Posted on 13 May 2013.
An unfamiliar brand enters the arena with a familiar Android device
Reviewer: Richard Brown
If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Prestigio, you are not alone. The manufacturer, based in Cyprus, is a newcomer to the UK market even though it has been trading across Europe since 2001, offering a wide range of products.
The MultiPhone 4500 DUO sits proudly at the top of the company’s smartphone range, heading up a family of four or five other less well-endowed Android models. All are offered SIM-free at competitive prices via mail order, either through Prestigio’s own Plaza (see box-out) or other online stores.
With a complete feature set that includes Android 4.1, dual SIM, Wi-Fi, eight-megapixel camera and HD video playback, this particular handset is available in either black or white versions (the review sample provided for us was white). It’s an inoffensive, sleek device dressed in a minimalist monotone colour scheme, with a slimline form-factor at just 9.6mm in depth. The 4500 DUO feels comfortable to hold, with a healthy weight of 156g affording it a bit of durability and substance, together with the toughened screen constructed from Gorilla Glass.
Unlike so many of today’s manufacturers, Prestigio has relegated its company logo and brand name to the back panel of the device, on the all-encompassing battery cover, leaving the front side trademark free. It’s a small but modest gesture that’s very welcome in this age of in-your-face marketing.
The 540×960 pixel display dominates the front fascia, with a front-facing camera lens in the top right corner and the traditional Menu, Home and Back keys at the bottom. Volume controls sit discreetly on the left hand side and the power button is on the right edge. Here Prestigio isn’t taking any chances with a tried-and-trusted formula that will be familiar to anyone who’s used an Android smartphone.
One plus point is the dual SIM option; there’s a slot for WCDMA and one for GSM. For anyone who wants to use two numbers it’s a no-brainer, otherwise it might be helpful to switch between a high-speed 3G network and a slower 2G network depending on the level of coverage in your area, or to save battery life by using GSM. We tested out voice calling on both protocols and the call-quality was equally clear on both, although we did need to turn the volume up to almost maximum in order to hear the caller. Alongside the SIM card slots is a microSD card slot for expandable memory, but you need to remove the battery in order to access them. No memory card is provided.
In the box we did find a micro-USB cable, a European charger, two sets of basic in-ear headphones (one black, one white) and a protective leather sheath-like case. A minor point to note is that the handset fits into the case very tightly indeed, so much so that it takes quite an effort to remove; you have to grab the slightly protruding camera lens with a thumb, whilst holding the case in the other hand, to tug out the phone.
The 4500 DUO runs on a recent version of the Android operating system, 4.1 Jelly Bean, the same as other notable products such as the HTC One X+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Where it differs from these devices is in the fact that Prestigio has opted against customising the operating system in any shape or form; what you get is the pure, unadulterated, ‘vanilla’ version of Android. Whilst to some this might show a lack of imagination, to others it’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there’s a growing movement of rebellion from Android users against the skins that manufacturers such as HTC or Samsung lay over the top of the menu system (Sense and TouchWiz respectively). Google is awash with guides on how to strip your device of its customised user interface and maybe manufacturers are starting to follow suit, with Motorola recently adopting a similar strategy by installing a clean version of Android 4.0 on its Razr i smartphone.
So, let’s see what’s on the menu. Jelly Bean 4.1 has many improvements over its predecessors, chief of which is the overall operability of the user interface. It looks good and feels more fluid, with the transitions between homescreens faster and smoother, for example.
One major difference is in the notifications panel, accessed by dragging the top menu bar down to the bottom of the screen. The notifications are now actionable, meaning that if you tap on an alert for a new email, for example, you will go straight to that message in your inbox. It’s a simple, logical solution that vastly enhances the user-experience and efficiency of the device.
The one and only proprietary application that comes pre-installed on the Multiphone 4500DUO is this nifty e-reader. It’s neatly designed with the books arranged cover-facing on a nicely rendered wooden bookshelf and operates in both portrait and landscape modes. The app itself is really intuitive to use and can be fully customised, with options to adjust the screen illumination, background, language and font.
There’s a huge library to choose from with more than 622,000 eBooks available to download, of which around 30,000 are free, however the selection of free titles is quite obscure and dated, whilst for more recent releases the prices are a little on the high side when compared to another outlet such as the Kindle Store, for example. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable, well-crafted app that adds some much needed personality to the handset.
The Multiphone 4500DUO is available for €209 (£175) SIM-free at Prestigio’s dedicated online store, which supplies products to 47 different countries.
Here you can also purchase the full range of Prestigio mobile devices, including Smartphones, Tablets, eBook readers and GPS systems, alongside a selection of desktop PCs and peripherals. There’s a range of accessories, not only for Prestigio products but other manufacturers too.
Perhaps to compensate for the lack of OS customisation and the presence of only one exclusive application, namely eReader Prestigio (see box-out), the manufacturer has opted to pre-install a decent variety of third party apps onto the handset. You get Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Translate amongst others, with Angry Birds, Chess and Solitaire for gamers. More can be downloaded via the Prestigio Installer widget that sits on the homescreen, or via the Google Play Store widget which also resides there.
The 1.2GHz dual-core processor is by no means the most powerful on the market, but it keeps things ticking along nicely, with applications loading very quickly and running smoothly. The screen is responsive to the touch as well, thus enabling a pleasant usability for everyday functions such as browsing web pages or writing text messages and emails on the virtual keyboard.
In terms of multimedia, the 4500DUO performs capably, if not brilliantly. The generic Android music player is logically constructed and straightforward to use, as is the video player that reproduces clips and movies in HD format. Videos look impressive on the large 4.5-inch screen that dominates the front of the handset, with nice colour reproduction and smooth rendering. The built-in speaker, located on the back of the device, isn’t particularly loud though, even at full volume.
The handset features an 8MP camera, with auto-focus and a host of shooting modes such as panorama, smile shot, best shot and auto scene detect. Like so many other examples in this price bracket, the camera performs well in outdoor situations with good lighting, but struggles with tones and focus indoors when brightness is lacking. The flash doesn’t help too much either. Nevertheless the snaps taken will be fine for general use and uploading to social media sites. There’s also a front-facing camera for video calling.
One thoughtful new addition on Android 4.1 is the ability to immediately view a slideshow of the pictures you have recently taken by tapping a small icon above the on-screen shutter button, with the option to immediately share the images you like via various online resources, or instantly delete ones you’re not satisfied with. To have this functionality without going down the traditional route of opening up the gallery is a real bonus.
No official figures are available from the manufacturer on battery life, however we found that the 1850mAh cell provided around one day’s standard usage, less if videos were watched or games played excessively. So the handset will require a nightly charge, which is standard fare for a smartphone these days.
The Prestigio MultiPhone 4500 DUO is a user-friendly, well-featured and well-priced device that ticks all the right boxes for a modern smartphone, but ultimately offers nothing fresh and fails to really dazzle. Providing a smooth Android experience in a classic design with a competitive price tag, it will go up against the likes of Huawei or HTC’s budget range and is a viable alternative to those brands for SIM-free shoppers, particularly those consumers for whom a dual SIM is required. The main problem Prestigio faces is brand awareness, as the company name will be irrelevant to much of its potential market.
The Prestigio MultiPhone 4500 DUO is a user-friendly, well-featured and well-priced device that ticks all the right boxes for a modern smartphone. Even though it ultimately offers nothing fresh and fails to really dazzle, it’s a capable performer.
+ Stylish slimline design
+ Dual-SIM option
+ Neat e-reader app
– Minimal OS customisation
– Lack of exclusive apps
– Average battery life