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Cherry Mobile W900 Review

Cherry Mobile recently introduced yet another affordable Android smartphone they called the Dragon Phone. After more than a week’s time with it, we’re pretty sure what Cherry Mobile is gunning for with this new handset. Check out our full review of the Cherry Mobile W900 after the break.

The W900 comes in a slightly bigger box than the Magnum 2X. As with the latter, the box is also enclosed inside an outer carton box filled with some of the details about the phone.
The handset comes in with the usual accessories. There’s a USB cable, charger and a headset. The review unit given to us comes with a screen protector inside the box. We’re not sure if it’s going to be the same for retail units or it will be attached out of the box.

As we’ve mentioned on our first impression, the phone comes in two color variety, Black with Gold lining and White with Silver lining. The “Curvaceous” W900’s design looks like BlackBerry phones, especially the all touch version Storm. The top and the bottom part are tapered with a flat back panel. Unlike its dual-core counterpart, the W900’s innards are enclosed in an all glossy plastic frame that makes it prone to fingerprints. We suggest having a clean cloth handy when using the Dragon Phone particularly for those who have sweaty palms.
The front of the phone sports the 4” capacitive LCD screen along with the front facing VGA camera, earpiece and sensor. Unlike most Gingerbread phones that has 4 keys; the W900 only has three soft keys located directly below the screen. This may be an indication that Cherry Mobile has plans of an ICS upgrade for this device in the future. 

The tapered top and bottom part of the Dragon phone are plain. No buttons, no ports and no holes. All that can be found on each sides of the device.
On its right side, the small power button that also doubles as sleep/wake button can be found along with the MicroUSB port which is covered with a removable plastic flap. The peculiar Eco-mode switch can also be found just below the power button if you’re holding the phone upright. 

The left side of the phone sports the volume rocker which can also wake the phone and the 3.5mm audio port which is also covered with a removable plastic flap. Only time will tell how many removals it can withstand but so far, after a handful of attempts, the two flaps are still holding up quite nicely with no visible damage whatsoever.
Besides the 5MP camera, there’s not much going on either on the back of the W900. Much like the Magnum 2X, the Dragon phone also doesn’t have a built-in flash. Just in case you’re wondering, the term “Curvaceous” earlier didn’t come from us. It is actually engraved on the gold lining at the top-back part of the handset. Complementing the whole design of the phone, the back panel of the W900 is also made of plastic with glossy finish. All the more reason to keep a cleaning cloth handy, unless you want to go for rugged fingerprint filled look.
Underneath the glossy back cover is the 1350mAh battery. The SIM card slot and the MicroSD card slot can be found at the top of the batter compartment if the phone is upright. The SIM card can be put in without removing the battery as well as the MicroSD card. But if you plan to take out the SIM you’d have to remove the battery first.

The W900 generally looks decent enough for the most part. The all plastic body of the phone is not all that bad as it made the phone lightweight and therefore easy on the hands. On the business side of things, it made the cost of the phone cheaper as the materials used are inexpensive by nature. Some may find the glossy finish of the handset attractive and some may not. For me, the shiny appeal doesn’t really appeal to me that much. The flaps are also a great addition as it adds a little bit of protection to the phone from dirt and dusts. We think that with proper caution, those flaps will last for a long period of time. We also liked the gold accent on the black phone. It added a Mike Tyson feel to it. But the phone has one too many logos. I think that it would’ve been better if they dropped the engraved “Curvaceous” at the back and just went for a single logo.
Having a 4-inch screen, the W900 is the first of its kind on the Cherry Mobile lineup. But by having the same resolution as the Magnum 2X, the Dragon Phone’s screen has a slightly lower pixel density than its dual-core counterpart which is only 233ppi. This slight difference is not that noticeable though as the screen is still provide a decent viewing experience under certain conditions. We said this because the screen, just like the one on the Magnum 2X, doesn’t really deliver a great outdoor legibility. In comparison to the dual-core handset, the W900 was actually a bit worse when used outdoors while the sun is at its peak. But other than that, we think that Cherry Mobile has done a pretty good job on their first 4 incher.

Cherry Mobile has equipped the W900 with Dolby Digital Plus for sound software. The result was actually quite impressive for an affordable phone. We were pleased with the sound output of the Dragon phone through the 3.5mm port. Even the headset that came with handset was also pretty good.
Although the sound wasn’t eardrum-shattering loud, it’s still loud enough for a user to zone out and get lost with their favorite tracks. The loudspeaker is on the downside though, as the sound was too soft but still audible under some extent. We don’t suggest listening through the loudspeaker in a crowded area as it can be quite tricky to hear details of the s ong or understand a conversation in a film. In terms of voice call, the sound was crisp and audible. We didn’t find ourselves pressing the phone against our ears just to hear the person on the other line. 

The name Dragon phone was actually derived from the handset’s Snapdragon S2 processor, and for a good reason. This 1GHz system-on-chip not only provides decent performance but also integrated multiple functionalities in one chip. By doing so, it has significantly reduced the manufacturing cost as companies like Cherry Mobile no longer has to purchase each components from different chip manufacturers, build the phone part by part and putting it all together. This in turn makes the price of the phone inexpensive. But Cherry Mobile still has a trick up its sleeves.

In case you’re wondering, the 1GHz mentioned above is not a typo. Although Qualcomm released a 1.2GHz version of the S2 which is the MSM8655, the W900 actually has the 45nm MSM8255 Snapdragon S2 processor which is the same processor used in the recently released HTC One V. Both are clocked at 1GHz and both can be traced back 2 years ago. The only difference with the W900 is that it comes overclocked to 1.2GHz out of the box while the latter was not. This definitely Cherry Mobile’s marketing strategy to reach their consumers. Cherry Mobile was able to cut down on the manufacturing cost a bit and in turn making the phone affordable by using a slightly older processor and overclocking it a bit rather than going for the 1.2GHz S2. 

Marketing aside, the device didn’t actually score quite well in the benchmark tests that we’ve performed. We weren’t expecting this low of a benchmark score from the device. Not that we’re expecting a high score from the device. But considering that the W900’s processor was overclocked to 1.2GHz the HTC One V, which has exactly the same processor but not overclocked, still garnered better results than the former. This leaves us to think that the OS may have something to do about it. 

Quadrant only scored the W900 with 1141 while the One V scored 1982. Things are a bit different on the AnTuTu benchmark as the Dragon phone triumphs over the chinned-up competitor by a hair with a score of 2673 while the latter scored 2544.
Graphics wise, NenaMark 2 only scored the W900 with 11fps while the HTC One V scored 28.8fps.

Though the handset didn’t really fare well on the benchmarks results, we were pretty pleased with our experience using the device. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with its performance but the W900 should give its users a pretty decent response on most tasks. Simple tasks and not too resources heavy apps run smoothly without lags. Apps that require sensors along with touch and swipe gestures are a bit laggy though. Because of this, it can be quite difficult to score that high playing Temple Run with this device. Another app that has noticeable lags is the native movie player app. Although it’s good that the phone has DIVX support out of the box, the viewing experience was not that smooth. We hope that a future ICS update, if ever there is one, will fix this little lags. 

The W900 has Gingerbread (2.3.3) out of the box. Considering the competition this phone is up against, it would’ve been better if it had come with ICS. We’ve actually asked Cherry Mobile if they have plans of upgrading the OS in the future but we never really got a conclusive answer regarding the matter. For now, we just have to work with what the phone has to offer.

The UI of the W900 doesn’t have the same Gingerbread feel that we were so accustomed to. Cherry Mobile has decided to go for the unconventional UI for the Dragon phone. We don’t want to be subjective on this part, so we’ll leave it to you guys to decide if it suits you. Of course, you can always download third-party themes (which we did) if you don’t want what you see.
Placing the two Cherry Mobile flagship devices beside each other, one can already spot the difference between the UIs. First noticeable difference between the two is the 4 static icons on Favorites tray. It’s present even when inside the app drawer. The only thing we didn’t like about it was that the icons cannot be interchanged or replaced with a different one. Scrolling through the apps, which is display 4×4 because of the Favorites tray, is done sideways instead of vertically on other Gingerbread phones. 

Pulling down the notification bar up top, will give you a Symbian Belle-like toggle buttons or switches for commonly used phone functionalities.
Just like in other Gingerbread phones, long pressing on blank portion of the home screen will give you an option to add Shortcut, Widget and Folder but you’d have to select one of the options first before seeing the list of options under that category. The Cherry Mobile’s custom UI took it a step further by giving us a list of all available options right from the get go. The options are categorized on each tab as shown in the screenshot here. 

The multitasking UI remains pretty much the same as with other Gingerbread phones. Users still needs to long press the home key to reveal active apps. Taking it up a notch, what Cherry Mobile has done is they’ve integrated the built-in task killer of the handset to the multitasking screen making it easier to manage running apps.

Plugging a pair of supported headphones or earphones on the audio port will give users a set of installed apps that users can use with the accessory. We’ve tried a couple of headsets with the device and the phone was able to detect and give the same options for each one of it. 

Another cool feature of the UI is the gestures. When using the phone’s default browser, users can assign a gesture to a specific browser task like “go to homepage”. 

Once set, all the users have to do is press the W logo just below the screen, do the desired gesture and the browser should do the task that corresponds to the gesture that was done. We were actually pretty amazed with this feature and how responsive the app is to the gestures that we made. It would have been even cool if this feature is present on the phone’s other native apps, nevertheless kudos to Cherry Mobile for integrating this feature in the browser.
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