Karbonn Quattro L52 VR is one of seven phones launched by Karbonn Mobiles in this year and the third phone from the Quattro series. The company launched this phone back in April and wanted to target budget users with the bundled VR headset for its VR content. Not many companies have gone this way in targeting budget segment with VR offering, except Lenovo with Vibe K4 Note. You sure can use third party VR headsets to consume the VR content but bundled VR headset along with the name of the device itself and bundled VR apps go a long way in showing that this isn't a trial run.
Karbonn Quattro L52 VR is one in a sea of mobile devices made by the company, trying to capitalise on being one of the first to target the low-end smartphones with VR content, driving the price lower than Lenovo Vibe K4 Note. Let's see how it fares.
Build Quality: 7.5 / 10
The build quality of Karbonn Quattro L52 VR is surprisingly good. I was not expecting a metal frame body and curved glass on the front with plastic back to be this good. People around me were surprised to know that this was a budget device because it closely resembled a premium device from a distance. At 9.9mm thickness, it seems slight bulky.
The device felt light in weight at 143 grams. However, the good regarding the device ends on the exterior of the device as opening the removable back was almost scary as putting it back. The plastic lock-in pins on the back always scared me into thinking that I have deformed the back or just might tear it apart.
L52 VR comes with the power button and volume button on the top right side of the device. The metal frame could easily develop scratches if ever it has contact with any sharp object. Another thing to note is the lack of LED notification light and backlit buttons on the front
Removing the battery, is an exercise in itself. It requires a considerable amount of force to pull it out and trimmed nails make it difficult, than it generally should be. The placement of the dual SIM card (where the second slot is hybrid) slot, while visible on the top of the battery, can only be accessed after removing the battery.
The Karbonn VR headset had a decent build and was slightly better than other cheap non-plastic third party VR headsets available in the market. It included a suction cup in the section where you put your smartphone to secure the device. The inclusion of head strap to secure the VR headset was a nice touch.
Features: 6 / 10
Karbonn Quattro L52 VR comes with a 5-inch HD IPS 2.5D curved glass capacitive display. The device packs a quad-core MediaTek MT6735P chipset clocked at 1.3GHz along with 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. It also includes a hybrid expandable storage slot where you can pop in a microSD card up to 32GB. The L52 packs a Mali-T720 GPU to power games and its VR experience.
On the connectivity front, the Karbonn Quattro L52 VR has a 4G enabled dual SIM card with one dedicated SIM slot and another hybrid slot, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS, FM radio, Hotspot and microUSB 2.0. The device packs light sensor, proximity sensor, G-sensor, Gyro sensor and Accelerometer regarding the sensors available.
The device sports an 8MP rear camera with a Sony Sensor at f/2.2 and a 5MP front facing camera for selfies. It does not come with quick charge, NFC or Wi-Fi Direct. It houses a 2250mAh battery.
Display: 6.5 / 10
The Full HD IPS 2.5D curved glass capacitive display is good in theory with great contrast and vibrancy indoors, but things are 'contrastingly' different when you are outdoors. Even with brightness cranked up to maximum, you can barely see anything on the screen under direct sunlight. When put in Auto-brightness mode, the device can't keep up with the changes in brightness, and you end up changing the brightness yourself. The effective display of the device is 1280x720 display is fine for day to day usage, but the viewing angles are horrible and get washed out when you see from an angle.
The display can be a bit in your face when you first boot up the device, but you get used to the bright and colourful icons along with time. Also, you can change the settings to your liking from the menu.
Software: 4 / 10
The device runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 out of the box, and there is nothing special about the software. Karbonn has added a few tweaks here and there in the settings area to include VR calibration, MiraVision, and Themes. VR calibration setting is used to control the calibration of the VR Headset, MiraVision to control the image quality and manually tweak them and Themes is to change the visual elements of the device. Karbonn has gone for a skinned version of Android instead of the stock experience and the resulting skin is hideous.
Even though Karbonn managed to add a separate page for Wireless updates, I will be surprised if they manage to push Android Marshmallow 6.0 update for the device.
The absolute overuse of colour right from the booting screen to the home screen is a jarring experience for people who come from other smartphones. Users switching from the feature phones or dumb phones may be overwhelmed and possibly happy at seeing the colours. But to think, the UI colour choice may be aimed at the first time users itself, users who will be impressing by the colour and visual overdose provided by Karbonn.
The device was loaded with preloaded apps, and most of them were pretty useless. I ended up uninstalling all of the preloaded apps. I am glad that Karbonn gave me the ability to remove those apps and did not make them system apps which can't be removed.
The company added Karbonn Family of apps, a proprietary ecosystem exclusive to Karbonn mobile devices. The experience started with the app give me three suggestion lists to install apps under the categories 'Popular', 'Useful'and 'Entertainment'. Even though it is a good choice for the first time smartphone users with the recommendations comprised of many quality apps. Gesture Mode is one of the features baked in the device which does not provide any useful addon. It will feel 'cool' for users to use that initially but after some usage, the novelty will wear off.
But, everything was destroyed by the Karbonn App Mall. Intended as an in-house app store, this app constantly gave me notification advertisements on the lock screen. These notifications could not be removed. This behaviour would be half as irritating if these notifications could be turned off or removed. But having 8-10 notifications suggesting me to visit 'Desi Models' on my phone lock screen was disgusting. The only way to remove the notifications was to tap on them and visit the website that they intend on advertising. My experience with rest of the Karbonn App Zone was equally useless and frustrating, and I uninstalled the entire suite of apps after two days because of the possible notification bug.
Performance: 6 / 10
Karbonn Quattro L52 VR surprised me with its performance initially. The interface and the general phone performance was good at the beginning but as soon as started installing more apps, performance took a hit. The phone started lagging as the number of apps in the background increased with app loading time increasing. Using 10-12 opened apps in the background is my general day-to-day usage, which left me a bit annoyed while using the phone.
The device scored 23765 on the AnTuTu Benchmark which in comparison to older phones is good but nowhere decent to the current smartphone generation. I spent hours gaming on the device, even though games like Asphalt 8: Airborne worked fine but heavier games like Dead Trigger 2 and Modern Combat 5 lagged. The phone started heating up 8-10 minutes into the session and reached 58 degrees after 25 minutes of the gaming.
The VR performance of the device is passable with a barebones experience. The almost decent quality of the VR Headset made the general performance of the device suffer. I experienced some issues in the VR experience despite calibrating the device and the head tracking to move the pointer failed. After trying almost everything and receiving buggy output I gave up on the VR headset. This essentially turned the most important feature in the device, a gimmick.
The bundled earphones were very basic without any surprises.
Camera: 5 / 10
The camera performance of L52 VR is barely passable. In the world where better cameras exist for budget devices like Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and Moto G (3rd Generation) under Rs 10,000. It is better to go for those devices rather than a device where the camera is put in just for the sake of it.
The images always turned out grainy, lacking contrast, colour accuracy and full of image artifacts. The lack of dynamic colour depth in the camera shots was downright pathetic. HDR mode did manage to bring in few details in the blown out images but that was just nominal to what other cameras can capture. Colours were generally on the warmer side with incorrect tint.
The camera despite the ideal conditions, in bright daylight, did not show any details with washed out colours. This may be fine for people who don't care about any of the technical details of the photos and just want a 'Photo' for the sake of a photo. But for people who really want good photos, you should look elsewhere. Click on the image to load the image gallery shot by L52 VR.
Even though the Camera UI is loaded with features and gimmicks like smile detection, panorama mode, burst mode and others but still the features are not worth the final output that you get. The 5MP front camera is worse in quality and practically useless in any less than ideal conditions. The video quality of the device suffers badly with lack of image stabilisation and sub-par camera module.
Battery: 5 / 10
The device scored a time of 5 hours and 6 minutes on PCMark 8, a fairly intensive battery test. Even though the battery test scored this much but I found the device dead after 4 hours and 40 minutes of normal usage for me, which included gaming, 8-10 background apps, music, Facebook browsing, WhatsApp, and Emails. You will end up chugging a power bank with you all times which with the lack of quick charging and USB Type-C will make matters difficult as time proceeds.
Verdict and Price in India
Karbonn Quattro L52 VR is currently available on Amazon and Flipkart, selling at a discount for Rs 8,790. Despite the low price, the device is just not worth is with the limited processing power, features, battery life and camera. The only thing I can appreciate in this device is the build quality. Even though, the device may be great for first-time smartphone users upgrading from feature phones and dumb phones according to the price point. But instead, I would recommend people to increase their budget a bit and go for Xiaomi, Motorola, Zuk or even Lenovo devices in this range. Some of the recommended phones are Moto G (3rd Generation), Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and the best that you can get is Xiaomi Redmi 3S.
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