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Cherry Mobile Flare X2 Review: The New Bang-for-the-buck King?

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There’s no denying the appeal of the original Flare X – it was fast, relatively powerful, had a decent camera and more importantly, was priced aggressively for what it was. We hailed it as the bang-of-the-buck king as far as local brands were concerned, and even now, more than a year on it’s still on store shelves, enjoying relatively good sales numbers.

All eyes are now on its successor, the Flare X2. Does it have the same bang-for-your buck appeal as the original, or did Cherry Mobile a one-hit wonder? You’re about to find out.

Cherry Mobile Flare X2 specs:

  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 505 GPU
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display, Dragon Trail glass protection (front and back), 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • 16-megapixel rear camera with BSI, AF, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, fingerprint scanner
  • 3000mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Php 7,999

Beauty and brawn

The original Flare X was a pretty powerful phone for the price at the time it was released, but no one could deny that it looked ugly. The plastic body made it look and feel cheaper than it actually was despite the phone’s relatively good build quality.

The Flare X2 could not be more different. Instead of plastic, the phone sports a design that’s a great mix of metal and glass. It no longer feels like a cheap, plastic phone – pick the Flare X2 up, and you’ll be surprised at its relative heft. While it’s as solidly built like its older brother, it now feels like it.

The phone uses a metal frame, sandwiched between two panes of Dragontrail glass. The curves and angles of the phone remind us a little bit of Sony’s Omnibalance design philosophy that was prevalent on their Xperia Z smartphones before they were axed. The result is a nice looking phone that feels more expensive than it actually is.

Button placement is typical of a 5.5-inch device – the power button and volume rocker is on the right side, while the 3.5mm jack is on the top. The microUSB port is on the bottom, flanked by faux speaker grilles – the actual speaker is on the rear of the phone, near the bottom.

Flip the phone over and you’ll see the 16-megapixel rear megapixel camera with BSI and LED flash. The fingerprint scanner is located on the center of the phone, where your finger naturally rests when you hold the device one handed.

While we like the phone’s exterior, we recommend getting a case or at the very least, plastic protectors for the front and rear glass. Dragontrail isn’t quite as good as Gorilla Glass in terms of scratch resistance, so some kind of protection is required if you want to keep your Flare X2 scratch free.

Moving onto the front of the phone, you’ll see the 8-megapixel front camera on the upper right side of the phone, flanking the earpiece. The front is dominated by the 5.5-inch full HD IPS panel. There’s no physical Android navigation keys on the chin of the phone, as the Flare X2 uses on-screen keys for navigation.

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The display is bright, and is easily readable under direct sunlight. Colors are good, with excellent viewing angles. There’s really no major complaints with the display of the Flare X2, though we really wished Cherry Mobile would do away with those ugly black borders on the side of the displays that they used.

Snapdragon 430 is the new budget king

We’ve gotten to know Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor in other phones that we recently reviewed, and we’re convinced that this is the best processor right now for the budget segment. It’s fast, capable and very power efficient and has enough power under the hood to make you forget it’s a mid-range chipset. Don’t be fooled by its relatively low AnTuTu scores – the SD430 is more capable than the higher-scoring Helio P10 chipset by Mediatek in more demanding Android games like Asphalt 8.

The Flare X2 runs a relatively stock version of Android Marshmallow out of the box, and unlike Cherry Mobile’s more expensive Flare Infinity, it doesn’t have a ton of adware pre-installed. There’s still some bloatware, mind you, but it’s not as bad as the full screen ads that show up on the Flare Infinity when you unlock it. Navigation is smooth and trouble free, and you won’t have any issues at all navigating through the phone. Unfortunately it seems that the phone lacks the sensors needed for VR – Google Cardboard shows as unsupported for the Flare X2.

The move to a Qualcomm chipset also means that the phone won’t be stuck in Android Marshmallow for long. MediaTek’s track record in providing OEMs with the necessary software updates have always been less than stellar, at least when compared to Qualcomm.

There’s a fingerprint scanner on the rear of the phone for extra security. While the fingerprint scanner works, there’s a significant delay from the moment you put your finger on the sensor and when the phone actually unlocks itself – it’s long enough for you to wonder if you put your finger on the scanner right.

The rear firing speaker is surprisingly loud, loses definition at higher volumes, as expected. GPS and data connectivity is excellent (this is a Qualcomm chipset after all). Call quality is great – calls made from, and to, the Flare X2 have no issues.

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A good camera, but you’ll have to work for good shots

The Flare X2 has a relatively good camera inside of it. The 16-megapixel, BSI-equipped sensor is capable of taking good photos if you do your part. While photos taken with the camera were relatively good, the camera had trouble with exposure settings in some of the photos taken, either under exposing or over exposing the images. HDR helps in that regard, but photos come out looking too artificial for our liking.

The long and short of it is that the camera is capable, but only produces good shots if you put in the work.

Enough juice for a day

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 chipset is a relatively power-efficient SoC. The 3000mAh battery inside the phone managed to keep the Flare X2 running for around a day with moderate use. To put that into context, if you dash out of your house with the phone fully charged, you can expect the phone to hit the 20% mark at around 6 to 7 pm with moderate use. Obviously your mileage may vary depending on your usage habits.

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Verdict: One of the best phones in its price range, but there’s way more options now than ever before

After spending a few weeks with the Flare X2, we’re convinced that it’s one of the best phones for the price. The phone fixes most of the issues of its predecessor, and improves greatly on both the performance and camera front. At Php 7,999 it’s great value, but unfortunately there’s a heck of a lot more competition at that price point than ever before. The hype around the Flare X2 also hasn’t been as pronounced as the original Flare X, which speaks volumes about Cherry Mobile’s competition in the sub 8K price range.

Despite that, we think that the Flare X2 deserves your attention, especially if you’ve been living with the Flare X for the better part of the year. If you’re looking to reward yourself with a powerful yet affordable smartphone, you really have to take a look at the Flare X2 in stores.

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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12 Comments

    1. I’m convinced that the original Flare X v1 still had a better camera, considering it was rocking a Sony IMX214, the same sensor that’s now found on the similarly-priced Flare S5 Power and the higher-priced ASUS Zenfone 3 Laser.

    2. X is still the best for price and performance is already good enough for most games.
      X2 is only good for the looks. They had snapdragon 430 for games but no gyro for VR games. Its like having a car without a wheel.

  1. Ano nga ba ung best phone para sa 8k-12k na price range? Hopefully marelease nyo na ulet ung best phone for the year 2016 na yearly nyo ata ginagawa, haha

  2. Not worth it for 8k phone. considering its a cherry local brand, finger sensor issue and camera issue and no gyro for VR. The only thing about this phone is metal frame but other than that, its a meh.
    for price of 8-10k, there are tons of other phones much more capable and better brand name to choose and they have gyro for VR.

  3. Hybrid ba yung dual-SIM? Perfect na sana ‘tong X2 with my criteria since I’m looking for a sub-10k phone
    -with dual-SIM
    -at least 32 GB internal
    -dedicated microSD (optional if 64 GB or higher yung internal)
    -at least 3 GB RAM, and
    -at least 40k Antutu.

    Even better if yung back button nasa kaliwa tulad nito or sa Zenfone.

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