The 5 inch display based smartphone category is in one word ‘Booming’, with devices coming from big and small manufacturers. So much so that Samsung, which is considered to be the creator of the 5 inch phablet category, has launched the 5 inch Samsung Galaxy Grand smartphone as well, to keep up with the growing competition. The 5 inch smartphone is the perfect solution for those who do not want a smaller smartphone but are not in need of a bigger tablet either.
Joining the party very late is Lava with the launch of the Lava Iris 501 smartphone. But Lava has learnt a lot from the market and has implemented it in the Iris 501, making it a good and worthy contender in the 5 inch phablet category, competing with devices from Samsung, Micromax, Zync and even Byond. So let’s find out what the Lava Iris 501 is really worth.
Look and feel
Combining the shades of white and black in a glossy and matte finish the Lava Iris 501 comes as a good looking device that looks more than a regular low cost Android smartphone. The front is black and glossy, while the back has a bright white matte finish to keep things clean and simple. The front of the device, all thanks to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, has a flush finish, and the lack of hardware buttons on the front of the Lava Iris 501 gives it a clean look. The device is just a few millimeters smaller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 because of the bigger bezel around the 5 inch display that makes the Iris look grand.
Iris 501 is lightweight with a total weight of 185 g, which includes a 2300 mAh battery pack to power this device. The sidewise placement of the power/standby key really makes it easy to use. The left side houses the volume rocker and the right side features the power key. The top of the device is a bit crammed, though, as it features the USB/charging port as well as the audio connector. The bottom of the device has been left clean, although a USB port there would have been useful.
Overall, the build quality of the device is good. It feels sturdy and can handle accidental falls too. The display is protected by a scratch resistant glass surface, but a scratch guard would be advisable considering it’s a big screen, and the guard will also promise longevity for the device. For additional protection the company has included a complementary bumper in the box, which is really welcome.
Display and touch
The screen of the Lava Iris 501 is a 5 inch 480 x 800 pixel resolution TFT LCD display. It works great and offers great contrast at lower brightness levels. But the display’s viewing angles are a bit limited as the farther the POV goes the worse the colour vibrancy gets, and the display feels blacked out, and is worst from the top of the device. Maybe this problem is just with the device we got for review. The maximum brightness supported by the display makes it a perfect device to be used in bright sunlight as well.
The capacitive touch on the other hand is great and even the slightest of gestures translates to perfect action. The display supports a five point capacitive input system, allowing users to easily use apps that require more inputs like music or drums applications.
The colour reproduction and black levels are good, and the picture quality offered by the display is sharp and vibrant right from the lowest to the highest brightness levels.
Processor and display engine
The Lava Iris 501 utilizes a Mediatek 6577 chipset with a 1 GHz dual core processor based on ARM A7 architecture and Power VR SGX graphics engine. The processor is the third generation chip from Mediatek and is known for its battery saving and 3G connectivity capabilities. It brings good, speedy app execution to the device and supports most performance related apps as well.
The phone features 512 MB of RAM memory and, strangely, 1 GB of internal storage, which is for applications. The device also comes with a 4 GB micro SD card that takes care of storage, plus the memory can be further increased by 32 GB with the help of external micro SDHC data cards.
With this hardware combination the Lava Iris 501 works great, but too much multitasking with 3-4 applications running simultaneously makes the device lose its breath. Application execution and performance are fast. However, 1 GB of RAM would have been a welcome inclusion.
Powered by Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system the Lava Iris 501 comes with user interface customizations made by the manufacturer. The user interface is fast and nicely worked upon, making it good-looking as well as very easy to use.
In terms of compatibility, most applications work easily and flawlessly on the Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and the 1 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM combo keep performance in tune at all times.
Not many applications have been added to the device but the Lava Iris 501 comes preloaded with Hike Messaging App, Saavn Music app, Fusion Music Organizer app and games that include Asphalt HD, Cricket Fever, Saving Private Sheep, Shark Dash and Little Big City from Gameloft.
Camera and multimedia
The Lava Iris 501 doesn’t appear to be as good in this department as most 5 inch phablets today, with a 5 megapixel camera in place of 8 megapixel offered by most devices. But even though the resolution is lower the camera is good and offers a great chance for users to go creative too. The camera features an autofocus lens, as opposed to a full focus lens offered by most budget devices, and this feature certainly adds to the image quality. Along with that the device can record high quality videos as well. The front features a 0.3 megapixel camera, good enough for video calling and that’s about it.
The image quality of the camera is good for outdoors, and the indoor mode suffers due to a lack of lighting, but sufficient light is provided by the LED flash wherever it is needed, though it is only effective for close objects. The colours are captured nicely with detail.
On the multimedia front the Lava Iris 501 features support for all generic Android formats as far as audio and video playback goes, plus like any other Android device there’s a plethora of applications available on Android marketplace to extend multimedia capabilities. The loudspeaker is great and performs well on most sound levels except the higher volumes where sound gets a bit distorted.
Performance and usage
The Lava Iris 501 offers great all round performance for a mid range Android smartphone, which makes this device fun and easy to use as well. Too many applications open at the same time slow the device a bit, but it’s okay for a budget phone to show such signs, especially if it comes with 512 MB of RAM. During the course of the review the device underwent a lot of application testing and stressing, but it never hung or froze. The 5 inch display is a major plus point, and even the touch sensitivity of the device is very accurate, and all the gestures are very accurately registered and translated by it.
The onscreen keypad is nicely designed and spaced out as well, although third party keyboards such as Swype or swiftkey are recommended with a bigger screen size for easy and comfortable typing.
The call performance of this device is another major plus. Calls are received and made without any issue. Earpiece and loudspeaker volumes are abundant and the microphone also makes sure the receiver gets to hear every word loud and clear.
The device has a dual SIM design with primary SIM featuring 3G connectivity and the latter having 2G connectivity only. Utilizing and calling using two SIMs is not at all an issue and works smoothly.
Battery backup and conclusion
The Lava Iris 501 comes with a 2300 mAh battery pack that the box mentions as a Lithium polymer battery, but inside the device we found a Lithium ion battery. Overall, the battery backup of this big screen device is good. The Iris easily lasts two days between charges and users wont mind the added weight of the bigger battery either.
All in all the Lava Iris 501 performs well, looks good and comes as a budget device as well. Although the box mentions the price as Rs 13,999 the device is available for well under Rs 10,000. It competes with devices like the Micromax A110, iBall Andi 5c, Zync Z5 Cloud and the Intex Aqua 5.0, and to be honest it has some muscle to be a worthy contender in the 5 inch low cost phablet category.
So ultimately the price of the device is good; performance is just about right and it features super solid battery backup while being rock solid in build. Now, if you are looking for a good 5 inch Android smartphone we would not say that you should go out and buy the Lava Iris 501, but we would certainly say that it can be a worthy suggestion for you.