Phablets, otherwise known as smartphones flaunting near-tablet-sized displays, are all the rage these days. The release of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0 only seems to have upped the ante.
Going by the data sheet alone, the phablet's potential balance of performance and price sounds especially enticing. After all, you're looking at an Android Jelly Bean device packing a high-res 5.7-inch IPS display, a proven quad-core chip, and 12- and 3-megapixel backside-illuminated cameras.
You get all of those features at a low price of P9,499.
So, does this massive smartphone deliver where it matters? Is it too big? Is it even worth the upgrade? We'll try our darnedest to answer these questions and more in our review of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0.
One thing that strikes you about the second-generation Blaze is its massive hardware, owing to its substantial front real estate. At 5.7 inches diagonally, it's one of the largest smartphones we've handled. It is simply too big for our hands, making it hard for us to use one-handed for extended periods of time.
Of course, being big and HD-savvy has its merits, as we'll discuss later.
The dual-finish casing—one part glossy, one part matte—is one of the first things you’ll notice, too. While others may welcome the use of different finishes, we'd argue that the poorly executed two-faced design ultimately does a disservice to this Cherry Mobile.
Adding to the inconsistency is a Samsung-inspired physical home button located at the bottom-center of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0's front side, just below the display. It makes little sense, seeing that the phablet already has a set of onscreen navigation keys for back, home, and multitask.
While we agree that two home keys are better than one, this particular device would have been better off sporting a cleaner and shorter bezel than a longer one with a redundant hardware button.
Correction: The display of the Blaze 2.0 is IPS. We took this video before Cherry Mobile officially outed the phone's specs hence the confusion. (UPDATE: 7 PM, July 6, 2013)
Display and specs
As we've touched on earlier, this phablet is considerably bigger than most, wielding a 5.7-inch display that's bolstered by a 720 x 1,280 resolution and in-plane switching tech for vibrant colors and better viewing angles.
The picture quality is lovely for a device this affordable, and as such, we wholeheartedly recommend it for viewing content and watching movies.
The internals of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0 is headlined by a MediaTek-made MT6589 chipset, paired with a familiar set of silicon: a quad-core processor operating at 1.2GHz, PowerVR SGX544 graphics, and 1GB of RAM.
The 4GB of onboard memory is expandable via microSD, as is usually the case with Android releases. There's also a 2,500mAh battery that should last you a day of moderate use.
As with Cherry Mobile's other second-gen offerings, the Blaze 2.0 makes use of Google's current mobile platform, Android Jelly Bean 4.2.
There are two cameras mounted on the phablet: a 12-megapixel rear-facing option and a 3-megapixel front-facer, both of which are capable of delivering respectable results under low-light conditions, largely thanks to backside illumination technology.
Unsurprisingly, given the MediaTek-based quad-core chip inside it, the phablet is capable of breezing through its lightly skinned Jelly Bean interface, through home screens, transitions, and menus.
Our real-life experience suggests that it is well suited to tackling various scenarios ranging from everyday chores to graphics-intensive games on Google's Play store. Webpages, even content-dense sites, load fast as well.
Synthetic benchmark AnTuTu agrees with the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0's real-life performance. The device notched a score of close to 13,000.
The jury's still out on whether or not 5.7 inches is indeed the optimal size for a modern-day phablet, but we'll say this much: screen-to-bezel ratio really matters when screen sizes go well above 5 inches.
Unfortunately, in the case of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0, the ratio isn't high enough, meaning the bezels don't do a good job of masking the device's massive housing. It’s also hard to wrap our fingers around it.
That's a pity, because its unexciting two-faced design and tablet-like form factor notwithstanding, the second Blaze is a mighty likable Android; when placed on a makeshift stand, it's easily the perfect budget phablet for consuming digital media.
Those backside-illuminated camera sensors are a real kicker, too, especially for shutterbugs.
Had it been a tad smaller with skinnier bezels, had it been more comfortable to hold with one hand, it would have been much easier to recommend.
Then again, one-hand usability is almost always the first—and biggest—compromise when it comes to phablets.
If this sounds like a fair tradeoff to you, then the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0 should prove to be a good buy. It's not every day that you come across a generously spec'd phablet, with quad-core performance to boot, for under P10,000.