A spark for the frugal


A spark for the frugal

Tecno's Spark 3 Pro lights it up with a very affordable option

By Alvin R Cabral

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Published: Fri 21 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Jun 2019, 2:00 AM

I haven't heard from Tecno in a while, so it's nice of them to return and 'spark' things up - and you know that that pun was totally intended, because we're taking its latest device, the Spark 3 Pro, for a spin.
This smartphone comes with a generous 6.2-inch display, fairly thin bezels except for the chin and where you'd expect stuff to be: power and volume buttons on the right, card tray on the left and micro-USB-B and 3.5mm audio jack below. And by default, its overall looks are pretty much like the iPhone X; the screen comes with a notch on top (where else?), but if you don't want it, you can toggle this in settings and level it out (which eats up an extra millimetre or so of space on your screen). And it's a really light device, honestly.
Right behind is a fingerprint scanner, which responds to your touch rather quickly. The device is also equipped with face unlock, and it will recognise your likeness within a second or two (or three, at least to my count); there's no difference in unlocking speed if you use this in complete darkness (bonus: you'll see the faint red light detecting your face in this situation).
On the software side, this phone runs on Android 9.0 Pie combined with Tecno's own HiOS 4.6 (the last time we reviewed a Tecno device early last year, it was only 3.0). It has its own Tecno apps, including the PHX Browser for surfing, the maker of which is also the creator of a number of Tecno apps. Don't worry, it's not as annoying as other bloatware out there.
Using the Spark 3 Pro is pretty straightforward; from the home screen, you can slide it left to see some apps, or right to reveal cards, which is customisable and houses stuff such as games and news. If you want the full app tray, swipe up from the home screen; the apps are grouped alphabetically. Also on the home screen, you don't have to slide from the top to reveal the notifications panel - anywhere on the screen will slide it down.
Its main camera, meanwhile, is equipped with a dual-lens, 13MP-plus-2MP combo. Tecno marketed this as an 'AI Bright' snapper - and I'll give it that: the phone does light up dark areas well, though I have to point out that the results have a lot of noise, so, basically, the darker it gets, the noisier it will be. In good lighting conditions, you'll be able to blurt out decent shots, but there is some smudging you'll notice in certain angles. I came to the conclusion that you should have a rather steady hand when shooting stuff, because I don't see any OIS listed on its specs, though it does have an HDR feature. Its front camera, meanwhile, is pretty much standard fare.
At this range, it is understandable you won't get buttery-smooth performance, but the Spark 3 Pro gets the job done without much of a hitch when you scroll through stuff. Opening and switching between apps can be a split-second slower compared to other models, but it's not necessarily a disturbing thing. What gets my beef, however, is the camera app: images take a bit of time to process at times, and switching between modes is also a drag.
Battery life is where I'm particularly impressed. In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the Spark 3 Pro yielded only 12 per cent of life, pretty much at par with some of the best phones we've tested in this space. From a full charge in the morning, it's also enough to last until around noon of the next day, so this is one major factor you should consider.

The Tecno Spark 3 will certainly appeal to those on a budget but want some of the latest tech in their hands, such as biometrics and the latest software. It's always tricky to rate phones in this range, but - hey - any sub-Dh500 phone with such offerings may cancel out a number of shortcomings since, in the pocket-friendly race, those with more to offer will be the ones who'll zoom ahead.

CPU: MediaTek Helio A22, quad-core 2GHz
Storage: 32GB, expandable up to 256GB
Platform: Android 9.0 Pie, HiOS 4.6
Display: 6.2" Super FullView, 1500 x 720
Camera: Main - 13MP + 2MP, f/1.8, quad-LED flash; front - 8MP, f/2.2
Biometrics: Fingerprint, face unlock
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2; micro-USB-B, 3.5mm audio
Battery: 3,500mAh, up to 28h talk, 480h standby
Price: Dh449
Pros: Great battery; uber-affordable; bright screen
Cons: Iffy camera; only USB-B; small internal storage
Author's rating: 3.5/5

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