Kazam Tornado 2's octa-core chip puts the wind up Mobile World Congress (hands-on)

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/ Updated: February 26, 2014 9:55 AM PST
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Kazam, the tiny UK-based company with a predilection for dramatic names, has taken the wraps off its most high-end device yet -- the Tornado 2. Boasting an octa-core chip, it's a plucky underdog taking on the big beasts of the mobile business here at Mobile World Congress.

The Tornado 2 I played with wasn't a finished model, with the powerful device expected to go on sale in the next few months. Nevertheless, I was impressed -- it's very similar in look and feel to the Nexus 5, with a similar matte black back and a Full HD 5.5-inch screen. Perhaps not quite as well built, with a little gap at the top, but then it wasn't a sale model.

Kazam is aiming for a final price of around €250 ($340, £200), which is ambitious. It significantly undercuts the Nexus 5, which is £299 in the UK -- and struggles along with a mere quad-core chip.

The 5.5-inch Tornado 2 has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot to expand it -- another spec where it has the upper hand over Google's flagship. Its eight-core MediaTek chip is clocked at 1.7GHz and should be slightly faster and more power efficient than quad-core options, but in practice there are few applications on which it can bring all eight cores to bear.

There's a 13-megapixel camera on the back, but only pure Android 4.2 to processs images. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's bursting with megapixels too -- 13 of them on the back, and 5 on the front. A 2,500mAh battery should be good for 7.5 hours of talk time.

The prototype I used was running Android 4.2, which is the spec Kazam is announcing today. It said it may arrive with Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version, but that's yet to be finalised. Kazam doesn't skin Android at all, but you do get all of Google's apps and services, including the Play Store. Many people prefer plain Android, eschewing the bloatware some manufacturers cram in, but whereas Nexus phones have that advantage and are often updated, it's not certain that Kazam phones will be.

Tornado 2 5.0
Kazam does another version of the Tornado 2, which has a 5-inch screen and a slightly lower spec: the same 1.7GHz octa-core chip, but 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, 720p screen, and 8- and 2-megapixel cameras. It'll certainly be cheaper.

It's not all about the specs though. While you can't currently buy a Kazam phone in a phone shop in the UK, they're more widely available in Europe (they're not on sale in the US or elsewhere). You're taking a punt, then -- while there are probably three or four shops on your high street where you'll be able to try out the Samsung Galaxy S5, you're unlikely to be able to play with the Tornado 2 before plonking down your cash.

That's a 1,920x1,080-pixel Full HD IPS screen, on the larger 5.5-inch model. Sarah Tew/CNET

To give a little more peace of mind, Kazam has a couple of really cool customer service policies. Firstly, if you break the screen in the first year, you can send it back and they'll fix it for you for free, the first time you do it. Secondly, if you have trouble with the phone's software, a customer service rep can remotely take over the phone and troubleshoot for you.

Outlook
Kazam's a really interesting little company, and I'm keen to see what the Tornado 2 can do when we get it in for a full review. If you're after a super-powerful phone and don't need your hand held, you should at least consider this. If Kazam can hit that €250 price, it looks incredible value for money.

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Kazam Tornado 2 5.5

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