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Mlais M52 first impressions

April 23, 2015 — BarryK
I bought two cheap smartphones from China. I have both of them in front of me, and will do a mini comparison. For now, focussing on the Mlais M52, what are my first impressions?

I reported on ordering the M52 here:
http://bkhome.org/news/201504/mlais-m52-smartphone.html

OK, so it has a very fast octa-core 64-bit CPU, does 3G and 4G (with all the frequencies that I need in Australia), 5.5 inch screen, removable battery, and most importantly for me, dual-sim slots plus a sd-card slot.

False advertising
There are a couple of negative comments that I have to get out of the way. Firstly, Mlais have advertised the cameras as 13 megapixel at back, 8 at front. However, it has been reported that they are only 8 and 5.
Another thing is the battery -- this is advertised as 3200mah. However, based upon its weight (47g) and volume, I would say it is about 2600mah.

Other reviewers have commented on poor camera performance and likely over-stated battery capacity. OK, battery capacities are overstated by every manufacturer anyway, but Mlais are taking lying to a new level.

Most unfortunate, the company is lying, to make the product look better than it is. If I had known this beforehand, I would not have purchased an Mlais, as a matter of principle.

But, I do have one, so what do I think of the phone? Actually, it is a very nice phone, very well made.

Dual-sim
This is what I wanted. Here in Australia, I get the best deal with two sims, one for phone calls and texting, the other for data. I already reported on a data sim with 12GB per month, AU$40 (US$29), no excess fees, from Virgin Mobile:
http://bkhome.org/news/201504/low-cost-3g4g-data.html

You just cannot get that much data from a phone/text/data plan, unless you pay a lot lot more.

For phone/text, there are excellent cheap pay-as-you-go prepaid plans. I looked for one with long expiry. I settled on Amaysim "as you go" prepaid plan. I have this thing, reluctant to give out my credit card details over the Internet -- well, Amaysim have retail outlets all over the place, and I just paid cash, $2 for a sim, $10 credit, and I am good for 90 days. Calls are 12c per minute, texts 12c each.

Note, I don't talk for long on the phone, so the pay-per-minute is ok for me. If you are a chatterbox, Optus have a prepaid pay-as-you-go sim that has 180 day expiry, $1 fee per-day for a calls or text, and if the calls go over 30 minutes it becomes $1.50 for unlimited calls. if you don't make any calls/texts in the day, no charge.

I use the data-sim as my only Internet access, both on-the-go and at home. At home, I turn on tethering, also known as wi-fi hot-spot, and access the Internet from my laptop.

It works well, I have not encountered any problem with the two sims, no clashes.

Weight, size
This is weird. The other phone I purchased is a Elephone P6000, with 5 inch screen. A smaller phone, lighter than the Mlais, yet in my hand it feels heavier.
The Malis M52 weighs 172g (with battery), the Elephone weighs 167g. Without batteries, they are 125g and 117g.

Weird, the feeling of the Elephone is that it is heavier. It is slightly thicker, but only about 1mm. Smaller dimensions. Not only does the Mlais feel lighter, it feels better in my hand, despite being bigger -- maybe because it is slightly thinner and the back slightly more curved.

Screen
They are both 720p screens, and I have to say, this is enough. The 1440p screens on premium phones these days is just ridiculous. I am hard-pressed to see any pixelation on these screens, 720p looks good. OK, I might be persuaded to go up to 1080p to banish pixelation totally if squinting up close to the screen, but beyond that is just an unnecessary drain on the battery, as well as dragging down performance.

The slightly bigger screen is nicer, so the Mlais wins there. Also, the screen is brighter and has higher contrast than the Elephone -- seeing them side-by-side, the difference is quite striking. Playing with brightness levels does not help, the Elephone is inferior.
With the Mlais, whites are whiter, blacks are blacker, colours are richer.

Both phones have wider bezels than I expect of a modern phone. The Mlais excessively so. We already have a bigger screen, and the wide bezels make for a much bigger phone than I would like. However, as already stated, the thinness, 8.9mm and curved back make it a nice fit in my hand.

Android
They both have pretty much stock Android, the Mlais has 4.4.4, the Elephone has 5.0 (Lollipop). Both have external capacitive buttons on the "chin", which I very much prefer, however, I am not accustomed to the change in functionality of those buttons with Lollipop.

Mlais have released Lollipop, which I may upgrade to sometime. However online reports are don't do it, as it is buggy. So, I will wait. Android 4.4.4 on the Mlais is a 32-bit operating system, so an upgrade to Lolliop will bring true 64-bit performance -- yet, the current OS is very fast.

Elephone seem to be taking the lead here, with a Windows utility for flashing various flavours of Android onto their phones. This ease of flashing is something that I am interested in.

Summary
I will report some more, but for now, I can draw some conclusions. Neither of these phones is ideal for me, but I have to remember that they are cheap.
The slightly smaller phone is easier to carry in a pants pocket, though weights are similar. But, it is the screen that decides it for me. The brighter and higher-contrast screen of the Mlais is so much nicer to look at.

So, despite my misgivings about their false advertising, I like the Mlais and for now this is the phone that I am carrying around. For now, anyway. If another phone comes along with same specs but smaller bezels and hopefully lighter weight, oh and a better camera, I will be tempted.

I should add a little post-note. I based my decision to buy the Mlais on a glowing review at gizchina.com. Although the reviewer did not expose the false claim of 13mp, the reviewer did identify that camera performance is poor. The reviewer also raised doubt about the battery capacity. See their review:
http://www.gizchina.com/2015/04/10/mlais-m52-review/

Comments

I continue to be very happy with my Mlais.

I am a relative newcomer to Android, having only played with it superficially before.

Now, using it everyday, I am happy, but I am beginning to understand why many people root their phones.

I don't like cloud storage, and want to use the sd-card and external usb flash drive. However, Android makes that very difficult, at least, 4.4 (KitKat) does.

Also, I can only format the sd-card and usb drive with vfat or ntfs filesystems. Given that Android is Linux, it is a shame that they don't support Linux filesystems.

Apparently, the internal flash memory uses ext4 filesystem, but Android will not allow that for removable memory.

https://www.facebook.com/mlaisofficial
http://forum.xda-developers.com/android/general/mlais-m52-red-note-review-progress-t3069365

It is reported that Kingoroot works with Android 4.4.4 on the M52:
http://www.kingoapp.com/
http://bkhome.org/news/?viewCat=Light

I am posting these phone reports in the "Traveling Light" category of my blog.

I am still liking the Mlais M52 Red Note. Problems that I am encountering at to do with Android itself -- which I am finding to be frustratingly dis-empowering.

The M52 does support USB OTG, and after rooting the phone I was able to transfer files to/from it, but not reliably.

Unfortunately, the USB OTG port does not support MHL, that is, the ability to send the video output to a TV via HDMI cable.
I was expecting to be able to do that, so it is disappointing.
But it makes me wonder, do other cheap Chinese phones support MHL?

I bought a Google Chromecast for AU$49 at Dick Smith Electronics, and it works OK.

However, testing casting the phone screen to the TV, the image is too big, that is, some of the screen is cut off on all edges of the TV.

It is also very laggy.

Also, it requires a wi-fi Internet connection. The M52 cannot have both wi-fi and tethering turned on at the same time, meaning that when the phones wi-fi is used to communicate with the Chromecast, tethering cannot be use by the Chromecast to establish an Internet connection.

I had to turn on a separate wi-fi hotspot in my house, using a Vodafone data sim in another phone.

I am thinking that I liked MHL better, but Chromecast probably has features that I have not yet appreciated.

If you want to know more about Chromecast:
www.google.com.au/chromecast

http://www.gizchina.com/2015/05/05/doogee-f2-ibiza-investigated-over-inconsistent-processor-specifications/

The report is that Doogee listed a faster CPU for the phone than the actual CPU in the phone.
http://bkhome.org/news/?viewCat=Light

I have been carrying the phone around in a shirt pocket. With my old flip-phone, I have a waist pouch, that fixes to a belt, and I prefer this rather than a pocket.

So, I ordered a pouch, this one, black, synthetic leather:
http://www.tinydeal.com/protective-pu-leather-case-for-55-cell-phone-p-88107.html

It arrived today, and it is "spot on". A snug fit, just barely tall enough. It has a strap sewed onto the back for a belt to pass through, and it sits nicely at my waist.

Note, Tiny Deal also sell spare batteries for the M52, and different colour back covers:
http://www.tinydeal.com/-p-147645.html
http://www.tinydeal.com/-p-147646.html

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