TechnoStorm

Review: MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini

Specs of the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini (Price: P12,888):

MediaTek MT6589T
Dual SIM (dual 3G)
1.5GHz quad-core CPU
PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU
2GB RAM
16GB internal storage
5-inch IPS display (1,080 x1,920 resolution; 440ppi)
13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
5-megapixel front camera
2,000mAh lithium-polymer battery
Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1

There's no denying that the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini, priced at P12,888 and now available in Philippine retail stores, is the company's most souped-up smartphone so far. But it's also quite possibly the most compelling offering from the local mobile brand. It definitely falls under "flagship devices," with its 1080p display, so-called "turbo" quad-core processor, and 2GB of RAM. 

Forget MyPhone's 5.7-inch Iceberg (see First impressions: MyPhone Iceberg, a 5.7-inch quad-core phone), unless you're actually on the market for a phone-slash-tablet. And while the Agua Vortex (see MyPhone Agua Vortex teased; we have the price, specs, and photos!) flaunts an aluminum frame, it has lower specs and costs almost as much as the Iceberg Mini (the Vortex retails for P12,388). 

That said, and given the positive reviews the Iceberg and Vortex have been getting, is the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini another solid purchase? Does it have a place in a country where bargain-basement handsets are king and those in the middle ground are too often forgotten? Read on to find out. 

Hardware

As with most devices marketed as mini-me versions of another product, the Iceberg Mini shares a similar overall design language as its phablet sibling, only the former skips the metallic shell in favor of something made of plastic. It benefits from a unibody case, though, which means there's no way to remove the cover in case you want to swap out batteries or memory cards. In fact, the phone lacks microSD expansion.

The hardware itself feels mostly solid, and is light and thin enough to be held comfortably in one hand. We did notice a hint of flex as we pushed down in the rear panel's middle part.

The front of the handset sees a 5-inch panel covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 2. Underneath the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini's touchscreen, there are three backlit capacitive buttons: menu, home, and back. Above the display, you'll find the notification light, right beside the 5-megapixel front-facer, proximity and light sensors, and chrome-trimmed earpiece. 

The power/lock button and volume rocker are located on the right-hand side. Along the left, you'll see two micro-SIM card trays. The audio jack sits on the bottom edge, opposite the top side where the microUSB charging port is located. 

Around the back, you'll see the 13-megapixel, backside-illuminated camera; dual-LED flash; and small, oblong loudspeaker grille. As is usually the case, MyPhone's new and subdued branding is placed on the rear.

Overall, we're pretty impressed with the Iceberg Mini's hardware; it retains most of the things we love about the bigger Iceberg, and it's just the right size for single-handed use.

The best—and most obvious—way to describe the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini is that it's a more compact version of the MyPhone Agua Iceberg. The two devices are almost identical, except the Mini is mostly... more 
The best—and most obvious—way to describe the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini is that it's a more compact version of the MyPhone Agua Iceberg. The two devices are almost identical, except the Mini is mostly made of plastic, unlike the 5.7-inch phablet which sports a metallic design. less 
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Display

Unsurprisingly, the biggest draw of the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini dominates the front. For starters, the 5-inch IPS screen is manufactured using One-Glass-Solution technology, which incorporates both the panel and touch sensor in a single-layer design to produce a thinner and more beautiful display. And "beautiful" is the word we'd use to describe the Iceberg Mini's panel; it's incredibly bright and vibrant, and it makes for some excellent viewing angles, even under direct sunlight. 

The resolution of the screen is also impressive: 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, which equates to 440 pixels per inchthe gold standard among today's smartphones.

Our only concern here is that the black levels aren't as deep as those of top-notch phones with IPS panels like the iPhone 5s (see A Hands-on impression of Apple's new iPhones) and the LG G2 (see Review: LG G2, a 5.2-inch phone that's better than the S4?).

Camera

As you know, the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini has a pair of cameras: a 5-megapixel sensor up front and a 13-megapixel main sensor that allows more light to pass through; hence, the promise of better photos when shooting in low-light conditions.

The default camera app can shoot photos using the software shutter key or either one of the volume buttons. It also has plenty of bells and whistles, offering a wide variety of shooting modes, including vertical, horizontal, and 360-degree panoramas; HDR, beauty, and continuous shots; and the self-explanatory object-eraser mode.

In our testing, we found both cameras to be pretty goodborderline great evenwhen used outdoors during the day. The main shooter, in particular, usually delivers handsome photos right out of the gate. Most night shots could still use some work, but we'll take them over samples taken with non-illuminated camera phone sensors any day. There's also very little lag in between shots, which is something most locally branded smartphones struggle with. 

Below are a few sample pictures shot with the Agua Iceberg Mini's main camera.

MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini sample photo
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Specs and performance 

Besides the gorgeous 1080p display, another thing the handset has going for it, at least on paper, is specs. MyPhone has cut very few corners here, and in terms of processing power, the Iceberg Mini is as good as it gets in the sub-P13,000 range at the moment.

Inside, there's an MT6589T chipset from MediaTekthe last "T" stands for "turbo" (or so we're led to believe); 1.5GHz quad-core processor; PowerVR SGX 544MP graphics; 2GB of RAM; and 16GB of non-expandable memory. Those who want more space for their apps and content may want to look somewhere else. 

For all its CPU prowess and RAM, though, the phone doesn't leave the competition in the dust. Quite the contrary, actually: On some occasions, it bogs down, seemingly taking a deep breath before jumping in and out of apps. There's also a slight lag when when navigating content-rich websites and the lightly skinned Android Jelly Bean interface. It's not what we'd call a deal-breaker, really, but it's a bummer no less. Otherwise, the handset behaves like a champ most of the time

The highest scores on AnTuTu Benchmark and 3DMark (Icestorm) we got for the Iceberg Mini are 15,253 and 3,178, respectively. Those numbers are average given the specs. 

MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini screenshot (AnTuTu benchmark score)
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The sealed battery is only rated at 2,000mAh, which is unfortunate considering the power-hungry touch display.

Having used the Iceberg Mini for about a week, it's clear that the battery isn't large enough to meet the needs of road warriors and power users who do a lot of gaming and movie watching. Case in point: After browsing the Web for an hour and a half at half brightness, the battery readout went from 60 to 30 percent. Of course, with minimal use and low brightness levels, the phone will do just fine, lasting through a day of usage on a single charge.

Verdict

Despite the ho-hum battery life, the MyPhone Agua Iceberg Mini remains a smartphone to be reckoned with and is a solid pick, even in a country where entry-level Androids rake in the sales. Not only does the phone mark the end of yet another banner year for local mobile brands, it sets the tone for next year's crop of affordable flagship smartphones.

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