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Review: Panasonic Eluga Ray Max lacks spark, despite the artificial intelligence

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-05-2017 Abhijit Ahaskar

Panasonic has tried to keep things simple with its latest Eluga Ray Max. Priced at Rs 11,499, the new smartphone offers two AI-based personal assistants. For the more chatty ones, there is Google Assistant and for those looking for an assistant that could remember things there is the Arbo. The Eluga Ray Max is competing against the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Rs9,999 onwards) and Moto G5 (Rs11,999).

The key highlight of the Eluga Ray Max is the Arbo personal assistant which uses AI to keep track of user activities.

Artificial Intelligence: Personal assistant which improves with time

The key highlight of the Eluga Ray Max is the Arbo personal assistant which uses AI to keep track of user activities and provides helpful suggestions based on time and the user’s location. However, it takes time (the phone understands your usage patterns in a few days) to register an activity as a pattern. Arbo also shows the apps you may need at a particular location on a dial-like pop-up which shows every time you unlock the smartphone. Even after using it for a week, we didn’t receive any notification or reminder based on a repeat activity, but we are hoping that Arbo continues to learn. The app suggestion feature also needs time, but we saw it suggesting different apps at different locations.

We have seen something similar in HTC U Ultra and the new Samsung Galaxy S8 phones.

Arbo is not the only assistant on this smartphone. There is Google Assistant which is more interactive in nature and tries to provide more accurate suggestions to your queries by trying to create your virtual image based on previous choices and queries.

The Eluga Ray Max is a well-built smartphone with a removable metal back panel which is slightly curved.

Design: Solid and handy but heavy

The Eluga Ray Max is a well-built smartphone with a removable metal back panel which is slightly curved. It fits comfortably into small hands but feels a bit bulky (165g) for a 5.2-inch screen smartphone. Despite the metal finish, it doesn’t look premium.

The volume and power keys are conveniently located on the right side panel and can be reached with the index finger comfortably. The fingerprint sensor is clubbed within the home button on the front panel. It is easy to configure and was able to recognise two sets of fingerprints accurately. The back panel covers two micro SIM slots, a microSD card slot and a 3,000mAh battery.

Display: Sharp and colour accurate

The 5.2-inch display has a resolution of 1,920x1,080p. Text in ebooks and webpages look crisp. The display is not very bright but was able to reproduce colours in games and movies quite well. Colour contrast is very good without having to tweak settings for it. The display looks a bit reflective but was legible under bright light. It didn’t smudge, but picked up scratches within a few days of use.

The smartphone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with plain Android UI.

Software: Clean Android with zero clutter

The smartphone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with plain Android UI. It is a clutter-free and familiar looking interface with very few customisation options. You can remove the Google search bar and switch off the on-screen navigation key. Panasonic hasn’t tried to preload any third-party app except its own Arbo app.

Performance: Powerful enough for most tasks

The Eluga Ray Max is driven by Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor with 4GB of RAM. It is powerful enough to handle most everyday tasks we threw at it such as HD movie playback, YouTube video streaming, web browsing and using camera. It is not in the same league as the Redmi Note 4’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip and struggled a bit with heavy games.

The battery backup is impressive. With two active personal assistants, it still managed to see us through a whole day of modest use comfortably. The smartphone offers 32GB of internal storage and up to 128GB via microSD cards.

The 16-megapixel camera can muster passable shots if the light is good.

Camera: Average day time shots

The 16-megapixel camera can muster passable shots if the light is good. While colours look good, the amount of detail reproduced is poor. Indoor shots look hazy. It also struggles a bit while focusing on an object and we had to tap multiple times to get the focus right. The camera interface looks basic and clean. All settings are highlighted nicely with icons and are easily accessible on the main camera interface with a swipe of a finger.

While colours look good, the amount of detail reproduced is poor.

Verdict

The Eluga Ray Max has some good features but none of them really make a lasting impression. The Arbo assistant is still not a game changer and smartphones with Full HD screens are common at this price. You should try the Redmi Note 4 as it offers a bigger 5.5-inch Full HD screen, runs on a more powerful chip and offers a better camera.

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