Starmobile Astra REVIEW
Unbox.ph brings you the first ever review of the highly anticipated and much-talked about Starmobile Astra! This eyebrow-raising smartphone captured the attention of a lot of tech fans here in the Philippines because of the great specifications, hardware design, and most especially the price. For Php6,999 you get a Dual-core, dual SIM Android 4.0 Smartphone with a 4.3-inch display, 8-megapixel camera, and get this… an Analog TV Tuner. All that for Php6,999? Crazy!
UPDATE: Watch a live unboxing of a brand new Starmobile Astra unit and our review in the latest Unbox Video Podcast Episode. CLICK HERE to watch!
Today we separate the facts from the hype as we go deeper with a full review of the Starmobile Astra.
Starmobile Astra Spec Sheet
- 1GHz dual-core processor
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 32GB
- 4.3-inch IPS LCD screen, 800 x 480 (~217 pixels per inch)
- 8-megapixel rear camera with LED Flash; VGA front camera
- Dual-SIM, dual-standby
- Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- TV Tuner (Analog)
- 1500mAh battery
These specs can easily match a lot of smartphones that had a Php20,000 price tag last year. Talk about value for money! Here’s a quick video we put together to give you guys a general feel for the Astra. Watch it before you read the full review!
The Astra looks much more expensive than what you paid for it!
As with all gadgets, looks matter. Fortunately the Starmobile Astra looks pretty sweet. It’s primarily made of dark gray plastic with some sort of matte finish. The material actually reminds me of the ZTE Blade which was brought to the Philippines a few years ago by Smart (rebranded as the Netphone).
The backplate is removable and you’ll find the two SIM card slots, microSD slot, and the battery there. The usual ports and controls are on different sides of the handset as well: headphone jack, volume rocker, sleep wake, and the mini-USB port for charging and data transfer.
The Astra definitely looks great on the outside but it shines even brighter once you turn it on. The phone sports a 4.3-inch display with 800×480 resolution. That’s 217 pixels per inch. It’s not Retina but it’s a huge step forward especially if you’re coming from the entry level handsets of 2010-2011. Colors are vibrant and crisp while images are detailed.
The 4.3-inch display also lends itself to a better experience when viewing your content regardless if it’s text, photos, or videos. You’ll actually want to watch stuff on this device as opposed to standard 3-inch – 3.5-inch displays that other lower end models have.
Summary? The Starmobile Astra looks and feels like a high mid-range handset with the price of a high entry-level unit. Amazeballs.
The Dual-core difference is very evident with the UI and apps!
If you noticed from the video we embedded earlier, the Starmobile Astra has a very smooth flow when you’re playing around with the home screen and even with graphics intensive applications. This couldn’t have been possible without the combination of the dual-core processor and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that they probably have a great GPU for this handset (it’s not listed) since it can run some really good games and very detailed live wallpapers that don’t normally run on entry-level devices.
My litmus test for graphics has always been two apps: Dead Trigger and Planets Pack. Dead Trigger is a free first-person shooter game that lets you go around the city killing hordes of zombies. This game doesn’t usually run on a lot of sub Php10,000 phones but it actually works on the Astra. There are moments when it will lag but for the most part it will work.
Plants Pack is my favorite Live Wallpaper app. It looks gorgeous on a lot of Android devices that can handle it. I was thrilled that it ran on the Starmobile Astra because it actually doesn’t work on a much more expansive handset, the Lenovo P700i. Watch the video we embedded earlier to see this Live Wallpaper in action.
For the price of PHp6,999, we’re extremely happy and satisfied with the performance of the Starmobile Astra.
“Especially Made for Pinoys”: Dual SIM and Analog TV Tuner
It’s really not “made for Pinoys” if it doesn’t have two Filipino favorite features: dual-SIM and a TV tuner. Fortunately the Starmobile Astra has both! Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a 4.3-inch sophisticated smartphone that has a… *ten ten ten* antena. You can find the retractable antena at the lower back portion of the device. Just pull it out, click the Mobile TV app, and just pick what channel you want to watch.
They even put in a camera button so you can actually take screenshots of the scenes of your favorite TV show. Cool right? Hehe. Note that the clarity of the video depends on the signal so there will be times where you won’t see anything but there are times that the videos are crystal clear.
When it comes to the Dual SIM execution, Starmobile pretty much nailed it. You don’t need to turn it off-on to switch or press some button to toggle a SIM card. The device is both dual SIM and dual Standby. The latter means you can get messages from both SIMs anytime. When sending messages you have to pick though which SIM card you’re using.
The TV Tuner, Dual SIM functionality, and even the FM Tuner definitely makes it Pinoy-friendly. Good job here Starmobile!
8-Megapixel Camera delivers good photos but not at par with high-end smartphones
One particular spec that got people very interested in the Starmobile Astra is the 8-megapixel camera with LED flash. It’s unheard of for a smartphone priced below Php10,000 to have an 8-megapixel shooter. We took a couple of shots with it and it turns out that it does really well in good lighting condition but it’s just like a low end camera phone once you’re in dark places. The images become noisy fast as the level of light goes down. Here are some of the test shots:
Here’s the same subject taken by the GNOTE 2 and the Astra side-by-side so you can see the difference:
Colors are sharper and more accurate with the Galaxy Note 2. Megapixels is just one part of the specs of cameras. It doesn’t mean that if both phones have 8-megapixel cameras they have the same photo quality.
SEE ALSO: Galaxy Note 2 Review
Conclusion? The Astra 8-MP camera is not at par with the sensors of other 8-megapixel cameras from Samsung, Sony, and Apple but it’s much better compared to the 3-5-megapixel shooters of other entry-level devices.
Average battery life for a smartphone
The Starmobile Astra has a 1,500mAh battery. This is quite low considering most 4-inch smartphones have 1,700mAh and above these days but it still gets the job done. You won’t make it through the day with a full charge if you have 3G on and you’re using different apps like the TV and games. However if you manage your consumption (turn off 3G when not in use, set brightness below 20%, etc), you’ll probably just have to charge it when you get home and no need to look for an outlet during the time that you’re out.
Over-all Verdict: Best bang-for-your-buck Smartphone in the market today. Period.
Everything considered, the Starmobile Astra is a ridiculously great buy. For Php6,999 you get a smartphone that can easily pass off as a high mid-range device both from the outside and with what’s under the hood. The Analog TV Tuner and dual SIM capability also adds to its appeal.
If Unbox were to give annual awards for gadgets, we’d give the Starmobile Astra one of the highest honors for giving maximum value at such a friendly price.
The Starmobile Astra isn’t available in the market yet as of this writing but it will launch locally 1st week of November.
SEE ALSO: Hands-on with the Starmobile Astra