Kata M1 Review

A few months after the successful launch of the i3, Kata have recently introduced the first phablet in their roster, the Kata M1. The Kata M1 sports some high-end features, such as a 1080p display, 2GB of RAM, and like its predecessor it also offers onboard memory.

The Kata M1, as large as it is, looks good and feels well-built. Too bad it's only available in white and is available for a limited time only. We took the device on a run to see how it performs, and here's our review.

Design

The Kata M1 is a 5.7-inch phablet that looks like any other smartphone. Its form factor and its interface scream of stock, even its glossy plastic rear shell is nondescript. These aspects in a respect are both good and bad, depending on the person who'll use it. Some people will favor a very nondescript and simple design, while some people prefer something loud and flashy.

Kata M1 front

What I find pleasing and surprising is the design and location of its external speaker and the speaker grill. I can't recall any local or international device that has a speaker up top in the rear (except for the HTC One's BoomSound speakers), and in ways the M1's speaker looks cool. The only issue you'll have with this is - based on my experience - that a part of your left or right palm, when you hold the phone on landscape, will block the loudspeaker and muffle the sound it's producing. This is especially true if you have big hands and are a heavy gripper.

Kata M1 back

The Kata M1's display is ever so slightly more elevated than the rest of the smartphone, making the display very shatter-vulnerable in accidental drops (then again, a device with such a huge display has very little chance of getting out in one piece if it drops) or when it interacts with pressure on pointed and blunt objects inside your bag. There's also the somewhat thick bezel, but fortunately it's not very noticeable.

Other than the display, the Kata M1's front features a 5-megapixel front camera, a notification LED (in green and red colors), a couple of sensors, and three light-up soft touch buttons with haptic feedback. On all of Kata's devices, we have yet to see any form of physical button around the display area.

The M1's rear side features a 13-megapixel camera with its LED flash right beside it, its beautiful-looking loudspeaker grill, and a couple of Kata logos. I mentioned a while ago that this area is nondescript. It's reviewer bias, but I prefer cleaner-looking behinds rather than flashy ones (which is the Kata M1). The back is also glossy, and it's routine that glossy shells gather fingerprints and gunk pretty quickly.


On the top side is where the 3.5mm audio port and the charging/microUSB port is located; at the right side is the sleep/wake button; at the left side is the volume rocker. The bottom area is devoid of anything, but it could've used a stylus. Meanwhile, lifting the rear shell is moderately easy; inside it are the SIM slots, one standard and one micro, and right beside it is the microSD card slot. There's also the removable battery.


Regarding cases, Kata offers a first-party flip cover case with a window for the M1 - similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 or Note 3 - but does not offer any window widget functionality. It's just there for design, nothing more, nothing less.

Display

The Kata M1 boasts a huge 5.7-inch Full HD 1080p IPS display, the same size and definition as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, sans the Super AMOLED and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 feature. There are a few 1080p smartphones in the market, and most of them can't utilize it properly, particularly because of relatively weaker hardware (see: Mediateks vs Qualcomms, 1GB RAM vs 2GB RAM, PowerVRs vs Adrenos vs Malis) and unoptimized software, ultimately leading to obvious lags and slowdowns in both phone and app operations.

Kata M1 display screen

As with 1080p displays, you can see text and details very clearly, albeit slightly smaller and clearer than usual - that's because the pixel count per inch is higher. It's an improvement over the Kata i3's HD display, simply because it looks a lot better. Colors are bright and vibrant, with yellows and reds coming off as intense and sometimes a little too saturated. The contrast is just right to make whites and grays still appear visible against blacks (with the display also being able to produce good, deep blacks). Viewing angles are great thanks to the huge display's IPS feature. No ghosting is present anywhere in the UI. And as for outdoor visibility, the M1's brightness levels are just enough to fend off the sunlight from blinding you off too much without cranking the brightness to the maximum.


Similar to the i3, the Kata M1 operates on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Devices offering stock Android are always welcome in my book, but we're unsure if this company will offer over-the-air system updates to their smartphones (to their credit, they do issue OTAs, but more of fixes rather than updates, the latter of which are what everyone is looking for).

As big as it is, the Kata M1 only offers up to 5 multi-touch points. I'm honestly surprised that such a fine display offers only that, but it's understandable since there might be a limitation on the hardware running the device. There's also some moderate delay in typing in messages or texts in general and misread touches (e.g. when you press "S", "A" comes up), with both issues happenng on the landscape orientation. The

Performance

The Kata M1 runs on a newer 1.5GHz MT6589 quad-core processor, a PowerVR SGX544MP GPU, and a respectable 2GB of RAM. If I recall correctly there are no local quad-core smartphones that offer 2GB RAM on their devices. It also offers a 16GB onboard storage similar to its predecessor, and a microSD card slot expandable up to 32GB.

The Kata M1 is the first smartphone we cycled through additional benchmarking apps, primarily to improve more the quality of our reviews. The benchmarks we previously ran only on devices we tested were AnTuTu, Quadrant Standard, Vellamo, NenaMark 2, and 3DMark. We added Basemark OS II, Basemark X, and GFXBench 3.0 3D Benchmark for qualitativeness. Regardless of the numbers a device achieves, we still believe user experience is the best benchmark of all. Here's the results we got.

Kata M1 Antutu benchmark Kata M1 Quadrant benchmark Kata M1 Vellamo benchmark Kata M1 3D Mark

Kata M1 Nenamark 2

Unsurprisingly, the Kata M1 got lower than usual benchmark scores, primarily because of its 1080p display mismatch with the hardware. Remember that a Mediatek isn't at par with a Qualcomm Snapdragon or a Samsung Exynos, and the latter chipsets - the expensive chipsets - are the ones who always fetch the top benchmark scores (Mediatek products are produced with budget in mind to begin with). Regardless, the Kata M1 gives a smooth overall experience on the homescreen, drawer, and non-resource intensive applications. Resource-intensive applications, such as games including Iron Man 3's cutscenes, tend to bog down the device to somewhere around 0.5s between frames. More on that later.

This big device is also big on features. It has an OTG USB functionality, which lets you plugs thumbdrives via an OTG USB cable and play its contents (movies, music, etc.) on the M1 itself, without even copy-pasting said content. This is a great feature in case you manage to fill up the M1's 16GB + 32GB memory.

The Kata M1 offers dual SIM functionality, with SIM 1 being a micro SIM slot, and SIM 2 being a regular SIM slot. SIM 1 allows for 3G and 2G connections, while SIM 2 allows for 2G only. If you're going to transfer from the i3 to the M1, you'll need a micro SIM adapter, which costs around P100, but is a pain to apply, especially because one unfortunate slip will make the plastic adapter clip the bronze pins of the SIM slot. Removing it the wrong way or pulling it suddenly at this stuck situation will surely destroy not only the pins your phone, but also network connectivity on SIM 2. Speaking of networks, both SIM 1 and SIM 2 offer stable signals (for reference, I've tried a couple of devices in which there's a drastic and unpredictable signal fluctuation on the SIM 2 side).

The Kata M1 has a built-in APK installer feature, located at the Settings tab. Not that this would be in any way advantageous to devices that don't carry such a feature, but is definitely helpful in mass APK installations.

Audio and Video

The Kata M1's big screen is a boon to mobile video fans, because not only is it in 1080p, it's also because as mentioned the colors reproduced are vibrant and has correct saturation (at least most of the time). Fast transitions on movie scenes have no observable pixelation, and in our preferred demo video the white smoke the NASA spaceship is emitting is clear and detailed. Objects in the dark are also observable, making for a great contrast.

Kata M1 Video

On the audio side, the Kata M1's loudspeakers might look great, but they don't sound that mighty. Games and movie music doesn't come off as strong, and sometimes they barely even register at 50% volume, which should not be the case whatever with whatever smartphone it is. Sound strength, considering the previously mentioned, also diminishes during playing games that require landscape orientation, making overall audio tinny and muffled, the result of something obscuring the loudspeaker at point blank range, i.e. your fingers or palm blocking the audio source because of the way the speaker is positioned on the device. Incoming calls sound clear on the M1's earpiece.

If you're planning on purchasing third-party headphones, we suggest that you look for try-before-you-buy models because we were'nt able to catch if the M1 is OMTP or CTIA. Otherwise, that newly-purchased AKG may not work with your device.

Gaming

So here's where the Kata M1 suffers a bottleneck: gaming. Admittedly, this device chokes on resource-intensive games, such as Asphalt 8, N.O.V.A 3, and at Ironman 3 - but nowhere as heavy as the cutscenes on Ironman 3. As mentioned previously, there's just like 2 frames per second for every cutscene, and you can feel from afar that the machine is bogged down from drawing all the shiny sprites on screen. This is unfortunate, since the M1 is a huge 1080p device which would be highly suitable for gaming.

Kata M1 Gaming performance

The above mentioned, lighter games such as Dead Trigger 2 and Shadowgun: Deadzone fared better. This should come as no surprise since these games were designed to be played on as much devices as possible.

Camera

As sad as the gaming portion of this review, the bright side of the Kata M1 is its mighty 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash. I own and use regularly an HTC One, but the permanent purple hue on the "UltraPixel" camera annoys me to no end, especially on night time and low-light environments, so imagine how I looked after finding out how crisp the images produced were by the M1.

Kata M1 Camera and photo samples

Images captured by the M1 has good definition and detail, keeps its natural look, and has acceptable noise levels on zooms. The image that impressed me the most is the one where I took a photo of a random leaf early in the morning. As you'll see below, the tiny hairs on the leaf itself are very visible, and the soft light of the sun is well-represented. Night-time and low-light indoor images also pose no challenge to the M1's camera. Evening shots, while not Exmor-R or Carl Zeiss levels, have decent lighting, definition, and visibility, which unlike other smartphones at a similar pricepoint already have difficulty reproducing. If most smartphone cameras out there on the market are like the M1's, everybody would definitely be happy.

The device's 5-megapixel front-facing camera is itself also a decent snapper, very reminiscent of the Kata i3. Honestly it would be difficult to execute successful one-handed selfies with the M1 though, mainly because of its size and bulk.

(Click image to enlarge)


Battery

With its 4000mAh Li-ion removable battery, the Kata M1 is designed to last (also, what good would a power hungry 1080p display be if the battery rating was measly?). The smartphone's battery packs a wallop and is worthy of wearing a competing brand's name (clue: the brand being pertained to is known for the huge battery ratings of its devices).

Kata M1 Battery performance

As a heavy test, we looped Asphalt 8 on an 80% charged M1 with medium brightness, maximum sound, and WiFi connectivity enabled in a span of 3 hours. The device consumed only around 20% of its battery during this time period. We did the same test, and more or less 20% were again consumed. Based from this, we can safely say that one can play give or take 15 hours straight with the Kata M1, provided it's run in the same controlled conditions. Regular usage on the other hand would prove a no-issue with this smartphone, as you won't even think of charging it until the next day.

With a USB OTG cable, one can theoretically use the Kata M1 as a backup powerbank. We've seen it done with devices that has similar battery ratings or more, so the M1 will likely also be able to do the same.

Other Features

The Kata M1 hosts a few bloatwares of its own, though some of them are admittedly useful to a would be owner. The Kata FishCloud storage is again present in this device (as with the Kata i3), and so are the Owtel 3G SIM manager app, the WiFi Hotspot app, and the Kata Fishmarket, the latter offering downloads of mobile applications and games also found at the Play Store.


Verdict

As the company's first phablet, the Kata M1 has done a fairly good job in our eyes. It's got a great display, it captures images pretty well even in low-light environments, and can be a very reliable device in terms of battery life. But as great as its good points are, it also suffers some setbacks, such as simply being too large and bulky for most consumers (even for those people in the 5.7" market, getting bogged down by heavy games (and to think that its setup is primed for gaming), and just overall weak audio power - though you can always go the wireless Bluetooth or third-party headphones way, but I digress. The M1 also has a great build, following the footsteps of its predecessor. It has some quirks of its own, such as the oddly-placed loudspeaker, but hey, it looks cool near the camera.

Kata M1 Review

While it obviously offers nothing new, the Kata M1 is a must-try to would-be phablet devices solely because of the positive experience it offers. Other phablets with the same hardware would be a tad more expensive, while the ones cheaper than the M1 will often carry an inferior display or camera.

The Kata M1 is now available for P11,999 on Kata Concept Stores and kiosks (it was announced that the M1's original price was P11,999 and that the pre-order price was P9,999, but knowing the company, they'll likely lower the price soon).

Kata M1 Specifications

OS: Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean
Processor: 1.5GHz quad-core MT6589 processor, PowerVR SGX544MP GPU
Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD expandable up to 32GB
Display: 5.7-inch capacitive Full HD IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
Camera: 13-megapixel rear camera with AF & LED flash, 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
Connectivity: EDGE, HSPA+, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, GPS with A-GPS support, Bluetooth v4.0, micro USB 2.0
SIM: Dual, 1 regular SIM (2G), 1 micro SIM (2G/3G)
Battery: 4000mAh removable Li-ion battery
Dimensions: 165.1 mm x 81.6 mm x 10 mm, 205 g

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