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Wileyfox Spark review - it doesn't light my fire

Katharine Byrne
5 Jul 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT (SIM-free, as of 5th July)

Beautifully made, but its sluggish performance and terrible battery life fail to make sparks fly

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6735, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage (free): 8GB (3.95GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Dimensions: 143x70x8.7mm, Weight: 135g, Operating system: Cyanogen 13.0 OS

Last year, British smartphone maker Wileyfox did its absolute best to steal the 3rd Gen Moto G's thunder with its cut-price Wileyfox Swift. Now, it's taking aim at the 2nd Gen Moto E with its £90 Wileyfox Spark, the first in its new line of Spark handsets.

There are actually three Spark phones in total – the entry-level Spark reviewed here, the £115 Spark+, which has a larger 13-megapixel resolution camera than the regular Spark as well as 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and the £130 Spark X, which shares exactly the same specs as the Spark+ but has a larger 5.5in display and a bigger 3,000mAh battery.

Here I'll be looking at the basic Spark, which, on paper, sounds like quite a promising piece of kit for just £90. It's certainly a lovely bit of craftsmanship, its slim at just 8.7mm and the soft touch rear looks and feels much more upmarket than the rather squat frame of the smaller-screened Moto E.

The overt Wileyfox branding might not be to everyone's tastes, as you've not only got the company name plastered over the rear of the handset in bright orange, but there's also the hard, matt fox logo in the centre. It's not something you really notice once it's in your hand, and the bronze-coloured speaker grill on the front is another nice visual touch that feeds into the orange logo round the back.

Wileyfox Spark rear

Display

It's also got one of the sharpest displays I've seen for under £100. With a resolution of 1,280x720 spread across a 5in display, the Spark has the same pixel density of 294ppi as its Swift sibling and the 3rd Gen Moto G, both of which cost £40 more. That's pretty impressive for such a cheap handset, and it puts the 960x540 resolution of the 4.5in Moto E to shame.

The screen is also one of the better quality panels I've seen from Wileyfox, but even the Spark's sRGB gamut coverage of 89.8% is still a fair way off the 2nd Gen Moto E's 95.2% coverage. It still has a fairly even spread of colours, though, so images still look relatively rich and punchy, and its contrast ratio of 1,040:1 provided a high level of detail in darker shadow areas.  

Wileyfox Spark front

It's also very bright, reaching a peak white level of 480.40cd/m2. This is great news if you want to use the phone outside in direct sunlight, as its high brightness means you don't need to shroud it in shadow and squint at the screen to see it clearly.

Battery Life

However, it's unlikely you'll be able to use the Spark at this kind of brightness level for any decent length of time, as its 2,200mAh battery performed rather poorly in our continuous video playback test. With the screen brightness set to our usual measurement of 170cd/m2, it lasted just 8h 43m, which is very much below average even for a budget phone. The 2nd Gen Moto E, on the other hand, lasted 13h 30m in the same test, while the 3rd Gen Moto G lasted 11h 12m, making the Wileyfox something of a liability on busier days out and about.

Performance

The Spark's performance issues don't stop there, either, as it's quite possibly one of the slowest and most exasperating handsets I've used for quite some time. Powered by a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6735 processor and 1GB of RAM, the Spark was extremely sluggish during everyday use, and it repeatedly made me second guess whether I'd even tapped an app icon correctly. Likewise, even the settings menu took a couple of seconds to load on occasion and apps would often crash.

This is a shame, as its Geekbench 3 scores look pretty promising on paper, scoring 618 in the single core test and 1,858 in the multicore test. This actually surpasses the 3rd Gen Moto G's scores, but the reality couldn't be more different.

It also failed to complete our offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in GFX Bench GL, and was an absolute disaster when it came to playing even the simplest of games. Even Threes! was utterly unplayable, so this definitely isn't a good choice for those who like to while away their time with a spot of light gaming. Combine that with some dreadful web browsing performance, scoring just 592 in Peacekeeper, and the Wileyfox Spark is an exercise in frustration.

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