Flash Plus 2 In Depth Review – Another Plus in the Book?
- Budget Friendly
- Good Value for Money
- 5.5-inch display
- Full HD Resolution
- Storage with microSD support
- Good battery life
- Smooth Vanilla(stock) Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Good Build
- Fast Charge
- 3GB RAM *optional*
- Swapable aluminium back cover
- Full HD 60fps video recording
- Smaller battery than predecessor
- uncomfortable to hold (sharp angled edges)
- non-removeable battery
- very generic candy bar look
- Camera no OIS
- No Gorilla Glass
The Flash Plus 2 is the replacement for the Alcatel Flash Plus. Losing the Alcatel name makes the Plus 2 the flagship of the Flash brand. With price starting at just below MYR500 up to MYR749, it is hard to ignore this device with its solid build quality. It even features a stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow with minimal bloatware.Although only packing 3,000mAh of battery the device can easily last you a day at least. It may not be a very good looking device front the front but it does feature a fingerprint sensor and fast charging; features you hardly find in devices in the price range. It even shoots Full HD videos at 60fps, making it even more compelling. Its online exclusive sales channel may keep certain segments from reaching it. But it does target the younger more online community. With its sort of price point, it is harder to find any device that is better or at least as well equipped as this one.
What happens when you decide to spin a sub-brand into its own brand? You get new phones of course. Except, in the case of Alcatel’s Flash you do not.
The Flash, which used to be a sub-brand of Alcatel for the discerning online market has been spun-off as its own brand in the beginning of the year. A while later, a new smartphone emerged from that spin-off. Except that it is not really new, it is more like a successor to their original online market focused Alcatel Flash Plus – the Flash Plus 2; no more Alcatel attached with the name.
The Flash brand, as we were told is going to be an exclusively online brand. Meaning that it will only exist in the online marketplace. More specifically, it is exclusively being sold by Lazada here. It also aims to be one of the most affordable smartphones money can buy locally. With retail prices for the Flash Plus 2 starting from MYR599, it is actually hard to find more compelling devices.
That is what the Flash Plus 2 is though; an entry-level mid-range smartphone that is supposed to appeal to the masses. With replaceable aluminium backing this is supposed to be a more premium replacement to the original Alcatel Flash Plus. Of course, starting at MYR 599 this device puts plenty of phones at its crosshairs. Is it appealing enough to pull the numbers in though? Let’s find out.
Phone designs are pretty much all the same these days; all screen, plus a home button flanked with haptic feedback touch buttons or just a row of haptic feedback touch buttons. At least with the front side of smartphones these days anyway; save for the Apple iPhone with its single home button up front. The Flash Plus 2 is basically that, an all black glass front that houses the 5.5-inch screen, and the 5-megapixel front-facing camera, and the obligatory home button cum fingerprint sensor flanked by the two haptic feedback ‘back’ and ‘recent apps’ button of Android.
The story does not end there though. The differentiator is the back of the device. The original Alcatel Flash Plus used a plastic backing. The plastic used was not some cheap thin plastic mind you. It actually felt reasonably high quality. It covered a removable 3,500 mAh battery as well so it was obviously removable. The aluminium back of the Flash Plus 2 is still a removable piece that can be replaced. There are two colours offered with the device as well so you can swap the colours depending on your mood and taste. However opening up the back cover does not allow you to change the batteries anymore. You can only swap your SIM card or MicroSD card from there.
Herein lies the problem; it does not look very appealing actually. Do not get me wrong though, the aluminium housing is a huge welcome. The swappable aluminium housing is also made with high-quality sturdy aluminium so it does not bend easily and is less likely to break in case of any impact. In fact you can just change the housing once you get bored with it, or there are already dents and scuff on it. The brushed aluminium look, by itself also does not look too bad if I am being honest. But the whole package does not appeal to me (you may not agree).
The angles on the device are sharp all around. The silhouette of the device is boxy. The edges of the device are sharp, not tapered. The thing is, we know that the device is designed to look as premium as possible. It was meant to look slightly futuristic. In my honest opinion though The device actually look a little old school. The sharp edges give a sense of unpolishedness, pretty much a statement that they are not there yet, but getting there with the aluminium back.
Put it side by side with, lets say a Samsung of the same price range though and there is a stark difference. The screen screams at you with its larger-than-life size. Though bezels could be slimmer making the device more streamlined, it is not so bad that it looks cheap. The aluminium back suddenly makes sense. The finish is not half bad either. In fact it is well put together. The only complain that they might get then is that it is a little unwieldy in the hands.
I have what is considered a small hand by average. So holding a 5.5-incher is not an easy task especially when the edges are sharp. It was a small ordeal using the phone one-handed. It was far from comfortable when your palm only feels the edge of the aluminium back. With so little surface area touching the palm too, it was slippery. Using it with both hands does not help by much as well.
The market in this price range though may not care about looks as much as we think. In fact, to some, it is what the device packs that matters. The looks gives away only what is on the surface.
The hardware packed in this large-sized device is nothing to shout about. For some critics it may be too plain to look at as well. It is not as bad as it sounds though. Though the System on a Chip (SoC) choice is questionable. The platform have been in the market long enough for a polished result. The display, though not the best is quite impressive as well. Also, it packs fast-charging. Not many devices in this price range will boast that sort of technology in their devices. Even the offered RAM and storage options are more than what you expect from devices in the same price range.
|Processor||Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10 (8 Cores)
Quad-core 1.8 GHz + Quad-core 1.0 GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 256 GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||
5.5-inch (~401 ppi)
Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) Vanilla|
|Battery||3,000mAh (With Fast Charging)|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, dual-band
Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, LE
FM Radio (with headphones)
Video recording at 1080p (60fps)
The Flash Plus 2 runs on the Vanilla version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. So really, there is not much to say except that Android as itself is quite brilliant. The material design looks polished and clean. It is a far cry compared to Androids of old.
I could still recall my first Android device, the Samsung Galaxy S (first ever gen.). I thought the 4-inches 480 x 800 Super AMOLED display was brilliant. The Android 2.1 on it though was far from brilliant. Mostly due to the TouchWiz overlay the device lags and stutters all the time. As it ages, it gets worse. I have also had some experience with the Nexus One at one point. I thought Android 2.1 Eclair at the time to be pretty revolutionary. It was so customisable, so flexible. But at the same time it was cluttered, all over the place. It shows it age too as it starts to show some slowing down after a while.
The Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as mentioned was a far cry. It is much polished, much faster, much nicer as a package. Because this is a Vanilla version of Android 6.0, the Android experience is as it should be. It is Android unfiltered and not muddled. It was used as it was designed and as it was meant to be. The only bloatware on it is the proprietary Flash camera app that replaces the original camera app from Google anyway. That is actually a nice bloatware. The Nexus devices were not exactly known for their camera software prowess, mostly due to the application’s limitation.
You have to keep in mind that though this is a Vanilla Android device, it is no Google Nexus. It is a budget device that borrowed the Android interface from the highly acclaimed Nexus line of smartphones. Of course then, there are limitations to the device. It lacks some of the sensors compared to the Nexus. They use different SoCs and different display with differing resolution as well; compared to the Nexus 6P anyway.
The device also has a fingerprint scanner to take advantage of the fingerprint security on Android 6.0. The fingerprint sensor is built-in with the device’s home button that is flanked with two touch buttons. The fingerprint sensor works very well and very accurate either. So no complaints there. Additionally you can tap the screen twice to turn the phone on without reaching to any buttons.
Despite the differences though the Flash Plus 2 held itself pretty well. We tested both the 2GB and 3GB RAM variant of the Plus 2 device. On both platforms, the Android experience is pretty much similar which is a good thing.
Benchmarks on the device show that there is nothing to shout about when it comes to performance of the device. Again that is actually an expected result with the sort of specification that the device is fitted with. The Plus 2 did face some issue running certain benchmark apps though, the app kept crashing with the device. We do think that the crashes are due to compatibility issues rather than performance issues. Benchmarks only gives a guideline score though. The experience of the device’s performance may vary from the benchmark scores. The actual performance also depends plenty on usage patterns, amount of apps open, the kinds of apps running on the device, available storage on the device, and age.
The hardware fitted into the device pretty much screams mediocre from top to bottom. Given the price at MYR599 and MYR729 for the 2GB + 16GB and 3Gb + 32GB variants respectively performance is not expected to blow anyone’s minds. Even the processor did have a spotty history with Android. As in, MediaTek’s processors have not proven to be the best processors for Android. It is on the cheap side though. Packing 8 cores in the SoC though The device should be able to perform most common tasks pretty smoothly.
Call Quality and Connectivity
Antennas on the device is a pretty standard affair. The Plus 2 packs the usual Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and LTE. Of course it works with HSPA+ and EDGE as well. The LTE antenna fitted on this device is a Cat 4 type. What does that mean? It means you can get a theoretical 150Mbps download speed. You even get to plonk in two SIM cards in this.
We did not however use the dual-SIM function during our test period. Within our review we used Maxis’ Hotlink prepaid network.
Starting up any Android device these days are pretty standard. You enter your Google account details, you connect your device to the nearby Wi-Fi network to start-up and get all your set up correct. It was no different for the Plus 2. It took no longer than 5 minutes getting everything up started up. The lack of any third-party software means that starting up the device requires less signing in and up for different services. That pretty much lessens the time you spend trying to get the device running. A plus point in our books (no pun intended).
The main purpose of a phone though is to make calls. Of course this smartphone does. In fact this device has a dedicated noise cancelling mic to make calls clearer. The result? Phone calls are clear and loud; at least for the person on the other side of the line anyway. Even in the noisiest environment, say a moving car with windows down the receiver did not complain of inaudible voice or excessive noise. The loudspeaker as well is reasonably loud. Of course you still need the mic nearer to you for it to pick up your voice. That could be a problem when you are driving, but that is not a device specific issue.
As receivers call quality is pretty much consistent through various signal strength. Of course if signal becomes too weak voices start to break apart or the line will be completely severed. That mostly happens in underground parking or elevators. Network signal strength relies mostly on the network operator themselves though. In terms of picking up the network signal the device works flawlessly. It regains signal very quickly even after losing signal in elevators. The speakers are plenty loud so you can be sure that you will not miss any calls if the device is not in silent mode or nearby. It is not ear-blowing loud though so if you stuff it in your, say gym bag it might sound a little muffled. It is still audible though so that is not too big of an issue.
With the Flash Plus 2 you can get it in either a 2GB flavour or 3GB flavour. If you do get the 2GB version you may think that you are paying for a lesser device. Of course that is the general consensus anyway. Why get 2GB when you can get 3GB?
But at the same time, what is the purpose of the RAM? Will it make a difference if you get more RAM than not? RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and for the purpose of not getting too technical the amount of RAM determines how much work a device can handle. It usually determines how many apps can run at the background. The higher the number, the more number of apps that can run in the background. Certain devices that run on smaller RAM usually tends to be slower and lag plenty more than the higher end devices with bigger RAM. That is why they say that you should always get bigger RAM devices if possible, especially for Android.
However, plenty of other Android devices usually run on their own overlay software or interface. HTC has their Sense UI, Huawei has their EMUI, Mi has their MIUI, and so on and so forth. The problem with overlay interface is that it takes up extra space on the RAM to run. Occupying an already small RAM space will result in devices slowing down or lagging.
The Plus 2 does not employ any overlay interface on top of Android. Running the stock Android takes up a very small amount of RAM. That is why there are plenty of saved RAM space for apps to freely run in the background even for the 2GB variant. In our test, at least in normal usage the 2GB variant never felt slow. In fact even if things like Google Chrome, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, and a few more is running in the background; the device never felt like it was slowing down. It may be a tad slower than the 3GB in some heavy usage occasions. But then again you seldom get to the point where you use up all of the 2GB of RAM in the device. If you do though, you would want the 3GB variant. Processing large video files may prove to be a small issue for the 2GB variant, but it will still play a full 1080 Full HD movie on its 5.5″ 1080p display. So really, there is very little difference in multitasking performance when you get the 2GB over the 3GB. Of course, with 3GB you can run even more apps in the background. We even managed to leave Ninjump and Sky Force open in the background while doing some web browsing without any apps crashing.
Gaming is where the MediaTek processors fail. Well, not fail in the sense that every game played comes crashing. It still works, to a certain extent.
The MediaTek processor clocking in 1.8GHz on four cores and 1.0GHz on the other four cores does not sound like much. Paired with a mediocre Mali-T860MP2, you should not expect much.
We tested the device with games like Ninjump, Sky Force, Mortal Kombat, and Need For Speed Limits. Running the lightest game of all, Ninjump was a pleasure. Of course, it does not take much power to run that game. So it should run pretty smoothly and without incident, right? Not really. After playing excessively (perhaps more that we should) there are times where the animations stutter for very few milliseconds. At the beginning it was not very noticeable. Later on, when we are trying to beat highscores, it gets a bit annoying. But that is a very minor issue, we should not be playing that much anyway. Sky Force ran without a hitch too actually.
When playing Need For Speed Limits and Mortal Kombat though you start to notice very slight lags. Load times become quite long. Not too long that you want to pull the device apart, but long enough for you to question whether or not the device is working or not. Rest assured, it is working; albeit slower. Start up animations are smooth at some parts but laggy and stuttery at some parts. The problem is not too severe to make the games unplayable, but it is one that might you want to consider.
The benefit of running low powered processors running on lower speeds is power efficiency. Smartphones these days do not last a whole lot. Usually a good battery life would be a full day of moderate use. The Flash Plus 2 with moderate daily use does not disappoint. With some phone calls made throughout a day, with some light messaging on Whatsapp, Some YouTube time, and light gaming the battery still lasts a full day. In fact the review unit we had still could run a full day the next day.
The device also at one point lasted up to 3 days with light usage; that is with some phone calls and messaging only. Other settings like Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, and data was on throughout the test. The Brightness was even set to auto-brightness.
Additionally there is fast charging on the device. This is one feature we seldom find on devices at this same price range so we were pleasantly surprised when it charges so quickly. It charges the 3,000 mAh battery in less than 2 hours. No more hovering around plug points.
It is important to note though that the battery fitted in the Plus 2 is smaller than that of the Alcatel Flash Plus.
Fitted on this device is a what they call a Rainbow display. It is an IPS LCD Full HD 1,080 by 1,920 pixels on a 5.5-inch panel. Why they call it a Rainbow display though, we do not know. But the resulting effect is a clear display with very bright colours. It still does have a yellow tint to the display but not so much that it is noticeable. The colour reproduction is very much spot on and comparable to devices of higher price points.
Its large screen real estate is a pleasure to use. With great colour reproduction, photos look good. YouTube videos and recorded videos looks fantastic on the large display as well; it is like watching your personal television. Adding to the fact that it is actually a 1080p display you do not have to settle for less with the device. One-handed operation may be an issue with the screen. You can use it one-handed but it might require a little bit of stretching your palm. Then again I have small hands, so that may not be an issue with larger hands.
If you paid attention to the spec sheet you will find that the camera is pretty mediocre as well. The main camera out the back is a 13-megapixel unit flanked by an LED flash unit for low light photography. It even boast f/2.0 aperture for better low-light performance. The front facing camera comes in at 5-megapixel sitting above the 5.5-inch display.
The photos produced by the 13-megapixel camera came out decent. The reproduced details were not as good as some competing devices. At the same time zooming into the photo to the scale that we scrutinised it was not a norm in regular smartphone camera use. Photos came out very bright with very slightly washed out colours in our test. It is not so bad that you cannot use the photos though. It worked well in most low-light conditions but you would need a somewhat steady hand with low-light. Whites on the photos come out very white though. We find that there is a slight blue hue to the photos as well.
The front 5-megapixel shooter also produces pretty decent shots in good lighting. In low-light conditions though the photos come out too dark. As with the rear camera, the photos come with a slight blue hue. Colour reproduction on the front camera is somehow slightly better than the rear. Of course, 5-megapixel will not get you a ton of detail with the photo.
Video recording is actually pretty great. We did not record too many sample videos to be used in the review but the camera is capable of recording videos at 1080p 60fps. As always, 60fps looks great on any platform. The only issue is the lack of OIS which is apparent when you start moving while recording.
(unfortunately the drive we kept the footage from the Plus 2 is somehow damaged and we lost most of the footage. We were only able to salvage some of the photos taken early on with the Plus 2, some of which may not be very clear but you get the picture)