Gigabyte GSmart Simba SX1 Review
Gigabyte has been on a spree these past 6 months, releasing as many as five new Android phones under their GSmart brand. The spotlights today are on the dual-SIM Simba SX1, though, and while it takes guts to step on the stage, we all know that it's nothing more than a stepping stone – the show is just about to start. In a sea of smartphones, however, it's hard to truly shine under the projectors, especially if you don't carry on the ancestry of a renowned brand. But, the Simba SX1 has something special in its sleeve – it's a competent communications device, capable of running two active SIM cards simultaneously, which is more than can be said for most other dual-SIM phones out there. But more is required from a smartphone these days, and the Simba SX1 is ready to answer the call with a decent 13-megapixel camera, a snappy dual-core chipset and a crisp 720p display.
So, does this mid-ranger pack enough bang for your buck? Let's find out.
In the box:
- In-ear headphones with a micrpohone
- Wall charger
- USB to microUSB cable
- Warranty and information leaflets
We found the Simba SX1 to be one of the better-looking GSmart phones. It looks distinguished, with uniform, clear-cut lines that almost appear premium. 'Almost' doesn't really cut it, however, and we can't say that we were fooled by the plastic frame, which Gigabyte is trying to pass for metal, though it is a pretty good attempt. We found the Simba SX1 to be a pleasure to hold, thanks to its matte plastic back and its reassuring weight of 5.82 oz (165 g). In a nutshell, the Simba SX1 presents well.
But, the good comes with the bad, and while we're fine with the volume rocker's placement on the left side of the device, we can't quite agree with Gigabyte over the placement of the power button on the top left. This is a 5-inch device, after all, and unless you're a leftie with giant hands, you'll very likely find this one hard to reach. Thankfully, the feel and feedback these two provide is appreciated.
Powering the Simba SX1 on introduces you to a 5-inch 720x1280 (294ppi) resolution IPS display of good quality. The inherent advantages of the panel include life-like color reproduction (although biased towards blue), great viewing angles and a decent outdoor visibility. Unfortunate, however, is the apparent omission of a protective coating on top of the screen, so thread carefully.
Overall, we're treated to a crisp viewing experience, and it quickly became apparent that the display is not an area to be wanting on this GSmart phone.
Interface and Functionality
A wholly stock Android is what you'll find with the rest of the Gigabyte's latest crop of smartphones, and this bears some truth with the Simba SX1, too. We're treated to a very stock-like Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean experience, though the manufacturer has gone a notch farther with the amount of personal touch.
Starting with the lockscreen, you're greeted with a customized lock ring that features shortcuts to the camera, the dialer, and even quick access to sound profiles. Better yet, you can tweak these and add an app shortcut more to your liking, or altogether get rid of this extra fluff by reverting to the default Android look and behavior. The customizations extend to the notification bar, as well, which now houses a minimalistic slider with a bunch of quick toggles. Lastly, the Simba SX1 also has the extra perk of having control over its Wi-Fi/data usage, the CPU, and even RAM, all of which can be controlled and re-programmed with savings or performance in mind. This means that you can tweak the frequency of the CPU, Wi-Fi behavior and so on.
Unlike the majority of dual-SIM smartphones out there, the Simba SX1 actually has support for dual active telephony. Essentially, this allows the phone to be online on both SIM cards at any one time, including during calls. This is the way we think dual-SIM functionality ought to work by default, so we're happy to see that Gigabyte hasn't skimmed over this part.
Anything about the dual-SIM software, however, is completely stock with no signs of any kind of intervention from the manufacturer. The dedicated multi-SIM settings menu, therefore, is as bare as Google intended it.
Processor and Memory
Powering the Simba SX1 is a 1.4GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8230 chipset, with an Adreno 305 GPU lending a helpful hand with all graphical endeavors. Dual-cores are actually becoming rarer by the day, even in the lower end, though this particular chip does the category justice with an overall smooth performance. We're not talking blazing fast speeds, of course, but it handled itself just fine irrespective of what kind of tasks we decided to throw at it, including overall UI responsiveness and some relatively heavy games. Put simply, expect the Simba SX1 to power through the most common set of tasks with finesse.
The memory department of this phone reads a time-tested tale – a healthy 1GB of RAM plus overly frugal 4GB of on-board storage and a microSD card slot fitted at the back. Out of these, you get to play with about 2.2GB, which is higher than most, but still little for this day in age. This, more than likely, will result in you being forced to opt for expansion via the aforementioned microSD card.
Internet and connectivity
Those of you in one of the still few areas in the world where 4G LTE is prevalent may be disappointed to know that no such capability is found on board the Simba SX1. Instead, we're treated to HSPA+ connectivity, with peak speeds of up to 21Mbps, which is still plenty fast.
Taking care of your browsing experience are a pre-installed browser, along with our preferred choice – Chrome for mobile – but also Firefox. As we touched on before, the SoC powering the phone is powerful enough to offer a smooth sailing in most regards, meaning that surfing the web does not include abnormal hiccups or wait times. On the connectivity end, one can rest assured that essentials such as Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, FM Radio and GPS are available.
The camera interface is perhaps the area where the manufacturer has put most effort into, and to a good effect. Despite the initial surprise, we found it to be simple to navigate, even comfortable. It's not the most feature rich of camera apps, yet it provides the basics, like HDR, panorama mode and exposure controls, along with a 'Stand Capture' feature which simply takes a shot whenever you stabilize the phone long enough. We found this last one to be constantly clashing with reality, however, as we'd often take snaps we didn't intend to.
Gigabyte touts the 13-megapixel camera unit on the Simba SX1's rear as 'stunning', though we have a mind of our own. Admittedly, it's far from average, but we wouldn't be quite so careless with superlatives. Snaps definitely offer good details with proper color reproduction, and most of the time exposure is correct. However, dynamics are poor, so lighter objects in the image often get burned. All said, we were pretty happy with the results.
The 2-megapixel front snapper is of a satisfying quality, but the higher than normal resolution is nothing to write home about – it isn't better than your average selfie-cam.
Having gotten the stills out of the way, lets talk video. As you can imagine, 1080p video capture is available, and it does offer good amount of details, just like with stills. Unfortunately, footage is perceptibly dark, and the phone has trouble tweaking exposure levels – adjustments come in waves, and the process lacks fluidity. Audio capture is also not the strongest suite of the camera unit, and it's average at best.
Checking out your Instagram, browsing YouTube or just having a quick watch of the latest episode of your favorite TV series – all of these are a pleasure on the Simba SX1. Its 5-inch 720p screen is not the most pixel dense, nor of the highest quality we've seen, yet our day-to-day experiences were overwhelmingly positive.
There's video playback support for most any popular encoding, though you may want to download a dedicated app, like MX Player, if you're looking for more functionality. Either way, 1080p clips are rendered well, without putting too much strain on the processor, or causing lag or artifacts in the footage. However, don't expect the speaker to provide too much of a captivating environment for watching movies, as the mono unit on the back offers low levels of volume. Unfortunately, the earphones are equally impotent in this regard.
The photo gallery, music and video players are all the typical stock apps. This translates into a reliable experience, but nothing fancy or out of the ordinary.
The quality of calls is strictly average, with the earpiece making a better showing, though voices on the other end were, strangely, both muffled and rumbling. On the other side, people reported a sufficiently loud output from the microphone on the Simba SX1, but the tonality of our voices were slightly distorted.
In all, the phone passed our call quality test, though we still found ourselves wishing that manufacturers would invest more effort into this particular aspect, specifically when we're talking about dual-SIM models.
A 1900mAh user-replaceable cell is what you'll find under the plastic back of the GSmart Simba SX1. Its relatively small capacity offers disappointing endurance, and the phone ended up at the bottom portion of our battery test chart, managing to squeeze out a little over 4 hours when put through our custom script.
Despite the disappointing juicer and average call quality, the Simba SX1 shines with its 13-megapixel rear shooter, which sure surpassed our expectations. The dual-core Snapdragon 400 system-on-chip offers a smooth experience for the most part, though it may prove a tad underpowered if you're planning on running the heaviest crop of 3D games. All said, the Simba SX1 is a decent mid-ranger, but the relatively high price of about $350 that we came across, allows for its numerous rivals to launch a serious competition.
The Sony Xperia C, for one, offers slightly less impressive specs on paper, but our recent spin of the phone showed that it has a great battery life, along with a decent camera and two SIM slots, all for the lowly price of about $230. Looking at the higher-priced segment, the 4.7-inch dual-SIM Oppo R819 comes to mind, touting similar specs. Even better, in the more premium department is the Alcatel One Touch Idol X, with its crisp 1080p screen and spacious 2GB RAM and 16GB of on-board memory. Both of these can be had for under $350.
So, ultimately, should you pick up the Simba SX1? Unfortunately, the answer is no, unless you can find a better deal for it than we did, or you simply don't have access to its above-mentioned rivals.