To begin with, we must remember this is a budget phone, the fact that we sometimes forgot during this review due to its far from expected build quality, fast processor and then reminded again with earth-shattering reality. The Micromax A27 Ninja is currently available at major online as well as offline retailers for a retail price of around Rs. 3500 to Rs. 4000. At this price, you get a 3.5-inch display with a 1GHz processor and 256 MB of RAM. Let's get on with the review.
Micromax A27 Ninja comes with a 3.5-inch HVGA (320x480) screen, with a row of capacitive Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons right below it. On the left of the device is a very sturdy volume rocker with the power button and the 3.5mm audio jack at the top. The right of the device is completely flush with just a slight opening to allow for the battery cover to be removed easily. On the bottom, you have the MicroUSB data-syncing and charging port.
This is a dual-sim device therefore after removing the backcover you can see the two sim card slots at the base, with the microSD card slot at the right. There is a 1400 mAh battery powering the 1GHz processor of the device, running Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread. There is 256MB of RAM onboard, and a bevy of sensors. There is proximity sensor, accelerometer, gravity sensor for detecting orientation change. However, we were unable to get the accelerometer to work, in games and in our test apps as well. It seems a general issue with the Micromax A27 Ninja which makes us believe that this is an issue with the ROM rather than hardware.
The earpiece is quite loud and clear, your voice is clearly audible at the other end as well. The only issue we faced while making calls was that one time the voice from the other end started echoing, although it happened during just one call and we were unable to reproduce the issue. But one thing really let us down, that the internal memory of the device is just 160MB which will make it a hassle in installing apps.
Look and Feel
When you open the box for the first time you are greeted with the Micromax A27 Ninja wrapped in a plastic cover. Once you take the phone out, all you see is the hardened plastic covered screen and the row of capacitive buttons. These buttons do not light up for some reason and there is no setting to do so either.
The device is made completely out of glossy plastic apart from the back cover and the thin trim that surrounds the sides of the device. The entire front face of the phone is covered by hardened plastic. The thin trim which surrounds the phone has a dark silver shade which gives the phone a premium appeal.
One of the best things about the design of the Ninja A27 is its textured back cover, given the size of the phone, the back cover gives a solid feel to the device. There is no creaking from the housing and everything feels right in place once the battery is in. The volume and power buttons are sturdy and have good travel once pressed, which is unexpected from a budget device.
The display of the Micromax A27 Ninja is simply great given the budget restraints on the device. The screen is bright and color reproduction is quite accurate. There is little pixelation given the low 320x480 resolution of the 3.5-inch capacitive screen, but even then the screen seems sharp and text is legible. The screen has acceptable viewing angles, but since the screen is deep-set in the casing, looking directly at the screen gives the best picture. The colors appear bright and vibrant, and the graphics appear quite sharp as well. Gaming on the phone also fares well(detailed in the Gaming section), with no ghosting during higher frame rates.
The touch sensitivity of the screen is pretty high which registers even the slightest touch of your fingertips, but is prone to some erratic behavior as well when using two-finger multitouch. The touch sensitivity of the capacitive buttons is also a bit high and registers accidental touches far too often.
The speakerphone on the Ninja A27 is loud enough to wake your neighbors on a cold Sunday morning. Although being loud does not necessarily translate to quality audio, and same is the case of the Micromax Ninja A27. As you turn up the volume a few notches above the middle bar the sound begins to get shriller and tinnier. At full volume the sound is so loud it becomes unbearable not just due to the volume but due to the fact that the sound starts to crack as well.
Video playback is quite smooth even in YouTube high-quality mode, but the only video formats supported are 3GP and MP4. Obviously, you will not be able to HD videos on this device. But colors seem accurate and there is no lag in playback as well, thanks to the Mali 300 GPU.
The bundled headset is too plasticky to even consider seriously, but given the budget nature of the device, you shouldn't expect more. The main issue is that the phone itself lacks any punch of bass, it is possibly the chipset that is unable to process low-frequency audio which did get better with the use of an equalizer. You should, however, invest in a good set of earphones if you want to listen to music on this device.
FM Radio works without any issues as you would expect, once you insert your headset in, it scans all available channels and stores them. You can then edit channel names and frequency if you want to, which is great. The FM Radio app also has a good User Interface which is just one of the customization Micromax has made to stock android. The phone is able to maintain FM radio signal even during travel and is able to get the connection back even if lost.
There is a 0.3 Megapixel camera on the phone, which even given its price point is still weird as even the Micromax A25 which is available for about Rs. 500 less than the Ninja A27 has a 1.3-megapixel camera, although of equally poor quality. The quality is sub-par in even day shots, while video shooting is practically unfeasible.
The settings of the camera try to average out pixel information since there is so little to collect, thus the pictures even taken during broad daylight seem blurry and out of focus. There is no autofocus, no led flash and no filters in the default app as well. The cameras of today's smartphones are generally bad if you don't consider high-end phones. Therefore, expecting too much from this phone in terms of image quality would be absurd.
Gaming seems to be a hit and a miss with the Micromax A27 Ninja. Games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Hill Climb Racing work great on the device, while at the same time due to the faulty accelerometer you will not be able to play games like RacingMoto or any other that requires its use. The accelerometer works only if the phone is tilted at a 90-degree angle, but it's a software issue since it has been replicated with other units as well.
Then there's Temple Run which some reason opens up, shows the start screen and then just closes itself. The Gingerbread 2.3.5 ROM of the device has some compatibility issues, which can be very easily fixed with an update and will possibly fix the accelerometer as well.
Software and Apps
The Micromax A27 Ninja runs a custom build of Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, which is heavily customized to give it an Ice Cream Sandwich like appeal. Starting from the Lock Screen to the Launcher with separate apps and widget tabs remind of the ICS launcher. It's not all for show, there is functionality inbuilt too. Like the direct uninstall option from the App Drawer and also you are prompted to install apps directly to Phone or External Storage instead of the default behavior of Android by which the Phone memory is selected. There are some cool animations for the Homescreen and the App Drawer as well in the Desktop settings which we have shown in the review video.
The phone comes pre-installed with Gmail, Google+, GTalk, ES File Explorer and the Maps app, even though the device does not have a GPS chip. Along with this, the Notification shade is customized with Quick Launch icons using which you can control various settings of the device like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mobile Internet, brightness etc.
Micromax has also made Swipe & Share very prominent for the Ninja A27. What it does is, use Wi-Fi tethering to connect to another Android smartphone and then transfer apps, images or any other files you may want to. We have to agree its a very clever way to transfer data faster, given the slow speed at which Bluetooth works. This does not use your data plan but just connects to the other device over Wi-Fi. Its simple enough to configure, once you open the Flash Transfer app on the Micromax A27 or use the Swipe & Share option from the Gallery app, you can invite someone to share. The invitation appears in the form of a QR code which can be scanned on the other device to download the Flash Transfer app there as well. Once done, both can be connected and simply share any files or apps that you want without any data charges.
Performance and Battery Life
The 1Ghz Spreadtrum processor feels just as snappy as it sounds. Powering the low-res display doesn't take many resources and therefore there is always that extra punch available from the processor when you open a new app or switch between apps. Although the 256MB RAM is a bottleneck, the zippy processor gets around that as well. The phone does get a bit warm while playing graphics intensive games, but it is not alarming. Here is the Quadrant benchmark for the device, where we got scores of 1170 & 1148 on two different tries:
We also successfully ran AnTuTu benchmarks on the device and got a score of 3500, which is quite good. This ties in well with our expectations that even though this is a budget device, it performs much better than what we expected.
The phone lasted us almost an entire day on a full charge with both SIM cards turned on, on a 2G network with intermittent internet usage, and about 40 minutes of calls, all the while screen brightness turned to one-third of the full level. During the same time, we played games on the device as well, ran benchmarks and downloaded apps, games over Wi-Fi. The battery takes a bit of time to charge but once its done it lasts quite a while. Given that this is an android device and that too dual-sim, Micromax must have made some customization to the power management of the OS to make it last longer. Therefore even if you are a heavy user, the phone should easily last an entire day without a hiccup.
Even though the touchscreen is a bit finicky sometimes, the display performs far better than expected. The display quality is better than the Samsung Galaxy Y as well as general performance. The phone does get a bit hot if you are playing games, and the battery drains faster as well. But given the price at which the Ninja A27 is available, we have very few complaints apart from the faulty accelerometer which can be very easily fixed with a ROM update.
The camera too is sub-par, as well as the sound from the loudspeaker which tends to crack if you crank up the volume to the max. But such things go unnoticed since this phone opens the way to Google's Play Store at a very low price point, which can very easily make smartphones mainstream in India. There are always better options than this phone, but there are probably no other devices which can beat this phone in the budget segment. So, if you are planning to buy this phone plainly because you want to buy a budget Android device, then this could be the perfect buy.