29/11/2014

Celkon Millennia Epic Q550 Full Review - Impressive Design and Battery, not-so-Epic camera

Celkon launched a new addition - the Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic - to its Millennia lineup of smartphones in a Blogger Meet held about a week back. The Millennia Epic has been priced at Rs. 10,499 and thus, will be competing with the likes of the Redmi Note (launching next week), Moto G 1st gen, among others.

Talking about the launch event, Celkon had invited Rajiv Makhni (of Gadget Guru fame) and other influential Indian tech bloggers at the Celkon Blogger Meet which was held at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi. Mr. Makhni had a panel discussion with attendees including Mr. Murali Reitnani (Celkon Mobile's executive director), Prasanto K Roy, Bharat Nagpal (from iGyaan) among others. The discussion revolved around how Indian device manufacturers should tackle the increasing sales and credibility of the Chinese brands (read Xiaomi, Lenovo, Gionee and Huawei). At the end of discussion, which apparently didn't lead to the discovery of any magical wand that would help Indian brands fight the Red Dragon, Celkon gifted a review unit of the Millennia Epic to all the attendees, including me. Just wanted to disclose this before you started with the review. Rest assured, I have made sure that this free gift hasn't impacted my opinion about the device in any way.



We've done an unboxing video and a full video review of the device already, and in this text review, we shall covering up a few details that we might have missed on the videos. So if this device fits your budget and you are looking forward to know whether it will suit you or not, watch both the videos below and then read the text review that follows.

Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic Full Video Review

Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic Unboxing Video

Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic - Detailed Text Review

If you prefer reading than watching, or your limited internet plan doesn't allow you the privilege to watch Youtube clips without counting the megabytes, let's start with the specifications of the device so that you have an idea about what kind of hardware the phone packs:
  • 5.5 inch IPS display with HD resolution (i.e. 720x1280 pixels) resulting into a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch
  • 1.3 GHz Quad-core Mediatek MT6582 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (no words on any future udpates)
  • 8 MP rear camera with autofocus, LED Flash. 2 MP front camera.
  • Dual (micro) SIM, external sd card slot
  • 3,500 mAh non-removable battery
  • 8 mm slim unibody design
  • 16 GB internal storage
Nerdier Specifications:
  • Exact Total RAM: 949 MB
  • Data partition (available for app installation): 1.97 GB
  • User available Internal Storage: 11.59 GB
  • MT6582 processor with clock speeds varying from 598 MHz to 1,300 MHz
  • Mali-400 MP GPU
  • OpenGL 2.0
  • 5 point muti-touch

Hardware/Design:

The Millennia Epic is a lightwieght smartphone, weighing at 143 grams - which is really light for a smartphone of this size, and allows for a good grip at just 8 mm thickness. Though built totally out of plastic, Celkon Q550 has enviable looks considering the fact that most manufacturers stress on just fitting in heavy specifications instead of the design of the device at this price point.
The phone has a sim slot and a sd card slot on the left side of the device, while on the right we have the second sim slot, and the volume up/down keys and power button below it. All the slots have a tactile dot at the end which when pressed, preferably with your fingernail, pops open to allow inserting the sim/sd card.
Below the 5.5 inch IPS screen (which blends nicely with the rest of the black front surface), we have three capacitive keys for navigation. The only complaint I have in the design section is that either Celkon should have opted for the on-screen navigation buttons (like we see on Moto G, Moto E, Nexus 4, 5, and 6 etc.) or it should have at least made these capacitive buttons backlit. It gets difficult to navigate the smartphone using these non-lit capacitive buttons when it gets dark, though this problem gradually gets solved as you get used to using these buttons.

Display:

Though we now have pixel densities as high as 515 ppi in the current flagship devices, the 267 ppi IPS display that this phone packs isn't a disappointment. Instead, the display looks beautiful, has vibrant colours (the blacks are really black, almost giving an AMOLED like experience) and doesn't look pixelated. There isn't any problem with the viewing angles of the display either. So you shouldn't have any problems when you are watching a video or photo with a bunch of friends. On the down side, the display is very reflective, so you might have some problems when you have a source of light behind you. The screen is prone to fingerprints and smudges, though getting some kind of screen guard might help with that. Also, the minimum brightness is a bit too high, for my liking at least. Apps like Screen Filter will help you dim your screen further.

Audio:

The speaker atop the Celkon Q550 is clear, but not loud enough. I've mentioned this in the video too, that you are prone to missing out on a few calls if you are noisy surroundings. Thankfully, the intensity of the phone's vibration helps you in this case and you might want to change your call notification setting to Ringing + Vibration just to be sure. I found a little fix for the low audio problem. Go to your dialer and dial *#*#3646633#*#*. This should open the Mediatek engineering mode, as they call it. Swipe to the right to get to the Hardware Testing tab. Go to the Audio > Loudspeaker Mode option, and enter 160 in the Max Vol. field (default value is 136). In the same screen, change the Type to Media and enter 160 in the Max Vol. field again.
The earphones that come out of the box are worse than most of the earphones I've heard. That shouldn't have been a problem if I had heard to some really good earphones only. Concluding this little mention about the earphones, if you are an audiophile and love listening to music on your smartphone, you will have get a new pair of earphones straight away. I recently bought Sony XB-450 headphones and they worked fine with the Millennia Epic, which proves that the problem isn't with the phone's audio output, but with the earphones that came bundled.

Camera:

If you are not too much into shooting photos with your smartphone, you can live with the Millennia Epic's camera. Otherwise, it isn't the best 8 megapixel rear camera we've seen in a phone, and we are talking about phones that come at similar price points. The colors captured in the photos are good but they don't exactly match the original colors. The amount of detail goes drastically down as the amount of lighting available decreases. Low (or even dim) light is thus the Achilles' heel of the Millennia Epic's camera.
In good lighting conditions, the camera does its job absolutely fine. The autofocus works well and the images are decently sharp even when we zoom into it. But if you use the camera in low light conditions, the image quality starts getting awry. Videos shot by the phone performed better than the stills. Millennia Epic can shoot 1920x1088p videos(yes, we too are puzzled by the presence of those 8 extra pixels). For the nerdier folks, the 1088p videos are recorded at 30.25 frames per second and at a bitrate of 17.2 Mbits/sec. I'm attaching a few untouched stills shot using the Celkon Q550 (click any of the photos to view them in original quality) below. I have uploaded a video sample shot using the phone here. (Will update this post with camera samples and video tomorrow, my internet connection is feeling unwell right now.) An untouched video sample shot using the Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic:
Untouched camera samples shot using Celkon Millennia Epic's camera (click to see original image):
This shot is in dim light, without flash.
Our sofa cover. Notice the details by zooming into the threads.
Why the heck is Analog Communications taught to Computer Engineers? Shot this photo while pondering over this issue.
My loverly Dell laptop sitting atop my even lovelier bed. I love my bed so much that I rarely leave it. Noticed where I shot all these sample photos from?
Took this one to see if I could zoom into the paper and read the stories. In case you don't see the full image (by clicking the one above), yes, I could read the stories.
Zooming into the image, it looks as if the keyboard keys are backlit.
 But they aren't. Bad color reproduction. :(

Software:

The phone runs on vanilla Android 4.4.2 Kitkat with only two noticeable changes. First one is bringing back the App Ops feature which was present in Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but was removed by Google in the Kitkat update. This feature allows users to keep track of which app is requesting what permissions and whether he/she wants that app to have that permission. This can be a lifesaver for power users who don't want to, say, give a particular app access to their contacts or messages or internet connection. The other change is rather a bad move from Celkon (at least from the end user's point of view). Celkon has installed a bucketload of bloatware apps in the system partition which means that unless you decide to lose your warranty and root your smartphone (which most users don't do), you will have to live with those apps - even if they keep running forever in the background and are never used.

Thankfully, there is a way around this problem. Go to Settings > Applications > All and tap the bloatware application that you absolutely despise. In its App info screen, select the disable option. That's it. You won't see that app again in your app drawer, nor it will run in the background eating up precious ram and battery. The only difference between uninstalling an app and disabling it is that uninstalling frees up the storage space that the app is occupying while disabling it doesn't (because it is a reversible process). I talked to the Celkon team about whether they have any plans for updating the Millennia Epic to Lollipop. I just received a generic kind of response that they'd let me know if there is any news of the device getting a Lollipop update.

Performance:

A 1.3 GHz Mediatek Quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM is a combination powerful enough to be able to provide solid performance. I have used this phone as my primary device and with the applications I use, the phone multitasked swiftly through them. When I hadn't installed any applications, the phone had around 625 MB free ram. This dropped to 365 MB free ram when I installed all the apps and services that I regularly use. Xiaomi Redmi 1s, with the same set of applications and Paranoid ROM (which is pretty close to stock Android), has around 200 MB free ram when I have a few apps open in the background. Also, there isn't any heating problem no matter what you do on the Celkon Q550 - be it gaming, or using it as a 3G wifi hotspot.

The only thing that is a letdown is the Mediatek processor, and that too not because of any performance issues (I didn't face any), but for the fact that Mediatek doesn't release its kernel source code and hence there are like zero custom roms that are available for a Mediatek powered device. So, in case you are a fan of custom roms like Cyanogenmod, Paranoid, AOKP, Pacman or the likes, this can be a major letdown. Now that we are talking about this, there are no rooting methods or recoveries available for the phone right now, but I shall try to look into that matter in the upcoming days. So stay tuned to Droidiser if you are a superuser and are looking ahead to root your Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic.

Benchmarks:

I don't give too much significance to benchmark tests and these should not be what you base your purchasing decision on. For those still interested, here are the benchmark results I obtained on the Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic. For a bit of a comparison, I am including the scores I obtained on Xiaomi Redmi 1s, which has nearly the same sort of hardware (Quad-core processor + 1 GB RAM).

Try No. Celkon Millennia Epic Xiaomi Redmi 1S
Antutu Benchmark v5.3 (Bigger score is better)
1 18398 18554
2 18772 17968
3 18279 18159
Quadrant Benchmark v2.1.1 (Bigger score is better)
1 6526 4188
2 6584 4281
3 6730 4303
Billion Counter 1.9 (Lesser time is better)
1 26.344 seconds 41.592 seconds
2 26.169 seconds 41.179 seconds
3 26.255 seconds 41.444 seconds
Linpack 1.2.8 (Single-core) (Bigger score is better)
1 115.473 49.488
2 116.972 52.006
3 115.632 51.813
Linpack 1.2.8 (Multi-core) (Bigger score is better)
1 238.567 154.033
2 224.584 150.461
3 208.746 144.531
A1 SD Bench v2.3.0 (Internal storage speed)
Read 72.09 MB/s 62.69 MB/s
Write 43.79 MB/s 24.92 MB/s
A1 SD Bench v2.3.0 (RAM speed)
1 1144.51 MB/s 855.24 MB/s
2 1156.62 MB/s 938.19 MB/s
3 1150.00 MB/s 992.17 MB/s

Battery:

The 3,500 mAh battery that the Millennia Epic packs is one of its USPs. If you spend most of your day on your smartphone, using WiFi/mobile data, listening to music, sharing internet with other devices, even then the phone will last you through a day. If you use your phone moderately, you can even skip a day without charging the device. Though we have seen batteries with slightly lesser capacities last longer than this, the sheer power that the battery stores makes the battery life of the phone a thing to boast about.
Like two sides of a coin, there's a negative side to this large battery life too. It takes quite a while to get phone charged from zero to 100%. That said, you can charge your phone overnight, most modern smartphones (including this one) don't have any negative impact on the battery even if you keep them connected to a charger when it's fully charged.

Other noticeable points:

Gaming:

I am not an avid mobile gamer, but for the sake of testing the gaming capabilities of the device for you guys, I installed a bunch of games (Subway Surfers, Plants vs Zombies 2, Dead Trigger 2, Cut the Rope Time Travel HD and a few others) on the phone and predictably, it was able to play all of them without any hiccup. When you try to multitask with a heavy game in the background, it sometimes gets killed in the background. But that is totally understandable for a phone that packs just a GB of RAM (which is the de facto standard at this price point).

Notification LED:

A notification led is present near the top right corner of the Celkon Q550. It keeps glowing when the phone is charging, and blinks at regular intervals when there is any pending notification. By default, all notifications cause the led to glow in red color. Though I tried getting the notification led to glow in various colors using an option present in Whatsapp, only green and red colors worked. 

Conclusion:

So this was all I felt about the Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic. If you watched the video review, you would already know that I have rated this device 82 out of 100, which means that you won't be wasting your money if you decide to purchase this device. That said, let me wrap it up by suggesting who should buy the Millennia Epic and who should steer clear of it.

You should buy the Millennia Epic if you want:

  • A smartphone with a large screen that is vibrant, and has nice colors and viewing angles
  • A smartphone that's slim and still doesn't compromise on the battery department
  • A smartphone that looks premium, yet doesn't cost you a bomb
  • A smartphone that is available for around Rs. 10,000

You should skip the Millennia Epic if you don't want:

  • A camera that is just ok-ok (or whatever you judge it to be by looking at the quality of the image samples I added above)
  • A mediocre loudspeaker
  • A smartphone that has almost zero hopes of getting a real custom rom like CM or AOKP. (Don't bother about this point if you don't understand it. Seriously. :)
If you have any queries about the Celkon Q550 Millennia Epic, or have any thoughts about the review, let us know in the comments section. Have a nice day ahead.
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