It cannot denied that Cherry Mobile has greatly compelled budget-conscious consumers since the first time they offered us affordable Android smartphones even up until now. Yet another smartphone that combines pretty impressive specs and an insanely cheap price has been launched just a couple of weeks ago. The phone that we’re talking about here is the new Cherry Mobile Thunder.

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The 4.5-inch Cherry Mobile Thunder, priced at Php4,999 only, is unquestionably one of the most affordable dual-core Android phones in the market right now and we cannot wait to share our one-week experience with this phone. But before we proceed to our review, let’s first quickly go over through its spec sheet:

Cherry Mobile Thunder specs:

  • 4.5-inch FWVGA capacitive display (480 x 854 pixels)
  • Dual-SIM, Dual-Standby
  • 1.0GHz dual-core processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage
  • microSD up to 32GB
  • 3G/HSDPA
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1; GPS
  • 5-megapixel rear camera (no flash)
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • 1,700mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich

Unboxing

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What we have inside the box, aside from the unit itself, are the: microUSB cable for charging and data transfer, earphones, and user manual.

HARDWARE & DESIGN

When I first held and inspected the new Cherry Mobile Thunder, I was immediately impressed by its build and construction. We’ve seen a slew of Cherry Mobile phones already and we can say that this device is by far the most elegant looking among all of them. Its glossy build looks classy. The disadvantage, however, is that its body is very prone or vulnerable to finger prints or thumb marks. That really turned us off.

Anyway, we also found the Thunder to be one of the most solid phones of its class (budget smartphones category). As of this writing, we haven’t noticed any creaking nor soft spots here.

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In terms of inputs, there are three capacitive buttons up front: menu (looks like a multitasking button though), home and back.

The volume controls can be found on the top left hand side, with the power button across from it on the top right, while the microUSB port and audio jack are on top, and the mic is below.

Display

One of the major disappointments of cheap smartphones is poor screen display. But it seems like the Thunder is an exception to this. The Cherry Mobile Thunder, which has an FWVGA resolution with 218ppi pixel density, surprisingly delivers clear and bright colors. We really liked the great combination of this handset’s screen size and display quality — perfect for watching movies, gaming and web browsing.

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Although the “great” display is the main selling point of the Thunder (according to a staff from Cherry Mobile), this device still delivers discolorations when viewed on different angles. Even when you tilt a little, it becomes a bit darker.

Camera

What we just don’t understand here is all the fluff they’ve put into the Thunder’s camera. I mean yes, some may find it pretty cool but everything about it seems to be just a gimmick. It inevitably misleads us for having a large sensor, when in fact it doesn’t really do anything. And no, the Thunder doesn’t come with an LED flash.

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During daylight or in good lighting, the 5-megapixel shooter takes a fairly decent pictures. It has passable sharpness and color reproduction. However, if you’re in a dim or modestly lit area, it completely tells a different story. Everything it captures looks muddy and very noisy. Also, another important thing to take note is, if you really want to take good photos, you have to keep your hand/s and subject/s still.

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As for the video recording, it’s much worse than we expected. In our sample video below, you can find a little pixelation even in a normal mode, and zooming in/out wasn’t smooth. In case you wonder, the video was taken at exactly 5:30 in the afternoon. Just like taking pictures, video recording gets better in direct sunlight or a well lit setting.

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And no, unfortunately, the Thunder CANNOT take 720p videos.

We also found out that, unlike the other Cherry Mobile devices, there’s no option to get rid of the camera sound. You have to either root your phone or install a “silent camera” app to achieve no sound while taking pictures.

The Thunder is also equipped with a VGA front-facing camera. However, we did not find it ideal for video calling and should be just used sparingly.

Performance

The three capacitive buttons are not a bit responsive. I mean, they’re responsive but they usually take a second or so to execute. On the other hand, the screen is responsive although there are noticeable lags between slides.

Watch our hands-on video below to find out how the Thunder performs:

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If you watched the vid, you’d notice the lag when we hit the Home button after playing Temple Run 2 — probably slightly because of the live wallpaper and the third-party clock widget we used. But other than that, the Thunder performs pretty well but it might not be enough for impatient users.

Here are the results of how the Thunder performed on AnTuTu (left), Quadrant (right) and NenaMark (bottom) benchmarks:

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The Thunder scored 6644 on AnTuTu (placing after the Galaxy Nexus), 2807 on Quadrant (performed better than the Galaxy Nexus and Optimus 2X), and 26.5 on NenaMark (placed after the Optimus 2X).

The numbers above may not exactly tell us how this device really performs but at least they give us an idea how it will perform. And it seems like these numbers are saying that the processor(s) used does really well. Not bad at all!

In any case you want to know, the Thunder uses a MediaTek MTK6577 chipset.

Battery Life

The Cherry Mobile Thunder comes with a 1,700mAh battery, somehow a decent improvement over the usual 1,500mAh batteries available in other brands. We’ve been using this device for over a week now and we can say its battery is pretty good.

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The Thunder can last up to a day (or even more) with moderate usage. But with heavy usage (web browsing and a lot of music, movies and games), the battery drains like crazy — you’d probably get just 4-8 hours. So better bring your charger with you!

Verdict

Considering everything it can do (and cannot do) and its amazingly cheap retail price of Php4,999, the dual-SIM dual-Standby Cherry Mobile Thunder is definitely a STEAL!

What we liked:

  • Clear and bright screen display
  • Great, solid construction and build
  • Longer battery life (than usual)

What we did not like:

  • Prone to fingerprints/thumb marks
  • Poor viewing angles
  • Poor camera quality
  • No LED flash

cherry-mobile-thunder-verdict

The Cherry Mobile Thunder has been available on Lazada since the past few weeks but we noticed that some Cherry Mobile kiosks and other gadget stores are also selling this at the same price.

Rating: 7 / 10

In case you’ve overlooked it, you can watch our hands-on video here:

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TIP: IF you still do not know which to buy between this, the Flare/Burst and the Titan TV, well, here’s the only thing we can say: go for the Flare if your budget is just limited and if large screens are not your thing; go for the Thunder if you’re willing to shell out 1,000 pesos and want to have the best display, and; go for the Titan TV if you can afford it for Php6,999 and prefer large/massive screens (plus TV). The Titan TV has better RAM too!

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Ram Mancelita is the founding Editor of TechBuzz. He has been recently awarded as the 2013 Technology Blogger of the Year and the 2012 Best Cebu Technology Blogger by the Cebu Bloggers Society and Best Cebu Blogs Awards, respectively. Get to know him better by visiting his personal blog at Mancelita.com or following him on Twitter at @mancelitaRam.