Categories and Search Box

Friday, June 21, 2013

THL W100 Quadcore Android phone

One of my favourite games is to find the best price/performance values.
This is particularly challenging when it comes to Smart Phones. The new THL W100 (aka Changjiang W100) quad-core Android phone has many strong points to stand out as a safe choice amongst the huge crowd of Chinese phones.






This is one of the most time-consuming research I've done lately. 
There are just so many unknown phone manufacturers with as many unknown models, all looking like clones of each others!
It's far easier to figure out a good tablet from the forums and reviews than a phone.














The limited choice of non-phablet phones
My first criteria, the phone size (4.5" screen, shell size 134x64x11.3), reduced the list greatly with the majority of new phones being 5" and more. Also, for my first Chinese smartphone, I wanted to keep my investment minimal, and 130€ for a device with latest hardware and software makes the risk acceptable.

THL or not THL?

A few Chinese manufacturers acquired a good reputation: Xiaomi, Zopo, Lenovo, Star, ... and Hongjiayuan's THL brand is part of those. The OEM version, Changjiang, only differs by the absence of printed logos. If accessories matter, Changjiang more often comes with a flip cover and back case in the deal. On the other hand, if color matters, the THL-branded W100 recently became available in black.

Now also available in black ! 
Some compromises, but not much: 
- There's no HDMI on that model and only much dearer phones like the Xiaomi Mi2 seems to have that in the quad-core family. This is however balanced by the Wireless Display feature in Android 4.2 which can send  the phone display to a Miracast compliant device.
- The micro-USB does not support OTG accessories.
- The W100 was only available in white when I ordered it, but the black version just arrived on the market.


MTK6589 1.2GHz Quad core Android
1GB RAM/4GB ROM configuration is common in that category, and anything more will mean a much higher price.
The ROM is shared as 1GB internal and 3GB external (internal SD card). Surprisingly there's no bloat-ware included so the initial storage space was almost entirely available.

The CPU is obviously more than adequate to deal with the modest (but good) display and doesn't give a sweat in any situation. I tried some games, although not the heaviest ones yet, and all ran smoothly without the shortest lag.


The beautiful Contre Jour game
Buggy Beach Blitz













Screen: the 960x540@240dpi screen is very bright and sharp. It can use Auto-brightness thanks to the embedded light sensor. Antutu tester didn't detect any dead pixel and multi-touch handles up to 5 fingers altogether.
Other sensors (detected with AndroSensor): Location, Orientation, Accelerometer, Compass and Proximity. About this last one: The screen was a bit slow to wake up when ending a call, in fact it just needed a visit to Settings>Display>Proximity Sensor Calibration.

Good~Average Cameras: There's one 5mp at the front and one 8mp at the back with an average LED flash. Both sides give average results (but far better than a tablet I recently reviewed) with all the usual limitations of such small sensors, but they achieve correct pictures with the right combination of built-in camera settings and post-processing options. The front camera is perfectly fine for video chat and face unlock even in low light condition.
The rear camera is good for day to day snapshots (and full HD videos) but won't replace a real pocket camera for holidays like the Xperia range would.

Un-modified rear camera shot
Phone (and telephony aspect) quality:
The whole phone shell is made of plastic, not worse than my old mainstream smartphone, with simple design (Galaxy S2-style) and proper finish. The sound quality in both directions is loud and clear. The SIM1 port detected my Meteor Ireland carrier straight away. The screenshot on the right from the Engineering menu (*#15963#*, don't mess with it!) gives the specifications for SIM1 (GSM/UMTS) and SIM2 (GSM only) slots.
Wi-Fi signal: Unlike a tablet reviewed recently, the Wi-Fi connection is very stable even with distant access point (2 floors away)

Bluetooth: I've paired my W100 with numerous devices, including the picky Nissan Connect unit, and could find a single problem yet with either data or audio streaming.
I guess that's mostly due to the huge leap from Gingerbread (my previous phone) to Jelly Bean.
Choose "Charge Only" mode
for best charging speed via USB

USB: The micro USB port won't power any OTG peripherial, so it's just for data transfer and charging. Using a PC USB port for charging the phone takes forever, unless you set the USB mode as "Charging Only" which then makes a real difference. Still, the most efficient way is use the travel A/C adaptor provided .
Note: one of the USB options, "Built-in CD-ROM" gives access to a useless ISO file holding one pdf document on micro-USB specifications. You can easily replace this (e.g. with drivers) by creating your own iso file and replace the iAmCdRom.iso file under /system/mobile_toolkit. The content of this file will be automatically mounted as the Built-in CD-ROM.

Battery life:
It's always difficult to quantify and depend on how many services are used (Wi-Fi, BT, GPS, ...). I found the battery life to be good enough to ensure one of my typical day of use comfortably: BT only for streaming music to  auto-radio, no GPS, Wi-Fi always on, auto-brightness, Audio Profile set as "general", frequent access to Hangouts and Emails.

GPS:
No bad surprise either for the GPS, just working as it should, with only an expected longer first lock, but then obtained within a minute with high accuracy even on a overcast day. Once acquired, the signal remained stable during my test journey.

Rooting:
If it wasn't for the experiment, I wouldn't have rooted the phone yet. For once, a phone that doesn't come cluttered with bloat-ware! The Android 4.2.1 provided is quasi-vanilla.
As for most MTK6589 devices, rooting the W100 is no big deal: it just requires the right MTK6589 PC drivers and a rooting tool such as Motochopper (might generate a false positive from your antivirus). The process took me a few retries (lots of "adb-server is out of date" during the execution) but finally went through.
Same story goes as to flashing the phone: it's the first time that I don't feel the urge to replace the firmware right away, for everything seems just right the way it is! Unless a good reason arises, it might well stay like that until the Key Lime Pie release.

Buying advices:
Picking the right shop took me almost as long as finding the right device.
When searching for Changjiang/THL W100, keep in mind that some shop include the flip cover and back case, and these accessories are almost impossible to find separately.
This was my first experience with Pandawill.com and didn't have to complain, all went smooth.
Ibuygou.com have a comparable offer and they would have been my second choice (although their reputation is more difficult to establish). I went for the free delivery option which I don't recommend unless you're ready to wait for ~20 days.

Note: My phone came set in Russian and greeted me with the equivalent to the "SIM card changed" message below). If you receive the phone in a foreign language, head for this "A" icon in the Setup menu to reach the language list.











Conclusion:  The THL W100 rocks in all aspects. It's well equipped and makes good use of the latest improvements from Android 4.2.1 with no noticeable glitch. Rooting and Re-flashing is completely optional because there's simply no crap-ware to get rid of and no outstanding bugs to address (as far as I can tell after 4 days of use).
A very good surprise in every aspects which is worth every pennies!


Good:
Decent battery life
No crap-ware included
All the goodness of Android 4.2.1
Excellent bright and crisp IPS display
Excellent performance
Attractive price

Not so good:
USB not supporting OTG
No HDMI output
No LED notification (workaround)

More reading:
Official THL product page
THL W100 review from AndroidAuthority
Cellphonemic's overview 

30 comments:

  1. pls, from your review you mean dis phone wouldn't allow me to use it as a mass storage device (as a use device)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The phone's internal storage and SD card can be accessed via USB from a computer, but, since the USB port does not support OTG the phone cannot be directly connected to peripheral, like external HDD, or input devices such as mouse, keyboard, and gamepad (those are however supported via Bluetooth).

      Delete
  2. Nice review, I brought one of these from hong kong via ebay. Im quite pleased with it everything seems to be working, although gps had been disabled in settings and there was no apn settings for mobile networks, but all this was easily fixed.. Apart from spell check! Which is quite a biggy for me; so just wondering if you have had the same problem or have any insight on getting spell check to work? Any help would be greatly apprecated

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I installed and used Touchpal keyboard because the default does not do swipe so didn't notice the problem immediately, but indeed, it does not work.

      xda-developpers forum suggest some files to replace in order to make this work, I didn't try yet.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, just downloaded TouchPal, very useful. The fix on the forums requires your device to be rootedso I'll go ahead and do that. I guess this lack of setup is the cost of buying cheap phones from china, but no bother at least it works!

      Delete
    3. Also you can use google's latest keyboard from the below link:

      http://android.sc/official-google-keyboard-apk-app-now-available-for-download/

      the main advantage of google keyboard is comes with all the required funtions.

      Swype
      Touch
      Spell
      Auto correct
      voice typing
      etc...

      Delete
    4. Hi guys I have purchased my W100 in NZ October 2013 and all the functions you have mentioned that do not work are working fine for me out of the box...This problem may be solved with an update??

      Delete
    5. There's been at least 2 hardware revisions since the release of the first THL W100 reviewed here.
      In October, this could be a W100S, the most recent revision equipped with MTK6582 instead of MTK6589. Obviously they resolved most bugs, but unfortunately newest firmware cannot be flashed on older hardware (see http://www.needrom.com/phone-roms/thl/thl-w100 )

      Delete
  3. And then along comes something new ... I'm thinking about getting the Tronsmart TS7

    http://www.tronsmart.com/tronmart/item/58

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't resist in the end.
      8GB flash, 1280x720 screen, autofocus camera (for barcodes), and about $150.
      Thanks for the chart Bubbah ... we had some similar requirements ;).

      Delete
    2. I only knew Tronsmart for they mini PC's.
      Looks like a good deal if the quality is good.

      Delete
    3. Bubbah what program did you use to root thl w100 as i cannot get any to work including motochopper in youre link. only had the phone for 2 weeks now, its a great phone but would like to get rid of some apps. so i need to root phone.

      Hope you can help

      Thanks

      Delete
    4. Motochopper works fine, but only if the proper adb drivers are installed on the computer. Installing PDAnet may help getting those drivers right.

      Delete
    5. Motochopper won't work for me because the system partition is totally full. Is there anything I can do?

      Delete
    6. The procedure needs about 4MB of space in the system partition, but can be reduced to 3MB if you comment out SuperUser.apk from the run.bat script and install that program manually after. But if you're system partition is already that full, you'd need to uninstall some updates, or backup the phone and do a factory reset, then try rooting it again.

      Delete
  4. Love this review.

    Just purchased a black one from a China wholesaler.

    I just found out there is some minor development going on as well as far as custom romming etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just ordered from Pandawill.com. So far, the purchase experience is not good. I paid for express service with FedEx. First they said it was shipping with DHL (3-6 days), which would be ok, but I just got another message from them that shipping is by "regular Singapore airmail" (15-25 days) which is totally unacceptable. Fortunately, I paid with PayPal and sent a message that I will request a full refund if shipping isn't express. I'll update this message as the situation unfolds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, that's unacceptable. I went for the free delivery which so long that I regretted I didn't pay the little extra for a faster method. Apparently I've been lucky no to!

      Delete
    2. So, I did a online live support session with ThL customer support. It turns out that the second battery was shipped separately and they used the slower shipping for that. I just received the phone today so the shipping turned out fine! Now that I have the phone, though, the default language is Russian. I know I saw a step through guide to change it somewhere - just have to find it now.

      Delete
    3. Btw, the phone I ordered is the newer W200. $40 more and significantly better specs, so I went for it. Looks good so far.

      Delete
    4. The size below 5" was an important criteria for me, but yes, the W200 is a nice phone, same CPU but pushed faster and bigger ROM. I guess you managed to change the language from Russian? In short that would go like this:
      - press the "menu" button on the bottom left
      - In the menu appearing, select the last option (goes to system settings)
      - Scroll down until you see the icon with "A..." (goes to languages & input)
      - Select the first option and select English in the scrolling list.

      I think I should do a small article for that soon.

      Delete
  6. I recently purchased one of these guys from an online Chinese wholesaler... im really trying to find information about how to make this work here in the USA, i activated it using NET10 which works with the at&t network, but as it happens... calling works, texting too but internet is not working... i keep on reading all this info about using 2g... dont know how to do this.. or is it done by default... if anyone can shed some light on this i would greatly appreciate it...

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, I'm from Brazil. I used to work for a Brazilian telephone company, Vivo, which is the largest here. In one of my mobile training section, I was told the US companies don't use 2G anymore.... Hope I have helped you....

      Delete
  7. Great review...seems like a good smartphone!

    ReplyDelete
  8. before 3 months i buy the thl w100 white!everything was fine until today!on the main screen the scroll down screen doesnt work,only if i scroll at the right end where the time write p.m or a.m!for example when i use the instagram i cant use the up buttons(brightnes,cancel,align).can anyone tell me where is the problem and what can i do for that?thnx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should run a diagnostic app to check if the touch screen is really damaged, Try "screen touch test" in Play store for instance

      Delete
  9. Good afternoon,
    Great review. I have this phone and I cannot find the USB options you refered to.
    Are this options only available after some update or software is install in the PC ?

    Thanks in advance.

    Best regards,

    Joao

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, the USB options will appear in the upper notification area (the one you scroll down) only once the phone detects a USB connection to a computer. There should be 2 notifications (3 if USB Debugging is active).
      Cheers
      Bubbah

      Delete
  10. Hi. My review of Pandawill isn't the greatest. Paid for the ThL W8 16Gb rom but received a 4Gb rom version instead. Initially they offered $5 compensation but finally have offered a 16Gb SD card. Now 2 weeks later I received a phone call from a friend and found out that the microphone doesn't work. Still awaiting a reply over this.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have THL W11, and a problem I connect to Bluetooth in my car, I hear fine, but hear me very bad and weak and hoarse voice, what should I do?

    ReplyDelete