If there’s anything history has taught us, it’s that it is really hard for manufacturers to build a great smartphone for under $100. For the brave consumers willing to take the plunge, more than often they’re met with a smartphone so severely handicapped, they either regret the day they didn’t save up for something more worthwhile or end up swearing off the platform/manufacturer altogether.
Marking Astro’s big push into the Zimbabwe is their affordable “Slide” brand, launching what could only be described as the best looking budget smartphone we’ve ever seen — the Slide S4.5. With the Slide S4.5, Astro is out to prove that not only is it possible to build a fully capable “no-nonsense” smartphone for under $100, but that they can do it so well, their target demographic will actually fall in love with the value that the brand offers. When looking at Zimbabwe, that’s something far easier said than done.
On paper, the Slide S4.5 does a well enough job of nailing down some of the bigger hardware specs you’d look for in a new flagship smartphone: Quad-core processor (1.3 Ghz), great looking display, large battery, and good megapixel camera . But how well these components translate into real-world usage, remains to be seen. Could the Slide S4.5 actually be the best phone in its category, or did Astro cut too many corners to that affordable price tag? Read on to find out.
Hardware & Design
Slide S4.5 specs
4.5-inch display (480*856)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor
4GB internal storage with micro SD card slot
5MP camera (rear) / 0.3MP (front facing)
Front Camera Flash
Build quality is where the Astro Slide S4.5 really shines, literally. Simply put, there aren’t very many smartphones that achieve this level of premium feel, let alone the current crop of budget Android devices with plastic bodies. It’s clear that some (if not most) of Astro Slide’s budget went into making the device look just as premium and high-end as bigger name flagships, something that is sure to entice less tech-savvy buyers who don’t care so much about a phone’s raw hardware specs as much as getting a shiny new smartphone on the cheap.
Holding the phone in hand, it’s surprisingly light given the size and hefty 2,000mAh battery. Although screen-to-bezel ratios typically aren’t a focal point when creating an affordable new device, it was nice to see the Astro Slide S4.5 had a metal feel. Again, it’s one of those things that fools you into thinking the phone is higher-end than it really is.
On the back, the camera is slightly protruded as with most devices these days. The bottom of the Astro Slide S4.5 features a micro USB port which is surrounded by billet drilled holes for the speaker/microphone. The speaker is loud enough, but at higher volumes it becomes incredibly tinny and almost uncomfortable. It doesn’t sound great, but you’ll be able to hear just fine in loud environments. On the right side of the device you’ll find the volume rocker and power button, each with a nice tactile feel to them.
That rock bottom low pricing does come with a trade-off in a few hardware specs, however. You’ll notice the absence of NFC (near field communication) for mobile payments which are available on the Astro V2.
What we did notice was a fair amount of touch input lag. Menus that lag behind your finger and mis-taps are a regular occurrence on the Astro Slide S4.5, a bitter reminder that this was, in fact, a $99 smartphone. Still, I’ve seen far worse quality from phones at this price point and it was honestly refreshing to see such a fantastic display on a phone this cheap. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
On the flip side, battery life on the Astro Slide S4.5 is not that great mainly because am a power user. It appears to sip the battery when put to use and at 2,000mAh, there’s plenty of juice to tap from but after making a number of calls and connecting on the 3G the battery could not last more than half day. And you know am know that kind of person to walk around with pockets full of gadgets cause you will need to have you power pack a hand most of the time.
Typically, a good quality camera is the first thing you’d expect would be sacrificed in a sub-$99 smartphone, but the Slide S4.5 surprised us with its 5MP shooter back camera and a 0.3 front. We know, megapixel counts don’t amount to much, but the rest of the hardware is still pretty impressive.
A wise man once told me that no matter what you do in life, everything is a trade-off. There’s probably no greater example of this than the Astro Slide S4.5. Manufacturers are always striving to cram as much hardware as they can into a device, while ensuring they can still offer up their phones at a competitive price. Once that price drops down to $99, you’d expect only a bare-bones smartphone, but the Astro Slide S4.5 smashed those conventions. They showed us that you don’t need to cut all the corners, just the right ones. While we don’t particularly agree with all the sacrifices made on the Astro Slide S4.5, there’s no denying for a vast majority of folks, there is an insane value here.
If Astro can build an almost great phone at this price, imagine what they can do at $300 or $400? Looking at the Astro Slide Note???