Obi MV1 Review – Quirky but underpowered

Thomas Wellburn
November 29, 2016

[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]



The Obi MV1 is an interesting device that definitely stands out in a crowd but ultimately suffers from inconsistent performance.

Obi is yet another budget smartphone manufacturer who is very new to the game, having only established themselves in 2014. The company was founded by former Apple and PepsiCo CEO John Sculley, who is famous for firing Steve Jobs. With their handsets aimed primarily at developing markets, the Silicon Valley manufacturer believes that there’s a gap in the market for well designed budget hardware. The Obi Worldphone MV1 is their latest materialisation of this idea, but is it just another cheap device? Let’s find out…

Technical Details

OS Cyanogen OS 12.1.1

Processor Snapdragon 212

Screen 5-inches

Resolution 1280 x 720 (294 PPI)

Memory 1 GB RAM

Storage 16GB

Micro SD compatible Yes, up to 64GB

Rear camera 8MP

Front camera 2MP

Video 1080p

Connectivity Bluetooth, 3G, 4G LTE

Dimensions 146 x 73 x 8.9mm

Weight 149g

Battery 2,500 mAh

[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]


For a device that costs under £100, you can’t really expect premium quality. It’s a unique design that you’ll either love or hate and honestly, we’re a bit on the fence. Originality is always nice but the Obi MV1 looks very strange from almost all angles. Coming in at 146 x 73mm, it’s quite big for a 5-inch handset and noticeably dwarfs others. At almost 1cm thick, it’s also hardly the slimmest device on the market either. That said, the Obi MV1 does feel well constructed and fairly rugged, with a textured rubber back offering plenty of grip.

From the front, you can see why the design will divide opinion. Square at the top and curved at the bottom, it goes totally against the convention of normal smartphone design. We’d compare it to the love-child of a Nokia Lumia and iPhone 6, which doesn’t sound bad on paper. Arguably, it would look far better if they just picked one design to rip off rather than throwing in a patchwork quilt of messy edges. A metal antenna is placed along the top of the device, presumably to help with signal, while a front facing camera and earpiece finish off the front. Oddly, the glass is slightly elevated against the rest of the phone which gives it a chunky appearance from the side. It also makes it slightly uncomfortable to hold, with your fingers getting caught on the edges of the screen.

Moving to the sides you’ll find a volume rocker and power button on the right, positioned in exactly the right place for using one handed. The quality of the buttons is okay, with the power button giving a satisfying click but the volume rocker prone to a big of wiggle. The left side is expectedly bare, while the bottom houses a micro USB port and the top a headphone jack.

On the back of the device you’ll find that rubberised finish we mentioned earlier, plus a camera sensor and LED flash lingering in the top left corner. On the bottom, the Obi logo is situated off-centre towards the right, while a speaker sits to the left. The quality of the built-in speaker is actually very good, giving out clear sound with plenty of volume. It wouldn’t sound out of place on a flagship and is one of the better points of the Obi MV1.

It’s also worth noting that the back case is easily removable, revealing the battery, a dual-SIM tray and microSD slot. In a nice touch, the Obi MV1 doesn’t use the second SIM tray as a combo port, allowing you to use both a second SIM card and microSD at the same time. This is a nice touch for business users.

[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]


The Obi MV1 ships with an 8 megapixel rear sensor which takes some pretty impressive snaps but is let down by some poor focusing. In our macro tests, the Obi produced constantly blurry images unless we backed up quite far from the object. With no option for manual focus buried in the settings, it was quite frustrating to see our pictures constantly focus on the background and/or come out a blurry mess.

For general shooting, we found the camera to be actually quite good, though it once again struggled to handle dynamic scenes. This is a problem with a lot of smartphone snappers, so it comes as no surprise that the budget Obi MV1 struggled to compete. In all of our test images, it struggled to tame the dynamics between light and dark, losing valuable shadow and highlight detail in the process.

Low-light photography was an area where the Obi MV redeemed itself, producing somewhat viewable images that managed to show a bit of detail (albeit with lots of noise). That said, you’ll need to keep the phone very still if you want to capture these without blurring the entire image.

The camera application on the Obi MV1 is not far from what you get standard on Google handsets and as such, is fairly basic. There’s a few options for adjustment such as ISO and exposure value but you won’t be finding anything like shutter speed and focus adjustment. Interestingly, if you delve into the settings there is an option to adjust the auto exposure mode, which can help in certain scenarios. We tried spot metering to hopefully improve macro performance and while it didn’t make much of a difference in this instance, the mode will typically help.

[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]


The screen on the Obi MV1 is a 5-inch 1280 x 720 IPS panel, which equates to a pixel density of roughly 294 pixels-per-inch. This sits just under the print standard and should mean that individual pixels are hard to see… yet this wasn’t really the case. We noticed heavy pixelation around text and icons when viewed up close which wasn’t made any better by the low resolution icons shipped in Cyanogen.

Calibrating the panel showed that factory settings were far from perfect. The panel defaults to a very cold setting which gives whites a cool blue tone. Contrast ratio came out at 834:1, which is a reasonable result for a budget panel. It managed to fill 73.4% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut and 97.5% sRGB, the latter of which falls behind better panels on the market. Screen brightness was very good, keeping up with the competition and allowing decent viewing conditions under direct sunlight.


[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]


The performance on the Obi MV1 is not great and that’s partly down to the hardware specifications. With a Snapdragon 212 and only 1GB RAM, you’re really getting bare-bones stuff here. Browsing the UI feels okay but you’ll notice significant hangs and slow loading times when using more intense applications. This is especially noticeable when you open several applications and leave them in the background for hot-switching; the Obi MV1 just can’t keep up with even moderate usage. We also found that large applications took an age to install and ate into the bandwidth of the chipset, making true multi-tasking quite difficult in the process.

Overall benchmarks for the device are pretty low but manage to eclipse competitors such as the WileyFox Spark, which uses the same chip. Scoring 425 for single-core and 1114 for multi-core on GeekBench 4 is not the best result and sits at the very bottom of the performance table. Likewise, AnTuTu posted a pretty low result of 23,745.

The GPU inside the Obi MV1 is a Adreno 304, which is just about the lowest chip you can get in terms of performance. It’s not intended for intense gaming performance and as such, new titles such as Asphalt Xtreme will run pretty badly on the device. Bumping the settings down to low did make things a little more playable but there was still noticeable stuttering when the action got heavy. Less intense games such as Candy Crush Saga 3DMark refused to complete benchmarks on the device, likely because it couldn’t handle the load. We managed to get some results from GFXBench, though the overall score wasn’t great.

The data speed rating of this handset is CAT4, which offers a theoretical max download speed of 150Mbps and take advantage of faster network speeds offered by carriers such as EE. At this price-point we shouldn’t really complain since you’re getting 4G capabilities for under £100, yet we’ve seen other manufacturers squeeze in CAT6 for just £50 more. Call quality on the Obi MV1 is only average and we also noticed some inconsistencies with the cellular response.

The Obi MV1 can be purchased in two versions; either stock Android 5.1 or Cyanogen OS 12.1.1. The handset we received runs the latter, which is a welcome change from the usual operating systems. Cyanogen OS (not to be confused with CyanogenMod, which is the name of the project as a whole), started life as a custom launcher but has now practically evolved into an entirely new operating system, offering plenty of features that separate it from the traditional Google offering.

Security is a big benefit for those who use Cyanogen and the OS carries plenty of features that Google only recently introduced in 6.0 and above. Individual app permissions is one such feature, while the ability to create lockable folders for storing sensitive apps is another big plus. You also get Truecaller as standard, which allows users to block incoming calls, plus the ability to scramble your unlock PIN so praying eyes can’t see what numbers you’re punching in. Ultimately though, Cyanogen OS is just another rooted ROM with which Android sits underneath, so there’s still the potential risk of installing malicious applications and software without that safeguard you’d normally get with stock Android.

Aside from security, there’s other things which make Cyanogen quite different. The user interface is entirely redesigned; some of it for the better, others not so much. The notifications panel is pure Android through and through, while the app tray lists things vertically as a list. A quick selection bar along the bottom allows you select letters very quickly, allowing you to sort through apps much faster than using stock. The standard keyboard is SwiftKey, which is a good addition and much better than the often terrible manufacturer imitations.

Other additions include AudioFX, which enhances sound quality, plus various apps to replace the standard Google ones. The questions remains on whether we should call these bloatware or not, especially since the standard Google applications are also on there should you wish to switch back. With the quality of them being very high and definitely on a par with official variants, we feel that you’d probably be quite happy using either depending on your preference.

Included in the Obi MV1 is a 2,500mAh battery which sounds low but should be enough to power that frugal entry-level processor inside. Expecting reasonable battery life, it stood up to our drain test and managed to go on for a further few hours before eventually needing a juice-up. From the graph we can estimate about 4-5 hours of on-screen time, which is not the best result but generally okay for a budget device. Average day-to-day use saw the device get through a full working day but not much more. Depending on the intensity of use, it would sometimes die a little sooner. Thanks to a removable battery, it’s quite easy to swap things out if you’re on a long-haul trip.


[highlight color=#336699 ]Conclusion[/highlight]


As budget devices go, the Obi MV1 has a few things going for it that makes it stand out from the pack. The solid build quality, 4G capabilities and functional UI make this a good first-time device for entry-level users. The problem is that nothing else really excels and the performance is pretty woeful, which makes this a tricky recommendation for anyone except the most basic user.

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