Reviews  

Spice Mi-300

Nikhil Pradhan 2010-12-30
66 Fair
Price: Rs 9,000

Full Review

The Spice Mi-300 has been in the market for a while and is one of the many affordable Android smartphones craving for your attention. Let’s see if it can rise above the masses and stand out.

Features

The Spice Mi-300 has a 3.2-inch capacitive display with a resolution of 480x320 and color output of 256K colors. It supports Wi-Fi and 3G. It also supports GPS but only comes pre-installed with Google Navigation, a tool that currently doesn’t provide voice navigation in India. The Mi-300 has 150MB internal memory and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. Imaging is taken care of by a 5MP camera with an LED flash.

When the Spice first entered the PC World India labs, it came with Android 1.6. However, the Android 2.1 update soon became available unlocking a couple of features in the Spice including support for Bluetooth 2.1, HTML5 and Microsoft Exchange. Also, the number of supported apps from within the Android Market also dramatically increased. Speaking of apps, the Spice Mi-300 obviously supports the whole gamut of Google’s mobile apps and comes with a couple of its pre-installed apps (most of which you can also download from the Android Market).

Design & Usability

Like the flamboyant Two Face from Batman Forever, the Spice Mi-300 displayed two distinct personalities before and after the Android 2.1 update. Before the update, the Mi-300 sported a tweaked UI that was cosmetically similar to the default Android UI. The only difference was that all the icons were larger and more colorful (some might describe them as ‘garish’). The notifications bar was also divided into two sections- one hosting the actual notifications while the other hosting system information and basic settings.

Like the flamboyant Two Face from Batman Forever, the Spice Mi-300 displayed two distinct personalities before and after the Android 2.1 update.


Post update, the custom UI completely disappeared and now the Mi-300 sports the default Android UI which, honestly is good enough and better than the original UI.

The Spice responds well to touch input and it also has a trackball (among other hardware buttons). However, like in other Android phones with a trackball or trackpad (like the HTC Desire or the HTC Hero) I hardly needed to use it and was happy enough to use the touchscreen. There are a couple of touch sensitive navigation buttons below the screen which aren’t backlit making it really frustrating to use the phone in the dark especially more so since you will need to use those buttons often to bring up the context sensitive menus or to unlock the device.

The Spice’s UI also works smoothly except for some sluggishness when multiple apps and live widgets are running together.

Stability

Let me begin by absolving the post-update Spice Mi-300 of all stability issues. After the update, it worked fine without crashes, although it still seemed to freeze for a second or two sometimes.

However, the pre-update Mi-300 was pathetically unstable and I’m amazed that Spice actually launched the phone with such issues. The phone crashed and restarted on me plenty of times while I was doing different things. For instance when I tried to access music files on the microSD card, the phone repeatedly hung forcing me to factory reset the device for the music player to actually work. Also, the phone crashed a couple of times when I was trying to access the Android Market.

Browsing & Multimedia

Although the default browser doesn’t support Flash, it’s still good enough to put most other mobile browsers to shame. It’s also responsive to use and only falters a little when zooming in and out of pages. Apart from that the browser offers features such as HTML5 and multiple windows support coupled with a good bookmarks/history manager.

The Spice Mi-300’s camera’s 5MP tag might make you think that it’s a pretty good camera but in truth it’s a strictly average shooter. A general issue with the images the Spice shot was that the photos had contrast issues both indoors and outdoors making the images look much darker than in real life. The Spice has a strong flash with good range. Video recording is also average with good frame rates but horrible color reproduction and contrast.


Images shot indoors & outdoors with the Spice Mi-300 (click on images to enlarge in new window).

When playing music, the Spice sounds good on a good pair of headphones. However, the music player is shorn of features and there are no EQ and other sound customization options. The external speaker isn’t very good either. Also, the absence of FM Radio is strange.

Battery

It’s a generally well-known fact that the Android OS (with all its bells and whistles such as Live wallpapers and Live widgets) is tough on battery life. Pre-update, the Spice’s battery was totally crushed. I really didn’t think I had ever come across such a poorly performing battery for a while. This was epitomized by the fact that before going to sleep, if the battery was at anything less than full charge, I would wake up to a dead phone. Post-update, the battery has improved by leaps and bounds but it still is below average. If you plan to use Wi-Fi and GPS regularly then don’t expect the Mi-300 to last the day. Like in the case of the phone’s stability, the poor battery life stands out starkly in a product that’s actually being sold in stores.

Bottom Line

At Rs. 9,000 and considering its weaknesses it’s hard to recommend the Spice Mi-300 over other much better affordable options such as the Samsung Galaxy 5 and the Nokia E63. The camera might have been its salvation, but unfortunately that disappoints as well.

Overall though, the Mi-300 looks like a good first effort from Spice and it’s a certainty that their next Android offering will be a much more improved product.

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