A couple of weeks ago, Cherry Mobile launched their best Flare lineup yet, with the Flare Infinity arguably being the highlight of the night thanks to its near bezel-less screen. In my opinion though, the true star of the show could be the Cherry Mobile Flare 5. Not only is it the most affordable of the Premium Flare S5 series, but it also has a lot of compelling features. So why is the Cherry Mobile Flare 5 the unsung star of the all new Flare lineup? Find out in my full review!
What’s in the Box?
Cherry Mobile likes to play around with their box design every so often and it looks like they’ve refreshed it once again. Whereas past retail boxes slid out vertically from their sleeve, the Flare 5’s box slides out horizontally. Take a peek inside and you’ll find the handset itself. Then flip open the handset tray and you’ll find the rest of the accessories:
- 1.2A wall charger
- Micro USB to USB cable
- In-ear headset with in-line mic/remote
- User manual
The accessories are pretty sparse compared to some Cherry Mobile phones I’ve reviewed before, but the battery is built-in and the only other thing they’ve really omitted here is the Cherry Fun Club documentation that annoys me so much. It would have been nice to have a pre-installed screen protector, but no such luck with the Flare 5 it seems.
Build Quality and Design
The Flare 5 is easily the sleekest and lightest of the new premium Flare lineup. The back has the initial appearance of brushed aluminum, although on closer inspection, it actually looks like a clear laminate finish on top of the textured cover.
Thanks to a combination of smaller screen size, a curved back and corners, as well as chamfered edges, the Flare 5 sits very comfortably in the hand. The glossy finish can make it slippery though, not to mention a magnet for fingerprints. The finish is also quite prone to micro-abrasions (aka scratches), so get a case for it as soon as you can find one.
In terms of physical controls and their placement, there’s nothing that will surprise you about the layout. The left side is devoid of hardware buttons as the trend is to place both the power/lock button and volume rocker on the right side of the phone, as is the case here.
However, there is a toggle switch of sorts whose default function is to launch the camera app and switch between the front and back cameras. What’s interesting about this switch is you can set it to launch/control other functions as well.
The micro USB port is located on top instead of at the bottom where most smartphones have it.
At the bottom is a microphone pinhole for capturing your voice during sound recordings or calls.
Flip it over on the back and you’ll find that the camera module sits flush within the body of the Flare 5.
The HD AMOLED display is easily the Flare 5’s best feature. The deep contrast and punchy colors give images a larger than life appearance compared to IPS screens with equivalent resolutions and pixel density.
Even if it’s a smaller screen, it’s still a pleasure to read text from the Flare 5 thanks to its high contrast. The color saturation can be a bit much though when watching movies as you may notice people tend to have skin that’s all too rosy. This can be dialed down in the Display settings under the Miravision option, but it isn’t easily discoverable so I imagine a lot of casual users will miss it. The Flare 5’s AMOLED screen is also easily viewable even from more extreme angles, as well as under direct sunlight. Not bad at all for a Php5k+ smartphone.
Benchmarks and Performance
Driving the Flare 5 is a MediaTek MT6735 SoC with a 1.3GHz octa-core processor and Mali 720 graphics. It’s the same SoC that powered the previous generation Flare 4 series, so it’s getting a little long in the tooth.
Benchmark scores from Antutu and Vellamo are about what you’d expect from the MT6735 chipset, although perceivable performance is still more than adequate for the casual user. The extra 1GB RAM compared to the previous generation helps for a seamless multi-tasking experience, but there’s not much else on top of that.
Software and UI
The Cherry Mobile Flare 5 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, bringing with it some neat improvements such as intelligent power management for processes while in standby, a vertically scrolling app drawer, and redesigned notification shade.
UI-wise, it’s as close to stock Marshmallow 6.0 as you can get, with only the Cherry Mobile branded wallpapers and bloatware being the obvious additions. You’ll also find Miravision display enhancements and Sound enhancement in the settings, which is per the usual with recent generation MediaTek-powered smartphones.
It would have been nice if the Flare 5 had launched with Nougat 7.0 instead, but only a handful of smartphones already run it anyway, so it’s still understandable at this point. Of course, if you’d rather have Nougat, it’s best to wait since our local brands are pretty notorious for not providing more than just the minimum software patches and fixes.
If you prioritize connectivity, the Flare 5 will do you proud. Not only do you get up to 4G data speeds, it also supports the 700MHz band, which both Globe and Smart are beginning to roll out. WiFi ensures that you don’t have to rely on an unstable data connection, while you also get the standard GPS and Bluetooth 4.0.
As a phone, the Flare 5 does its job well enough. Thanks to its relatively small size, light weight, and curved back and edges, it’s not a difficult phone to hold up to your ear for extended periods of time. Accumulated sweat might become an issue on longer calls though because of its glossy finish.
Texting is also a bit cramped. I’ve become accustomed to 5.5 inch screens and the extra screen real estate they afford. The default keyboard on the Flare 5 doesn’t help, but thankfully you can just install a 3rd party keyboard that you can resize if it really becomes an issue.
Aside from the screen, the cameras on the Flare 5 are one of my favorite features. The phone is equipped with a 16mp shooter, which is okay in itself. However, it also has phase detection autofocus, which is even faster than most other smartphones whose autofocusing system is based on contrast detection. It’s not just a paper spec either. If there’s reasonably good lighting, the Flare 5 quickly locks onto subjects so you can snap that Kodak moment before it’s gone.
Note: Camera samples have been downsized to reduce page load size.
HDR is especially noteworthy as it helps boost overall exposure regardless of the shot and available lighting. Here are a few HDR samples.
While its camera excels in HDR mode, Auto mode always seems to come out a little dark indoors, even in shots where I thought I had adequate lighting.
The Flare 5 makes up for it though with its Selfie camera, which performed similarly to the M1’s own front camera.
I’m not going to post an abundance of selfies, but let me just say that I’m satisfied with it.
One area the Flare 5 is sure to perform well is as a multimedia player due in large to its punchy AMOLED screen. Sure, it’s a bit smaller than the more popular 5.2″ to 5.5″ smartphones out there, but everything just seem larger than life whether you’re viewing your image gallery or watching a movie. Heck, thanks to its high contrast, even reading text is a better experience overall on the Flare 5.
Audio quality is fairly okay. I’m not expecting a super clean signal from my headset, but it’s decent and it’s loud. The loudspeaker is similarly able to crank up to higher volumes, although it does start to get distorted at higher settings.
The Cherry Mobile Flare 5 doesn’t offer any significant gaming improvements over its predecessors since it uses the same MT6735 SoC. That’s not to say it isn’t a capable gaming device. There haven’t been many new games that have pushed the boundaries of what smartphones are capable of, so the Flare 5 should still handle most games while keeping the frame rates up at playable levels.
Neither Need for Speed: Most Wanted or Piano Tiles 2 are the heaviest games out there, but they’re still pretty system-intensive and are a good test for any smartphone you’d want to play games on. The Flare 5 performs admirably well with Need for Speed with minimal drops in frame rate. The refresh rate suffers though and is evident in the ghosting when the game starts to speed up in Piano Tiles 2.
If there’s one thing that a lot of tech-savvy users are complaining about, it’s the battery. At just 2,500mAh capacity, it’s pretty meh. I’ve seen a lot of recent midrange releases with batteries going north of 3,000mAh, so the Flare 5 understandably disappoints.
As my main phone though, it typically lasts me about 24 hours before needing to be plugged in again. To be fair, I don’t use it that much since I’m usually busy at work, but I do keep it on 4G and connect to data on the commute to and from the office.
I also ran it through PCMark’s less subjective battery benchmark where it managed to last 5 hours and 41 minutes, repeatedly running through web browsing, video editing, composing and saving documents, photo-editing, and data manipulation.
So Should You Buy the Cherry Mobile Flare 5?
Being the most affordable of the premium Flare S5 series, the Cherry Mobile Flare 5 is an absolute steal. For just Php5,499, you’re getting a gorgeous AMOLED screen, a capable chipset, and a surprisingly good camera. It ticks many of the must-have features and adds an awesome screen to boot while keeping the price point nice and low.
Cherry Mobile Flare 5 Specs
- 5″ HD AMOLED display (720 x 1280 resolution, 294ppi)
- 64-bit 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor
- Mali 720 GPU
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 3GB RAM
- 16GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 64GB
- 16mp PDAF rear-facing camera with LED flash
- 8mp fixed focus front camera
- 4G/LTE, 700MHz-ready, dual micro SIM
- Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS with A-GPS
- Micro USB 2.0 port
- 2,500mAh battery
- Price: Php5,499