iHunt Freedom/ Blackview A8 Review: Fantastically Priced Phone With Very Few Compromises (Video)
We’ve reviewed the iHunt Freedom this summer and in case this name doesn’t ring a bell, we’re talking about a smartphone that’s the Romanian locally integrated version of the BlackView A8, possibly the most affordable handset reviewed at GSMDome.com. Last I heard, it was priced at a crazy $56 on GearBest.com, a fantastic offer no matter the specs of a handset. We’re dealing with a 2.5D sporting entry level unit, that’s dissected below.
Launched this summer, the product comes with a bundled case, it’s available in black or gold and can also be considered a bit of a selfie phone, since it has a flash at the front side. There’s no 4G here, so let’s clarify that and in case you’re wondering about the pedigree, the company Blackview was founded in 2013 and has a pretty OK reputation.
The design is quite good looking for the BlackView A8/iHunt Freedom, a model that measures 9.3 mm in thickness and weighs 130 grams. It’s a bit thick and heavy for a 5 incher, but not exaggerately. There’s a 2.5D panel upfront, with a nice look and the build is solid. It reminds me of the Huawei Honor 4X, actually and this device provides a comfy one hand usage.
We’ve got a CNC metal frame in the mix, a big frame and also a solid one. Big bezels are here and the facade is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Buttons are comfy and the back side is removable and made of a pretty reasonable quality plastic. Below it we find the battery and 3 slots, two for SIMs, one for a microSD card. It remains a comfy phone with OK looks overall.
The display on the BlackView A8 is a 5 incher with an IPS LCD panel, a 2.5D panel for that matter, with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. The video player we relied on to test the screen provides an old school UI and the actual viewing experience involved good brightness, nice clarity, wide view angles and OK colors. The contrast was rather poor, especially in the sunlight.
Pixels are of the RGB Stripes variety and the luxmeter test showed us 357 LUX, which is OK for the price. It certainly beats the LG G3 and Huawei G8, which is no small feat. It’s also below the Vernee Thor, if you want a comparison. Settings include Miravision options, like Picture Mode (Standard, Vivid and User). User lets you tweak a ton of stuff, ranging from contrast to saturation and from color temperature to dynamic contrast. There are also brightness and font options and the capacitive buttons available below the screen didn’t light up, in case you were wondering.
There’s also no LED for notifications and overall I’d say we have an OK screen for this price range. The CPU is a quad core MediaTek MT6580 one, clocked at 1.3 GHz, with a Mali T400 GPU in the mix, accompanied by 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, 8 GB of storage and a microSD card slot. There’s no lag here and we have a pretty fluid UI and good app startup speed.
Games run OK, including the likes of Riptide GP 2 and Max Ammo, while benchmarks, like Quadrant had us beating the Huawei P8 Lite for example. In AnTuTu 6 we scored past the ASUS ZenFone Max, plus the iHunt X200. In 3DMark ICS we weren’t impressed by the poor results, which placed the handset on the 112th spot from all the phones we’ve ever tested. Clearly, the GPU isn’t a big deal here.
Still, I’d call the benchmarks decent for the price. The temperature test brought on good news, as we reached 34.5 degrees Celsius after running GFXBench and 35.4 degrees Celsius after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes, so there’s no overheating. We proceeded to test the battery, a 2050 mAh Li-Ion unit, that on paper promises 6 days of usage or 10 hours of calls.
Our HD video playback test in a loop revealed a not so impressive time of 4 hours and 6 minutes of playback, which is the second lowest ever result recorded by us so definitely not a good one. Even some smartwatches beat it. In PCMark we scored 4 hours and 25 minutes, which is only OK considering it beats the video test. At least it surpasses the Huawei Honor 6 and HTC One M7, but it even scored less than the Amazon Fire Phone and Xiaomi Mi 4i.
Charging is done in 2 hours and 26 minutes, a chapter where the handset seems to handle itself well. It does better than the HTC One M8 for example. Options for the battery include Standby Intelligent Power Saving, Battery Saver and overall I’d say the battery is not a strong suit of this unit. The acoustics are up next, with a speaker at the back and an old school UI for the music player.
The equalizer features 5 custom channels, a bass boost option, surround sound and reverb. The actual acoustic experience involved an OK volume, not very good bass, but at least there was no distortion and the guitar was well rendered. There’s still some muffling on a flat surface. The decibelmeter test revealed a value of 84.2 dBA at the front and 89 dBA at the back, with the latter being very good as a result. It beats the LG G4, Note 4 and LG G5 even.
The headphones are pretty ugly looking, especially the remote, but they’re comfy. Sadly, they’re not very loud and the bass is lacking too. At least they help us enjoy FM radio and record from it. Special settings for the audio are offered too here, like BES Audio Enhance, BES Loudness, BES Surround and Lossless BT Mode. Time to talk about the camera!
BlackView A8 proposes an 8 megapixel main shooter with LED flash and a Sony IMX 149 sensor in the mix, supposedly the same one from the iPhone 5s and Ulefone Metal. The facade brings a 2 MP selfie camera with its very own LED flash. The camera app starts up slow, has a slow zoom and also slow picture taking. Focus isn’t very fast, either.
Camera modes include Live Photo, Motion Track, Face Beauty, Panorama and Multi Angle, while the other options are HDR, Gesture, front camera shortcut and flash options. Settings offer access to the usual GPS, exposure, color effect, scene, white balance, hue, sharpness, saturation, brightness, contrast and anti flicker. We’ve also got voice capture and zero shutter delay in the mix.
Face detection, self timer, picture size and ISO complete the list. In spite of having an 8 MP camera here, we can do 13 MP shots via interpolation. Videos are shot with electronic stabilization and go up to Full HD tops. The photos taken during the day time in August (on a sunny day) with this camera resulted in a gallery of shots that registered OK colors in the shade, but the photos in full sunlight were a bit washed out.
Zoom quality is quite good, so is HDR and we’ve got some nice closeups too. There aren’t many details in landscape shots and overall I felt that the colors were decently calibrated. There’s no burnt shot, no exposure problem and the focus was good. Panorama has a small resolution of 3440 x 464 pixels, but it’s pretty clear. There are some very nice orange flower closeups here to remember and we’ve got great texture, color and details in these shots, albeit some burn did appear in the next ones.
Some of the images had a green hue for no reason and the selfie was a bit of a letdown, particularly for a front camera with a flash. It’s not very detailed or clear. The hair of the subject looks like wood in selfies, but the main camera remains pretty solid, even for a very low priced phone. Low light capture featured huge street lights and the flash wasn’t that powerful.
Closeups were OK and colors weren’t bad at all. There was some blur in the shots and if you can focus properly, the shots get good. Overall, I’d say that when it comes to photo taking, this model can fight handsets that cost double, or maybe even triple its price. On the video front, we filmed in Full HD, at 30 FPS, but the 3GPP format isn’t exactly my cup of tea.
The bitrate was impressive though, at 24 Mbps. The resulting clips however were shaky, burnt and oversaturated and zoom quality was poor. Brightness and focus were OK and so was the microphone. There were moments when the colors became OK, but not many. Clarity was reasonable and frankly I’ve seen worse filming on smartphones. It’s not impressive in the case of the BlackView A8, but it’s still passable for a $56 model.
Low light video capture drops everything to 16 FPS and 7 Mbps and the resulting vid is foggy and shaky, with big street lights and poor quality and clarity. The web browser on the handset has an OK speed, very low benchmarks in the likes of Vellamo, Sunspider or the follow up to BrowserMark, while the virtual keyboard was stock and comfy.
Connectivity brings us dual SIM slots, dual standby and 3G, but no trace of 4G here. There’s a micro SIM set of cards, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi b/g/n and microUSB 2.0. There’s no NFC, if you were wondering. Calls are pretty clear, but not that loud and the signal isn’t full all the time. The microphone was OK, though. The Speedtest we did revealed a value of 9.90 Mbps in download and 4.22 in upload via 3G and 49 Mbps and 23 Mbps for WiFi, both respectable values.
On the software front, there’s Android 5.1 Lollipop here, in a mostly stock version, with a carousel-based multitasking and if you keep the homescreen pressed, you can access the widgets area, where you’ll find stock widgets, by the way. Wallpapers can be tweaked and the dropdown bit includes the classic notifications and Quick Settings.
Speaking of Settings, here we have Doodle Control and the option to double tap to wake, draw letters to trigger apps and more. The preinstalled apps list includes 29 names, which means there’s no bloatware and that’s nice. We’ve got the usual stuff, like Facebook, Twitter, Chrome, Maps, To Do and all that. Time for the verdict now!
These are the Pros:
- good design
- fantastic price
- OK display
- reasonable performance
- no overheating
- high volume
- quite good pictures
- no bloatware
- no lag
And the Cons:
- video playback time is short (battery)
- poor screen in the sunlight
- shaky video capture
- no Android Marshmallow
- no 4G
- signal could be better
It remains a fantastically priced smartphone, without too many compromises and while it won’t do gaming or long video playback, it’s still good for a few Facebook pictures, music playback and you can easily enjoy its design. The price is unbeatable for sure and it can only go down from here.