Micromax created a good device with the original Canvas 2 A110 which became its fastest selling Android handset, and now with the Canvas 2 Plus A110Q it is trying to do the same. The Q in A110Q, as you may have guessed, stands for quad-core, although that's not the only change. So, has Micromax created the definitive quad-core mid-range Android handset with the Canvas 2 Plus A110Q, or does it fall flat on its face. Here's the PhoneBunch in-depth review of the Micromax A110Q Canvas 2 Plus.
- Good Build Quality
- Great Display (Even if its low-res)
- Superb Performance
- Almost Stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
- Decent Camera
- USB OTG Support
- Magnetic Field Sensor doesn't work (probably a ROM issue)
- Speakerphone is not loud enough.
- Weird, cheap-looking plastic backcover.
- Lack of 1080p video capture and playback.
The Micromax Canvas 2 Plus comes with a 5-inch FWVGA display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor based on a MediaTek MT6589 chipset. There's 1GB of RAM as well, which keeps everything running smoothly along with the PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU, which is quite powerful in its own right. There's 4GB of internal storage out of which 1GB is available for apps, and about the same as mass storage, but its expandable and games or apps can be moved to the SD card.
The entire front of the device is the humongous 5-inch FWVGA (854 x 480 pixels) display alongwith the 3 capacitive buttons at the bottom which seem to share the same capacitive sensor as the display, as even in the gap between them, the buttons seem to work and sometimes they do accidentally get touched. There's also a notification LED at the top left of the device, that glows either green or red based on the notification received, for eg. missed calls or low battery would be red while Facebook or GMail notifications will be green. It behaves as an indicator for charging as well. There's also the main earpiece and the 2MP front-facing camera at the top of the display as well, along with the light and proximity sensors. USB OTG is also supported by the Canvas 2 Plus.
At the top of the Canvas 2 Plus you have the secondary noise-cancellation microphone, the micro USB data and charging port, as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left you have a very sturdy volume rocker and the power button on the right, both of which don't make any clicking noises and provide decent feedback. At the bottom you just have the primary microphone as well as a small opening to get the backcover off. Moving on, the Canvas 2 Plus also has some good imaging skills with its 8MP Auto Focus primary camera with dual-LED flash and a 2MP front-facing camera. The 8MP primary camera is limited to 720p video at 30 frames per second for some reason, while the front-facing camera is adequate for video chatting. If you open the backcover, you are greeted to two full-size SIM card slots and a micro SD card slot as well. Then there's the battery compartment which houses the 2000 mAh battery which provides about 6 hours of talk time. To have an overview of the accessories that come with the device, including the free Snap Cover (Flip Case) just head on over to our Unboxing of the Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q).
There are five sensors available in the Canvas 2 Plus:
- 3-axis Accelerometer
- Proximity Sensor
- Light Sensor
- Orientation Sensor
- 3-axis Magnetic Field Sensor (which does not work)
The Magnetic Field Sensor, for some reason, does not work. Its probably a ROM issue, and could be solved in the first update to the Canvas 2 Plus to Android 4.2.2 Jellybean.
Then there's the GPS, which for some reason does not want to get a fix on your location, you can give it any length of time you want, but it will never give you a precise location. After a complete factory reset GPS started to work perfectly, therefore the review has been updated to reflect this change.
The front of the device is covered by glass, underneath which is the capacitive touch layer and then the 5-inch IPS LCD display. The built is pretty sturdy, with no parts creaking even when you try to apply force to the casing. The hardened glass front is prone to both smudging and scratches. As, I have already said earlier both the power button and the volume rocker are quite solid, provide decent feedback and remain in their respective sockets. All around the device is a thin metallic looking trim (actually plastic), which covers the volume and power buttons in the same material and makes the Canvas 2 Plus look thinner and more premium. The hardened glass covering is flush with the trim and therefore the trim would do nothing to protect the display if it the Canvas 2 Plus was kept down on the display. Then, there's also a little gap between the trim and the glass front, which will be the best source to find traces of all that you have eaten or been to in the years that you use the device.
Talking about the backcover its extremely flimsy, you'd think twice before opening it as it might break. Although it probably won't as the material is not that bad, but the textured back, the horribly done shiny silver Micromax logo just give the device a very inexpensive look. All its glory with the display and the metallic trim are lost with the backcover. Although we do understand that the backcover had to be like this so as to make the device thinner, which is a good thing, but instead of bad quality plastic Micromax could have gone for aluminium (of course at a premium) or a rubberized texture finish rather than the dotted pattern than is currently seen, or even a shiny plastic backcover sans the god awful silver Micromax logo. But once the backcover is shut tight, with very satisfying clicks, the phone is as sturdy as it always was and you'd never guess that the backcover was so fragile.
In terms of ergonomics, since this is such a huge device, the power button is placed right where your thumb would rest and the volume rocker where your middle finger would rest while holding the Canvas 2 Plus if you are right handed and the opposite otherwise, so atleast it seems Micromax paid some attention to the design of the device. There'a a noticeable bump at the back due to the 8MP camera module, which too has a metallic silver ring surrounding it, which is a bit elevated from the camera assembly and thus protects it from scratches when the phone is put down on its back. You also get a snap on cover or flip case free with the Canvas 2 Plus, which again is made from the plastic material as the backcover, but the front of the cover is quite nice and gives the device a premium appeal and the Micromax Logo on that too has been done very elegantly. The Flip cover is quite adequate in protecting the Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q) and therefore you would not need any other cover, plus you always have a new backcover if one breaks.
Network and Call Quality
There have been a lot of questions thrown at us about the Network issues with previous Micromax devices and whether the Canvas 2 Plus suffers from the same issues. Our response to that is simply no, there were no issues with network connectivity and both SIM cards were inserted in the device. We always had about 80- 90% signal level even indoors, and the call quality was excellent.
Though sometimes when the signal dropped in certain areas, the phone did not drop calls but carried them on once we got the signal, therefore the device has good signal retention. The earpiece is loud and clear, and the person on the other side of our calls too did not have any issues in understanding us clearly. The Canvas 2 Plus is a dual-SIM dual-Standby device therefore, you cannot get a call on the other SIM while talking on one.
We also had no issues using 3G internet services, as you can see in the image up we got 3.45 Mbps or 442.1 KBps download and a paltry 37.9 KBps upload speed, well that can be as we were indoors. But the upload speeds were great. Even on 2G Edge data connection we got 25.4 KBps download and 4.6 KBps upload speed. Although the 3G speeds were lower than we hoped for, but still acceptable due to weather conditions and the fact that we were indoors.
So there's a 5-inch IPS display on the Canvas 2 Plus with FWVGA resolution, that's 854 x 480 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is perfect for watching movies. But is the display on the Canvas 2 Plus any good, even though it is low res? Isn't 196 PPI to less for a 5-inch display like that on the Canvas 2 Plus? What about the colors, are they faded or over saturated ? Well, here are all the answers.
Resolution isn't everything, which you can easily see from the Canvas HD A116, although it has a 720p display but the colors lack depth and the display generally has a very faded look, even if you are looking straight at it. This is not the case with the Canvas 2 Plus, the display is simply stunning, apart from the fact it isn't an HD display. The colors look vibrant and the viewing angles are great. Although you cannot compare a 720p display with a 480p display, in terms of sharpness, and you do tend to see individual pixels if you look too close. But the vibrant color reproduction, and great viewing angles that is generally associated with IPS displays makes us overlook that.
Even during gaming, we didn't see any ghosting in the display or freezing at any point. A word about the touch sensitivity of the display, it is simply stunning and given that this is a mid-range device we didn't expect it from the Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q). The display recognizes touch even through a double folded cloth piece, which tends us to believe that it may infact recognize touch through gloves, but we didn't have any lying here in the office so that's an addendum for later.
Camera and the Dual-LED flash
We have a detailed camera review here, do read that first. In general the 8MP camera on the Canvas 2 Plus is capable of taking decent shots in moderate to good lighting, but sometimes you get the most unexpected great looking shot. The thing is that you need to tinker with the settings and find the mode that suits the current scene best, or try the various scene modes that are built in.
Day time videos look good, but low-light videos and photos are awful, there's just too much noise. Indoor photography on the other hand with fluorescent lighting is more than acceptable but the dual-LED flash is so bad, its ridiculous.
Why would you want to have a purple flare in your images. The flash lets out a purplish hue instead of white. In short, dual-LED flash of the Canvas 2 Plus is ineffective, and requires some other source of light to assist it.
Alright, the speakerphone here needs a special section simply for the fact that even though it sounds good, it not at the right place and is not loud enough. If you place the phone on its back, the sound gets muffled and good luck hearing your ringtone in a noisy environment. Even in your pocket, the Canvas 2 Plus would need to be on Outdoor mode with vibrate on so that you can atleast feel it ring even if you can't hear it. The maximum volume is a bit low but atleast sound does not crack, and again that too can be fixed with a simple update.
I believe that the placing of the speakerphone is incorrect, either it should have been on the side or a bit lower, if it was required to be on the back of the device. The current placement closes the opening in the backcover once the Canvas 2 Plus is kept down on its back, if the speaker grill was more pronounced that would have helped it too.
Our Gaming experience on the Canvas 2 Plus was flawless, we don't have anything to criticize about. We played both less graphically intensive games as well as high-end games, but the Canvas 2 Plus did not falter even a single time. The accelerometer works great with it recognizing all our movement and that too accurately, there was no over-compensation for our motion which we have experienced with other mid-range android devices from Indian manufacturers. You can read our Gaming Review of the Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q) here.
Music and Bundled Earphones
First of all, just throw out the bundled headset as soon as you open the box. They are atrocious, and I am being generous here. They provide a tinny feedback, with echo and muffled bass. Its not the fault of the chipset, if you put in a pair of Sennheiser's of even Sony earphones for that matter, you'd marvel at the change. The speakerphone, though not loud enough, does provide good quality sound and as expected there are no issues with playing high-bitrate music or fast forwarding tracks.
There are some equalizer settings in the Music app as well and another in the User Profiles Option in Settings called BesAudEnh (some audio enhancement feature for earphones), which only works with earphones plugged-in and its horrendous, it just makes the bundled earphones more awful and even my other earphones sound horrible. Just turn off all the equalizer settings, and you'd be good to go. After than you can enjoy great music on the Canvas 2 Plus.
FM Radio too works well, and as you can see in the review video it picks up channels very quickly and the reception is quite clear. It does need the headset to be plugged in to work, as do most smartphones but we would have liked the FM Radio antenna to be built in. Other than that even when we were moving through the city, the reception was decent and rarely we felt any distortion in terms of FM Reception on the Canvas 2 Plus.
Video Playback too is flawless on the Canvas 2 Plus apart from the fact that it cannot do 1080p videos, even if you use MXPlayer in Software mode. 720p videos work flawlessly, with no lag or sync issues, you can fast forward, seek around a video, even movies the size of 2GB or more and the Canvas 2 Plus does not falter. You get good color reproduction, and since the videos are scaled down to FWVGA resolution they look sharper.
You can directly play AVI, MP4 as well 3GP files from the default video player app, for more formats, you can choose from several video players available in the Play Store.
Software & Apps
Micromax this time decided to keep everything quite stock with the Canvas 2 Plus, you get a stock Android 4.2 launcher and lockscreen which also supports widgets. But the lockscreen has been customized with notifications, which are actionable and if you drag them while opening the lock, they will open the respective app. Then there are iOS like notifications on the phone and message app icons in the launcher dock. There is very little customization in the notification bar as well, where we now have Quick Launch toggles, here Micromax has added some toggles of their own including User Profiles, Data Connection switcher, and display Timeout all of which are very welcome. The app drawer too is stock with no added customization, but the icons of several apps as well as the all the icons of the settings menu have been changed. The Phone dialer app has been customized but just to include dual-SIM capabilities and a few images here & there. The Music app too is stock, with a little change on the Now Playing screen, again very minor changes.
We like that Micromax has not tinkered with Stock Android, and that would also allow for faster system updates. Alas! The Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q) does not support OTA (Over The Air) updates yet. But given that the Canvas HD just got it Android 4.2 update with OTA Updates enabled, things are looking brighter for the Canvas 2 Plus as well.
There are a few default apps that come pre-installed with the Canvas 2 Plus, one is a File Manager app, Notebook, ToDo list and two games, Dark Man and Fruit Devil which you can only play once, after which they cannot be uninstalled. Some Google Apps including Google+, GMail, GTalk, Google Now, YouTube come pre-installed as well and these cannot be uninstalled too. There are some Micromax apps like M!Live, M!Zone and HookUp (WhatsApp like messaging service) which make their way to the Canvas 2 Plus.
People had asked us to check the compatibility of several apps, so here's the low-down.
- Flipboard app and its widgets work great.
- Google Now as I wrote earlier, comes pre-installed, works great.
- WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook and all other major social networking apps work without any issues on the Canvas 2 Plus.
- Google Chrome too works flawlessly, and you should use it instead of the default Jellybean browser, for faster browsing and sync features.
You can also move apps and games to the SD card, and also choose the default write location from the Storage menu option in Settings. In terms of Accessibility features, you get TalkBack pre-installed which aids the visually impaired to navigate through their smartphone as well as magnification gestures for reading small textual content.
You have your general security options like Pattern, Pin, Password etc but you now also have the option to use Face Unlock and Voice Unlock, we tried both and to our surprise, they worked. Face Unlock is pretty straight forward, it uses the front-facing camera to recognize your face and then matches it later when you try to unlock the phone. You can also require the user to blink while trying to unlock the phone, which would prevent your image from being used to fool the system.
Then there's Voice Unlock, wherein you can say any command and repeat it a few times till its recognized and then use it to unlock the device, you can also choose to open either Messaging, Phone or Camera through specific Voice Unlock commands. If you have enabled these secrity measures but don't want to use them, you can switch to a Pattern or a PIN.
Performance and Battery Life
We already have a detailed benchmarking review including comparison between the Canvas 2 Plus, Canvas HD A116 and the Canvas 2. You can read it here. All in all, the Canvas 2 Plus generally performs better than the other two, while the previous-gen Canvas 2 is no match, it readily beats the Canvas HD A116 as well.
We got an entire day's worth of battery life, in which we played games for about 30 mins, browsed the web for the same time on Wi-Fi, then did some reading for about 10 mins, 30 mins in calls , 20 minutes of 720p video on full volume and about an hour of music on earphones. All this time, the brightness was turned to Auto and the phone was on an Edge connection, which was always on. During this time both SIM Cards were also turned on.
Even though the Canvas 2 Plus (A110Q) has some minor issues with its Magnetic Field Sensor, it is a good offering at Rs. 11,999. Just like the Canvas 2, the Canvas 2 Plus too has the chance to become one of the best selling smartphones due to its quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU, but it misses the mark a little due to Micromax's negligence to the look and feel of the device, and general testing before launching a product. The crappy bundled earphones are another thing I would like to point out, either give us quality earphones or don't give them altogether, although the inclusion of the free Snap Cover or Flip Case (whatever you want to call it) is truly welcome.
The Canvas 2 Plus may be boring to look at, but once the display turns on and you start playing your games, watching videos or browsing the web, you forget this is a mid-range device, but as soon as you turn it over, well, it drops from being mid-range to downright inexpensive to look at. That's the major flaw of the Canvas 2 Plus, it has great hardware, probably flagship material apart from the display resolution and camera, but the clear disregard for the finish of the device just ruins it for me. But in terms of performance there are only a few smartphones available in the 20K price bracket that can match the Canvas 2 Plus.
In terms of comparison, I believe it is a better buy than the Galaxy Grand Duos as well as the Canvas HD A116 which primarily looses out due to its faded display. But where the Galaxy Grand Duos gets the brownie points is that it has the Samsung brand name and build quality to boast off, which the Canvas 2 Plus seriously lacks.