|Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe Review: Elegantly Sumptuous|
Microsoft wants to strengthen the reach of their Windows Phone operating system worldwide and in the country, they made a pact to the most valuable local mobile brand - Cherry Mobile.
In the glamorous event held last month, we witnessed the unveiling of the Cherry Mobile Alpha series, wherein a total of four devices was unleashed, two of which are WP 8.1 devices and the other two are full-pledged Windows 8.1 tablets.
For the WP 8.1 smartphones, they have the Alpha Style and the more sophisticated Alpha Luxe, which is the center of this review/WP 8.1 tutorial.
Related: Cherry Mobile Alpha Play Hands-on, Affordable 8-inch Windows 8.1 Tablet
The retail package contains the Alpha Luxe unit, the battery, charger with detachable USB cable, wired headset and user manual. By the way, the unit has a pre-installed screen protector, however, you can simply remove it anytime you want since the Luxe has a scratch-resistant glass.
The front has fully-laminated glass wherein the touchscreen is placed in the center. Below the display you have the back, home and search capacitive keys while the earpiece grill, secondary camera and hidden sensors are located above the screen.
It has a 5-inch IPS touchscreen display with HD resolution and a DragonTrail scratch-resistant glass on top. The viewing angles are excellent and sunlight legibility is great.
The back has a glossy-glass-like finish, all edges are chamfered. Meanwhile, the main camera that is positioned on the upper portion is slightly protruded, making it the first contact point when you rest the phone in its back. The camera is accompanied by a single LED flash. The cherry mobile logo is placed directly above the loudspeaker grill while the Windows Phone logo is located in the center.
|Back without cover|
You can easily remove the back cover by pricking the slit on the lower right corner. Once removed, you will find the two regular SIM card slots and the micro SD slot, none of which is hot-swappable since the 2000mAh battery is blocking the way.
The volume rocker can be found at the left side while the power button is placed on the right side.
The bottom part has nothing in it while the top holds both the 3.5mm audio jack and the micro USB port.
The Alpha Luxe design is simple yet elegant looking, the beveled corners and tapered edges plus the metallic-silver lining that runs across all sides gives it a more striking appearance. Holding it does not feel cheap either, buttons are tactile and everything else is well-built.
The Luxe scored more than 10K points in Antutu, in comparison, this is higher than the dual core Nokia Lumia 720, but about 2K less than the quad core Lumia 630. You will also notice that the resolution shown in the information sheet is only 480x800, wherein the actual resolution is 1280x720.
In BaseMark II, it scored 394 points, again higher than the Lumia 720, but lower than Lumia 630.
To give a quick recap, the Alpha Luxe sportd a 5-inch HD display powered by quad core Qualcomm MSM8212 processor clocked at 1.2GHz each coupled with 1GB of RAM. According to Qualcomm, it has Adreno 302 GPU, but according to Cherry Mobile, it has Adreno 305 GPU. In addition, they insist that they cannot use marketing materials stating Adreno 305 without any consent from Qualcomm.
The Alpha Luxe runs on Windows Phone 8.1 OS and we all know that Microsoft allows very little to no customization at all. So if you have been using WP devices in the past, the interface and navigation on this phone is pretty much similar.
Upon first boot, it will guide you to a series of comprehensive phone set-up, from language up to restoring your old settings from a different device.
The lockscreen can contain several notifications and a detailed one. The background can be set to use a picture/photo or information from an app like MSN Weather. To unlock, just swipe from the bottom upward. To lock, just press the power/lock button and to turn off the device, press&hold the same button and then slide down the lockscreen.
|Start Screen, Action Center and Suspended Apps|
Passed the lockscreen, you will see the familiar resizable live tiles, you can have up to six rows of small tiles. There is also an option to change the background theme to light or dark, change the accent color plus an option to use your preferred photo.
The Action Center or commonly known as notification area can be accessed by pulling the top-edge of the screen, similar to what we do with Android. It shows all kinds of notifications, you can opt to choose which notification from which application to be displayed by going to settings then select notification. It also shows the battery percentage and date in the upper right hand corner.
In addition, there is also quick toggle settings (five by default) for WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Screen Orientation and Brightness. They are also highly customizable and can be changed depending on your needs.
If you are in any application then you hit the Windows/Home button, that specific application will be suspended in the background. To access them again, you need to press and hold the back button and select the application you want to resume. Please be noted that there are other applications such as Cortana that will continue to run behind the scene.
The above two screenshots are the pre-installed application in the Alpha Luxe, some of them can be removed, some are not. To uninstall, just press and hold the specific app, then choose uninstall.
The dial pad has no smart dialing of any kind, just plain numbers. If you do not memorize the number of the person you want to call, the only thing you can do is to look on your phonebook. Luckily, it has speed dialing that you can use for those people you call often.
|Incoming Call and Link Tiles|
If you have incoming call, you need to slide up the screen first in order to access the call menu. You can answer the call, ignore or cancel with a message. Overall, the call quality is good, both ends can hear each other loud and clear.
The Alpah Luxe is a dual SIM Windows Phone device, by default, each SIM has their own tile. But, if you want to merge their information in just one tile, you can use the link tiles option.
By the way, even if you link tiles, the settings of each SIM card are still independent from each other.
Call history is the place where you can check all types of calls happened in and out of your phone. Selecting the name/number will automatically call it while selecting the icon across it will bring up its phonebook profile and the history made on that specific contact/number.
The People Hub is more than just your average phonebook, aside from the usual contact information list, it also has "What's New" page, which displays the latest and newest update on your social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook.
|Accounts and People Apps|
|Account Settings and New Contact|
You can add accounts from Google, iCloud and more plus People Apps such as Facebook. Likewise, adding a new contact will ask you in which account you want it to be saved.
|Rooms and Groups|
Room is basically a private chat room wherein each member can exchange messages, photos, calendar and notes. The group on the other hand is a collection of contacts that have common factors.
Messages are displayed based on the latest time of arrival and if you have a long list, you can always use the search option. You can delete the thread one by one or all at the same time by using the select option. There is also a "mute" option, which silence any notification for a specific contact.
|Conversation, New Message and Link Tiles|
In a specific conversation, your message appears on the right while the one from the recipient is on the left. In a new message, the recipient bar accepts name or numbers as input. You can also attach pictures, video, location, voice note and contact in the message. When you are ready to send a message, it will NOT ask you which SIM to be used to transmit it, instead, you need to manually select SIM 1 or SIM 2.
Like the telephony, messaging also offers linking tiles, if enabled, messages from both SIM cards will be grouped as one.
Under the settings, you have the option to backup all your messages as well as retrieve those messages from last month, last year or all.
The Outlook is the native email client for the Alpha Luxe, emails are displayed according to the latest time stamped. You can view all the emails or filter them based on unread, flagged or urgent messages.
The new email interface is very simple, just the usual recipient and subject lines. The signature is enabled by default, but you can turn it off or change the phrase by going to settings. One limitation of the client is that you can only attach photos to your email.
Navigating through emails can be done by accessing folders or using the search functions. It also supports batch operation such as mark as read, mark as unread, etc.
The 'photos' app is the equivalent of Android's gallery, it houses all types of photos on your device plus the videos captured by the phone. Viewing options are all, albums and favorites. There is also a basic editing tool that you can use, in a specific photo, just select edit and it will give you the options - rotate, crop and fix.
Selecting the video app will bring up the xbox video interface which you can browse by TV store, Movie store, Spotlight and lastly your own collection of personal videos.
The native video player is very simple and easy to use, you have time scroll and underneath it are the pause, information, aspect ratio and settings button. It supports subtitle by default, I used .srt file and it worked just fine. Sadly, it has a very limited video codec support and can only play .3gp and .mp4. In terms of performance, playing 1080p and 720p videos lags and stutter a lot, but any resolution lower than that is generally smooth.
Like the video, the music app is basically an xbox music in disguise, you can browse your audio collections by artists, albums, songs, genres and playlists plus you can save the channel of your favorite radio stations. You can also scan the available songs on xbox store with an option to listen to a specific song for a few seconds before buying it.
The song will continue to play even if you exit the music interface or lock your phone, once you do, you can still get a quick access to music by pressing the volume button. It also supports album art and if your song does not have it, it will automatically download one from the internet.
The FM radio requires a wired headset to work, however, please take note that the 3.5mm audio jack is not CTIA compliant. You can play the broadcast through the headset or via loudspeaker. Meanwhile, the channels can be searched manually or automatically plus an option to add them to your favorites for easier access.
Podcast is also supported, whether it is audio or video, you can access them by either streaming or downloading it on your device.
|Camera and Video|
The camera and video interface is intuitive and easy to use, to switch back and forth, just press their corresponding icon on the lower part of the screen and to capture a video or photo, just press it once more. The Microsoft camera does not offer any sort of shooting mode and other means of triggering the shutter. It can capture up to 8MP of still image and a little low 864x480 resolution for video.
|Night without Flash|
|Night with Flash|
|Night without Flash|
|Night with Flash|
The Alpha Luxe 8MP main camera produces excellent photos with great image details and almost realistic colors. One, issue though is when the flash is triggered, the resulting output is generally bluish.
The default browser is Internet Explorer, it is quite excellent in terms of rendering web pages and scrolling through the page is also smooth. It supports unlimited tab, inprivate browsing and embedded video playback, plus it is capable of synching tabs, bookmarks and passwords across multiple devices. There is also a 'reading mode' which you can access by pressing the book icon on the address bar once the website us fully loaded.
The game app displays your xbox games profile, including your achievement, scores and more. Pressing the game store will bring up the game section of the Store, which you can browse by genres, top free, etc. It also allows you to install trial version of paid games, so that you can test them first before any purchase is made.
Temple Run 2
Gaming is relatively smooth and no issue at all, I installed Asphalt 8, Asphalt Overdrive, Spider-Man Unlimited, Temple Run 2 and Despicable Me, all of them are functioning well.
The storage sense can be accessed through system settings, here you can choose which storage to use in saving a specific item, luckily it allows saving games in the SD card.
The Alpha Luxe supports dual SIM with dual standby and dual 3G, it allows you to select which SIM to be used for data connection. You can then share this high speed data through internet sharing or commonly known as WiFi hotspot.
The data sense tracks your data usage, it displays how much data you consumed on a cellular or WiFi network including a detailed breakdown of usage per application. You can set the data limit and an option to restrict apps to use data behind the scene.
The WiFi connectivity is great, there is no drop connection or sudden loss of signal while in use. There is also a so-called WiFi Sense that notifies you about free WiFi network and automatically connects you to known WiFi networks.
To enable file sharing over Bluetooth, you need to turn the Bluetooth on the Alpha Luxe first (so that the option share over Bluetooth will appear from the list) and as much as possible pair it first to the other device so that sending photos or files will be much easier. Connecting it to accessories such as Bluetooth headset works just fine.
There is also a support for VPN network.
There is no OTG support, well as far as I know Windows Phone does not really support it. To enable USB mass storage mode on the WIndows XP computer, you need to install the necessary driver first. For Windows 8.1 PC, it is automatically enabled.
|Project My Screen|
It also supports screen mirroring, but only through a wired connection with the use of a compatible USB dongle.
As a Windows device, the Luxe enjoy excellent productivity apps in the name of Microsoft Office and Quick Notes. The former can handle almost any kind of Word, Excel and PowerPoint files both for viewing and editing functions while the latter is an extensive note taking app.
There is no system-wide file explorer by default, but you can download 'files' in the Store to perform similar function for free.
One Drive is the cloud storage solution of Microsoft, in the Alpha Luxe, an app is installed by default to manage your files plus an option to automatically backup your photo and videos.
Other organizing tools include Alarm, Calculator and Calendar.
The Luxe has GPS with A-GPS and it works well in the Maps application in terms of location accuracy and navigation. You can view the map in normal mode or areal view plus you can opt to show the traffic and display your favorite nearby places.
The Alpha Luxe can last for more than one day in a single charge under normal usage. In terms of video playback, it lasted for more than 5 hours before the 10% battery warning popped out. Meanwhile, playing HD games continuously will last for more than 3 hours.
|Food and Drink|
|Health and Fitness|
The pre-installed MSN applications are Food & Drink, Travel, Health & Fitness, Weather, News, Sports and Money.
It allows you to backup your phone settings, including layout & password, application data, messages as well as photos & videos.
In driving mode, you can configure whether you accept/ignore calls and texts while driving. You can also opt to automatically choose driving mode once a Bluetooth device is connected.
Find My Phone:
|Find My Phone|
As the name implies, find my phone helps you to locate your lost phone and the ability to lock it and erase its data.
In Kid's Corner, you can restrict the access of your child to a specific applications, games, music and videos. You can also include password to ensure he/she will not be able to pass behind the allowable access.
Sync My Settings:
|Sync My Settings|
It allows you to sync your theme, application settings, Internet Explorer and password across multiple Microsoft devices.
The wallet allows you to store important information such as pin code, deal, tickets, password, etc. Just make sure you will not forget the password you created for the wallet itself.
If you have corporate email accounts and applications, you can use the WorkPlace to do so.
The Cortana debuts on Windows Phone 8.1, your virtual assistant at your command and works well in terms of voice recognition. However, it is not available by default in the Alpha Luxe. To enable it change your region and language to US and English respectively, restart once prompted. After that press the capacitive search button and look for Cortana settings, enable it and work through the wizard then you are good to go.
The Alpha series is the first dipped of Cherry Mobile into the world of Windows. Honestly speaking, they did a good job with the Alpha Luxe. It has the right balance of specs, price and performance. Navigating through the interface is relatively fast and smooth, the still camera is superb and gaming is above average plus all the goodies of the Microsoft applications such as Office, One Drive and Quick Notes.
However, there are things that are less stellar when compared to Android counterparts, the video recording max out at 864x480 and the video player has limited codec support not to mention WP 8.1 limitations like lack of system-wide file manager and no USB OTG function.
Nonetheless, a Windows Phone user will be highly delighted with the Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe due to its above average overall performance and relatively affordable price tag.
5-inch HD IPS display
Quad core processor
1GB of RAM
8GB of ROM
Superb still camera
Video recording is only 864x480
Limited video codec support
- Dual SIM dual standby
- Dual band 2G/3G
- 5-inch capacitive IPS HD (1280x720) touchscreen display, DragonTrail Glass protection
- Windows Phone 8.1 OS
- 1.2GHz Quad Core Cortex-A7 CPU, Adreno 302 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 MSM8212 chipset
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB internal storage, expandable up to 32GB
- 8MP auto focus main camera with LED flash,
- 2MP secondary camera
- Multimedia player
- FM Radio
- 3.5mm audio jack
- GPS with A-GPS
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Micro USB 2.0
- Bluetooth v4.0
- Sensors: accelerometer, light, proximity
- 2000mAh battery
- Price: Php4,999