Karbonn A21 Review

Dual core processors and large displays have almost become a standard offering in mobile phones these days. Karbonn clearly wants to join the league of extra-ordinary smart mobiles and hence the introduction of Karbonn A21. This is a mid-range mobile with hi-end specifications riding on its back. Karbonn A21 is a sub 10k mobile promising to live up to the likes of the high priced mobiles.

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Karbonn A21 Key Specs:

  • 1.2GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich without any custom UI
  • 4.5 inch multi touch capacitive screen
  • 5Mp primary camera with LED flash and 1.3 Mp secondary camera
  • 4 GB internal memory, expandable upto 32 GB
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1800 mAh battery
  • SAR Rating 0.437 Watt/Kg 

All these mentioned, how does the mobile live up to its specifications? Let us dive in and review the mobile in detail.

Look and Feel:

I was surprised by the build quality when I opened the pack. It felt solid. Though the body is made of plastic, the quality of material used is rich. The top holds the power/lock button along with the 35mm audio jack port. The right has the volume rocker. There is no dedicated camera button. The left has the micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The back of the mobile is covered by a matte finished plastic cover. The cover fits perfectly. There is the rear facing 5MP camera with LED flash and speaker grills at the back. Guess this is pretty standard in Android mobiles these days. The display is 4.5 inch diagonally and has the front facing camera and proximity sensors at the top. It supports a resolution of 540×960 with refresh rate of 60Hz. The display quality is very good. Daylight visibility is decent but it does not perform much at varied viewing angles. The touch is super smooth, sensitive and responsive like any high-end devices. Overall the A21 scores full marks on build quality. 

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User Experience:

The device is powered by Android 4.0.4 stock ROM. Karbonn hasn’t put any custom skin on top of it. So users on the Karbonn A21 will get the raw Android experience. But Karbonn has really done its best to enhance the raw Android user experience with their hardware. There is one small bit that annoys me though. The options in multi-SIM settings are quite confusing. It doesn’t tell you if you are closing a SIM and what will happen if you close a SIM. The toggles are not very intuitive and it takes a long time to toggle from one state to the other. But the dual SIM experience is quite intuitive for both messaging and calling. The call logs have options to filter the logs by SIM1 or SIM2. Similar option is not available in the messages. There is no way one can identify if an SMS has come to SIM1 or SIM 2. While scrolling through the contacts, the scroll bar is right over the check box near the contacts. When you intend to click on the check box, you actually click on the scroll bar and the list scrolls. You will have to wait for the scroll bar to vanish, before your click near it. These are some of the user experience issues in the stock Android ROM. Karbonn could have solved all and more, by customizing the ROM. The device come bundled with a few applications to help start. Overall the A21 could have done better to enhance the Android user experience. 

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A21 has accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light level sensor. The default Android browser works great with the Karbonn A21. Browsing is smooth and the web pages load fast. It supports pinch to zoom and also flows the text according to the zoom. Connectivity is also pretty standard Android functionality. It has Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, and Wi-Fi. SIM1 supports 3G connectivity. 

Karbonn A21 has standard FM Radio and Music player application as any Android device. It is compatible with a variety of music formats and video formats. However the earphones supplied with the mobile is not upto the standard. The mobile’s inbuilt speaker is weak. Video playback of large files could be a proble sometimes. Video player force closes at such instances.

Performance:

Powered by ARM 1.2 GHz dual core processor, the device performance is pretty snappy. But on prolonged usages, it develops sluggishness mainly due to the less RAM. It has an inbuilt memory of 4 GB and expandable upto 32 GB.

Here are the Benchmark scores:
AnTuTu Score: 6720 Ranking 377721
The Scores are better than LG Optimus 2X and Samsung Galaxy S
Quadrant Standard Score 2447
The benchmark test crashed a couple of times before running completely.
The scores are better than Nexus S and HTC Desire HD. 

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This is not the fastest dual core beast out there, but it defenitely gives a stiff competition to other dual core big wigs.

Camera:

The 5MP camera is quick and snappy. Autofoucs is quite fast. The results are also suprisingly pretty decent for a mid range mobile. The image contrast is very good, but the sharpness algorithm is a bit too harsh on the edges. The camera interface is standard Android, still I feel that it is straightforward interaction and the menus / options are easily accessible. The primary camera is assisted by LED flash, which is not very powerful. Video recording is also fairly decent. Check out the sample images. I know it is not fair to compare A21 camera with HTC One X. But still to give you a perspective, I have shown shots from both these mobiles side by side.

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Battery:

The standard Lithium ion battery is rated 1800 mAh. It promises a talk time of 5 hours and a standby of upto 200 hours on the sheet. But on regular usage, the charge stays for a day. I had 3G on always, occasianal Wi-Fi, a few calls and a few SMS. I didn’t play any games. But still the charge went from 90 to 15% in 15 hours. 

Pros:

Build quality
Fantastic display. Very bright and clear. Clear daylight visibility.
Responsive touch interface
Decent camera performance.
Dual core processor 
Ice cream sandwich out of the box
Value for Money price range

Cons:

Viewing angles are not good
Poor Battery performance
Mediocre sound 
512 MB ram is insufficient
Mediocre network performance
Does not support 3G video calling
Sub-standard charger and headphones

But the pros outweigh the cons because of the pricing factor and the targeted market segment will not care much about the cons mentioned here.

Conclusion:

What Karbonn has pulled off here is impressive. This mobile is right on bang for the money spent. I guess it is retailing for Rs 9000. For that price you get a decent performance, amazing build quality, excellent screen, decent camera and the user experience of Android 4.0 ICS.