6 LTE, VoLTE and has a dual 4G SIM slot, with dual standby. Other connectivity features include Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. It does have FM Radio and no NFC. The Epic 1 houses a 3000mAh non removable battery.
Display: 7 / 10
The InFocus Epic 1 sports a 5.5-inch Full HD LTPS display, thereby having a pixel density of 401PPI. It is sufficiently bright, but also has a highly glossy finish. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The text appears sharp on the display and colours are neutral, nothing too vivid. But overall, there is a blue tinge to the display. Brightness levels are good, but things tend to look washed out at maximum brightness. Black levels aren’t the greatest as backlight bleeding does creep in time and again.
Software: 7 / 10
The InFocus Epic 1 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but it has its proprietary InLife UI interface atop it. Right out of the box, there is a lot of bloatware on the phone which is an immediate downer. And you cannot uninstall some of the system apps. But there are also a couple of useful apps such as Truecaller that come preloaded. Overall, the look of the user interface does not look very polished.
Also the default keyboard is Xploree, which takes up a lot of screen real estate thanks to the Yahoo search bar atop the keyboard. It is a nightmare to use though for the first couple of days, as you end up mistyping, or accidentally activating the Yahoo search bar and so on. I changed it to the Google keyboard after two days of use, as it did not add any value to my typing experience.
Unlike most Chinese user interfaces though, the InLife UI comes with an app drawer and you can set apps according to alphabetical order, install time, frequency and so on. The four apps present around the app drawer also show up on the lock screen, just in case you want to quickly get into the app. But you need to unlock the phone first, then you launch directly into the app you picked from the lock screen. There are motion gestures as well which let you reject call, skip to next song and so on.
The camera interface looks like the one seen on Android KitKat sporting handsets. And same goes for the notification shade. They just don’t look as polished for a 2016 handset. Settings menu is slightly modified, but I did not get the significance of colour coding the various options even though they were under separate sub-groupings.
All in all, the interface is nothing great to look at, but is thankfully quite responsive.
Performance: 7 / 10
Call quality on the Epic 1 is quite good with the earpiece speaker being loud enough. The mono-speaker at the base is only good enough if you are in a quiet surroundings and are holding the phone in a way that cups the speaker section. Speaker's sound quality is passable and nothing to boast of.
Considering the Epic 1 comes with a deca-core processor, I was expecting some surprises in the benchmark numbers. But that wasn’t so, hence reiterating the fact that more number of processor cores does not translate to exponential gains in performance. The Epic 1 benchmark scores were still lower than similarly specced Snapdragon 820 sporting phones with 3GB RAM. The only area where a jump was seen was in the Vellamo multi-core test. So even though the Helio X20 is the high end MediaTek chipset, it is not in the same league as the Snapdragon 820.
When gaming, the Epic 1 really heated up. Temperatures crossed 43 degrees C inside an air conditioned room when playing Asphalt 8: Airborne. I wonder what the situation will be when playing this game outdoors in bright sunlight. The tri-cluster mechanism on the Helio X20 ensures that there are no dropped frames, performance is top notch. But the price is paid in the form of a heated smartphone. It does get uncomfortably hot in the sunlight when playing games or using the camera for long durations. When the phone is charging, you can keep aside that hot bag and massage your aching joints with this device. The heat management on the Epic 1 is anything but epic. And if the phone is hot, let it cool for some time before putting it in your trouser pocket. Else you will face the battery issues which I have mentioned below. Also with the fingerprint scanner, you will notice a definite delay from the time you place your finger on the scanner to the phone waking up.
Camera: 6.5 / 10
In terms of imaging, you get a 16MP rear camera with a dual LED flash unit and an 8MP front-facing camera. The camera supports phase detect AF, has an f/2.0 aperture on the rear camera and an f/1.8 on the front facing camera. The camera interface though seems like you are using a KitKat OS based phone, it is that old.
Image quality is not one of the Epic 1’s strong point. Sure the images captured look good on the phone’s display. But observe them at full resolution on a monitor and the flaws will immediately jump at you. There is a noticeable lack of sharpness in images. This is true of daylight as well as low light. The daylight images were not able to resolve the finer details in landscape photographs. So something like a tree or grass will look quite noisy and mushy. The noise is noticeable in these images, even though it’s just chroma noise. The low light photographs are equally mediocre. Add in the fact that the smartphone heats up while you are shooting stills and videos and it easily puts you off from indulging in photography with the Epic 1. The image quality is fixable with a thoughtful patch, else the 16MP rear camera is of no relevance if this is the kind of image quality one is getting. Front camera can take decent selfies - nothing special there. It does offer modes such as picture in picture, panorama, multiple filters and so on.
The video shooting mode does not let you select a resolution, but only gives options such as high, medium and low quality. The electronic image stabilisation (EIS) while shooting video is quite a handy feature as it manages to compensate for the camera shake while shooting when you are walking. The overall video quality is good enough for casual shooting, but the dynamic range isn’t the best.
Battery: 6 / 10
The InFocus Epic 1 comes with a 3000mAh battery, which seems good on paper. But during my usage time, there was hardly any day when I wasn’t running for the charger in the middle of the day. There were a couple of occasions when after charging a battery fully and just placing it in my pockets, made the battery drain quickly. The phone would for some reason be hot and would only cool down after I took it out of my pocket. Check out the battery chart below to get an idea.
There was no explanation for this sudden drop and random shut down of the phone for a brief interval. After around 20 mins of gaming (Asphalt 8: Airborne), I saw a straight 12 percent drop. It is definitely not a phone I would go with, without a power bank on hand, on a really heavy work day. The average screen on time would be around 3 to 3.5 hours. It does give around 7 hours 15 mins on PC Mark for Android battery life test.
Verdict and Price in India
The Epic 1 is a good attempt by InFocus to get a MediaTek Helio X20 chipset sporting phone at an affordable Rs 12,990 price point. I really liked the design of the Epic 1 considering its price point. But barring raw performance, it falters in a lot of areas such as camera quality, battery life, heat management and more. That doesn’t really help in this highly competitive price segment.
The competition presented by the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 or even the LeEco Le 2 in this segment to the Epic 1 is quite stiff. Sure they may not give the raw numbers that the Epic 1 gives, but in areas such as heat management and battery life, the Epic 1 clearly lags behind the Redmi Note 3 and the Le 2. Plus, the Le 2 also comes with the media bundle from the LeEco system. InFocus definitely needs to release some software updates to take care of the heat management and the inconsistent performance of the battery. Yes, the Epic 1 is priced quite well, but for the time being I wouldn't recommend it, keeping in mind the issues one comes across.
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