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Cherry Mobile M1 Review: Paper Tiger

Cherry Mobile M1 10

Cherry Mobile’s M1 may not look it, but it’s a glimpse into MediaTek’s future. The chipmaker has long played second fiddle to Qualcomm in terms of processor performance, and has been (somewhat) unfairly regarded as a budget player in the system-on-a-chip market.

That’s quickly changing. MediaTek’s processors have started to climb up the food chain, appearing not only in budget phones and local brands, but in high-profile international devices as well. The company’s current processor flagship, the deca-core Helio X20, is the processor powering Cherry Mobile’s latest flagship device, the M1. Today we’ll be taking a look at the M1 and the processor powering it to see if the new processor is really all it’s cracked up to be.

Cherry Mobile M1 specs

  • Deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of internal storage
  • 21-megapixel Sony IMX 230 sensor, phase detection AF, dual LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front facing camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G,LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, USB Type-C, Fingerprint scanner
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 3600mAh battery
  • 11,999

Cherry Mobile M1 02

Generic design is boring and derivative

There’s no sugarcoating this – for a phone that’s supposed to be a flagship device, the M1 sure looks like a run-of-the-mill budget phone. No premium metal and glass design here folks, just boring old plastic meant to look a little like metal. That’s not to say that the M1 is ugly – we’ve certainly seen homelier phones in the past – but the M1 could have been easier on the eyes, especially since it’s supposed to be a flagship smartphone.

Cherry Mobile M1 03

Despite its generic looks, the M1 feels sturdily built. There’s no major gaps or lapses in build quality with the review device that was sent to us, which somewhat offsets the less than appealing looks of the phone. Rounded corners and a curved back allows users to hold on to the phone easier one handed, and the frame, while plastic, has a nice silver color that approximates the look for a metal frame.

Cherry Mobile M1 04

The hybrid SIM slot is on the left side of the M1, while the power button and volume rocker is on the right. On top lies the 3.5mm jack.

Cherry Mobile M1 05

The phone uses a new USB Type-C connector, which is a first for the brand.

Cherry Mobile M1 07

On the rear of the phone sits the 21-megapixel rear camera, along with the dual LED flash and fingerprint scanner. The phone’s back panel may look to be removable, but sadly that’s not the case. The placement of the fingerprint scanner is smack dab where your index fingers sit when you hold the phone. The placement of both the volume and power keys allow you to press them with either hand without you needing to adjust your grip.

Cherry Mobile M1 06

Up front, you’ll see the 8-megapixel front camera with LED flash, along with the 5.5-inch full HD display with Asahi Dragontrail Glass protection. The more eagle-eyed among you may have already spotted the front facing speakers located on the bottom and top of the phone. Unfortunately, only the bottom one is the real speaker – the top grille is for the earpiece for the phone.

Display quality for the device is good, without the telltale signs of light leak that we see in less expensive models. Sunlight legibility is good, and the phone’s viewing angles are generous. Image reproduction is also pretty good, though we would have liked it more if the screen was punchier.

Cherry Mobile M1 08

Helio X20 scores top marks in synthetic benchmarks but struggles in real world use

Like we said ealier, Cherry Mobile’s M1 is the first phone we’ve encountered that sports MediaTek’s top of the line Helio X20 deca-core processor. A Mali-T880 GPU provides graphical number-crunching. Topping things off is 4GB of RAM (another first for a phone offered by a local company) and 32GB of expandable storage.

So, does the deca-core monster deliver the goods? Not exactly. While the M1 felt incredibly fast and fluid with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the processor stumbled a little bit when we were using it with games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5. There were some spots in both games where the frames dropped down enough to be noticeable, which should be the case.

The Helio X20 also exhibited thermal issues, though not in the way you think. Playing games won’t raise the temperature of the phone over “slightly warm” territory, though we were shocked to discover the phone roasting while we were just downloading an update to Asphalt 8.  We’re not sure what’s going on here exactly, but our guess would be that MediaTek’s software for its modem might need some more work.

Moving on to sound quality, the M1 had better than average sound despite only having a single front-facing speaker, though sound tended to get distorted at higher volumes. GPS performance was fine – the same goes for LTE as well. Call quality was good.

Cherry Mobile M1 17

Cherry Mobile M1 01

Cherry Mobile M1 13

21-megapixel camera is inconsistent

The Cherry Mobile M1’s 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor isn’t unknown to us. We’ve seen the same sensor on Lenovo’s much more expensive Vibe X3 and a whole host of other phones. From what we’ve seen on those phones, the camera should be able to produce good photos as long as you do your part.

Cherry Mobile M1 11

Cherry Mobile M1 14

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Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Many of the images had blown-out highlights, and some images looked to have had weird metering issues even in bright sunlight. From what we’re seeing, it looks like the camera’s software isn’t fully optimized which may be causing the issues. The good news is that software tweaks can potentially fix the camera problems and bring the performance of the M1 to par with other similarly equipped smartphones.

Cherry Mobile M1 09

Helio X20 is a battery hog

There’s no other way to put it – MediaTek’s newest monster is a battery hog. Running PCMark’s battery benchmark only netted us 5 hours and 37 minutes, way below what we expected from the phone’s 3600mAh battery. Again we’re thinking that poor software optimization may be the culprit here, since MediaTek has long been saying that the Helio X20 consumes far less battery than a typical phone.

Verdict: A flawed phone, but can still be saved by software tweaks

Cherry Mobile’s M1 could have been a showcase of what MediaTek’s Helio X20 deca-core processor could do. Instead, it highlighted the new SoC’s teething problems, problems that can (and should) be fixed by software updates. Hopefully Cherry Mobile addresses the problems that we encountered during the review.

The Cherry Mobile M1 is priced at Php 11,999.


John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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  1. who buys a local brand for 12k anyway.. look at starmobile, ngayon puro sale old model phones, walang bago, wala kasing bumibili..

  2. Monster specs on a budget. But those “software issues” should bother most. Based on experience (having bought and used 4 Cherry Mobile devices), I am skeptic that CM would even bother updating the software to potentially fix those bugs. Too bad… Those are really nice specs for its price.

    1. The burden of sending out OTA isn’t solely on CM – it’s up to MediaTek to send updated drivers for CM to propogate, since the X20 is their processor.

      1. That’s only one item on the “software issues” list. What about the camera? Do you think CM would even bother updating the software to fix any flaw on its camera department?

        And in case Mediatek sends out updated drivers, do you think CM would roll out system updates to fix the Mediatek driver issues?

        1. i don’t think so. as a wise buyer kelangan mo na isaalang-alang lahat ng ito.. hindi ung puro budget lng.. bkit nman c flash mediatek ang gamit at maganda mag price pero ngbibigay prin ng update to fix. not exactly in OS but sa mga ibang bugs & flaws.. naghuhukay nrin ng grave nyan c CM malapit na nia ibaon ang Brand nia.. Nadala na ako.. c Star Mobile malapit narin.. hehehe.. too competitive na ang mga branded ngaun.. bgo ka bumili ng CM.. try mo muna icompare sa lenovo, asus, vivo, oppo, huawei at meizu.. lalo na pag nasa 5k+ ang price.. be a wise buyer..

      2. Alanganin nang i-update ng CM yan. yun ngang flare x(1.7 version) di na nila linabas ota ng lollipop eh. iiwanan nalang nila yan ng ganyam at gagawa ng bagong flagship kuno.

  3. Bought it on a Thursday, today is Sunday and it wont power on, even if the charger is connected. I left it 100% before I slept and now it doesn’t indicate it is charging nor opening.

    It is still under warranty but they wanted a tech report sa service center nila first before they can have it replaced. Hassle. (take note ang service center nila open lang ng Weekdays at hindi yan sa loob ng Store mismo).

  4. Mga boss ask ko lang baka may stock firmware kayo ng cherry mobile m1 or pakitulungan naman kami makahingi sa cherry mobile ng stock firmware ng cherry mobile M1? Kasi yung latest update nila ang daming bugs ilang beses nako nag request sa cherry mobile pero wala silang reply sana matulungan nyo kami.. thanks and more power.

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