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Smart Netphone 701 hands-on review

We first saw the Smart Netphone 701 at this year's MWC (Mobile World Conference) sitting pretty in Barcelona, Spain. It has since made its official Philippine debut, even spawning ads and commercials like the one with the Azkals and the uber-pretty Sam Pinto. Smart has big plans for it which should explain the hype expectations bestowed on the handset. Suffice to say, we wanted to check it out and, after play-testing it, here are our thoughts. Read on…


First things first. The Netphone 701 looks like your average touchscreen handset. That's understandable since devices of this kind look pretty much the same; a slab of metal-plastic frame with a big-ass display sprinkled with a few buttons on its facade. The Netphone 701 is just like that, although that doesn't mean it looks bad. We actually find it pleasing to the eye with its matte finish (which also prevents pesky smudges) and shiny accents on its sides. Not an eye-catcher that would warrant second and third glances but still good looking enough that you won't be afraid to show it off.


We were pleasantly surprised that the Netphone 701's LCD panel has a resolution of 480×800 (270dpi) – the same pixel density you'd find on some top-tier handsets which cost twice or even thrice. This is definitely one of the things we found appealing on the device which bodes well for multimedia and mobile web junkies wanting to view videos, photos and even websites on the go constantly. The only beef we had with the display is that its clarity vastly diminishes when you use the device outdoors. Again, another sickness of most handsets in this range but not really a biggie.


In case you didn't know, the Netphone 701 is actually a rebranded ZTE Blade which means you'll find a 600MHz Qualcomm chip with 512MB RAM tucked within. If we're in the year 2009, that would be considered top-notch. But then again, it's not as if the Netphone is touted as an iPhone-killer by way of specs. Android 2.2 aka FroYo runs the show for this bad boy and no, it won't be upgraded to Gingerbread. Boo-hoo!

Based on our use, the Netphone 701 is not the fastest of devices we've tested so far. Don't get us wrong, it's not sluggish either. Boot-up time lasts about 10 – 15 seconds. However, you'd have to wait another 10 seconds before the touchscreen becomes responsive enough for decent use. Normal operation is fast and snappy. A bit of a problem arises when you have tons of apps in the background together with wireless connectivity. You'd then see a few very slight lags and delays in operation. But that's not really significant unless you're one who likes to open multiple apps and features at any given time and is not fond of using the Task Manager.

As for its multimedia chops, the Netphone 701's camera is a big let down. It's supposed to have autofocus but we always have a hard time getting images that are, um, focused and blur-free. Then there's the fact that it doesn't have flash so you won't be able to get any images that are close to decent in low-light situations. If you're looking for a worthy camphone, better look away. Audio and video playback don't tell the same story. Clips play with nary a hitch and looks really good with the display while the built-in speakers perform well even if you amp up the volume although we wish it could go even louder.

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