Posh Mobile Memo S580 review: A big screen with nothing to show for it

Posh Mobile hasn't done too much to change the look and feel of Android, and there thankfully isn't much in the way of preinstalled software: you'll find a File Manager and an FM Radio app. There's also the Posh Apps App Store, which claims to offer free apps by Posh, but actually just calls up a list of shortcuts to free apps on Google Play. You can just delete it if you'd like, though I must admit I am smitten by the logo, a dapper-looking Android in a Posh Mobile bow tie.

Performance

Performance isn't great. While the dual-core 1.2GHz processor does a suitable job of bouncing around between menus and the like, apps that require some modicum of heavy lifting performed dismally. Consider the kart-racing game Angry Birds Go : it's not exactly the most taxing of apps, but it puttered along on the Memo at unsatisfying frame rates. Performance on synthetic benchmarks were similarly uninspiring.

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AT&T's data performance varies, but the Memo's hardware stumbles. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

I tested the phone on AT&T's network in my neighborhood in San Francisco, and performance was generally good: I saw an average of 6.6Mbps download speeds, with 1.11Mbps upload speeds. Download speeds would occasionally dip to an average of about 3.5Mbps when I moved closer to downtown San Francisco. As the quad-band phone is unlocked, your own results will vary by network and location, so keep coverage maps in mind while you're shopping around.

Call quality was excellent. That's largely owing to the network, but the phone's microphone picked up my voice clearly, and folks on the other end had no trouble hearing me clearly. I similarly had no trouble hearing anyone I was talking to. Holding the phone while you're speaking will prove to be a bit cumbersome, but you'll sound fine. There's a single, tiny speaker on the back of the phone, but you'll want to stick to headphones or a Bluetooth headset: it produces the same anemic, tinny warble you might have expected from a phone this cheap.

The Memo's 2,500mAh battery is rather resilient. It regularly held up for days of casual use, consisting of navigating around San Francisco, shooting photos, instant messaging and sending texts. It similarly wasn't fazed by hours upon hours of video playback: I saw an average of about 7 hours of nonstop video before the phone finally threw in the towel. That's an ideal use for a phone this size, so it's a real shame the screen is so disappointing.

Camera

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The Memo's camera serves up a fuzzy, noisy shot, despite the ample light. Nate Ralph/CNET

Tap the camera app, and the Memo's 5-megapixel camera will be at the ready in less than 2 seconds. The autofocus is sluggish, but pair tap-to-focus with a patient subject and you'll get a shot.

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The Memo's LED flash struggled in our standard studio shot. Josh Miller/CNET

It isn't likely to be a shot you actually want. Cloudy days, sunny days, dimly lit bars or middlingly average outdoors venues: no matter the conditions, the Memo churned out dull, lifeless photos swamped with digital noise.

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Shooting in HDR modes yields better results, but details remain muddled. Nate Ralp/CNET

Colors are robbed of their vibrancy, and while shooting in HDR mode brings some of the color details back, there's still the matter of noise to deal with. And I'm talking about relatively ideal circumstances, with static subjects and optimal lighting. Attempting to take a candid, spur-of-the-moment shot with this behemoth will leave you disappointed.

Conclusion

The Posh Mobile Memo disappoints: ample battery life and solid call quality -- among a phone's most important attributes -- aren't enough to buoy this behemoth. The massive size is wasted on a large display with a terrible resolution, the 5-megapixel camera is best ignored and performance is middling at best, the device brought to its knees by casual games.

There are plenty of better options, at similar prices or similar sizes. The $150 Sharp Aquos Crystal will set you back an extra $50, and call quality on Boost Mobile fell flat. But it performs well, and boasts an appealing design with a 720p, 5-inch edge-to-edge display. The $80 LG Tribute is also saddled with an 800x480-pixel resolution, but its 4.5-inch display makes that faux pas far less egregious -- it's also running Android 4.4 KitKat.

Large screen phablets are also no longer a curio, with major device manufacturers stepping up to the plate to offer a premium experience. If you absolutely must have a phablet, both the upcoming Google Nexus 6 and the well regarded Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will deliver a far more satisfying experience, well worth the extra you'll need to spend.

Even at its budget price, the Posh Mobile Memo is simply not worth the hassle.

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