British smartphone maker Kazam pitches its Trooper x4.5 at the busy and fiercely competitive budget smartphone market - will it reign supreme, or fall by the wayside?
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/8/2014 12:29:36 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Impressive build quality
Attractive metallic finish
Suffered occasional lag
Poor amount of storage
By Alistair Charlton, Devices Editor
While Samsung, Sony, HTC and Apple battle it out at the top of the smartphone league table, a war just as fierce is raging in the sub-£130 sector, as manufacturers look to lure in budget-conscious buyers.
The latest player to make a break for success in this highly competitive market is Kazam, a British smartphone manufacturer lead by two former HTC executives. Kazam took the wraps off its first five handsets late last year, and here we have the mid-range Trooper x4.5, an Android smartphone with a dual-core processor, 4.5-inch display and a 5-megapixel camera.
Design: Slim but sturdy
It’s difficult to stand out in the muddled middle of the smartphone market, and although we liked the Trooper’s metallic blue back and sides with its soft-touch finish, the phone is fairly bland to look at. It’s not offensively ugly, but there’s nothing here that would make you pick this up over any other - and boasting a name no one has heard of will only hinder matters.
Having said that, it feels sturdy and well-made, with a screen bezel that is attractively small and a thickness of a fraction under 10mm. The 135g weight won’t win any slimming competitions, but the phone feels pleasant in the hand - in short, it doesn’t feel like a budget phone, and certainly not one from an unknown British manufacturer.
At 113.3 x 66.8mm, the Trooper’s footprint is compact enough to be used in one hand, while the 4.5-inch display is large enough to enjoy games and films on the go. The power and screen lock button is located on the right edge and falls neatly below your thumb when holding the phone in your right hand. There is a volume rocker on the opposite edge, a headphone jack at the top, and a microUSB port for charging on the bottom.
There’s a small groove to help you peel off the rear cover, under which you’ll find the phone’s 1,750mAh battery, a microSD card slow to expand the storage, and two SIM card slots.
Screen: Better than the numbers suggest
The Trooper has a 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 480 x 854, and while this is some way behind the Retina-screened iPhones and Full HD Samsung Galaxies of this world, the Kazam looks better than the numbers suggest.
Writing is sharp and clear, the backlight is surprisingly strong and consistent across the screen and viewing angles are also good. All too often budget phones are let down by their screen - but not so with the Trooper x4.5. Only when you apply more than regular pressure to the screen does the glass bow slightly, pressing down on the display panel below and causing some distortion. However, in regular use this shouldn’t be a problem.
Admirable performance, but lacking space
Another aspect where budget handsets tend to fall behind their more expensive peers is in the performance stakes. With a dual-core, 1.2GHz processor and just 512MB of RAM, the Kazam’s spec sheet is distinctly average, but don’t let the small numbers put you off too much. For everyday tasks such as browsing the web, checking email, calling, texting and playing simple games like Angry Birds the phone performs admirably.
There is a degree of lag between tapping the icons of some applications before they actually open, leaving you staring at the phone’s home screen for a couple of seconds, but once up and running, apps work fine. We noticed some lag when swiping quickly through the phone’s application and widgets pages, but navigate at a more pedestrian (and realistic) pace, and the Trooper manages with minimal fuss.
However, for some applications the phone’s tiny 4GB of storage is going to be a problem. In reality the user has just 1.3GB at their disposal - with the rest taken up by Android and apps included with the phone - so without a microSD card installed large games like Real Racing 3 simply can’t be downloaded. SD cards are getting ever cheaper, and the Kazam will accept cards of up to 32GB in size, but just over 1GB of space out of the box is disappointing.
Battery performance is about on par with most other smartphones of this size. These days it seems only those with huge screens (and therefore batteries) can last two full days, so you’ll want to be charging the Kazam every night.
Software: Simply Android
Where Samsung, Huawei and, to a lesser extent, Sony all work to bring their own identity to the Android operating system, Kazam has kept things simple, leaving Google’s mobile OS unaltered. Everything is exactly where you would expect it to be and there have been no visual changes either. The Trooper runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which is two full updates behind the latest version, 4.4 KitKat - there’s no news on whether Kazam will be rolling out updates any time soon.
It’s a shame that buyers won’t get the newest Android out of the box - especially when the £130 Motorola Moto G has already been updated - but we imagine buyers looking at this lower end of the market will be less upset at their phone lacking all the bells and whistles of those higher up the pecking order.
The Trooper’s 5-megapixel camera is located centrally on the back of the handset, surrounded by an attractive chrome ring and joined by a small flash. Unfortunately there isn’t a dedicated shutter button to take photos, so you’re stuck with tapping the on-screen icon instead. Doing this takes photos surprisingly quickly for a budget phone, although the lens’ autofocus, exposure and white balance struggle to keep up with the app - tap too quickly between shots and a photo will be taken with poorly adjusted exposure.
In our Kazam Trooper 2 4.5 Review, we found that if you take your time and the results are decent enough for a budget phone. Photos taken in good natural light are of high enough quality to share with pride on Facebook, but when less light is available the flash struggles to make much of an impact, leaving photos dull and grainy.