When the Kata i3 arrived back in January this year, I was surprised by its existence. Not only was it among the most affordable smartphones specs-wise during that period, it also boasted a beautiful and unique physique, contrasting against the generic shades of blacks and whites with its brushed metal look offered by the local smartphone industry. Its price tag and looks were refreshing at best, but history tells a different story: Something can look gorgeous but perform hideously, vice versa, so we put our skeptic's hat on. We're not saying that this was what happened here, but we're just presenting another way of looking at it.
The Kata i3 (a rebadged and improved Xolo Q1010) is a Android 4.2 Jelly Bean smartphone that boasts a 5-inch HD display, a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and a micro SD card slot on top of a built in 16GB internal storage, which is, if I may say, quite rare even in local smartphones these days. That said, the i3 is looking good so far.
The Kata i3 at first sight is a beauty to behold. It also has some weight to it, giving it that validating premium heavy-but-light feel from most internationally-branded smartphones. From a subjective point of view, most people feel that too light a smartphone means inferior materials were used in production. That could be true, though we have no way of knowing.
Aside from the already mentioned brushed metal look, the other thing that caught my eye is the rather odd camera location. If you'll look at the succeeding images, you'll see that it's placed at the very top of the rear side separated by a dedicated plastic piece, presumably housing the camera equipment.
The smartphone features a slate form, with the front housing the usual earpiece, sensors, front-facing camera, and the soft-touch buttons. Surprisingly, the Kata i3 doesn't feature a notification LED indicator (which would have been a very nice addition, if it was present). It also has a screen guard already attached, which is good, since it spares you from additional expenses.
The rear meanwhile houses the 13-megapixel camera, a couple of Kata logos, and the loudspeaker, finished by the metallic blue brushed-metal plastic shell. To that extent, it's only available in this color, though I must say Xolo's color scheme on their Q1010 is much more attractive (kind of reminded me of Cherry Mobile's original Skyfire).
Located at the right side is the volume rocker; at the left side the sleep/wake button; at the top is the headphone jack; lastly at the bottom is the charging/micro USB port.
Handling-wise, the Kata i3 moves in the hands perfectly, since it has that "just right" size for maneuvering between the fingers. Then again, this is my personal bias speaking, since I find smartphones over 5" somewhat uncomfortable to handle. On the flip side, given its glossy shell and all, it sucks all the fingerprints in the world, and I know some of you know this feeling. So when the amount of fingerprint gunk reaches "that" point, you know it's already time to wipe your phone off clean. That said, the device isn't slippery.
The Kata i3 has an average thinness at 8.3mm. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is 7.9mm thin, while the HTC One is 9.3mm thin.
The Kata i3 sports a 5-inch HD IPS display (also called by the company "True HD"), bearing a 720 x 1280 resolution, a 294 ppi pixel density, and the OGS (One Glass Solution) technology . This display configuration is very common nowadays, with even budget smartphones starting at P4,999 already bearing HD displays (but that's as far as it can go currently, because FHD on budget hardware will be an unpleasant experience to say the least).
Images reproduced on the i3's display are clean and crisp, colors are vibrant and lively, and returns with a good balance of contrast. Ideally, image vibrancy paired with a deeper contrast makes the display produce warm, real-looking images. Too less, and the images would look washed out. Meanwhile, whites tend to exhibit a blue tinge on them.
Sunlight legibility is average at best, with the already-attached screen guard contributing to additional glare. Cranking the brightness to maximum helps with this visibility issue. Touch sensitivity on the other hand is good; taps register quickly and show no delay. The display can accomodate up to 5 touch points. You can also manipulate the i3's display even with gloves on.
Viewing angles are all-around good, thanks to the IPS display. As such, there's no gap between the glass and the LCD of the display because of the OGS feature.
The Kata i3 operates on the gracefully aging Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS (like most local mid-range Android devices in the market), so expect stock UI all around. In addition, there are additional pre-installed Kata software in the device (which fortunately doesn't take too much room) that aims to enhance the usability and the value of the smartphone. Two such features are gesture-based controls and the Kata FishCloud cloud storage. More on that later.
The Kata i3 boasts a 1.3GHz MT6582 quad-core processor, an aging but still good Mali-400 GPU, and 1GB of RAM. This combination of hardware are sufficiently equipped to handle current-gen mobile apps and games. The onboard storage comes with 16GB of ROM too, making the i3 ready to install and play huge apps anytime.
We ran the Kata i3 in four different benchmarks just to see how it would perform in numbers. Here's what we got.
The device results were actualy pretty decent, especially in Nenamark 2 and AnTuTu, considering that the screen has a 720p resolution. The Mali 400 GPU could've helped a lot in this situation, and it really shows in games. More on that later. What these numbers mean though just confirms our initial impressions: The Kata i3 is a real performer.
This smartphone features a USB OTG function. For the uninformed, this allows the smartphone to directly send or retrieve files from a flash drive (or any other compatible external storage device) without plugging into a computer, provided you have a USB OTG cable. This complements the phone perfectly, since it allows for quick transfers; the large onboard storage can store a few movies in itself. And happily, there's still a microSD slot that can support up to 32GB external storage (that's 48GB total), perfect for the memory freaks out there.
The Kata i3 offers a dual micro-SIM functionality (dual-standby), with SIM 1 for 3G connectivity, and SIM 2 for 2G/EDGE. Network signals on both channels are stable. WiFi signal inside buildings also remain relatively strong without much degradation.
Gesture-based controls are a fun addition to the i3's display and usability function, though it may just remain just that, a fun addition. Tracing figures and shapes on the Kata i3's screen - provided the device recognizes the particular figure you drew - brings up a menu or opens an app.There are also other times that the device recognizes what you drew as another command, bringing up some mild annoyance. The sad thing here is there's no way of telling what shape or figure will do what, since nothing is included in the box manual mentioning anything of the sort, in short you're on your own to figure it out. It's nothing a smartphone person would use regularly though. I'm willing to bet most current and future owners of the i3 won't know their device has such a functionality.
Audio and Video
Bearing a 720p display, video reproduction should not be a problem with the Kata i3. Its 5-inch HD screen, without praising too much, is good for viewing movies and video streaming. The only issue I have with the device's display is its dark contrast - you can still see the objects in the dark areas of the display, though it would've been preferably lighter in shade and shown in more detail (nighttime scenes, and even dark fur of animals), making the images reproduced look more natural.
Sound admittedly isn't one of the strong suits of the Kata i3. It's audible most of the time, but it lacks power to be heard in a moderately loud environment. Also an issue is the device's tinny sound in audio playbacks, with the mids and highs present but thin, and the lows barely detectable, if any (thankfully you can always augment smartphones nowadays with entry to mid-range Bluetooth speakers, just like the JBL Micro Wireless). The above mentioned, you shouldn't expect too much or too less from the Kata i3 speaker-wise.
With regards to headphones, the Kata i3's beautiful-looking stock headphones stops short of an acceptable performance (it goes the same way most of the time with other local brands. Can't fault Kata for this. If anything, they'd be getting heaps of praises from me if they tossed in a good pair of headphones). In short, get yourself a nice pair of third-party cans, partly because the i3 accomodates CTIA-compliant (see: international, branded) headsets (this means that your AKG or Harman Kardon will have no issue being used with the i3) and partly because third-party cans just sound superior to anything stock.
The earpiece is a bit weak, since you need to intently listen to the person you're conversing with on the other side to hear what he or she is saying.
There's no surprise here: The Kata i3 can handle itself well, even with some of the bigger brand names with regards to gaming. One of the more graphics-intensive games - and when I say more graphics-intensive I don't mean Dead Trigger 2 - N.O.V.A. 3, ran without a hitch on the Kata i3. There's some minor slowdown though, as it looks like the frame rates drop and the game runs at 95% speed. I'll take that any day over some device that force closes on games it can't run. The only issue with games not running on full speed are the trailing movements on-screen i.e. you want your gun pointed at an enemy now, but the device will trail to your touch command later.
Other games such as EA's Real Racing 3 also had no problem running whatsoever in the Kata i3, except the issue previously mentioned above.
One of the finer points of the Kata i3 is its 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 5-megapixel front-facing camera. I initially thought the rear camera also featured OIS - and frankly I was a little bit disappointed it didn't - but the images captured turned out fine. Not breathtaking nor disappointing, but somewhere slighty better than above average.
The i3 takes outdoor images with a good level of detail and with no visible noise present, albeit sometimes looking softer than normal. Blowing up the captures meanwhile leads to a moderate deterioration in detail and a significant rise in noise, e.g. the leaves of a tree will look more like a pastel painting rather than a photo, because of detail loss. These mentioned, the images still look quite natural.
Photos on low-light and night-time environments also turn out far better than the smartphones I previously handled (with the exception of the Gionee Elife E7. This device's camera rocks, but I digress), and that says a lot. Sample shots below.
On the software side, the camera app sports the stock Android 4.2 UI. To the i3's credit, it runs the software better and faster than some of its contemporaries, i.e. no delay in image captures, great transitioning from camera to gallery, and just overall smoothness. It also has a 4x digital zoom, HDR, geo-tagging, face detection, some filters for your images, and the default fix-my-image-up modes of Android 4.2.
The Kata i3 sports a 2250mAh non-removable Li-ion battery encased in an aluminum plate directly behind its plastic shell. Most 720p quad-cores offer the same or more battery rating (some even go as low as 1800mAh), and these are admittedly small numbers for a moderately-powered device, but there's always a software optimization factor in play, making one device with a higher battery rating drain faster than another device with a lower battery rating vice versa.
The i3's battery holds decently when playing online games such as Shadowgun: Deadzone (an average team game lasts around 15 minutes), though there's some mild warming going on. The above provided, 3 hours and 30 minutes will take around 50% off of your battery when connected to WiFi, with medium brightness, and with maximum volume.
Recharging with the stock charger will last give or take 3 hours, depending on the battery level remaining on your device.
The Kata i3 is the company's first device to feature the Kata FishCloud cloud storage (like Dropbox, though as of my review it wasn't ready for use yet), the easy WiFi hotspot-setting Hotspot app, an Owtel 3G app (simply put it turns enables/disables your SIM 1 or SIM 2), and the Fish Market, which lets you download apps - some of which are paid on the Play Store - for free.
There are also additional pre-loaded apps that offer value, such as the Kingsoft Office and the MX Player Pro. While these are readily available at the Play Store for free, having them installed at the moment you boot your device, ready for use, is priceless.
When I first saw the Kata i3 personally - and I'm not exaggerating - I was fairly impressed of the value-for-money it offered. At that time, there were no local devices that featured a 720p display, a moderately powerful combination of hardware, and a 16GB internal storage, for only P8,499 (as of April 2014 it's now only P7,499). Up to now, there are only a few smartphones, if any, that offers 16GB onboard for this price.
Specs aside, there was also the beauty factor for me. The Kata i3, with its brushed metal accent, is certainly a looker. Its sleek design, its rather odd camera placement, and its 5-inch display pulls off a great-looking device that gives other local competitors - and perhaps even international ones - a run for their money.
For P7,499 (P8,499 previously), the Kata i3 is a definite steal. Sure, the average consumer can now get an HD smartphone with similar specifications for three thousand pesos less, but does it have a great build and a respectable onboard storage? How about value-added apps or a better camera? If you're willing to spend a little more for something that offers a lot more, the Kata i3 is one Android smartphone worth considering.
Kata i3 Specifications
OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core MT6582 processor, Mali-400 GPU
Memory: 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD expandable up to 32GB
Display: 5-inch HD IPS OGS display, 720x1280 resolution, 294 ppi
Camera: 13-megapixel rear camera with AF & LED flash, 5-megapixel front-facing camera
Connectivity: EDGE, 2G, 3.5G, HSPA+, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS w/ A-GPS, microUSB 2.0
SIM: Dual micro SIM
Battery: Non-removable 2250mAh Li-ion battery
Dimensions: 143.6 mm x 72.2 mm x 8.3 mm, 153.2 g