British smartphone start-up Kazam is joining Google and Motorola in the 'cheap doesn't have to be nasty' revolution.
Like the Nexus 5 and the Moto G, its 5in octa-core Tornado 2 5.0 goes high on specs, low on price. In the flesh it's more sensible than shouty, with top quality customer support a bigger deal than flashy features. But we're still predicting a sold-out smartphone when it hits Europe next month. Here's why…
Screen: 720p and Superb
We get our hands on the Tornado 2 once we've ogled a bunch of Kazam's lesser-specced handsets (its Trooper and Thunder ranges). And after turning our nose up at some shabby screens, the 5.0's is a bit of a relief.
The 5in 720p IPS display is nice and bright - helpful in the kind of hip, low-lit members' clubs which we frequent - and a quick stream of Shaun The Sheep from Google Play Movies shows off some vivid colours and inky-enough blacks. Text on webpages looks crisp, with good contrast, and viewing angles are decent too - the Tornado 2 would make a worthy bigger brother to the £135 4.5in Motorola Moto G.
But the most exciting thing about the display? Kazam will replace cracked or smashed screens free of charge for the first twelve months. Bravo. Although given that there's no Gorilla Glass here, probably just as well.
Things now look mighty promising for the Tornado 2 5.5 (being kept under wraps at present). This will arrive with a 5.5in full HD screen and should also come in at a sub-£250 price when it launches across Europe in around four weeks.
Design and Build: Sensible outsides, awesome insides
All-plastic, non-flashy builds are ten-a-penny when you get into the murky depths of £100-200 smartphones but boy is the Tornado 2 nice and light at 121g. It's sturdy, too, and easy to hold one-handed thanks to a Samsung-style slight curve and mere 9.5mm thickness.
Curious gadgeteers will quickly figure out that the 5.0's soft touch back cover is removable. Kazam's hinted the covers will be sold separately as Motorola is trying - we fondled a range including Note 3-style faux leather. More importantly, the battery below it is also replaceable. Given that at 1800mAh, it's smaller than both the Moto G (2070mAh) and Nexus 5 (2300mAh), and therefore unlikely to last a full day, that's music to our ears. Better still, if your battery konks out for good, Kazam will send you a new one as part of its warranty, with no faff or need to send your handset into the "repairs ether", as they call it.
Another plus point below the hood is that it's dual SIM - one regular-sized SIM, one micro-SIM - so handy for business types, travellers or anyone who just likes to pretend to be Archer now and then. And, the biggie - its 8GB storage is expandable up to a further 64GB via microSD.
More after the break...
Rescue: Kazam's Mayday button
All Kazam's smartphones will come with a Rescue app, pre-installed - kind of like Amazon's Mayday button on the Kindle Fire HDX models.
Using LogMeIn's Rescue service, it's designed to help handset n00bs get on with tricky stuff such as setting up email and er... actual faults with the phone. It's free, offers both voice and text-chat options with real people and rather than keep you on hold all day, Kazam is aiming to solve 80% of concerns in six to eight minutes via remote access and helpful advice.
We didn't get a chance to try the Rescue service, but we'll give it a spin when we give the Tornado 2 the full Stuff Test once-over.
Octa-core power, 8MP camera
Octa-core - feel the words reverberate around you. Yep, the Tornado 2 5.0 is powered by a 1.7GHz MediaTek octa-core processor. But before you get too excited, that doesn't mean it will be twice as fast as a quad-core beast - instead it should help with battery life and is potentially good for mobile gamers; devs including Gameloft are working on octa-core optimised titles as we speak.
A quick flick around the OS (stock Android, hurrah!, only 4.2.2 - boooo) and the Tornado 2 seems speedy enough for moving in and out of apps and web browsing. And Kazam is already bragging about benchmark performance. In Quadrant, it scores 13563 - higher than the Galaxy S4's 12726 - but we'll take that with a pinch of salt for now.
There's no NFC - we can forgive that - but also no 4G, a real shame. Still, at this price it doesn't need to be too futureproof and it's missing on the Moto G, for now, too.
With three Android capacitive buttons under the screen, it's odd that onscreen buttons popped up in a couple of apps, but since these are pre-production units, we're sure kinks of this kind will be ironed out.
Apart from a sprinkling of pre-installed apps, the only departure from stock Android is the camera app, which has Live Photo and Beauty modes as well as decent flash, shutter and ISO menus. The 8MP camera is quick to focus and the 5in screen makes a great viewfinder, but we'll hold off judgement of image quality till we take a final unit out snapping - a measly 5MP camera is what let the Moto G down so we're mighty interested in the results. The Kazam phone can shoot 1080p video @30fps too and there's a 2MP camera up front.
The Tornado 2 5.0 doesn't have the lovely build and KitKat tricks of the Nexus 5 but that doesn't mean Google's finest is safe.
With its bright, vivid screen, light body and helpful Rescue service, Kazam's almost-flagship impressed us mightily in our time with it. And then there's that sub-£200 price tag which should have the Moto G running scared too.
If it backs up those good first impressions with a solid real-world performance, all-day battery life and decent camera, Europe is the Tornado 2's for the taking.
Stay tuned for in-depth reviews of the Tornado 2 5.0 and its full HD phablet sibling, the Tornado 2 5.5, very soon.