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Cherry Mobile M1 Review: Best local smartphone yet?

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Cherry Mobile M1 is currently the best local smartphone on paper in terms of specifications and price. But is it really worth it? Let’s find out.

Cherry Mobile has always stood out in the local Philippine market. Aside from numerous marketing stunts and shenanigans, these guys really have something to brag about. Just these year, we’ve seen tons of devices coming from them: Windows-Android hybrids, camera-centric smartphones, smartwatches, action cameras. Name it and they probably have it.

And as if we weren’t impressed enough, Cherry Mobile released not only its best smartphone yet, but probably the best local smartphone right now.

Too much for an intro, eh? Well, the spec sheet really made us thrilled. And who wouldn’t be? To name a few of the items on the list, we have a processor with 10-cores, 4GB of RAM, fingerprint scanner, 21-megapixel Sony sensor, and USB Type C.

But the catch is, this thing is a Php11,999 smartphone, which is a bit hard to swallow for a locally-branded device. In this review, we’ll see if the steep asking price is really justifiable or not. Let’s go!

Cherry Mobile M1 Specs

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Dual-SIM, Nano SIM
  • 5.5-inch Full HD IPS Display, 1080 x 1920 resolution, 401ppi
  • Helio X20 (10) deca-core processor (1.4GHz/2GHZ/2.3GHz)
  • Mali-T880
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage, not expandable
  • 21-megapixel PDAF main camera with Sony IMX230 sensor, BSI, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • 4G LTE
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • USB type C
  • 3,600mAh non-removable, supports fast charging
  • Price: Php11,999

Build Quality

I have to say it this early, a Php11,999 price is really not that much to ask for what this device has to offer. But the thing is, for a smartphone manufacturer to offer such powerful device, they are required to cut some corners. Without a doubt, this is the department where they evidently did it. Yup, just like most smartphones on its category, the Cherry Mobile M1 is constructed with plastic. But just like most of its competitors, the cheap construction is forgivable, thanks to its polished and stylish design and subtle metal sides.

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The Cherry Mobile M1 feels good in the hand thanks to its lightweight profile and ergonomically curved sides. The CM M1 also look admirable with its stealthy black color, with a touch of pseudo-luxury and gray tinted sides that made it look wrapped in metal. The back panel also has this fake brushed metal look, which doesn’t make it look too boring despite the downcast tint. The Cherry Mobile M1 still has that sleek contour despite the large, phablet-like, 5.5-inch profile.

Design

We have the large 5.5-inch display in front, together with the 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a LED notification indicator, and two speakers. Now, I hate to break it to you, but the grill at the bottom is the only actual loudspeaker, the one at the top is the earpiece for taking calls. So no, no stereo speakers, unfortunately. It would have been nice if the single speaker performed well, but it’s middling. The volume is low and the clarity is disappointing. The good thing is it’s placed in front, so we can fully utilize it and hear the audio clearly.

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The right side has the slot for two nano SIM cards, while the left has the lock/power switch under the volume controls. The buttons feel a bit mushy, but still quite tactile.

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At the top, we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, while at the bottom we have the primary built-in microphone and USB Type-C, which definitely makes the Cherry Mobile M1 future proof.

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However, we still aren’t seeing a lot of USB Type-C devices around, so you might want to give extra care to the included USB cable. We’d judge it at about the same quality with Apple’s lightning cable packaged with every Apple device. Fortunately, more and more stores are now selling USB Type-C cables nowadays so finding a replacement isn’t as hard as it used to.Cherry Mobile M1 Review!-9

At the back, we have the 21-megapixel primary camera with two-tone flash, a fingerprint scanner, and the second built-in microphone for noise cancellation.

But it is not always clear skies and rainbows with the Cherry Mobile M1. One hurdle that this device has is its unibody design, which makes the 3600mAh non-removable. We also don’t have an access to a microSD card slot, so we’re stuck with its internal storage. Luckily, this device has 32GB out of the box, not 16GB. Also, because of the plastic construction, the device feels a bit flimsy when I try to flex it a little – but that’s something a user should never do anyway.

 Fingerprint Scanner

One of the main bragging rights that the Cherry Mobile M1 has is its fingerprint scanner. However, this is not the first device we’ve seen from Cherry Mobile that has this security feature. The Cherry Mobile Flare Selfie, which we have reviewed before also have it. But the thing is, we hated that feature on that device. The sensor is a bit inaccurate and cannot detect my fingerprint 80% of the time that I settled on only using security patterns.

But the story here is different. Cherry Mobile came a long way from the sensor of the Flare Selfie. In fact, the said feature here is now faster and more accurate – so fast that it sometimes mistakenly thinks that I am unlocking the device, even when I’m just resting my finger at the back.

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The scanner is positioned conveniently at the back, where the index finger usually rests. It also works even when the display is off, and the setup is fairly easy thanks to Android Marshmallow’s integration of fingerprint scanners. In addition, you can store up to 5 different prints on the settings.

Display

Now that phablets seem to be taking the majority of the hearts of the consumers, a 5.5-inch display doesn’t seem to be overwhelming and probably becoming a sweet spot for a for a lot of devices. What we have here is a large and sharp 5.5-inch IPS Full HD display covered with Asahi Glass, 1920×1080 pixel resolution, and 420 pixels-per-inch.

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Screen quality is something to be expected. It’s definitely sharp, which makes every detail in videos and games pop. Futhermore, reading small text characters is also pleasing in the eyes. Contrast and saturation are impressive. However, I think colors are a bit exaggerated, which makes it look artificial at times.

Screen brightness is also sufficient and there’s a wide field of view, which makes it really usable outdoors.

Performance and Hardware

And we’ve now reached the main event of this review. As what I have said earlier, the main stunner of the Cherry Mobile M1 is its ripped processor. It’s powered by a MediaTek’s Helio X20 processor, a chip that has deca-core processor with three clusters: a dual-core 2.4Ghz, quad-core 1.8Ghz, and another quad-core 1.4GHz. According to MediaTek’s website, it’s smart enough to distinguish what cluster is needed to utilize based on the workload, so it shuts off the cluster(s) so it can be battery efficient. The Cherry Mobile M1 also has 4GB of RAM and Mali-T880 GPU.

With that said, the processing power of Cherry Mobile M1 is really fantastic. The device can nail almost every game available in the Google Play Store without a sweat. From the graphics-intensive titles to apps that are CPU-hungry like the Roller Coaster Tycoon, each gameplay was seamless, with no visible frame drops.

Browsing through the home screen and other day-to-day tasks was also very quick and smooth. Thanks to its large 4GB of RAM, switching between applications is seamless. As a result, you can even go back to a previously watched YouTube video with no buffers because it’s still saved in the memory.

On the downside, the chip tends to overheat easily. It isn’t really surprising considering the number of cores that’s inside, but it can definitely use some optimization.

Benchmarks

Check out these benchmark test results of the Cherry Mobile M1. The scores it got is still down south of what you can get from some latest chips from Qualcomm that has fewer cores. This clearly states that the power of each core is still more important than the total number of it:

Cherry Mobile omitted a feature that a lot of people might find a deal breaker. There’s no option for storage expansion, which means you’re stuck with its 32GB of internal storage. If you’re a power user like most phablet owners are, then you might be better off with a different device. The device slashed a piece of the memory for the system files, leaving the user only 25.95GB of usable storage. While there’s no support for micro SD card, USB OTG can be used to further expand the storage.

Software

The Cherry Mobile M1 also has one of the best versions of Android from Google. We got an Android 6.0 Marshmallow running out of the box. It’s not the latest and greatest from Android, but only Nexus devices have Android 7.0 Nougat as of the moment anyway. Marshmallow has revamped interface aesthetics, app search bar, memory manager, battery optimizations, fingerprint support, Google Now on Tap and much more.

Also, I love that fact that local manufacturers don’t bother on skinning their devices interface. The M1 has a flat Android interface look, which most people love as it’s familiar and easy to use. Plus, the interface tends to be bogged down when skinned.

But what these local manufacturers can’t help to do is bombarding the devices with their own preinstalled applications. Cherry Mobile devices always come with manufacturer-made apps that almost no one uses. Luckily, they can be uninstalled pretty easily.

Camera

The party just doesn’t seem to end. Cherry Mobile also towed in a 21-megapixel PDAF Sony IMX230 sensor primary camera, and an 8-megapixel front-facing shooter. Both are sporting LED flash with the primary having a two-tone light feature.

The shooter at the back surely produced amazing photos. The dynamic range is simply impressive; the sky on a bright shiny day is still full in detail without leaving the shadow areas completely dark. Contrast is also good and saturation is impressive without any evidence of post processing. The colors pop naturally. Depth-of-Field is middling, while sharpness and details are crispy as expected for a 21-megapixel sensor. Also, there’s no noticeable software over-sharpening present.

However, I’ve noticed that the shutter speed of the Cherry Mobile M1 is quite slow, even at good lighting scenarios, which results in the photos being blurry if not handled carefully.

Check out these sample photos:

It can also record videos for up to an impressive 4K resolution. But don’t expect the same quality with actual 4k cameras because those have much better sensors. The quality of video recording is very good for what it offers. You can check out a sample clip at the video review below.

The front-facing camera also delivered impressive results. Photos have good details and colors, the quality is comparable to even some of other devices’ primary cameras. This thing is perfect for selfies and video calls.

Connectivity

Cherry Mobile equipped the M1 with tons of antennas to make sure you are connected in all available ways. The Bluetooth v4.0 and WiFi 802.11 b/g/n showed no issues dScreenshot_20160903-205821uring my tests. There’s also an NFC module attached at the back for easy connection to other NFC compatible devices. Of course, there’s support for GPS and A-GPS as well.

The Cherry Mobile M1 can also connect to 4G LTE networks. However, during my tests, the device wasn’t able to have the same results as with my other 4G LTE tests on other devices. My tests are conducted at the same location so geography isn’t the issue. It’s either the ISP is having some sort of maintenance during the time of that test, or it’s actually the device’s fault. My tests would usually yield a score of around 30Mbps, but the Cherry Mobile M1 was only able to attain a speed of up to 20bps. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still incredibly fast, but not as fast as my previous tests.

Battery

We got a large 3600mAh battery that’s powering the CM M1, which is really surprising to know considering how light the device is.

My tests generated a strange result. On light to moderate usage with casual web browsing via 4G LTE, using Waze with GPS, and sending/receiving SMS – the device was able to last for about one whole day. That’s eight hours before the device got to 15%, an optimal battery percentage to recharge.

But during my stress test, which consists of nonstop gaming and streaming videos online, the battery only lasted for almost three hours. That is one hour shy of our usual 4-hour passing mark. It seems like the power optimization that MediaTek is bragging about isn’t really showing on this thing, since the battery also needs to power other components other than the processor.

But to compensate, the M1 offers fast charging via its USB Type-C. Although, for this feature to work, you should only use the included power adaptor as I have tried it using a different one and the charging time is significantly slower. Plugging the device using the included cable had the device back to 100% for more or less than one hour and a half.

Verdict

The Cherry Mobile M1 is the best, and probably the most high-end device that the company has ever made. And it has all of the guts that makes it one, at a price tag that’s still relatively cheaper than most flagship smartphones in the market.

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The Cherry Mobile M1’s large and sharp display is pleasing in the eyes, the fast and accurate fingerprint scanner is dependable, and the overall form factor and build feel nice in the hands. The capable set of cameras secures every moment captured, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and of course, the ripped processor nails everything from day-to-day tasks and games.

But not everything on this device tip-top. The non-removable battery is surely a negative for those planning to keep the phone for a couple of years, and the omitted expandable storage can be a deal breaker to some.

But other than those minor complaints, I can’t think of any more reason not to recommend this for anyone who’s looking for a great and relatively affordable handset. The Cherry Mobile M1 is a monster of a smartphone, which makes it probably the best smartphone we’ve seen in the local market.

Want to know more about the Cherry Mobile M1? Watch our full video review on YouTube.

Cherry Mobile M1 Video Review

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