Star N9770 5.08” Phone – Anyone Fancy A Chinese? [Review]
Well, the Nexus One has finally bitten the dust. It's not dead, but for all intents and purposes it may as well be. No updates from Google for a couple of years now and even Cyanogen have called it a day on the old girl leaving it on Android 2.3.2 for the rest of eternity. Even worse was the fact that Google still keeps bloating out the 'extras' it installed via Play store updates, and when you have only 512MB ROM and 512MB RAM it gets a bit disheartening seeing the 'space low' icon flash up every day and no amount of transferring programs to the SD card is ever going to fix that.
So what to do? We had decided that waiting for the Nexus 4 to become available again would be the best option (you may as well go unicorn hunting!), but in the mean time I would need a stop-gap device to tide me over, so I went for a look-see around the net.
eBay was my first port of call and a huge array of used 'droid phones were on offer, all old, and all, IMHO, vastly overpriced.
Why is it that phones do not suffer the same kind of depreciation that computers do, especially given that phone operating systems get superseded and the hardware requirements of newer apps grows as well?
So, rather dismayed at seeing not a lot on offer I toddled off to Amazon and searched for 'Android phones'. It was then that I saw, listed 4 down from the top of the listings the Star N9770 with about 75 very positive reviews (it's now at 100 as I write this). But it was the specs that leapt out at me though.
Dual core! 5.08 inch capacitive screen! Unlocked! 4GB ROM! Dual SIM! Full Play store! And only £117! Surely not?
Smelling a rat I took to the reviews section. This was looking too good to be true. Almost all the reviews and comments were glowing with praise and with (almost) no sign of shill accounts anywhere. There has to be a catch. And I found one or two, but I shall discuss these later on.
To cut a long story short, I wanted one, and if it did turn out to be a turkey at least it wouldn't be a £300 eBay turkey. So this time I had a really good look around the reviews and several factors came to light when ordering this device, namely:
1. Some people have been stung for courier charges and import duty on their doorstep when it has been delivered. These can come to between £20-£30.
2. There are several sellers on Amazon offering the same device and costs vary by about £30 with Chinese companies being the cheapest and UK based outfits the dearest.
3. If you read the sellers profile they will tell you about shipping and import costs. Some roll this into the price and some do not. Ensure you check!
After a couple of days reading through all of the reviews I found that the very few low scoring reviews were written by people with little experience of setting up and configuring phones and many of the 'problems' they were reporting were simply down to them not having the device configured correctly. To this end I chose a seller called DrakoTek (China Wholesale Dual Sim Smartphone, Android Tablet PC, Surveillance Equipment & GPS at Dracotek.com - Professional Chinese Wholesaler) who seemed to be very well reviewed.
*Please note that at the time of writing this article it is the Chinese new year holidays and they have taken down their Amazon store for the period*
So I bit the bullet and ordered. Precisely 10 days later it arrived looking like a bubble-wrap football.
Once I'd attacked the wrapping with scissors I came to the box, which it must be said is rather well designed and presented, and on opening found the following:
1. Phone (which really is a Samsung Note looky-likey)
2. 2x Phone backs, one incorporating a screen cover (which I am now using)
3. 2x 3200 mAh batteries (handy!)
4. Some instructions that are, well, just don't bother ok?
6. A 256MB micro-sd card (I didn't realise anyone made them that small these days!?)
And after 5 minutes de-registering some software on my Nexus One I placed my SIM in slot one of the N9770, inserted a battery and switched it on. And it worked first time like a charm. Then came the work. The N9770 comes with a (very) bare bones Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean install. You will have to configure all of the regional, language and other settings yourself, as well as ensuring that all of the GPS assisted settings are activated. There are quite a few gripes in the Amazon reviews of people complaining that the GPS take a long time to lock on to your location. This is not the case. It is a pretty good GPS and will find your location very quickly once all of the correct settings are applied. Mine will now lock on in a few seconds
It also has the most dull launcher imaginable (the stock android one). You don't realise just how much work manufacturers do in putting a decent launcher on their devices. I quick purchased Nova Launcher from the (fully working!) Play Store and it improved matters considerably, especially considering that the screen has a resolution of 480x800 and the icons appear larger than I would be happier with. With Nova Launcher I can shrink these down and fit more on :)
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So what's it like to use. In short, very nice. It feels very sturdy and well-constructed and the screen comes with a pre-fitted film-type protector (no Gorilla glass here!). The display is a vast improvement on the Nexus One, even though it has the same resolution (the tear-off plastic screen cover that came as part of the phone packing declares it to be 'HD AMOLED'. I remain a bit sceptical about this. However it is bright, clear and the capacitive controls are responsive and accurate. In short, it does a sterling job.
Graphic rendering is also good and I haven't found any games it can't handle.
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3G and Wi-Fi work excellently and seem to download and render web and app pages faster than the old Nexus, which may have been down to the processor struggling.
The camera however, leaves something to be desired (like a better one) and when even on settings like 'Best' and 'HDR' don't even produce anything like an image you'd really want to use. Thankfully I don't use phone cameras very often, so it's a minor point for me, but I shall try and see what can be done about the image quality in the future.
Call quality is a lot better than the Nexus One, so I have no complaints there and it connected to my cars Parrot system without a fuss, but the phone does have a couple of bugbears apart from the camera.
The first is that the headphone socket is slightly recessed and out of my 3 pairs of headphones only my AKG's fit correctly. My Sennheiser in-ears and a set of Philips 'sports' headphones do not. This can be fixed by purchasing an iPhone headphone adaptor for a few pounds from Amazon or eBay apparently.
The other is a lack of magnetometer (compass) which means that if using Google Maps or dedicated sat-nav software such as CoPilot, as I do, it takes a tiny bit longer for the map to orientate when travelling. It also means that Google Sky Map does not work correctly *grrrr*. Neither of these issues is particularly large or show-stopping, but just go to show what we take for granted in a well specced/designed phone these days.
I should have put these earlier, but needed to verify a couple of things first so please check below as some specs are different than those shown on the Amazon listings:
Processor: 1.0Ghz dual core ARM7 on the widely used (by Chinese clone manufactures) MTK6577 chipset
Micro-SD slot: Yes, up to 32GB
Screen: 5 Point capacitive 480x800
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b\g
Camera: Front-1.2 megapixel. Rear 8.0 megapixel - Some people have complained the rear camera is only 5MP, however I have run two hardware reporting tools and both show as 8.0.
AnTuTu Benchmark Score: 6700
I like it. A lot, and as a stop-gap it is more than worth the money. TBH, if you are short of cash and need an upgrade it will fit the bill more than nicely and save you quite a bit of money in the process. It isn't a £400 phone being sold for £117 though. All of the technologies on-board (apart from the processor) are several years old, but, let's face it, do you really need Bluetooth 4.0 or 802.11n over 'g'?
As for long term reliability, that remains to be seen. Like many here my phone goes with me everywhere and is subject to the usual scuffs, drops and day-to-day bashing that all but the most pampered and protected devices have to put up with. I'll also let you know when, and if, it goes 'pop'.
And the future? Once I've got a new phone this little lovely will be used in my car as a sat-nav and entertainment system for music and internet on the move thanks to a PAYG Tesco SIM.
I'm going to be using this phone for several years to come I think, and am getting really curious as to how good the other ones available are.
*Please note that the phone spec may differ depending on just which seller you buy from as earlier models do have 5MP cameras and come with 4.0.1 ICS. If in doubt ask!
Amazon: STAR N9770 - 5.08 inch MTK6577 1.2GHz dual core CPU android 4.0.4 ICE CREAM SANDWICH 3G smartphone dual sim 8MP camera WIFI GPS, new google play store and flash player supported, with flip case (black, white): Amazon.co.uk: Electronics
Amazon Reviews: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-revi...owViewpoints=1
XDA Developers: STAR N9770 DUAL CORE MT6577/ulefone N9770. - xda-developers