24 December 2015 10:27:33 IST

A homegrown flagship-killer is born

Yu has knocked it out of the park with the Yutopia, the first real flagship-class smartphone from an Indian manufacturer

Micromax, the second largest smartphone manufacturer in India, has been plugging away for about half a decade now, churning out feature phones and sensible smartphones by the million. However, as with other home-grown brands, capturing the imagination of consumers is a task that seemed beyond it – until the launch of its Yu Televentures sub-brand.

Armed with an exclusive deal with the popular Android developer Cyanogen and rid of the ‘low-cost, low-quality’ tag that dragged down Micromax devices, Yu has managed to carve out a niche for itself as a brand capable of impressing the discerning buyer with deep pockets. Its latest offering, the Yutopia, is a flagship-class device that is positioned in OnePlus Two territory. Its specs are almost identical to the original flagship killer, and if the “most powerful phone ever” tagline is any indication, so is the hype-machine surrounding it

Hardware The Yutopia follows the design cues that have become standard for high-end smartphones without too many major deviations. The grey metallic unibody certainly feels premium to hold and behold but it isn’t going to set any pulses racing. The rear features a large protruding circular element on which the camera and flash units are mounted.

Below it is the fingerprint reader, which is quite small compared to other rear-mounted scanners. Its performance was abysmal, prompting us to revert to pin or pattern unlocking after half a day of usage. The accuracy of the Yutopia’s biometric device isn’t even close to the unit on the OnePlus Two, which is already a shade below the Apple and Samsung flagships.

The Yutopia has a 5.2-inch Quad HD LCD panel which delivers an excellent all-round visual experience. Indoor readability is great, but the glossy nature of the panel means that the only thing visible under direct sunlight will be the multitude of fingerprints it picks up.

The panel is slightly smaller than the OnePlus Two’s, but with a pixel density of 565 ppi, it packs a lot more pixels into the reduced area.

Technically, the Yu’s screen is better but it is hard to tell the difference with the naked eye and we can’t help but wonder if the corresponding drop in battery life is worth the higher resolution.

Performance The Snapdragon 810 chipset that powers the Yutopia has well-documented issues with heat dissipation. Manufacturers who choose to use it have been forced to come up with their own solutions to keep the temperatures under control and these typically boil down to either throttling the processor or some kind of special cooling system.

From the benchmark tests we ran on the Yutopia, it was clear that the octa-core Cortex processor on the device has been held back, delivering scores consistently below average and way below the best performers with comparable specs. However, considering the fact that the best performers with 810 were prone to frequent meltdowns, this is probably for the best. Despite the throttled processor, performance is still very snappy for all practical purposes. Thanks to the 4 GB of RAM, multitasking is a breeze and the device was able to run the most demanding games in the Play Store without a hitch.

The 3000 mAh battery unit on the Yutopia provided about a day’s battery life with fairly heavy usage which included browsing, gaming, music playback and near-constant texting with 4G always on.

Camera The imaging experience on the Yutopia is easily one of the best we’ve ever experienced. The Sony EXMOR RS lens on the 21 MP rear camera is a proven performer that delivers excellent colour reproduction and detailing. Focusing is fast and accurate and can be sped up even further at the cost of low light detail.

Performance in poorly-lit conditions is predictably on the lower side despite the number of megapixels. Combined with the feature-packed InLife camera software and hardware-backed features like ChromaFlash, OptiZoom and Action tracking, the Yutopia captured images of a quality that we’ve rarely encountered outside of the rarefied space occupied by the most expensive Galaxies and the iPhone.

Software The Yutopia’s trump card is its software package, which is based on the immensely popular CyanogenMod custom Android ROM.

The most visible difference it brings to the user experience is the alphabetically structured app drawer without a search bar. We had no problem using it, but this is going to be a highly subjective feature with the potential to divide the user base. Thankfully, it is easily fixable with a custom launcher.

The real advantages that Cyanogen brings are hidden away inside the settings menu which brings custom privacy and permissions settings as well as support for themes.The standout software feature of the Yutopia is the AroundYu feature which occupies the space traditionally taken up by Google Now. It provides access to hotel, cab, train and flight booking from a single screen, not to mention a restaurant guide and online shopping – all of which are supported by various partner companies.

This feature, unlike several other custom Google Now replacements we’ve seen, boasts of great design and is extremely functional. It replaces a whole smattering of apps with a single service and is worthy of being touted as a killer app.

Bottomline The Yu Yutopia is not the most powerful phone ever. But it has so many other strengths that it seems ridiculous that Micromax would try to market it that way. The design of the phone is decidedly vanilla, but the software package is one of the best available from an Android phone, the camera is great and performance levels are top-notch.

Battery life is decent if not spectacular and if you can overlook the poor fingerprint scanner, this phone is definitely a better all-round package than the OnePlus Two. And considering that there is no annoying invite process to deal with for potential buyers, this might just be the phone that finally puts the legend of the Chinese flagship killer to rest.

Price : ₹24,999

Love : Software, Camera

Hate : Design