Zen Cinemax 3: Too little, too late even at an attractive, affordable price

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If you have traveled on the Delhi Metro, you must have noticed people huddled over their shiny, high-resolution displays watching pirated movies and streaming music videos on YouTube. In all probability, Zen mobile was targeting this group of voracious video consumers with its Cinemax 3 smartphone which launched last

The Cinemax 3 is the successor of the Cinemax 2 smartphone, but the question I want to know is how reducing the display resolution from qHD (960×450 pixels) to FWVGA (854×480 pixels) will help convince
these movie-buffs to shell out their hard earned money for this?

With the low resolution display, the pixel density has come down to 178 PPI. Put it against its competitors like the Xolo Era 1X, Intex Aqua Star 4G and Lenovo A1000, and the 5.5-inch display just straight up looks shoddy and lacks sharpness. Even the viewing angles are poor!

On top of that, while the Indian smartphone market is all but ready to embrace the 4G revolution, the Zen Cinemax 3 does not come with 4G support. How the company intends to allow consumers to download videos at a blistering speed in this age of hyper-fast Reliance Jio connections beats me?

Coming to the design of the phone, this one is a bit on the bulkier side and you can see the display glass jutting out of the chassis. The bezels flanking the display on the top and bottom are so huge that this phone looks unusually tall. The rear has a sandstone finish which although provides a good grip, just feels weird, but that may be me.

The screen is a fingerprint magnet but Zen is kind enough to bundle a screen guard and a case with the phone. Though there is a proximity sensor, there’s no ambient light sensor, so you have to slide the brightness settings manually to adjust to the time of the
day. The auto-brightness setting just acts smug and puts the brightness slider to the middle.

You get the usual capacitive touch buttons at the bottom which are not backlit, but thankfully they offer good haptic feedback when used. The back cover consumes even the side of the phone and you get the volume rockers and power button on the left and right side
of the phone respectively.

Upon opening the back cover, you will see a giant 2,900mAh battery that Zen claims can give a full day of usage, but if you are using two SIM cards, to come down to half a day.

The speaker grill present at the bottom part of the rear is unusually loud though.

The Zen Cinemax 3 comes with 2GB of RAM of which you usually will have 1.4GB of RAM free with just the default apps running. Once again, to come down with more apps you install. But Zen is smart enough to bundle just 16GB of internal storage out of which only 10.2GB is usable for installing apps and mass storage, so that you don’t install too many apps and put strain on the RAM.

The phone is powered by an extremely low-powered Spreadtrum SC7731 four core CPU clocked at 1.3GHz. Considering the graphics heavy and memory-intensive apps out there in the market currently -Netflix
and Facebook being prime culprits; the CPU just falls flat in terms of performance.

Think about it, if you add Rs 500 to your budget you’ll be able to get Xiaomi’s superlative Redmi 3S, which comes with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 430 processor, and here we have the ‘lovely’ Spreadtrum SC7731! Urgh!

Coming to the camera, the Zen Cinemax 3 has a shoddy 5-megapixel camera that performs just about decently in bright lighting, but don’t even dare to capture anything with this at night, unless you are happy with the massive amount of noise that crops up. You do get a LED flash though. The phone uses the stock Google Camera app
to take photos, so you get the flurry of options Google provides including the ability to take panorama and HDR photos.

The camera also can record videos at 1080p full HD resolution but the quality is poor and lacks details.

The company also plays a gimmick with the front camera. It advertises a 3.2-megapixel front camera but in reality, when we tested the phone, it turned out to be only 2.1-megapixel, anything but average.

The Cinemax 3 runs on almost stock Android 5.1 Lollipop with a few changes in the visual front. Drop your hopes of getting even Android 6.0 Marshmallow on it though, as the company have made no announcements about it whatsoever. I don’t think Marshamallow is coming anytime soon leave alone the recently released Nougat.

You also get a horde of pre-loaded bloatware that you have to live with, as there’s no way to remove them. The bloatware eats up almost 1GB of space. Apart from the Google apps, you get apps like Cool Gallery, InstaNews, nexGTv, Opera Mini, Saavn, Snapdeal, Swiftkey, DailyHunt, UC Mini, Zen Store and Zen care. There are many others as well and including them will make this review look too tedious.

Long story short, the Zen Cinemax 3 falls flat on its promise of allowing you to watch videos on a good screen during your commute. Instead, you get a bulky, rather large phone with a roughened rear back and ancient hardware, all for an attractive price of Rs 5,499.

Basically, I wouldn’t waste my time or money with this phone. Instead, go buy the Xiaomi Redmi 3S. That’s the best phone in this price range.

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Zen Cinemax 3: Too little, too late even at an attractive, affordable price