Reviews

Intex Cloud X3 Review: Of Highs And Lows

Mihir Patkar
When Intex first launched the Cloud X3, we were a little surprised and eager to test this phone. At Rs. 3,799, this is the cheapest dual-core Android Jelly Bean smartphone in the market today. Of course, specifications are only one part of a phone and what actually matters is how it fares in real-world performance. And with the Cloud X3 posing some highs and some lows, the answer isn't very clear.
What Is It?
Compared to the phablet behemoths that Indian manufacturers are peddling, the Cloud X3 is a tiny, compact device. It's roughly the same size as the iPhone 3GS, albeit a bit thicker. The 3.5-inch screen has a resolution of 480x360 pixels, which displays the vanilla Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system -- above which sits a VGA camera. The rear camera is a 2-megapixel affair, under which is the 1450mAh battery. Under the hood, there's a 1GHz dual-core ARMv7 processor, 256MB RAM and 512MB ROM. There's no 3G connectivity, so internet access is restricted to Wi-Fi and EDGE.



Who's It For?
People on a budget looking to buy perhaps their first smartphone, or someone who wants a secondary Android phone purely for a long battery life.

Design
It's annoying when someone describes a person as "average-looking", but that's exactly what the Intex Cloud X3 is. If you were to ask anyone to chalk out a basic Android smartphone with no major design chops apart from borrowing from existing handsets, what you'd end up with is a caricature of the Cloud X3 -- a fat black slab with cheap plastic and capacitive touch keys.
The good news with that cheap plastic is that it's actually sturdy. When the phone dropped from a table, there wasn't a scratch or dent in it. That said, the low-quality touchscreen -- which we will come to in a bit -- isn't scratch-proof, so you don't really want to stress-test this aspect.
The Cloud X3 fits into the hand perfectly. And after a long time of using large Android phones with screen sizes of 5 inches and above, this one harkened back to an age where the smaller your phone was, the cooler it was. But that only lasts during the initial look and feel part; once you start using it, you wish for a larger screen.



Using It
The screen of the Cloud X3 is bad enough to be a deal-breaker for many people. It has atrocious viewing angles, which make you have to hold it a certain way to get usable images, let alone true colours. It also has low sunlight legibility and the screen is quite a fingerprint magnet. I understand, with budget phones, you have to be willing to make compromises, like the missing 3G. The Cloud X3's screen, however, literally asks you to look the other way.
In daily usage, the phone was a surprisingly decent performer. It smoothly handled the basic tasks you would need from a smartphone: calls, text messages, email, Whatsapp, internet browsing, social networking, a few games and apps. It can't run something like an Asphalt 7 or NOVA smoothly, but the usual suspects like Angry Birds, Temple Run and Cut the Rope ran fine after the long wait for them to load.
Ah yes, the low RAM does cause a bottleneck quickly. If you have a game or a resource-intense app like Google Chrome running in the background, the X3 will take its own sweet time in obeying your commands. It's advisable to close apps when you can -- but that kind of ruins the whole point of Android's multi-tasking system, if you ask me.
Still, the overall Android experience is smooth. The lack of skinning means Jelly Bean can be customized how you like it. But Jelly Bean also does not allow users to directly install apps from the Play Store to their memory card -- a huge problem for a phone with limited internal memory, and the X3's biggest downfall, in my opinion.
But while I'm picking on instances that are wrong with the Intex Cloud X3, the overall experience isn't half bad for that price.



The Best Part
The battery life of the Cloud X3 is stellar. I really didn't expect it to do so well because Android smartphones have a reputation for guzzling up battery life. Perhaps it's the lack of a 3G chip that does the trick for the X3, but it lasted 22 hours of heavy usage, and easily went beyond 2 days without a charge on average usage. It rivals or beats even non-smart phones like the Nokia Asha 501. If you are looking for a second phone that syncs with your primary Android and offers insane battery life, then meet your perfect mate.

Tragic Flaw
As I mentioned earlier, Jelly Bean does not allow you to install apps directly to your SD card, which is a deal-breaker with the Cloud X3. With only 115MB of internal memory available to users, you run out of space almost as soon as you start. Indeed, the preinstalled apps ask for an update soon enough and that fills up the memory. What's the point of Android and a smart OS with a huge marketplace of apps if I can't install what I want? I did discover a workaround, where APKs stored on your memory card can be installed directly to it. But this isn't something beginner Android users, which is presumably the market for this phone, would be comfortable doing. And even if you were comfortable with it, it's an annoying, tedious process.



Test Notes
-The screen's horrible viewing angles are something you will have to learn to live with if you buy this phone. Tilting it in any direction distorts the colours, and making the whole screen appear washed or darkened. Don't expect to get good use out of it during the local commute.
-There's a weird issue with the stock keyboard. The bottom-right of the keyboard doesn't register your touches properly, so 'Backspace' will appear as 'M', and 'M' as 'N'. But if you change the stock keyboard to any of the other solutions in the Play Store, such as Swype or Swiftkey, it works perfectly.
-The camera is as bad as any other in this range, which means that shots taken in direct sunlight are usable and anything else isn't. Thankfully, it runs on Android so you can use filter apps like Instagram or Pixlr Express to touch them up.
-The call quality was good, with both us and the person on the other end being able to hear each other clearly. The antenna also manages to pick up networks well.
-The usual functionality of Android works well, which makes it a handy second phone if you are already on Android, since it will sync up your personal details and apps.

Should I Buy It?
Much like all the other Android phones I have seen in the sub-5K price range, the Cloud X3 suffers from two terrible issues: a bad screen and low internal memory.
If you are a first-time Android user or someone who isn't comfortable with tinkering around with the operating system, the Cloud X3 isn't a wise purchase. It has too many limitations and will sour your smartphone experience.
Intex's handset works best if you are looking for a second phone to complement your primary device and give you extra battery life. In fact, the Cloud X3 a decent phone if you're looking for a very low-budget device with Google contact sync, Gmail, Whatsapp and other basic smart tasks, along with a huge battery life. But again, remember that screen and apps are a problem.

Intex Cloud X3 Specs:
OS: Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean
SIM: Dual-SIM (GSM+GSM)
CPU: 1GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6572
Screen: 3.5-inch TFT touchscreen (480x360 pixels)
RAM: 256MB
Storage: 512MB internal (115MB user available), up to 32GB microSD
Camera: 2MP rear / VGA front
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, EDGE, Bluetooth
Battery: 1450mAh Li-Po
Price: Rs. 3,790

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