Tecno Mobile’s latest smartphone in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent, as was the case around the same time last year, is focused on music. The Tecno Boom J8, the successor to last year’s Boom J7, went on sale almost two weeks ago. Here’s what we have to say about it after spending some time with it. You can watch the quick video review below or buckle up and wade through the long and detailed write up that follows. Or you can do both; it doesn’t hurt.
|Tecno Boom J7||Tecno Boom J8|
|Size and weight||***||150 x 76.3 x 7.3mm,|
|Display||5 inch HD (720p)||5.5 inch HD (720p) IPS LCD|
|Camera||8 MP back; 2 MP front||13 MP back; 5 MP front (with LED flash on the front)|
|Chipset||Quad-core MediaTek MT6582 clocked at 1.3 GHz, Mali-400MP2 GPU||Quad-core MediaTek MT6735P clocked at 1.3 GHz, Mali T720 GPU|
|Memory||1 GB RAM, 16 GB onboard storage (expandable via microSD up to 32 GB)||2 GB RAM, 16 GB onboard storage (expandable up to 64 GB via microSD card)|
|Operating System||Android 4.4.2 KitKat||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Battery||2,020mAh (removable)||3,000mAh (non-removable)|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi|
|Network||2G, 3G||2G, 3G, 4G|
|Colour options||Blue, White||White, Black/Grey|
As can be seen from the above spec sheet, the Tecno Boom J8 is thinner than last year’s model and equally lighter. Tecno is even taking the high road of comparing it to past hero devices like Apple’s really large iPhone, the equally-sized iPhone 6 Plus (5.5-inch display). The company also compares the Boom J8 to the 18-month old iPhone by way of screen-to-body ratio.
Since similar comparisons when it comes to the device’s other features are not made, it is best to leave it there.
The Tecno Boom J8 is every bit better in design than last year’s model. This is an expected natural progression so no fuss there.
Like the Boom J7 last year, the Boom J8 does not bear any Tecno branding on the front. That is reserved for the centre of the removable back.
The volume buttons move to the left of the device on the Boom J8 as opposed to the right on last year’s model. The power button is right below them.
The speaker grille moves from the back to the bottom of the device.
In-between the speakers at the bottom of the device is the microUSB port which moves there from the right where it was located on the Boom J7.
The Tecno Boom J8 has a removable back cover. The white coloured model we have been using has a slippery plastic back. However, unlike in last year’s model, the removable back cover does not translate to a removable battery. You only remove the back cover to access the two micro-SIM card slots on the right and the microSD card slot on the left.
The metal frame that separates the plastic back cover of the device and the glass front is accentuated by white plastic cut outs not for network reception but more for style (and may be imitation?).
The Tecno Boom J7 had capacitive buttons at the bottom of the screen. Those have been dropped in favour of on-screen controls on the Boom J8.
One of the most notable features of the device is the horizontal light at the bottom of the device’s display that Tecno calls the “Breathing Light”. It reminds one of a similar implementation in Oppo and Sony devices even though Oppo’s Skyline was more pronounced than the latter. Like the blinking home button in the Boom J7, the Breathing Light comes alive when there are new notifications. It also pulsates when you play music on the device.
The 5.5-inch HD IPS LCD panel on the Tecno Boom J8 is very vibrant and really pops when you’re reading text on white background outdoors. The display, after the design and the battery life (as you will see), is one of the high points of the Tecno Boom J8.
The Tecno Boom J8 packs better sensors than last year’s model. Not only has the megapixel count been increased for both cameras but users also get a few additional features. There’s a new viewfinder for instance as well as the addition of the ability to capture shots every time you flash the V sign, a feature that never worked throughout our testing.
The front-facing camera gets a bump from 2-megapixels in last year’s sensor to 5-megapixels for more clear selfies. There’s also an LED flash on the front. As has been said before, more megapixels does not mean better quality snaps and that is very visible on the Tecno Boom J8.
Depending on what you desire in a smartphone camera of the Tecno Boom J8’s price and stature, results from either camera will be mixed. One good shot here, a blurry one there, all in a day’s work. While you will be able to sneak in a shot or two that really pop in well-lit areas, the opposite is true when light is scarce.
Save for interactions that are mostly interrupted by a sticky screen, the device works just fine. The new Tecno user interface seems to be well optimised for the device. There are instances where things may freeze but that will only happen in cases where you force the device to bite more than it can chew.
The Tecno Boom J8’s battery manages to outdo itself when it comes to longevity. It lasts and lasts. It looks like the bump from 2,020mAh in the Boom J7 to the 3,000mAh battery unit in this device was well worth it. Overall, squeezing a full day out of it is possible. We managed to get 6 hours of screen on time throughout our testing in between using Wi-Fi and LTE networks, subtle gaming and moderate browsing.
Tecno is fronting the Boom J8 as a music device. Is the sound any better?
It’s loud, yes, thanks to the speaker at the bottom of the device. We say “speaker” because only one of the two sets of drilled holes at the bottom is actually a sound outlet, the right speaker. Music is crisp but as you will notice, the bass you may desire is not as pronounced as you would expect it to. Results may vary though depending on other forms of sound output you will employ including the free Boom headphones Tecno is bundling every purchase of the Boom J8 with.
About those Boom headsets: they are very uncomfortable but will get the job done nevertheless.
Audio tuning improves a little bit when you toggle on Boom Maxx but that’s just that.
The Tecno Boom J8 is the first device to ship with Tecno’s new custom overlay, HiOS. See, Tecno wants to differentiate itself in the market and offer users an interface and experience they can only associate with Tecno. Hence HiOS, layered on top of Android Lollipop.
It is not a radical approach and most users of Tecno devices will find themselves at home despite the many changes that HiOS brings. The most notable change is, of course, the fresh coat of paint.
There are other changes as well besides the new flat and minimalist icons. The notification shade and the quick settings page have been merged and given a facelift.
The Tecno Boom J8’s credentials as a music smartphone don’t just come from tuning the speakers to output sound that can be perceived to be better, there are also some enhancements on the software side as already partially highlighted. Those are in the form of an updated Boom Player application and another app, Boom Maxx.
Gestures have also been incorporated on the Boom J8 just like on last year’s Boom J7. You can control music (play next, rewind) using gestures, draw C on the device when the screen is asleep to launch the camera, draw M to fire up the music player and so on. Double tap to wake and vice versa works just fine. As does the three finger swipe up/down for taking screenshots.
There is one feature that you can easily miss because, well, because it is a hit and miss – smart message sorting. When using the built-in messaging application, the system should automatically detect any unintended messages and dump them together in a notification app instead of your inbox. If this sounds familiar then it is because Facebook does a similar thing with the messages hitting your inbox.
There are some other features that the targeted user of this device will definitely love: the Bandwidth Manager and the network speed meter. While advanced Android device users will likely have their own preferred means of achieving the same using third party solutions like Internet Speed Meter and Onavo, the two features come in very handy. For a budget user, you don’t want to be caught off guard when your data bundle runs out before the day, week or month ends. It pays if you can have an easy way of having your device remind you of the data you are consuming than suddenly finding yourself disconnected.
Here’s a quick video of the features of the software on the Tecno Boom J8
- Improved design. Much better than the Boom J7. Actually, miles ahead. More sleek and good looking than most of the other devices in this range.
- Elegant display.
- Good battery life.
- 4G/LTE is great on the device.
- Even though the software is a mixed bag, a few features like the Bandwidth Manager, the network speed meter and the new look notification shade and quick settings panel are well done.
We did not like
- The screen is sticky. Most of the time you have to use a little unnecessary force to interact with the device.
- Very average cameras. Not much of a step up but at that price we should either not be complaining or getting used to them.
- The bundled Boom headphones. What if all the time and energy spent on them was transferred to a neat pair of earphones with sound output a bit better than what we had in last year’s Boom J7 earphones (which were just fine by the way)?
The Tecno Boom J8 is a worthy successor to the Boom J7 we reviewed last year. It packs a boatload of upgrades in features and specifications and as a result, you have to pay more for it. Whereas the Boom J7 set you back some Kshs 13,000 or thereabout, you will have to part with Kshs 17,000 to get the Tecno Boom J8. At that price, it becomes kind of hard to decide which one to pick when this device is pitted against the Infinix Zero 3 which costs Kshs 1,500 more. Luckily, we’re not in that position. You are. The choice is ultimately yours.