Have you ever heard about the Mstar S700? If you’re a fan of Apple or Samsung, you probably didn’t even pay attention even if it was brought up. But that’s a mistake in my opinion, as the Mstar S700, although relatively unknown, presents itself with a great opportunity: pleasing stock Android fans, among others. Although the Mstar S700 is a Chinese smartphone, the bloatware and skinning done to the phone is inexistent, which means you’re getting stock Android 5.0 Lollipop. Mstar is a bit slow with updates, but the company is going to keep the Mstar S700 as well as its other phones up to date when it receives the new builds of Android. The Mstar S700 price is $155 on GearBest, which is a great price that balances bang for buck out impressively. In addition, you can get it even cheaper ($137) for a limited time if you use the coupon S700.
I’ve been using the Mstar S700 as a daily driver for almost a month now, and it’s been filled with ups and downs. Although the positives and negatives about the phone and the user experience balance out, there are some pros and cons that stand out in the end. One of the first things that I noticed was the Mstar S700 battery life, which is not that great. Taking into account that we have a 5.5 inch 720p HD display up front and a 3000 mAh battery to support that, my expectations of the battery life were met. I personally expected this phone to last me a full day with heavy use, and that’s what it did.
Upon my first use, I found that the user experience of the phone was rather balanced and smooth. Performance is exemplary, and even graphics intensive games and apps run smoothly. I haven’t detected any Android 5.0 Lollipop bugs either, which I am very glad to report about. Since my time with the phone is still short by user standards, I will report back with the occasional update to this Mstar S700 review if anything changes, including updates coming in and bugs surfacing within the user interface. Luckily, the notifications system works well, and while there are many out there who don’t like it, I personally prefer it, because I use the MStar S700 with an dot view case.
The Mstar S700 with a dot view case works rather well, although you can’t use many features when the case is on. It’s magnetic and once it’s close to the display, the screen automatically turns off, regardless of what you’re doing in that moment on the phone. Even if you’re in the camera app or in a call, the dot view case triggers the proximity sensor which then turns off the display. That saves a lot of power, although the apps running in the background do take up a lot of power once the dot view case is lifted. There’s not a lot of economy going on energy-wise, but at least there is some, which I enjoy. With the dot view case on, the Mstar S700 can be used either to check the time or to manage music. It’s a simple interface and feature and it’s easy to use.
When it comes to what features the Mstar S700 has, I was pretty impressed. With all the pros and cons put together, for the price, the Mstar S700 is a pretty damn good daily driver. Although I would not recommend it for power users due to its poor battery life, I would recommend it to average smartphone users. With that being said, let’s see how my one month experience with the Mstar S700 yielded. Remember that this is a flagship smartphone that costs $155, which is a surprisingly low price. Some compromises have been made to get to that price point, and it depends on you whether those compromises bother you and whether paying that little for a flagship smartphone is worth the hassle.
Let’s get the cons and specs out of the way so you can figure out whether the Mstar S700 issues are deal breakers for you or not. For me, they weren’t, because you can go around the problems in one way or another. So, the Mstar S700 comes with a 5.5 inch display that has a 720*1280 resolution IPS OGS screen. The screen is very sharp and very bright and the viewing angles on the phone are actually quite impressive. The brightness controls are amazingly well balanced and the auto brightness works surprisingly well, which you don’t see often on flagship smartphones that have sub $200 price tags. The display is impressive, and the capacitative keys surrounding it are metallic. They light up when in use and stay off when not, a bit like the OnePlus One. After one month, there weren’t any scratches on the screen, but truth be told, I used it with a dot view case and a screen protector.
Moving on to the design of the Mstar S700, I would say that this is one of the best features of the phone. Mstar wanted to make a premium smartphone, and that’s what they did with the Mstar S700. Although the back panel is a plastic removable one hiding a removable battery, two SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. Technically, there’s a full SIM card slot and another slot that can be used either for microSD or microSIM, so it depends on you which function you make use of. The phone itself is made out of metal and the frame and front look rather stunning. The feel in the hand of the phone is actually quite nice, because it’s thin as hell and surprisingly light. It still keeps a bit of weight, which actually helps the premium feeling of the phone. In the package, you get the Mstar S700 with a screen protector already on and another spare in the box, which is a good deal.
As I said in the beginning of this review, the Mstar S700 comes with stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, which means there isn’t any bloatware or skinning going on and that improves performance very well. Due to the stock Android interface, the Mstar S700 can be more conservative with its energy use and it can be buttery smooth when it comes to performance. If there was a skin or bloatware on top, I doubt the Mstar S700 performance would be as satisfactory as it is now. The phone runs fast and smooth, but it does tend to overheat quite fast. Not once has it issued a warning or shut down because it overheated, but I did notice that the back panel, near the fingerprint sensor and the camera, got overheated pretty fast. Nonetheless, the Mstar S700 handled two hour long gaming sessions and hour long photo sessions like a champ, without even slowing down or beginning to lag, which I respect very much in a phone, especially if it’s a cheap one.
Feature-wise, Mstar packed a lot of things into this phone, but compromised in key areas as well. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a removable battery and an SD card slot, which are features very important to Android users around the world. The microSD card that I used (Kingston 8 GB one) worked just fine and didn’t affect performance at all. The removable battery is a plus, although it will be hard to find one that suits the Mstar S700. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear of the smartphone, which works decently. Although it does not register the fingerprints I had registered correctly each and every time, I would say it’s at a 70 % success rate, which is good for such a phone. Be sure to memorize your passcode in case your fingerprint doesn’t work with the phone, but usually, on the second or third try, the phone registered my fingerprint and unlocked itself immediately.
What I didn’t expect of the Mstar S700 was the sensitivity that its proximity and gesture recognition sensors demonstrated. This can be bad and good at the same time. Quick gestures on the screen bring up apps or the camera in a matter of two seconds tops, which is a great response time. The camera is triggered very fast, which is convenient for on the spot, spontaneous snapshots. You can preset apps to be launched and use various types of gestures to launch them, so the experience is customizable.
There’s also double tap to wake, much like Knock On with the LG G3 and LG G4, but oddly enough, the double tap feature on the home screen doesn’t work to lock the screen, which might be surprising to LG fans. One annoying thing about this sensibility that I was talking about is that without a case, the screen would randomly turn on in my pocket. Which is why I had to turn gestures off, sadly. This is more of a software issue, I believe, so an update from the company might fix this in the future. If not, I’m afraid gestures should be left off with the Mstar S700. Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE and GPS complete the feature list of this cheap stock Android smartphone. I haven’t had any Wi-Fi or data connectivity issues, and the GPS works just fine as on any other smartphone.
A Mediatek MTK6752 64 bit octa core CPU, 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage make up the internals of the Mstar S700, and they’re satisfactory. Although this is mostly mid-range hardware, it performs surprisingly well. The phone’s storage is partitioned, which might not sit well with some power users, which is one of the reasons why I said I wouldn’t actually recommend the Mstar S700 for power users. Mali 760 MP2 graphics complete the picture and handle 3D rather well. You can see Antutu benchmark results throughout this post, so you can see for yourself where that benchmark placed the Mstar S700 with regard to other flagships. It’s not very high up in the ranks, but it’s in a good spot for its price.
Now for the part that impressed me unexpectedly. One of the problems with Chinese flagship smartphones that are as cheap as the Mstar S700 is the camera. That’s the aspect where most companies compromise, but that’s not entirely the case with the Mstar S700 camera. Not only does the camera take great photos, its auto settings are surprisingly good and I would say it’s the perfect phone for those who don’t like to fiddle with settings but want their phones to take good shots by default. The video recording is not that great, as it doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but it’s decent. As long as you try and stand still instead of walking while filming, the videos will come out great. When walking, videos will end up being shaky, but that’s to be expected without serious stabilization.
The photography experience on the Mstar S700 is above average for its category. The camera software is fast and responsive and the processing times are pretty short, which I liked. There aren’t too many manual controls, which is a bit annoying for those who like to frame and position their shots nicely. Nonetheless, there are a few modes that you can make use of, but they’re pretty basic, like monochrome, inverted, sepia and stuff like that. You can use these filters even when filming, which is a very fun experience because it does make for pretty creepy ass videos. The Mstar S700 camera app takes good panoramas and has unique 3D photos and live photos modes. Live photos can be viewed on any platform because they’re in standard video format, but 3D photos are not viewable with standard viewing apps as they’re in different formats.
The Mstar S700 camera measures 13 MP on the rear and 5 MP on the front. There’s a very nice and capable LED flash on the rear, which works pretty great. It even works during video, which is neat. It does cool down colors in dark environments, especially on video, but to an acceptable degree. The front camera is very impressive, even though it’s only a 5 MP sensor. Rarely does it produce noise, even in medium lighting conditions. In low light, it doesn’t really work that well, as one would assume. but if lighting conditions are ok, the selfies are going to be ok. There’s also a beautify mode incorporated, which makes your skin lighter and removes blemishes and makes your eyes bigger, giving your face an airbrushed effect. Needless to say, it’s noticeable that the photos have been altered through processing. But who wants to look fake in their photos for other reasons that fun anyway? I wasn’t bothered by this, I actually enjoyed playing around with it.
Those were all the pros of the Mstar S700, and they’re many, as you can see. I genuinely had a great experience with this phone, up until I tried the following few things. Let’s start at the beginning. At the end of the first day, the Mstar S700 battery konked out, but it only came charged to 55 % percent, so that wasn’t surprising. I’m a rigorous follower of rules when it comes to technology so I drained its battery completely and used its own charger to charge it overnight to full capacity. I didn’t really check how much it charged in a few hours, but after 5 hours or so, when I check, the Mstar S70 battery was still at 35 %. That panicked me a bit, but I said I would let the phone go through three charging cycles, as customary, and see how that influences charging time and battery life.
Fact of the matter is, the Mstar S700 needs about 10 hours to fully charge with its own charger. As I’m a shortcut taker and a fixer, I tried a different adaptor for the phone, using the same USB cable. It worked marvelously. With a third-party charger, the Mstar S700 can be fully charged in two hours, which is amazing. This is cutting corners and it might have negative effects in the long run on the battery, but since it’s replaceable, I’m not making a big deal out of it. The battery life is the same however, but at least I don’t have to wait ten hours for my daily driver to become fully charged.
The other con of the Mstar S700 is connectivity to third-party devices. First off, it’s not plug and play, which is a huge mistake to make in 2015 in my mind. I know I was extremely frustrated for a couple of days because of this issue, until I found a workaround, yet again. You need to install the Wondershare MobileGo app on the Mstar S700 and on your PC. And it won’t work every time. But here’s a quick guide on how you should do it so it will always work. Steps 1 to 3 have to be done only on first connection with a new PC or laptop.
Mstar S700 connect USB to PC guide step by step
Step 1: connect the Mstar S700 via USB to your laptop or PC
Step 2: open the Wondershare MobileGo app on both the phone and the PC
Step 3: follow instructions and scan the QR code the app gives you so that the phone and app can memorize the PCs that you use
Step 4: Just use the application to request connection to the PC that you registered, and accept the request on the PC
It’s easy actually, but it took me some time to figure the steps out, because the app can be a bit complicated at times and it shows through that it wasn’t designed by native English speakers. That’s not a problem, but this guide should help those using the Mstar S700 connect to PC more easily. This was a slight bump in the user experience and it took me a few days to get used to having to employ apps to connect my phone to my laptop. But transfers between the two devices go smoothly and pretty fast, so no complaints there.
As a conclusion, I would say that the Mstar S700 is an excellent smartphone for its price. The bang for buck is actually pretty amazing if you think about it. The compromises that were made involved the charger and the battery life, but they are not deal breakers in my mind. They might be for some of you, but they’re not for me. One day battery life is what I get with most of my phones because I consider myself a power user, and I have to settle for that, as it were. Compromises had to be made in the engineering of the Mstar S700, and I’m glad that those compromises did not involve the display, performance, camera or features.
The accessories that come with the Mstar S700 are great, especially the headphones. They have great output when it comes to bass and treble and it’s a pleasure to listen to music with them. They’re not too loud and not too silent, which is just perfect and it limits those who tend to listen to music at high volumes and thus damage their hearing (it’s a real consequence people, don’t go deaf just to listen to max volume). The added screen protector is also a nice addition, as is the milky white design of the headphones and the cables and charger. The charger is only 300 mAh, and that’s one of the reasons why the phone charges so slowly.
Overall, I definitely recommend the Mstar S700 for anyone who wants a premium design, a removable battery, microSD support, good performance, good camera and good features. If your main priority when buying a phone is battery life, this might not be for you, unless you want to keep a spare battery around to replace the one you drained during the day. You can buy the Mstar S700 from GearBest for $155 and it’s a great deal. Be prepared to add a bit of VAT and customs fees depending on your state and country when ordering, but GearBest will inform you of this when you order. They also send you the correct power plug/charger for your region, so you don’t have to worry about buying adaptors. Be sure to check out the videos and galleries within this articles to see what kind of images the Mstar S700 camera takes and how video capture looks like.