Although being a techie, I almost exclusively buy low-end and midrange devices to be my daily drivers. I’m not a masochist but I am a person without a lot of expendable income and because of that I rarely get to buy high-end devices. So without further ado, these are my views on the Kazam Tornado 348.
Mid-range devices until the last year or two have, for all intents and purposes, been terrible. Motorola really brought the Mid-range phone back with the Original Moto G in 2013 and from there on out, mid-range phones have been probably the more exciting category of phones. Flagships have become dull and almost predictable and low-end phones are where they will probably be for a while; literally the last resort because they’re universally terrible.
This brings us to the Kazam Tornado 348, and although Matt has already reviewed it here, this is going to be a mini review of sorts, but from someone who only uses midrange phones.[pullquote]I firmly believe that 720p is still perfectly usable for nearly all circumstances.[/pullquote]I’m going to start with probably the most noticeable thing about the 348, its weight, or lack thereof. At just 95.5g it’s insanely light. It almost feels as if it were a demo unit, and until I turned the screen on I thought they had sent me a demo unit. It feels as if there are no internals here. This, however comes with a major downside; it doesn’t feel substantial. I almost wish it were more dense so that it’d be easier to hold but that’d go against the “thinnest and lightest smartphone” title. And yes, dropping a 95.5g smartphone on your face as you go to bed hurts just as much as any other phone!
Next up is the screen. At 4.8” and 720p most wouldn’t even look at this screen twice, but again I’m someone that almost exclusively uses midrange phones. Up until the Moto G, WVGA or maybe qHD was the norm for mid-range phones. I firmly believe that 720p is still perfectly usable for nearly all circumstances (the 6.3” 720p Galaxy Mega looks perfectly fine to me!). The AMOLED screen on the T-348 is not mind-blowing however and it looks pretty identical to the screen on the Galaxy S III. Whilst that might sound like I’m damning with faint praise, I really do quite enjoy the screen on this phone, and I’m not sure an LCD would have even fit in a phone this slim. Colour accuracy isn’t spot on, but I don’t care. The screen looks pretty and in my experience general consumers people don’t care how accurate the colours are. They want a screen that looks pretty and vibrant, and in a midrange phone, Kazam has offered this.
Are there other phones at this price range that have better screens? Arguably yes., the Honor 6 has a 1080p IPS screen at 5” and the OnePlus One has a 1080p IPS screen at 5.5”, but neither is in a phone as slim, light or as well-built as this one.
Performance is on the chopping block next, and this is where most people would be scared. With just 1gb of RAM and a mid-range MediaTek processor you’d think things would be pretty dire. I’m happy to report that it’s been plain sailing. The 1.7Ghz MTK6592 (8x Cortex A7’s) and Mali-450 MP4 GPU have pushed this phone with nary a stutter. Techies seem to despise MediaTek, and for a good reason. Those of you in the tech community that like to flash ROMs and root should look elsewhere. This phone won’t really be for you. MediaTek happens to not be a major fan of releasing certain documentation that lets a community bloom. Aside from the development misgivings however, I haven’t run into any real issues I’m happy to report.
Camera is my next stop, and it’s one I can’t be so kind too. The Kazam Tornado 348 houses an 8MP camera which doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. My main issue is that it’s slow. [pullquote]Any scene with movement is going to be an issue.[/pullquote]It’s capable of taking some lovely still photos but I need to reiterate the term still. Any scene with movement is going to be an issue. You could take some cracking photos of flowers though if that is indeed your thing; just avoid wind! Slow shutter speed is an issue though. The Moto G has a pretty abysmal camera but at least its relatively fast meaning that whilst you may not always get the best looking shot, you can take multiple shots and pick your best. Most of the Moto G’s shots are also in focus. With the Kazam Tornado 348, I can almost guarantee an out of focus shot if you’re in any sort of rush.
Battery performance is about what you’d expect for a 5.1mm phone with a 2050mAh. That is to say not so great. It’s serviceable and it’ll probably get you through a day, but I don’t think more than 3 hours of screen on time is possible unless you have every radio turned off and the brightness is cranked to base as well. You’d think the benefit of a smaller battery would be faster recharge times even without a specific quick charge branding (either Oppo’s VOOC, Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 or Samsung’s Adaptive fast charging) but honestly, it’s not all that fast. In fact it’s probably slower than my Moto G or Honor Holly with Similar Capacity batteries.[pullquote]I have not stopped wishing for a Lollipop update to come.[/pullquote]Finally we arrive at the price. At £250, the Kazam Tornado 348 isn’t really budget orientated, but neither do Kazam brand it as such. With its competition being in the £100-£150 price point, the market Kazam find themselves in currently offers much more powerful hardware, such as the OnePlus One and the Honor 6 mentioned previously. As nice as those are, they cannot match the fit, finish and build quality of the Tornado 348 despite being immensely more powerful. Both the aforementioned competitors have either gotten updates to Lollipop 5.0 or are scheduled to get it. Whilst this doesn’t seem like a major issue, my time with the Tornado 348 has been with a fairly vanilla build of KitKat. I have not stopped wishing for a Lollipop update to come. This hardware feels like the mating of an Xperia Z3 and an iPhone 5s; it feels phenomenal in the hand, and it’s fast and smooth but I can’t help but feel it’s being artificially held back by its software.
During review periods there are always going to be personal grievances as well. For example, in my case, saying I’m not a fan of capacitive buttons is a huge understatement. I happen to know that Craig is on the other hand. Not only does the Kazam Tornado 348 use capacitive buttons, it uses a menu capacitive button. Not only does it use capacitive buttons and one of them is a menu button, but they’re in the wrong order! Yes, you heard that right. The Kazam Tornado 348 goes Menu-Home-Back , instead of the Back-Home-Recents that is more common (unless you’re Samsung that is, but at least they’ve now also jumped off of the menu button bandwagon). It’s a little thing, but it’s irritating nonetheless.
Would I buy one? At its current price, probably not. Knocking £75-£100 off of it might help that, but I feel that when you do put it up head to head price wise with much more powerful, and futureproofed devices it becomes hard to buy this on design alone. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad phone, far from it. I simply think that with a price reduction and an update to Lollipop 5.0 (or even better 5.1) it would make it a much more enticing phone.
In this article, coming from someone who only uses mid-range devices on a daily basis, I may have been more lenient on the Kazam Tornado 348 than most. Others may be coming from an S6, M9 or G Flex 2 or other far more powerful phones. I have Snapdragon 400, MediaTek 6582 and Snapdragon S4 Pro devices however. They aren’t the fastest around, but they provide a competent experience in the devices they’re put in. The Kazam Tornado 348 does this also, however it prices itself out of my particular section of the market.