The Infinity Prime 1 is the first smartphone model from Hisense that we’ve had a chance to review. With its impressive R2 999 price tag it carries the weight of our expectations for all future Hisense branded smartphones on its shoulders.

Last year we found out that Hisense was planning to build an army of Android smartphones in South Africa. Hisense already manufactures a range of TVs out of a facility in Cape Town including its latest 84-inch UltraHD 4k offering. Smartphones are after all just small, touchscreen smart TVs with a 3G connection right?

Unfortunately the Infinity Prime 1 is not made in South Africa but it should give us a clue as to what we can expect from Hisense in 2014.

Finding out whether it passed our muster is just a matter of scrolling down.

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Design

Uninspiring or utilitarian, depending on your viewpoint the design of the Infinity Prime 1 could pass for either.

The front is a simple slab of glass with a set of three touch sensitive buttons along the bottom that light up when you wake the phone’s 5 inch display. The edges of the phone house the microUSB charging port to the left, a headphone jack on top and buttons for power and volume on the right.

The matte black of the removable rear plastic cover is broken only by holes for the camera, flash and speakerphone as well as a small ‘Hisense’ logo. It peels off to reveal the battery, microSD card slot and dual-SIM slots.

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Hardware

The Infinity Prime 1 is hardly on the cutting edge of hardware, but then not everyone needs or wants to pay for an octa-core, full HD display toting behemoth.

Without a doubt the most interesting hardware feature of the Infinity Prime 1 is its dual SIM card slots. The primary SIM is the same as any other smartphone in that it can make/receive calls and use data to access the internet while the second SIM can only manage voice calls and SMS. Where the intrigue begins is that you can specify which SIM handles voice calls, text messages and data.

For example, you can have a Cell C prepaid SIM handling voice calls and text but instead of paying R149 for 1GB of data on Cell C, you can pay R145 for 5GB of data with Afrihost and have that SIM designated as your data SIM.

Along with dual-SIM magic, the Infinity Prime 1 comes bearing a 5 inch 960X540 display powered by a Media Tek made 1.2GHz quad core processor paired with 1GB of RAM. It has a rather paltry 4GB of internal storage which is expandable via microSD card as well as a removable 2000mAh battery. Imaging is taken care of with an 8MP camera on the rear and a VGA resolution one up front for video calls.

The specs are almost exactly the same as Sony’s budget Xperia C smartphone. In fact we can find only three differences. The Xperia offers a larger, though non-removable, 2390mAh battery. It has a physical camera button and comes at a R650 premium over the Hisense phone.

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Software

The Hisense Infinity Prime 1 arrives running Android 4.2.1 which, while not the latest version of Google’s OS, is comparable to many of last year’s high profile releases. In a completely pleasant surprise, the Infinity Prime 1 runs an almost completely unmodified version of Android.

The biggest change made was to the stock Android camera interface but Hisense also opted to include the Kingsoft Office productivity suite, a theme manager and TouchPal Keyboard as pre-installed bloatware.

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Display

At 5 inches and with a 960X540 resolution the display of the Infinity Prime 1 isn’t competing for ‘highest pixel density’ honours. We admit that there were moments when a smaller display, and the resulting increase in pixel density, may have resulted in crisper, better looking text on screen but not often enough for us to get irritated by it.

The display uses in plane switching (IPS) technology which allows for better viewing angles both indoors and in direct sunlight. Colours are bright and don’t wash out when looking at the display from an angle. While the automatic brightness manages to ramp up nicely for the outdoors it can’t quite prevent a pronounced amount of glare in direct sunlight.

Camera

While it can claim to have the same resolution camera as the iPhone 5s, the Infinity Prime 1 has a long way to go to match the quality of the iPhone. Comparing it to an R8 000+ smartphone is unfair but even still we came away disappointed with the quality of photos the Infinity Prime 1 managed to produce.

Lighting and colour from pictures in bright sunlight were generally disappointing with a heavy tinge of blue creeping in from the edges of some of our photos. Shots in mixed lighting conditions indoors were nothing to write home about either, but at least they had some assistance from an HDR mode which did more good than harm.

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Battery life

The Infinity Prime 1’s battery life is almost entirely dependent on whether or not you have decent signal on your data SIM. Once the signal from that SIM drops and the phone is forced to ramp up the power to find reception the Infinity Prime’s battery life drains quickly.

With decent WiFi or 3G signal taking care of the requisite data traffic, battery life was comparable to most mid-range Android smartphones. In other words, expect to charge the Infinity Prime 1 in the mid to late afternoon if you’re planning on having battery life for any after-work excursions.

Conclusion

As Android smartphones come the Hisense Infinity Prime is nothing spectacular. The most apt phrase to describe it would be ‘good but not great’. That is until you take into account two important facts that impact on one very important part of your life, budget.

The Hisense Infinity Prime 1 is a lot of smartphone for just R3 000 and should be high up on the list of anyone looking for a budget Android smartphone. Not to mention the potential benefits of having dual SIM cards in one smartphone, particularly when it comes to the Rands and cents cost of operating a data hungry smartphone in South Africa.

It may not be the smartphone that gets noticed at a dinner table full of your friends, but it should be.

Design: 3/5

Performance: 3/5

Battery life: 3/5

Value for Money: 5/5

Display: 4/5

Interface: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Detail

Price: R2 999

Display: 5″ QHD (540X960 resolution), IPS display (220ppi)

Memory: 1GB RAM

Storage: 4GB expandable by microSD card

Camera: 8MP rear with LED Flash, 0.3MP front

Networking: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, BT3.0 GPS, FM radio

Other: dual-SIM