The Boom is an audio centric line of smartphones from Tecno, a relatively known brand across much of the smartphone landscape. How? They undercut the top dogs on price to spec ratio which in turn makes them a formidable brand to reckon with. An African Xiaomi of sorts, a strong brand in mid and low tier smartphones.
The Tecno Boom J8 carries on much of this legacy and complements where the wildly received J7 left off. Maxed screen size, camera bump, headphones instead of ear buds, compelling design albeit a not break the bank price point.
Hardware & design
Long gone is what came to define the J7, the start from scratch approach has lived it’s time and the J8 does away with trademarks that defined it’s predecessor. The J8’s design instead borrows heavily from flagships of yesteryear that is; the Huawei P8 and iPhone 6, at least aesthetic wise. On the contrary, the spec sheet and raw power tends to differ in one way or the other. Talk of;
- 4G LTE (Band 3/7/20) Will work on all Ugandan LTE networks
- 5.5 inch IPS HD screen
- A 64bit Quad-Core MediaTek MT6735 processor
- 2GB of RAM & 16GB ROM
- 13MP AF rear & 5MP selfie cameras
- 3000mAh battery
The J8’s body is built around a metallic rail that houses the micro USB port, the microphone & Boom speaker at the bottom. The volume rockers are placed just above the power button on the right while the 3.5mm headphone jack sits on top. Placking off the matte finish plastic back sets your eyes on two micro sim ports and a microSD slot(expandable upto 128GB).
However, the battery is non removable, reminiscent of the Camon C8, only that you don’t get to see it as the metal finish embosses it. The primary camera sensor sits atop this hind construction and is now moved top left with flash.
The tecno Boom J8 features on screen buttons on its 5.5 inch HD IPS screen (720×1280) which replaces capacitive ones that came with the J7 before it. The curved back is no more as well, given the J8 touts a flat back. So one handed use on this slab was one bit of a hassle.
Overall, the metal and plastic blend of the J8 speaks volumes about Tecno’s new design inspirations, you could easily mistake it for say a Huawei P8 or an iPhone 6. It feels somewhat heavy, unlike it’s predecessor but I believe it owes that to the metallic rail skeleton making runs around the phone.
A 720p display isn’t worth the 5.5Inches on the J8. It only plays out nice on battery life given the energy needed to illuminate pixels of say, a 1080p display. But well, this is 2016 and 1080p should be the new normal for mid-range smartphones since high-end ones have since migrated to 1440p. This not only goes to Tecno but to other OEMs as well.
The display was the most disappointing of all features on the J8. This wasn’t helped by the low pixel density in contrast to the screen size. It might be that I have a 1080p panel on my phone but the difference is noticeable and doesn’t play in the J8’s favor.
HiOS: Tecno’s new Android Skin
And before I forget, Tecno built a custom ROM dubbed HiOS for its smartphones and made a signature debut with the J8. This runs atop Android 5.1 Lollipop with OTA (Over the Air) promises thus 6.0 Marshmallow might be on its way sooner than later, if at all these promises don’t prove futile.
HiOS will identify Tecno’s broad smartphone portfolio this year and there on, akin to Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense. With it comes ambitious promises like improved performance, extended battery life, tone down experience, customizations among others most of which later turned out true.
Customizations were easier. Wallpaper swap like it sounds, theme store for themes, micro intelligence for gesture controls & more, Hi manager for; mobile cleanup, bandwidth management(many need this), Harassment block as well as app management. App freeze archives apps, it stops them completely, takes them off the home screen and can only return after you retrieving them. A-Z list your apps along an Alphabetical order just like Hola. However Hi Manager takes the nods, it proved a useful additional relating to performance tweaks.
The UI felt smooth and isn’t a complete overhaul that might alienate many, especially if you’ve used Android the past year. HiOS incorporates many features of third party launchers most of which are now baked into Android. So I bluntly put it that there was nothing groundbreaking to offer, except of course to folks stuck in the Tecno ecosystem. HiOS will be a warm welcome. Talk of improved battery life, improved performance, customizations above all keeping the UX seamless and an easy interface to grasp.
Of the onboard 16GB, approximately 11GB was available for us to play with. The other being occupied by Google Apps & Tecno staples of CarlCare, Palm Play, Asphalt Nitro among others.
Music & Camera
The Tecno Boom J8 is a music centric smartphone, targeting the hipsters and audiophiles so it made sense for Tecno to accessorize it with a separate headphone packaging. These, not the best in the game but we’re cool to tune & play with. Audio output was just Okay and noise cancellation is there if you need it. Tecno forged a partnership with Maxx Audio and the results are imminent given the audio tuned apps to play with.
Image Quality from the J8 Boom
The Boom J8 features a 13MP Auto Focus rear camera and a 5MP selfie camera both accompanied by LED flash. The rear camera is good but couldn’t wow me more than how Lenovo’s K3 Note’s camera did. It tends to overexpose images especially in outdoor conditions and the latter camera also outmuscles it in dim lit environs, something that has now come to define outstanding cameras.
The 5MP selfie camera is no better but gets the job done. You shouldn’t complain given the price point the J8 sells for, it’s a bargain worth the camera.
This is where it all gets interesting but that will depend from whatever perspective you choose to take. The J8 is powered by a 64 bit Quad-Core MediaTek processor but plays in a territory where the K3 Note puts it to shame with double the processor count and performance prowess.
Multitasking and a few casual game titles made good use of the J8’s raw power. They played well with it and there was no noticeable lag whatever except when I switched territory to graphics intensive games like Real Racer 3, the J8 struggled to cope. Once again I have to remind you, for the price, complain not. Instead just be appreciative.
Whereas I was asking if the Lenovo K3 Note brings 4G LTE to the masses? The Boom J8 does so without breaking the bank. The J8 is worth the dimes it sells for. That is UGX 499,000 in all Africell retail outlets. Promising you 4G LTE (3/7/20).
These are bands supported by most Ugandan 4G carriers like MTN, Africell & Vodafone with the exception of Smile. Airtel peers won’t be left out since the J8 supports GSM & WCDMA frequencies of 900/1800 & 900/2100 respectively on top of Bluetooth and wifi standards.
We have no complaints about the J8’s 3,000 mAh battery life. It’s one territory where the J8 played out incredibly well without compromises. Our 1week with it saw us charge it a few times than not, even with heavy usage. Overall it could last a day of heavy use without charge and surprisingly lasted a two days trip south of this country, but of course with minimal basic functions at play like taking photos, calls, radio & music.