We review the Up Groove!
When Starmobile launched the Up Groove, they gave an interesting feature to the budget smartphone. As the name implies, the Up Groove is a music-oriented phone that boasts of an extra-loud Pocket Punch speaker that gives great audio quality even if you max out its volume. In short, it is a pocket boombox that is perfect for blasting your favorite tunes loud and proud with your family and friends. Does it live up to expectations? Let’s take a quick look at its specs
Starmobile Up Groove Specs
- 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6850 quad-core processor
- 1GB of RAM
- Mali-400 MP2 GPU
- 5.0-inch HD TFT display; 1280×720 resolution
- 16GB of expandable storage (up to 32GB)
- 8-megapixel f/2.2 rear camera
- 8-megapixel f/2.2 front camera
- 3G, LTE (700MHz Ready)
- Single SIM
- WiFi, Bluetooth
- GPS, A-GPS
- Pocket Punch Loudspeaker, USB OTG
- 2200mAh battery
- Android 7.0 Nougat
Typical budget smartphone design
For the phone’s physical appearance, the Up Groove looks like what you would typically expect in a budget smartphone. On the front, you have a 5-inch TFT HD display with capacitive buttons on the bottom. On top of the screen, you have your proximity sensor, earpiece, and 8-megapixel front camera. On the phone’s sides, you have a metallic trimming, making the Up Groove look more premium compared to other phones in its price range.
The rear is pretty simple, with its removable cover having two textures. On the upper smooth portion, you have your 8-megapixel camera, an LED flash right below it, and Starmobile’s branding. On the ribbed bottom portion, you have your speaker grille for the Up Groove’s Pocket Punch speaker.
Underneath the removable cover, you have two MicroSIM card slots, a MicroSD slot, and a removable 2200mAh battery.
Ports on the Up Groove are pretty straightforward: You have your MicroUSB and headphone jack on the phone’s top, and power and volume control on the phone’s right side.
Slight tinge on the display
The Up Groove’s HD TFT display is pretty dated compared to the IPS and OLED panels used by most phones nowadays. While the brightness is pretty adequate, one thing we noticed is that the whites have a slight blue tinge, and this is noticeable especially when reading through articles via Chrome or through reading apps like NoInk and Google Newsletter. As for viewing videos, it is a different story, it is sufficient enough for watching.
What is strange, however, is that when we play YouTube videos, the Up Groove only supports up to 480P even if it is equipped with an HD panel. Maybe Starmobile can issue some updates to address this in the future.
In 2017 standards, the Up Groove’s MT6850 processor and 1GB RAM is considered dated, especially if you factor in the MT6850 being close to two years old. In the AnTuTu benchmark test, the Up Groove scored 24507, making it rank along with other budget handsets we reviewed in the previous months.
By having only 1GB RAM, you are pretty limited when it comes to multitasking, as the phone would struggle at a time when you try to switch from one app to another. This is much evident when you try to play games with it. Given its specs, it is not advisable to play graphics-intensive games with the Up Groove: the phone would struggle a lot, leading to low frame rates and laggy gameplay. Results obtained from GameBench strengthen our findings:
At a Median FPS, playing Asphalt 8 on high settings is not advisable on the Up Groove.
Since it uses an older MediaTek quad-core processor, the Up Groove does not have LTE, which is quite a disappointment given its price.
Basic Android with a few additions
On the plus side, you get Android Nougat with the Up Groove. There’s no skinning or overlay, so you get a mostly stock version of Android Nougat. Starmobile added a few touches with apps like System Guard, which works like 360 Security found on the recently-unveiled Cherry OS.
In addition, Starmobile bundled the Up Groove with two apps: Tappy Toon, a reader app that has a vast selection of anime graphic novels, and Elsa Speak, a pronunciation coach. Both apps are of novelty, and chances are they will be probably be deleted by users, especially if you factor in the Up Groove’s 16GB internal storage.
That speaker is really, really loud
With the Up Groove’s headline feature, that speaker you find at the back is indeed loud, clear, and crisp. Aside from a loudspeaker app (which basically showcases the speaker’s power), playing music with it makes it deliver as promised: At maximum volume, the tunes we played with the Up Groove were delivered loud and clear, with very minimal distortion. To sum it up, the Up Groove’s speaker has roughly the same level of loudness with today’s Bluetooth speakers.
Camera is tricky to use
While the Up Groove is a great music player especially with that PowerPunch speaker, it is a different story when it comes to its cameras. Shooting with it gives inconsistent results: On a bright day, the Up Groove’s cameras tend to overexpose details, resulting in a washed out photo. On low light situations, photos are smudgy and not of good use, so we highly advise to make use of that flash. Check out the photo gallery to see the results for yourself:
At 2200mAh, the Up Groove has a small battery by today’s standards. Running PCMark’s battery test, the Up Groove scored 5 hours and 36 minutes: which means on heavy usage, you will need to plug into a power bank or wall outlet halfway through the day. As for charging, it takes around two hours to fully juice up the Up Groove via its MicroUSB port.
Verdict: Great speakers but needs newer internals
If we are going to talk solely about the Up Groove’s headline feature, it does deliver. That PowerPunch speaker can match today’s Bluetooth speakers in terms of loudness and sound clarity. It’s a novel idea to incorporate such a feature on a smartphone. However, what hinders the Up Groove is its dated internals, as it would experience hiccups as we shuffled through different apps. Yes, these hiccups do affect music playback when you multitask.
If you ask us, we would not mind spending more than its advertised price of Php 3490/$68 if Starmobile gave the Up Groove updated internals like a bigger battery, a modern octa-core processor, and more RAM and internal storage.