Review: Karbonn Aura Note 2 strikes the right balance
Once a strong player in the budget smartphone segment, Karbonn, like most Indian phonemakers, has struggled off late to keep up with the aggressive Chinese phone brands such as Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei. The Bengaluru-based company is eyeing a comeback with a new breed of budget smartphones offering features popular with the younger generation.
The latest smartphone Aura Note 2, priced at Rs6,499, offers a big screen, new Android and some cool apps for the fashion conscious. Interestingly, it is offering the same specs as the Coolpad Mega 3 (Rs7,999) but at a lesser price. There are very few big-screen smartphones which can match the price and features of the Aura Note 2. The Xiaomi Redmi 4 (Rs6,999) has a few good points such as the superior processor, fingerprint sensor and metal finish, but it runs an older Android and offers a smaller 5-inch display.
Software: Runs new android with familiar UI
The Aura Note 2 is one of the few budget smartphones which runs the latest Nougat (7.0) version of Android. What makes things even better is the stock Android UI over it, which makes finding apps and tools a lot easier compared to custom UIs.
Its other highlight is the couple of pre-loaded apps on it for the fashion conscious. Fashion Eye app allows users to take a shot of any print or design they like and then uses AI to search dresses, jewellery and accessories with similar patterns on online stores such as Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Jabong. The second app, Vistoso, is a photo filter app on the lines of Prisma. It also uses AI to apply cool filters on your photos within the camera app.
Karbonn has also added an app called Karbonn Clinic to connect users to their service centres in case of emergency. Its rival Coolpad Mega 3 still runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with Cool UI on top.
Display: Low resolution, smudges a lot
The smartphone has a 5.5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1,280x720p. The big screen provides plenty of space for reading, typing and watching movies. However, the lack of resolution gives it a dull look. In terms of colour reproduction, it is slightly better than the 5.5-inch screen of the Coolpad Mega 3, which also offers a resolution of 1,280x720p.The other major niggle in the screen is that it smudges a lot. It offers display customisation tools from Miravision, but fails to add any visible value to it.
Design: Simple design, light weight
In terms of design, Karbonn hasn’t tried to do anything flashy. The Aura Note 2 is a plain Jane with a plastic body and removable back cover. The flat side panel offers better grip and the soft matte finish on the back panel enhances the comfort level. The volume keys are placed on the left side panel and the power keys on the right side panel. They are placed a bit towards the top side, and feel a little stiff when pressed. Also, the camera module on the back is a bit protruded.
The front bezels look a bit wide and this gives the smartphone a slightly taller appearance. It weighs 163g, yet feels surprisingly light in hand. The Coolpad Mega 3 weighs 170g and has a coarse pattern on the back.
Performance: Strictly for casual users
Driving the Aura Note 2 is the same MediaTek’s MT6737 quad-core processor with 2GB RAM which has been used in the Coolpad Mega 3. It is a low power processor which can handle causal tasks and light games such as Temple Run well, but stutters a lot when stressed. Internal storage of 16GB and the option to add up to 32GB more via microSD puts it at par with rivals. It is a 4G smartphone and supports VoLTE calling too.
The only area where the Aura Note 2 has a slight edge is the battery backup. It has a 2,900mAh battery which can last over a day of modest use comfortably compared to the 3,050mAh battery on Mega 3, which barely managed a day’s backup.
If you are looking for a more powerful smartphone, which can handle some heavy games as well, you can consider the 32GB+3GB variant of Redmi Note 4 (Rs10,999).
Camera: Average picture quality
The 13-megapixel camera on the back is a tad slow when it comes to processing images. If you have unsteady hands, it will be difficult to get a good shot. Colours look washed out, but the level of detailing is good in close-up shots. Low-light and indoor photos look even more washed out. The 5-megapixel camera on the front can take wide looking shots but needs good light to take clear looking selfies. The Coolpad Mega 3 also has a 13-megapixel camera which is slightly better in terms of colour reproduction.
The Karbonn Aura Note 2 has its limitations, yet it stands out in the crowd of entry-level budget smartphones. The big screen, fashion apps and passable front camera makes ideal for students on limited budget. Its lower price gives it an edge over the Coolpad Mega 3.