It hasn’t been long ago that we took the Starmobile Knight Elite to its paces. We were impressed at the sub-10k smartphone’s design and what it can do. A few months later, Starmobile released the Knight Spectra, its late 2015 entry into the flagship category. It’s a stand-out with features such as dual rear cameras and built-in Digital TV. We tested it out to see if it truly is worth the consideration.
Related article – Starmobile Knight Spectra Unboxing and Hands On
Here’s a review of the Knight Spectra’s specifications:
Starmobile Knight Spectra:
- Octa Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor
- Adreno 405 graphics
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB internal storage expandable via MicroSD
- 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED On Cell display (1920 x 1080 pixels)
- 13 megapixel + 2 megapixel rear facing cameramera with aufocus and LED flash, f/2.0 aperture
- 8 megapixel front facing camera with flash
- Dual SIM, Dual Standby
- 4G/LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB OTG, Digital TV
- GPS, A-GPS
- 3,500 mAh battery
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- SRP: P14,990
- Status: Available at Starmobile stores and kiosks
HARDWARE & DESIGN
The Starmobile Knight Spectra looks similar to the Knight Elite, only that it’s bigger. The phone is primarily made of glass front and back panels and a metal frame, unlike the Elite which is also made of glass but has a plastic frame. Needless to say, the phone looks good, but it’s definitely not unique nor groundbreaking.
The Spectra feels heavier than the Elite, too. This is primarily because of the metal frame and the bigger battery. Button placements are similar to the Elite, with the power button also housing the LED notification light. The micro-USB port and the speaker grilles are located at the bottom of the phone, while a microphone and the 3.5mm headphone jack are located at the top.
For someone with smaller hands like me, the Starmobilee Knight Spectra’s weight certainly takes its toll sometimes. I can’t use it for a long period while lying down in the fear that it might fall flat to my face. There’s a also a little stretching needed in order to reach the upper corners of the display. The weight of the phone, however, reminds you that you’re holding a phone and not a slab of glass and metal.
The overall design of the phone coupled with its weight makes it manageable to hold without the fear that it might fall and break. The package includes a transparent case, though, if you want some extra protection.
DISPLAY & SOUND
The Starmobile Knight Spectra’s Full HD display is expected to look great, and it does. It does, however, have a bluish tint to it rendering the overall display to appear cooler. This is more notable especially when the phone is tilted to its sides. The display is also readable under direct sunlight, though you might want to max out the brightness level to be able to do that. In the dark, its lowest brightness setting is still bright enough to be able to read and watch content even when the lights are turned off.
The problem lies in the built-in speakers of the phone. We’re not sure if it’s only with the review unit we used or if it’s true across all retail units, but the speakers are faint even at the maximum volume. This doesn’t help especially when streaming videos or playing music. If this is a deal-breaker for you, you can always connect the phone to Bluetooth speakers.
SOFTWARE & PERFORMANCE
The Starmobile Knight Spectra is running a near stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, except for a few tweaks with the interface in some apps like Messages, Contacts and Settings. This helps with the phone’s swift performance especially that it has 3 GB of RAM on board. We applaud Starmobile for doing this, especially when most manufacturer’s are pushing for their own customizations of Android.
Probably the biggest additions to the Android Lollipop OS its running are Starmobile’s Starcam and a Digital TV app.
As previously described in our review of the Knight Elite, Starcam allows users to do neat software tricks with their phones. This time, Starcam is adding a new feature – Refocus. The Spectra has dual rear cameras, one 10MP and the other one, 2MP. The lower MP camera serves as a depth sensor that measures how near or far the subject is from the camera, in turn allowing the user to refocus the photo even after it has already been taken. This is helpful for users who take photos that involve depths of field and who enjoy bokeh. It’s a neat trick, but as of our review, we still can’t find a practical use for it.
The Spectra also has a Digital TV app which transforms it into an instant Digital TV signal receiver with the help of an add-on accessory that comes with the package. The DTV receiver is attached to the phone’s 3.5mm headphone jack, with another 3.5mm headphone jack at the end of it. This means you can enjoy your DTV shows without disturbing anyone. This also helps knowing that the phone has weak speakers. As of now, channels and clarity of signal varies per area. In Pasig, where we tested the phone, we were able to get ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5 with clear receptions. In Makati, however, signal was pretty bad, so the reception was choppy and varying. You can also save shows on the phone by recording them, which of course, you can share online or watch on your own.
The 3500mAh battery of the Starmobile Knight Spectra lasts long enough even with LTE and GPS turned on. During our testing, battery life varied day-to-day. In some days, it would last a day, while it wouldn’t on some days. Given the size of the battery, the Spectra also charges slower than the Elite. It takes 2 and a half hours to complete charging. It’s impressive if you’re not into heavy gaming, but you might need to bring a charger if you’re planning heavy usage of the smartphone.
Because the Starmobile Knight Spectra supports LTE speeds, connectivity is no issue. This is actually the first time that we experienced download speeds of up to 2Mbps over Smart’s LTE network in Pasig City. The signal is consistent and we didn’t experience any problems. The Digital TV signal is independent to the LTE signal, so even if network connectivity is good, DTV signals may not be the same.
Dual Rear Cameras is the Spectra’s headline feature. It allows users to refocus a photo after being taken. We tested this feature out and we found out that Starcam’s refocus feature is useful to some extent, but could be better on terms of accuracy of the output. For now, you’d have to find the right objects to focus and set the right distance from each other to be able to refocus everything right.
Aside from setting which part of the photo to focus on, you can also adjust the depth of field by changing the aperture size. In basic photography, the smaller the number, the higher the aperture, which means more bluriness in parts which are not in focus. The process is a hit and miss, and the outputs show that. Starmobile can decide to take time and further develop this feature to be better. But for now, we see this as an experiment, like HTC’s discontinued dual rear camera set-up on the HTC One M8.
The Starmobile Knight Spectra is a great smartphone from Starmobile and somehow, it’s the best. But like other smartphones in the market, it has features that are absent in other offerings as well as features from other that it doesn’t have. In short, it’s not perfect. And no smartphone is perfect. The beauty of the Spectra, however, is that great design is coupled with features that are useable. The cameras, front and rear, are great, the battery lasts long, the display is nice, and the software tweaks are fresh. At P14,990, though, it might be seen as steep and some customers might be swayed to switch their interests to the Knight Elite or other smartphones of the same price point with similar specs.