Ever since Motorola jumped into the budget smartphone arena, local OEMs like Micromax, Karbonn and Lava have been busy releasing Moto E alternatives. Not that they didn’t have smartphones in this price range before, but these are now running the latest OS (Android KitKat) with decent hardware. The Iris X1 is Lava’s answer to Moto E and Micromax Canvas Unite 2. Is it good enough to compete with either or both of them? We find out in our review of Lava Iris X1.
The Lava Iris X1 is the first handset to be running the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat from the Indian manufacturer. At Rs. 7999, it’s costlier than both Moto E and Micromax Canvas Unite 2. But the problem with both of these smartphones is availability. Moto E keeps getting out of stock on Flipkart which is the exclusive retailer, and Micromax Canvas Unite 2 is being sold at a premium, thanks to skewed supply-demand ratio.
Design & Build
The Lava Iris X1 is based on the same design as the Iris Pro 30 and Iris Pro 20 which we reviewed few weeks back. This means, it carries forward the blatant reproduction of iPhone 4s-like design, but with an all-plastic body. The good thing is Lava has managed to bring a premium look and feel for a budget smartphone while copying Apple.
The phone feels very sturdy and has a good grip. The back panel is plastic and has a classy matte finish, but feels flimsy when you see it in isolation. Removing it reveals a 1800 mAh battery along with a full-sized SIM slot (for 3G) and a micro SIM slot (for 2G). There’s a microSD card slot in between which can accept 64GB cards as well.
The silver faux-chrome lining running around the phone provides that premium look absent on other smartphones in this price range. Although the Iris X1 comes with the similarly sized 4.5-inch display as the Moto E (4.3-inch), those big bezels at top and bottom makes it look much larger than it is.
The plastic buttons on the sides are ergonomically placed and provides a good tactile feedback. Both the microUSB charging port and the 3.5mm headphone jack is placed at the top, while the bottom is completely blank. The bezel on top houses a proximity and ambient light sensor along with a single-color notification LED. There’s even a front-facing 2MP camera.
The display on Lava Iris X1 is pretty mixed, much like the phone itself. It comes with a 4.5-inch FWVGA IPS display with 480×854 pixels resolution. That falls slightly short of the standards set by the Moto E (qHD screen). Sadly, it doesn’t come with the Corning Gorilla Glass or any other protective coating which has become a standard these days.
Also, the viewing angles are quite good, but you can actually see that the display changing colour hues as you change the viewing angles. Thankfully, the capacitive touch buttons are used and hence you get full use of the screen space. The capacitive touchscreen is very responsive which is a great thing to have in a budget smartphone.
The camera on Iris X1 has to the biggest highlight of the handset. The 8MP auto-focus camera uses a BSI sensor inside and comes with dual-LED flash, not something we get to see in phones at this price point. The camera is undoubtedly better than the Moto E which lacks auto-focus and has a horrendous low light performance. Iris X1 on the other hand can take decent low light images and can capture more details in daylight. But that’s just in comparison with Moto E. The images still lack details, misses out on focus in many places and look washed out overall.
It also come with a 2MP front facing camera for all you selfie loving crowd. The rear camera captures 8MP images only in 4:3 mode, while it drops to 6MP when taking in full-screen mode. On the video front, it can capture videos up to 720p (HD), whose performance mimics the what we found in the image department.
Lava Iris X1 is powered by a Broadcom (BCM23550) quad-core chipset, running at 1.2GHz along with 1GB of RAM, half of which is usually found free at most times. The real issue is with the internal storage. The Iris X1 comes with just 4GB of internal storage out of which just around 2GB is available for use out of the box. Although there is a microSD slot to expand the storage, 4GB is woefully low as we found out with Moto E as well. You also need to manually change the default storage as it doesn’t do it automatically.
We could manage to install and run few games like Asphalt 8 on the external storage, but there are still a number of apps and games which won’t let you install directly on the microSD slot. Talking about Asphalt 8, the gaming performance was just OK. Although Asphalt 8 did not work in high graphics mode, it was quite smooth in medium and low graphics modes. Also, the Iris X1 just 2-point multi-touch, which means gamers would be highly disappointed.
The performance overall was a mixed-bag. Though the screen is responsive, one can notice the lags in few scenarios like opening the camera app or accessing the multi-tasking menu. We might be nitpicking here, but considering it’s running a quad-core processor, this shouldn’t have been the case. But the good part is, lava is sticking to base Android 4.4 in most cases. There are few additions like a File Manager, some changes to the camera app and dual-SIM settings.
Finally, the 1800mAh battery is a bit disappointing. Looking at Lava Iris X1 in isolation we might not have made this comment, but considering it’s competing with the likes of Moto E, the Iris X1 should have had a better battery. We had to struggle to get the battery last a day with medium usage. Considering that the battery just needs to peer a FWVGA screen and has a near-stock OS running inside, this is bit weird and we can only point fingers at the Broadcom processor inside.
There are a lot of good things going for the Lava Iris X1 – great looks and decent build quality, above-average 8MP camera, and a near-stock latest Android KitKat OS. All these make it look like a great package at Rs.7999, but for a below-par display, slightly laggy performance and a not-so-good battery life. Both Moto E and Micromax Canvas Unite 2 would score above the Iris X1 in our overall assessment, but if you care more about looks and/or the camera, then this phone is worth prioritising over others.