Budget Android smartphone from former HTC executives (June 11th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Kazam
Price: £97 ($162)
- Screen replacement offer
- Good camera for photography
- Easy to use
- Low cost
- Plastic construction
- Restricted viewing angles
- Camera struggles with video
British manufacturer Kazam was formed in 2013 by two former HTC executives, and launched its first range of smartphones just six months later. The first collection included one mid-range release and a total of five devices in the budget-oriented Trooper family, with displays ranging between 3.5 inches and 5.5 inches in size. Kazam recently sent Electronista the Trooper X4.0 for review, to see if it holds up against other entry-level devices in the same price bracket.
Design and construction:
As a budget-priced device, it is unsurprising for it to have an all-plastic casing, with a glossy black band surrounding the edge and a matt back cover that (while barely textured) gives a decent amount of friction for gripping. It is a fairly large phone, despite its four-inch display, measuring 125mm (4.9 inches)long and 63.7mm (2.5 inches) wide, and it is a chunky 12.5mm (0.5 inches) thick, though part of this stems from its marginally-protruding rear camera. Despite its size and 134g (4.7 ounces) weight, it is fairly comfortable and solid to hold, with all parts of the screen fairly easy to access one-handed.
At the top is a headphone jack, with a microUSB port at the base, which is fairly standard. The volume controls and power button - on the left and right sides, respectively - share the same glossy black plastic as the edging, and feel a little too soft when pressed for this reviewer's liking. The speaker, located on the back, uses a pattern of holes as a make-shift speaker grille that covers a far larger surface area than the speaker itself, presumably to make the design neater. Rather than using software buttons, the Trooper X4.0 has a trio of capacitive buttons under the display. The edging of the casing does offer a miniscule lip, allowing the display to rest barely above a flat surface if placed face down.
While the phone is built to handle dual SIM cards, Kazam has chosen to locate the spaces to place the cards under the battery, with a fair amount of effort needed to place or remove the full-size SIM card from the phone. The slots use a fixed strip of metal to hold the SIM in place, though it is unclear why the company decided to do this instead of having a lockable hinged bracket, as it has for the microSD card in the same part of the device.
The screen consists of a four-inch TFT panel, with a resolution of 480x800. While the screen is a relatively disappointing resolution, it is a fairly serviceable display, with a decent range of brightness that would be suitable for most customers of this price bracket. It is worth pointing out that our opinion on the brightness is based on viewing the phone directly, as it does suffer in terms of brightness at the more extreme vertical viewing angles.
Uniquely, Kazam does offer a free display replacement if the screen is damaged from an impact in its first year, something not typically covered by manufacturers, and could endear the phone to the chronically clumsy.
The Trooper X4.0 has the typical entry-level specifications associated with a phone of its type. A dual-core 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a Mali-400 GPU, and 4GB of built-in storage greets owners - though it does allow for storage expansion by microSD card. Given this list of specifications, it is obvious that it will do poorly under benchmarking compared to any of the latest flagship devices; however, its Geekbench 3 scores of 327 and 590 for single and multi-cores, as well as 11,038 in AnTuTu can still be considered a minor success for this device. Indeed, when flicking through the menus and using the more lightweight apps, it was responsive and fast enough for most users.
In terms of audio, it is best described as adequate. Using it for phone calls, the Trooper X4.0 is relatively clear. Having a small rear speaker, it gives a decent volume of output, if not as clear as some upper-specification offerings. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and 3G connectivity is available on the quad-band device, along with GPS and an FM radio. Despite lacking LTE, it does offer the option to use two SIM cards in the phone instead of one, with menus giving the option to specify which SIM can perform video calls, messaging, and data connections.
The Trooper's 1,550mAh battery could be considered meager compared to those included in some flagship smartphones, but with the reduced specifications, it easily made it through a day's average phone use, and reached several days when left turned on and untouched, though it is unlikely to be useful for people wanting to stream video from the device for multiple hours.
Kazam has opted to go for a rather stock implementation of Android, more specifically version 4.2.2. Aside from slight cosmetic customizations, it functions just as any other generic Android smartphone would, with the Android search bar at the top of the home screen and a collection of home icons and the app menu link at the bottom. Typical Android apps also make an appearance, albeit with slight graphical tweaks to fit the phone's UI style. A notable addition is the Rescue app, which allows Kazam technicians to remotely control the device, potentially to help those unfamiliar with smartphone settings menus.
In order to function properly with two SIM cards, some concessions have been made. The settings menu gives the option to allocate specific actions to specific SIMs, such as defaulting to one SIM for voice and video calls, while using the other for messaging and data. The contacts app allows for individual numbers to be assigned to specific SIMs, with extra color-coded indicators advising who is assigned to which number. The phone can also be set to ask which SIM should make an outgoing call before attempting to establish a connection.
The 4GB storage capacity is certainly lacking, with approximately 2.5GB available to use, though the microSD card slot can support an extra 32GB. This is marginally frustrating, considering that some apps refuse to run from a microSD card, though it also means the average user wanting to store anything other than apps on the device will be compelled to acquire a memory card shortly after purchase.
On the back is a five-megapixel camera equipped with autofocus and a flash, while a 0.3-megapixel fixed-focus snapper adorns the front. The rear camera is able to record at resolutions ranging from 176x144 to 720p (1280x720, though oddly our tests found it would only reach a maximum frame rate of 15fps, even at the lowest resolution.
Using a relatively straightforward camera app, showing separate buttons for video and stills, the rear camera includes options for HDR, panoramas, and smile detection, while holding down the stills button allows for up to 99 shots to be taken in a rapid-burst mode.
(Cropped section of photograph)
Surprisingly, the image quality from the camera is fairly high, despite it faltering for video. Normal images are great, albeit not when using the digital zoom, and the panorama certainly gave decent results, though with some exposure issues at points where the photographs merge together.
The Kazam Trooper X4.0 is a great example of a cheap Android smartphone. It includes all the basic features that a smartphone has, with a fairly decent camera, though it also has all the shortcomings of an entry-level device - including the basic plastic construction, the low-resolution display, and a disappointing storage capacity.
It is worth noting that the Trooper X4.0 isn't pretending to claim it is meant to compete with a flagship device. Kazam built it with the understanding that it is a cheap-to-buy smartphone that is likely to be bought by those getting into smartphones for the first time. Buyers looking at this level of device are anticipating the plastic casing, the lower specifications, and the minor screen issues, and are more likely to accept them in the first place.
If you were to place it against its price peers, the Trooper X4.0 does appear to punch above its weight against the majority of low-cost smartphones on the market. It's hard to tell someone to buy it over a Moto G or Moto E, but against other devices of its kind, it is certainly an option.
As a relatively uncluttered, simple-to-understand smartphone, the Kazam Trooper X4.0 has certainly accomplished what it has set out to do. As one of the initial releases from Kazam, it's an admirable first attempt.