19 December 2014

REVIEW: Aldi Medion Life Smartphone

Once in a lifetime

Following fast on the heels of last week's release of their new budget tablet the Lifetab (which we reviewed here) Aldi have also stepped into the world of smartphones with another pre-Christmas tech release, the Medion Life. We put it to the test.

We really liked Aldi's tablet, and although it was being marketed (and priced) as a budget gadget, we were surprised at just how much it could keep up with the big boys in terms of specs. But now that the supermarket chain have branched out into phones (or rather their friends at Medion have) will we be as equally amazed?

The Medion Life is an Android Smartphone running KitKat 4.4, just like the Lifetab tablet. It has a 1.3Ghz Quad-core processor, with 1Gb of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The screen measures 4.5 inches across the diagonal, with a pixel density of 960x540 - so pretty good. The main camera weighs in with a 5MP sensor, while the one of the front is a not-too-shabby 2MP. There is also space in the inside for two separate SIM cards, and when you consider all this is currently available at Aldi for just £79.99, it seems quite attractive.

The phone itself is plastic fantastic, unlike it's bigger tablet brother that boasted brushed metal. Still, it feels solid in the hand and the rounded edges and flat top and bottom reminds us of the older model Nokia Lumias. This does meen that the Life can be 'stood up' on the bottom - a handy thing for timer shots using the main camera. The three Android buttons, home, back, and menu, have been given a makeover in simple dots which glow very gently when the phone is woken up.

If you check out our  Huawei Ascend Y550 review, you'll see a similarly priced budget phone. Although the Medion is £10 more SIM free, you certainly seem to be getting more bang for your buck with a faster processor and a much better screen resolution. Also, the Medion Life presents Android 4.4 in an unadulterated manner, coming preloaded with the standard software that you would expect on a much more expensive phone. There's also no simplification of the UI here - which is a good thing - especially considering lower-end phones like this are typically marketed at children and first-time users. If you're an old Android pro like we all are, you can pick this up and not feel like you're being spoon fed.

In use it performed very well. Just like the  Huawei Ascend Y550 it has just a gig of RAM, which although fine for pretty much all day-to-day phone use, would start to show you up a bit when several large apps are running simultaneously. That said, when we were hammering a battle of our current go-to test game, Star Wars: Galactic Defence, the Medion Life never slowed or crashed, even when a whole crap load of stuff was kicking off on screen.

You also get some pretty decent pre-installed apps on there too; far more than you would normally expect on an under-£100 phone. For starters there's Medion's bundled media apps such as LIFE Player, as well as PhotoDirector and ImageChef. Useful things like Skype, Chrome, and eBay come preloaded as well, saving you a few MBs of data to download them.

So although we're not nearly as impressed with it as we were the Lifetab, at £79 this is pretty great phone for anyone to own, if only as a back-up. The price will no doubt be attractive to parents looking to get their kids their first smartphones, and maybe even older people looking to finally take the plunge into the world of smart technology. And as it does exactly what it says on the tin, without cutting any corners that we're used to with budget phones, this is a definite one to consider.


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