A new challenger appears!
A new year and once again honey trickles down from the technology tree. Well, it's just economies of scale at work and come 2015, we finally have an octa-core smartphone in the market dropping below the 5,000 Php mark. The price bracket below 5,000 Php is arguably the most contested since most international brands don't have a smartphone presence in this bracket. It's interesting to follow the trickle to the lowest price points because it's also an indicator of the saturation of the local brand smartphone market.
Just a recap of what we had in the first half of 2014 for under 5,000 Php: quad cores, 5"+ IPS displays, OGS screens, and true 8 megapixel BSI cameras. Most had a combination of 2 or 3, but only the MyPhone Agua Rio had 4 (it doesn't have an OGS screen). So what do we get now?
Design and Build Quality
The Excite 501o can be aptly described as a Nexus 5 at the front and a Galaxy Note 3 at the back. It's a fairly generic design up front, with faint back-lit capacitive touch key icons at the bottom that gives the phone a clear black appearance. The back cover actually isn't faux leather, but plastic molded with a leather design. Still, it provides a nice change of texture that makes the phone nice to hold. The display is not fully flush but the finger slides off the edge due to the rounded corners on the bumper. The bumper around the phone has a crown mould design with a dark grey lacquer finish with a tinge of blue that gives it a sharp sheen as light runs through it. It's a refreshing design choice compared to the usual chrome accents, which too much of can make a device look cheap.
Combined with Note 3-like back, its faux leather and metal emboss surrounding the camera, the Excite 501o has a very executive vibe. It isn't premium by any means, but it has understated class in terms of aesthetics. It doesn't look as cheap as its selling for, but I can't help not notice the relatively wide bezels once you turn on the display. A thin bezel is the only thing missing and it would've added a lot of points in the style department.
Like its looks, it doesn't feel too cheap either despite being constructed entirely of plastic. It's a solidly constructed phone with a nice 147 grams of heft that doesn't creak when you squeeze it tightly. I just wish the buttons on the bumper could be better fit. The volume rocker and power button feel loose compared to the rest of the device.
Ergonomics is a mixed bag. The leather texture and grooves on the bumper makes the phone feel good to hold. The placement of the ports could be better as the 3.5 mm port and USB port are slightly on the left of the top and bottom of the phone respectively. When both ports are occupied and you hold the phone in landscape mode, the ports will get in the way of the area between the thumb and index finger. The back cover has a slit on the lower corner of the phone, but I still found it a bit difficult to remove if you don't have nails. And again, the bezels could have been thinner so one-handed operation could be better. The Excite 501o's dimensions are 145 x 72.5 x 8.6 mm.
Lastly, there are two SIM card slots but the second slot can only occupy a micro SIM. The micro SD card slot is not hot swappable due to the battery blocking the insertion point.