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Blackberry has a twin

tech-reviews Updated: Jan 22, 2010 20:48 IST
Shayne Rana
Shayne Rana
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

If you haven’t heard of this company and are assuming it’s an affiliate to Creative’s Zen series of digital music players, you’re mistaken. Zen Mobiles is very new to the Indian market and one of their first handsets in the market is the Z77. Any way you look at it, it seems to be a BlackBerry clone — but that may not be such a bad thing.

Form: Light and slippery

It’s an extremely light handset and the shape is ergonomically sound. It’s as close as you can get to a BlackBerry without owning one, right down to the colours used in the keypad and leather-like back panel. The 2.2-inch flat-panel LCD screen makes for easy viewing. The Z77’s ‘qwerty’ keypad is a little slippery, and takes a while to get used to.

What I really appreciate about the Z77 is the fact that it incorporates a micro-USB port for the charger and any other USB connector, a 3.5-mm hands-free port with a well-designed and hands-free kit provided and micro-SD card support (up to 2-GB storage). The card slot is not of the hot swap variety though.

Interface: large and clear

The Java-based user interface is very smooth, with large, clear icons and fonts, making it easy to read and navigate.

The two SIM cards (both on the GSM telephony system) run simultaneously without any problem and the interface is well laid out to make sure you know exactly what you want from either.

Media: A sharp sound

The handset’s audio player is excellent. However, the interface would not read all your media files from the card unless they are placed in specifically created folders. But that will seem like a very minor issue when you actually hear the sound quality the Z77 is capable of delivering. With sharp tones and a thump in the bass line, the handset plays music at a decent decibel level through the hands-free earphone that comes with it. Zen has also thrown in few equaliser presets so that you have the option of customising your experience.

Other media features include an FM radio that offers good reception. It took less than 12 seconds to locate and preset nine radio stations. It also has a scheduled FM recorder that records in AWB or MR format for playback. There’s also a sound recorder for leaving voice memos and the microphone is capable of picking up sound from a distance of up to three feet, which is pretty good for a phone mic.

The only disappointment with the handset was that I wasn’t able to watch videos easily. Playback of my 3GP and MPEG4 test files was choppy although the audio seemed fine. I hope this is an issue only with this specific piece.

Connectivity: no frills

The Z77 offers basic GPRS and WAP connectivity. The native browser is a no-frills one. If you’re looking for a slightly better option, Opera Mini is already on board. The interface supports POP and IMAP email accounts. Nimbuzz is preloaded but takes too long to test the connectivity. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth with an A2DP profile.

Extra: caller black list

A few features that Zen classifies as extras include a universal converter and health function, which includes a body mass index calculator. There’s also a calculator, a calendar, an alarm, a world clock and a to-do list. The Z77 comes with a useful ‘black list’ for callers and an SMS firewall function.

Camera: better as webcam

The 1.3-megapixel camera features white balance, night mode and a few effect settings. The picture quality is not too good, as images look more like water-colour paintings rather than digital pictures. On the plus side, the handset can be used as a webcam when hooked to your computer via USB.

Battery

The company claims that the 1200MaH lithium ion battery delivers up to five hours of non-stop talk time. It clocked four hours and 15 minutes with me, which is pretty good.

The Verdict: bang for buck

The Zen Z77 is a superb dual-SIM handset priced at Rs 3,300. I would have said its closest competitor is the Micromax Q3, but the Q3 is just not as good, from the price to the features. A rare glitch was that Nimbuzz’s application turned out to be slow. But the handset is perfect for avid texters. It’s great for messaging, email and social networking via mobile sites. And let’s not forget how affordable it is.

In partnership with tech2.in.com