Panasonic, long missing from the smartphone arena, have finally made the decision to enter the European market. Their first foray is the Eluga dL1 and thanks to the kind people of Expansys we’ve gold hold of one to review.
The Panasonic Eluga is a fantastic looking device. Have no doubts about it, everyone that I showed it to had a first reaction of “Wow!”
At only 7.8mm deep, it is exceptionally thin and weighing in at just 103g feels very light in the hand and pocket.
The screen is a 4.3” QHD (960×540) capacitive OLED display, it has an exceptionally small frame meaning that the screen actually accounts for 66% of the whole device.
There is a menu, home and back button below the screen each indicated by a small light and a small speaker grill above the screen.
The device is powered by Android 2.3.5 (gingerbread) which is a touch disappointing but an upgrade to 4.0 (Ice cream sandwich) is promised in the summer.
Panasonic have gone to great lengths to ensure that the device has some unique selling points, one of which is waterproofing. The Eluga is IPX7 certified meaning it can be submerged in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes without show any signs of fatigue. The handset is also IPX5 certified which ensures dust proofing too – good for those moments that you jump into a lagoon after being caught in a sandstorm!!
The top of the handset contains the USB charging point, the microSIM slot and the headphone jack. Both USB and sicroSIM points are covered by flaps and one does wonder how long the flaps would last when being removed and replaced every day in order to charge the device.
The shape of the device adds to the stunningly elegant looks however the rear of the phone curves away, this has led to a rather awkward button arrangement. The volume button is placed below the standby button on the right hand side of the handset. These buttons are rather small and hard to find without physically looking for them. It is almost as if they are on the rear of the phone.
As already mentioned, the Eluga has a 960×540 OLED display which puts it below the like of the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the same can be said for many of the other specs. 8GB of onboard storage, a 1GHz dual-core processor and the Gingerbread flavour of Android all point to a device that are just below class leadership. That said, everything that was asked of it was performed without issue and in a timely fashion.
While Panasonic have opted for an almost stock version of Android, there are changes to the launcher and the lock screen. The launcher seems a little basic, consisting of 3 customisable icons and 1 static App List icon. The app list then has a preinstall section, a section showing downloaded apps and another for apps with updates. Icon placement within each section is changeable although this arrangement is slightly confusing with apps appearing in both the download section and the update section.
The lock screen is minimal, simply giving the user a clock and an arc to trace in order to unlock the device. No other customisations are possible for the lockscreen which is a slight disappointment.
Panasonic have chosen to include the stock Android apps with the exception of a special picture album app. This is a rather good looking app which enables you to send a picture to Facebook / Twitter with a simple swipe.
There is also an “Eco Mode” app which is included to prolong battery life. Seeing as a rather small 1150mAh battery is included, this battery saver is quite useful. This does however turn things like WiFi off which can lead to issues if you need to get things done in a hurry.
There are some changes to the stock keyboard, with a Swype like trace mode included, which is not unpleasant to use and once mastered can lead to some rather fast text entry.
The camera is an 8 megapixel autofocus, there is however no flash which, along with no front facing camera, is a glaring omission.
The camera app has been tweaked nicely with a variety of clever modes included. Panorama takes several shots and stiches them together to make one large wide image. Smile mode detects a smile and takes the picture accordingly. Contact ID enables you to take a picture and use the image as a contact picture. Collage mode enables 3 shots to be taken and forms them into a virtual collage, Pinhole makes the image look as if it was taken with a pinhole camera. Images from the camera are crisp and clear however suffer when light is low and the lack of a flash compounds the issue.
Video is shot at 720p and has continuous autofocus, this is so smooth you don’t even notice it’s happening!
Call quality is good, the volume however is often on the low side with the volume having to be at its highest setting. In all the time that I used the device I had no issues with signal or lack of coverage.
The music player included is the stock Android version and again the volume levels are on the low side with the volume having to be on maximum in order to maintain a comfortable level. The external speaker fares no better.
NFC is also onboard and the handset is supplied with an NFC demonstration card. Also included is a DLNA app which allows content sharing between enabled devices. It found my PC with lightening quick speed but try as I may I couldn’t get any content transferred. The phone can also work as a remote control for compatible Panasonic televisions.
In summary, the Panasonic is a touch of a confusing device. On the one hand you have an OS that is growing a little long in the tooth when compared to the latest, a camera with no flash and a small battery. Contrast that with a responsive device that has a rather nice display and absolutely stunning looks and you have a handset that has a lot going for it. When the update to Android 4.0 is available the Eluga could be a device to be reckoned with and is not a bad debut for Panasonic.
Panorama Mode 1
Panorama Mode 2