Cherry Mobile M1 Review – Contested Territory

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Local tech giant Cherry Mobile has already conquered the budget-segment in the country – a fact concretely established all thanks to the masses going for their products instead of the offerings that come in with lofty price tags. Where international smartphone manufacturers stood, Cherry Mobile was quick to serve up a dish that’s well worth one’s money. It has always been the case since the first Flare came out, and even more line-ups down the line over the years.

However, in the midrange-to-high-end market, the competition is quite stiff. There’s the premium that needs to be justified, making it a make-or-break situation for companies that want to enter the game. This is where Cherry Mobile wants to thrive in with the M1 – the first deca-core CPU device in the Philippines that’s complete with impressive features by the numbers.

Display: 5.5 Inch FHD IPS 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ Dragontrail glass protection
CPU: 2.3 GHz 64 Bit Helio X20 deca core processor
GPU: Mali T880
ROM: 32 GB
Primary Camera: 21 MP IMX230 w/ PDAF, BSI, 4K video recording and LED flash
Secondary Camera: 8 MP w/ LED flash
Battery: 3,600 mAh w/ fast charging support
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, OTG, GPS, A GPS, Beidou dual SIM (nano)
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, light, g, gyroscope
Others: USB Type C, Fingerprint sensor, Smart PA HiFi
Weight: 170 g
Price: Php11,990

You can really tell Cherry Mobile is going to great lengths in presenting the M1. From the onset, the smartphone is presented in a classy black box that’s unlike most of the company’s offerings. But while it does have its merits in presentation, it somehow lacks some “premium” inclusions that could have come in handy, unless Cherry Mobile does bundle it with some of its accessories such as a power bank or a quick charger, that is. For now, it’s just the essentials such as the USB-C cable, a 2.0A wall charger, headphones, and paperwork.

The design approach of the M1 is quite the minimalist as well. If you went with the black variant, the speaker down south and the earpiece up top blend in nicely with the color. There’s also an LED flash at the front to help you take selfies on dimly lit rooms.

Its sides are plastic that are finished with a metallic coating to give it a boost in aesthetics – it doesn’t look tacky, but it somehow lacks the premium punch. Situated at the back are the primary camera with a dual-tone flash, and below are the fingerprint sensor and the cherry mobile logo.

Those who are looking for a microSD card would probably look elsewhere if they’re thinking of going with the M1 due to the absence of one. But on the contrary, its 32GB (25GB useable) of internal storage is more than enough to provide enough room for your playlist, games, and movies. It’s a matter of personal preference, since, after all, a media library would probably belong in your desktop’s hard drive with the bulk and all.

There’s a 5.5-inch display for your eyes to lust on. It sports a Full HD resolution with Dragon Trail glass protection, but there’s also a layer of screen protector for extended measure. Its IPS panel truly delivers when it comes to sharpness and clarity. However, sunlight legibility needs some improvement as glares can get in the way of your screen time.

On paper, the M1 looks darn impressive even if you take into equation the price point. There’s a Helio X20 64-bit deca-core CPU paired with Mali-T880 GPU, as well as 4GB of RAM and a hefty 32GB internal storage.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow also comes out of the box, and there’s minimal to no tweaking when it comes to the user-interface. The M1 uses on-screen buttons, which you can also hide and pop out on command. There are also a couple of app inclusions, which, most likely, you’ll remove on the get-go, but most of them can’t be uninstalled unfortunately.

Benchmark results are also stellar, scoring some nice numbers in several tests which you can check below:

When it comes to practical application, the M1 is quite a runner. From Need for Speed Most Wanted to Mortal Kombat X, it can easily tear through without breaking a sweat. Add the 4GB RAM into the fold and the experience is nothing short of spectacular.

The 21MP Sony IMX230 primary camera is somewhat of a mixed bag, though. It’s not bad to a certain extent, but it’s misses some points in light balance, and focusing on subjects needs some improvement. Also, noise is present during photoshoots on dimly lit places. On the other hand, the front-facing 8MP camera can live up to its worth. It’s more than enough to fill you in with selfies especially under favorable lighting conditions. Here are some samples:

As far as the battery life is concerned, though. We're a bit displeased with how the M1 drains its juice. The numbers look good - there's 3,600mAh of battery that can power it up. Only, you'd want to take advantage of its hardware, making it quite difficult to last over a day when you're plowing through graphic intensive games or using LTE connection. But then again, your mileage may vary.

We’re one for features and all, and the fingerprint reader counts as glorious for the M1. You can register multiple fingerprints if you would like, and it can read them without you having to take multiple attempts just to make it fire up.  You can even answer calls with it. Or if you prefer, you can also use it as a shutter button, but that’s a bit counterproductive since you’ll prefer using the onscreen buttons. But at least it has that.

The USB-C port is also a boon for those that want to future-proof their devices. Charging it with a 3.0A charger from zilch to full would take less than two hours, around 107 minutes on our tests to be exact. In terms of transfer speed, though, you won’t be able to enjoy the promise of USB-C unless you have a cable that supports the standard on both ends. We’ll see what we can do once we get one.

Turbo Download is also welcomed if you’re downloading large files. The feature uses both your WLAN and cellular data. If you’re in a rush to download something, this can easily give you that boost of speed you need. After all, the M1 has 4G LTE connectivity for blazing fast download speeds. And props if you have Fibr. See your download speeds shoot up.

HotKnot, a feature that allows quick data exchange between phones, is also present. It’s a fun feature that uses a smartphone’s display with the feature, but you won’t be making full use of it unless other handsets have it.

You can also use several Smart Wake gestures for quicker access.  It would take a lot of time getting used to if you prefer launching apps from the app drawer, but once you get the hang of it, things get a whole lot quicker.

Overall, it all boils down to the price. Cherry Mobile has always been a brand for the masses, and the M1 is an offering that’s designed for those who want to move up a notch and rally into something that can deliver something that’s, well, better. There are a lot of things you can’t ignore with the M1 – the Helio X20 is a force to be reckoned with, and several of its features are a boon to anyone looking to get most out of their smartphone investments.

Truth be told, a brand for the masses would mean certain difficulties for a higher investment for a consumer, especially if a handset from said brand shoots past the Php10k mark. However, if you’re looking for a well-rounded investment that could future-proof your mobile computing, the M1 is definitely something that you have to try out for yourself to see the difference and justify its price.

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