“Looks aren’t everything.”
That little phrase might be more commonly found within the entirely subjective discussion of sex appeal, but it applies with equal measure to smartphones.
Just because a phone looks sexy doesn’t mean it’s useful, but likewise just because a phone looks good doesn’t mean it can’t deliver a great experience.
Case and point: the Prestigio Grace, the latest phone to come from distributor ASBIS that delivers on both looks and performance.
While the Prestigio brand might not be well-known in South Africa, it’s a recognised name in other parts of the world in both tablets and navigation systems.
So, is the Prestigio Grace the device likely to increase this brand’s reputation locally? On looks alone it has me interested.
The Prestigio Grace is an elegant phone. At 5.5mm thick it can only be described as “wafer thin”.
The frame of the phone is metal and doesn’t provide much give when trying to bend it, but despite that I always felt like it was about to fold in half like an iPhone 6.
Another design feature that bears a striking similarity to a certain range of Apple devices is the somewhat fragile glass back cover that will likely come off second best if it encounters the pavement.
The Grace also has a couple of quirks in its design, like the fact the USB charge port is located on the top of the phone while the 3.5mm audio jack is located at the bottom.
Another kink is the placement of the power button and the volume rocker on the left hand side of the phone, which makes it awkward to handle thanks to inadvertent button-presses when pulling it out of your pocket.
Under the hood, the Grace has the MediaTek MT6592 chipset, which has a 1.7GHz eight-core processor and a PowerVG G6200 GPU. That eight-core CPU might sound impressive but it consists of eight Cortex-A7 cores; normally Cortex-A7 cores are used in what is known as a big.LITTLE architecture and combined with Cortex-A15 cores to create a chip that can be both powerful and energy efficient.
Sadly, without some A15 cores the MediaTek MT6592 lacks the elegance and performance of other “octo-core” chips.
That absence of more powerful cores shows up when you compare the AnTuTu benchmark scores of a Samsung Galaxy S4 (an undeniably old device) with the Prestigio Grace. The older phone delivers a score of 35,711 while the Grace only manages a 30,803. Yet the Grace sells for R4,000 while the Galaxy S4 sold for R8,000 back in the day.
The Grace has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The reason this mid-range phone packs in the same amount of internal storage as the base model iPhone is because, like Apple’s flagship smartphone, it lacks a microSD card slot. This will frustrate some but it’s a compromise required by the phone’s super-thin design.
Also absent is a super fast LTE radio; instead, you’ll have to make do with 3G, EDGE, HSUPA and HSDPA for your internet connectivity.
The user experience of the Grace is something of a mixed bag. The launcher and most of the UI feels very close to vanilla Android, including the KitKat dialler, which I quite liked.
While some of the apps are rather useful – like the battery doctor which managed to take an already-pleasing battery life and make it downright impressive – the Grace comes loaded with a fair amount of bloatware.
An interesting feature is the MultiStart lock screen which provides quick and easy access to Google Search, Facebook, Youtube and any other app the user needs by way of a simple customisation menu.
It takes some time to get used to, especially since to unlock the phone you can only swipe right, but once mastered the MultiStart interface is actually rather useful.
The Prestigio Grace’s 5-inch 1080P screen is, in all honesty, almost flawless. The screen uses Super AMOLED technology and enjoys very vivid colours, but unless you have the brightness up high you won’t be able to see anything on it when in direct sunlight.
Having the brightness cranked all the way up eats battery life, but if you don’t find yourself trying type messages in the glaring sun all day long you won’t notice the effects, thus it’s safe to keep the brightness at a less stressful level.
I was also quite pleased to see that the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which means that it can take a beating before it even shows a scratch.
At this price you won’t be getting the best camera in the world, but the Sony Exmor RS CMOS sensor in the Prestigio Grace does deliver a decent performance nonetheless, especially in terms of the speed at which it can capture images.
Because of its Sony sensor, the Grace’s image quality is far from poor, but there is some noticeable noise in low light conditions even with the LED flash in action.
The front facing camera uses a 5-megapixel sensor and like many other phones these days the camera app features beautification options to help make even the most blemished face more attractive.
The Grace’s thin frame packs a 2 300mAh battery, and although this might sound a bit wimpy, it’s probably the most impressive feature on this beautiful smart phone.
After a full day on the road, with me making good use of a mix of 3G and WiFi as well as using the GPS while driving, the Grace still had 35 per cent of its battery left.
This is due to the clever battery app that Prestigio includes on the phone, but even without this app the phone still remains functional for the entire work day, only needing to be plugged into a charger come 6pm.
The Prestigio Grace isn’t perfect, in fact these days it’s hard to find a smartphone that is but the Grace is an interesting contender in a market usually dominated by Samsung’s Galaxy Mini range.
Against that competition the Grace wins on looks, although on performance it’s a bit of a tight race. Unfortunately, against beefier processors the MediaTek MT6592 is going to lose out, but only under the most demanding conditions.
If you’re looking for a smartphone that’s a little different, good-looking and you don’t absolutely need LTE, then you should consider the Prestigio Grace.
Price: R3 999
Display: 5 inch, 1 920×1 080 resolution Super AMOLED LCD display (441ppi)
Operating System: Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
Processors: 1.7GHz octo-core Cortex-A7
Memory: 2GB of RAM
Storage: 16GB but no microSD slot
Battery: 2 300mAh
Camera: 13 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front-facing camera
Networking: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G