Nextbit Robin evaluation: Lovely, formidable and much from good

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

The crew at Nextbit is one thing of an Android telephone dream workforce: Tom Moss used to Google’s Android enterprise, Mike Chan was a longtime Android engineer and Scott Croyle designed telephones that made individuals fall in love with HTC. Is it any marvel, then, that individuals are curious concerning the telephone they’re all engaged on collectively? Robin, because the gadget known as, is extra tightly built-in with the cloud than simply about another smartphone on the market, and the creators promise it should change the best way we take into consideration managing the content material on our tiny pocket computer systems. That is an enormous plan for a small firm, however fortunately for them, they principally pulled it off.

Gallery: Nextbit Robin evaluate | sixteen Pictures


Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Calling hardware “attractive” is each lazy and simply absurd, nevertheless it type of feels applicable typically? There’s one thing about seeing a design that tries to evoke velocity or power that may hit you proper within the guts earlier than you recognize it. That is not the case right here. The Robin is not attractive; it is cute, and I am completely, over-the-moon in love with the way it seems to be. It is charming in a means that the majority smartphone makers appear afraid or simply unwilling to embrace. That is saying one thing, contemplating the Robin is principally only a flat rectangular field.

My evaluate unit is constructed white and — what else? — robin’s-egg blue polycarbonate, and it is how these colours work with the Robin’s geometry — all straight strains, proper angles and circles — that make it really feel so festive and recent. The white phase wraps across the telephone, matching up completely with the size of the 5.2-inch 1080p show and its bezel. In the meantime, the highest and backside are capped off in mild blue. It is there that you’re going to discover two round speaker grilles, a proximity sensor and the 5-megapixel entrance-dealing with digital camera. Flip the telephone over and you will see the primary thirteen-megapixel digital camera and LED flash, together with a discreet Nextbit emblem.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

After which there’s the cloud. Since cloud storage is core to the Robin expertise, Nextbit stamped a cloud emblem proper on the telephone’s again. Sitting underneath which might be 4 tiny LEDS to let you understand how issues are progressing. These lights spring into motion when the telephone mechanically archives your apps and pictures. It is a neat contact, although you in all probability will not spend a lot time taking a look at it.

Nextbit principally nailed the little issues, too. The telephone is mild with out feeling too mild, and the telephone’s construct high quality is first-fee. The facility button doubles as a fingerprint scanner, and solely not often did it ask me to attempt once more. My solely actual gripe is that the 2 quantity buttons sitting almost flush with the Robin’s left aspect are somewhat small, making them robust to seek out by really feel.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

That pretty shell additionally hides a really acquainted set of elements. The entire operation is powered by a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset and 3GB of RAM, together with an NFC sensor, 32GB of inner storage, a 2,680mAh battery and all the standard radios. Between Nextbit’s selection of colours, these highly effective innards and Android Marshmallow, I’ve began wanting on the Robin as a type of alternate-universe Nexus 5X. Each even use USB Sort-C to cost, and I am advised the included cable should not fry any unlucky laptops.

How a telephone appears and feels is just part of a bigger image, however man, props to Nextbit for constructing such a fantastic system. Hopefully, the corporate will stick round lengthy sufficient to offer us a sequel.

Show and sound

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Whereas we’re speaking about seems to be, let’s take a minute to see extra intently on the Robin’s 5.2-inch 1080p IPS LCD show. Truthfully, the display is strictly what you’d anticipate from a startup placing out a fairly priced Android telephone. It isn’t beautiful, however it’s not awful; the display is the epitome of “simply advantageous.” It gives vivid colours and strong viewing angles, and you will not have the ability to make out particular person pixels both. What you may discover, although, are very faint strains operating horizontally throughout the display. The impact is extra pronounced should you’re taking a look at a number of white, and whereas I think it is simply the display’s contact layer, the strains could be a little robust to un-see. Nonetheless, that is me being a persnickety reviewer; some individuals in all probability will not even discover.

If something, the software program typically makes readability an issue. The notification shade is usually clear (in contrast to the bone-white inventory Android model) and barely obscures all of the stuff you have been simply taking a look at.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

As I’ve talked about, the Robin additionally sports activities a pair of entrance-dealing with audio system, identical to HTC’s flagship M collection. That is hardly a shock contemplating Nextbit’s design chief, Scott Croyle, beforehand labored on the M7 and M8. It is a disgrace, then, that the audio system look higher than they sound. You’ll be able to crank up the quantity fairly excessive however musically, the audio system are hit-or-miss. I’ve discovered that podcasts, audiobooks and songs with crisp vocals sound fairly good. Most different music winds up sounding barely muddy and vague, regardless of the channel separation you get from having two separate audio system. The BoomSound audio system on HTC’s previous M7 and M8 blow the Robin out of the water, however Nextbit’s audio setup will do in a pinch.

Software program Android

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Cloud-based mostly tips however, the Robin’s software program is fairly simple. It ships with Android Marshmallow, which suggests, amongst different issues, that the telephone will steadily ask for particular apps permissions, whereas Now on Faucet offers additional context with an extended-press of the house button. Nextbit was cautious to principally depart Android untouched. As an alternative, a variety of what you will discover are delicate visible tweaks. Gone is the standard app launcher: Your whole apps, whether or not put in or preloaded, wind up on one in every of your own home screens. You possibly can complement these app shortcuts with widgets, however you will entry them both by pinching your fingers collectively on-display or lengthy-urgent the multitasking key. Oh, and as you swipe left and proper by means of these house screens, you may discover a skinny layer of fog rolling in, simply to hammer residence the truth that Robin’s roots lie in — watch for it — the cloud.

I am glad there is a strong software program basis right here, however I am slightly involved concerning the tempo of future updates. Usually, the cleanliness of Nextbit’s strategy to software program would make the method of releasing these candy, candy Android updates quicker, however it’s not clear how a lot work it takes to customise these builds to play good with the Nextbit cloud.

Life within the cloud

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Talking of, now we’re attending to the meaty stuff. The Robin comes with 32GB of native storage, and is augmented by 100GB of free Amazon cloud storage. Over days and weeks, Robin will quietly offload stuff you have not interacted with just lately. Your apps’ consumer knowledge (assume: account settings) keep on the telephone, so if you faucet the grey icon of an archived app, you are again the place you left off earlier than Robin cleaned issues up. It is a considerate concept, one meant to ensure you’ve all the time received some room in your system for extra pictures, or the audiobook you have to get by way of a flight.

First, a number of notes. By default, Robin solely backs up your information once you’re related to WiFi, however the courageous amongst you possibly can sync everytime you please. Similar goes for energy: The telephone will not again up something whereas operating by itself battery until you particularly permit it to.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Robin works to wash itself by managing two sorts of content material: pictures and apps. Pictures you have not touched shortly are downsized to display decision within the included Gallery app; they appear positive when all you are doing is swiping by means of them on the system. It is whenever you need to zoom in and see extra element that the sensible storage actually kicks in; it’s going to mechanically begin downloading the complete decision file and swap it in for the decrease-res model. It is really easy, actually, that you simply won’t even discover something’s occurring. That is simply how Nextbit needs it.

Apps are theoretically trickier since we simply need and anticipate them to work once we faucet on them. Tapping on an archived app (keep in mind, these are the grey ones) will immediate Robin to re-obtain and reinstall the app package deal alongside the consumer knowledge that is nonetheless in your telephone. To my shock, this labored completely in each state of affairs I attempted.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Spotify remembered which Physician Who theme music I used to be listening to. Airbnb was nonetheless logged in and jogged my memory of my upcoming journey to Barcelona. Outlook confirmed me my overflowing work inbox with none additional work (which is nice, as establishing my company mail is the worst a part of getting a brand new telephone). Even Tinder continued looking for native people. The rub is that relying in your connection, it may well take some time for the app to re-set up. For those who’re in a state of affairs the place you completely have to entry a specific software, it is perhaps minutes earlier than you can begin utilizing it once more.

It helps to know the logic at play right here: Any photograph or app you open is pushed to the underside of the listing of issues to be offloaded. However! New content material that you simply obtain takes priority over something on the prime of the listing, so even stuff that you simply simply opened might head to the chopping block beneath the fitting circumstances. Fortunately, there is a solution to shield sure apps from being offloaded altogether. Swiping down on an app icon successfully pins it to your property display, which means you will by no means have to fret about it disappearing abruptly.

Mechanically, the method all sounds so easy; it is sure by an easy logic and considerate execution. Nonetheless, I used to be ready for — and perhaps even anticipating — one thing to go awry. Nothing did. I am going to proceed testing the telephone to see how properly Nextbit’s system holds up over time, however for now, that is one startup that managed to ship what it promised.

Digital camera

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Very similar to its display, the Robin’s thirteen-megapixel rear digital camera is pretty no-frills. It is the kind of shooter that winds up on numerous mid-vary smartphones, which is to say it is often satisfactory, if unremarkable. It looks like we have had nothing however depressing, grey days for weeks right here in New York, however the Robin did an correct job of capturing the few patches of shade I might discover. Pictures had an honest quantity of element too; you won’t need to print these footage out, however there’s sufficient happening right here that you may share them on social media with out worry of embarrassment. Extra formidable photographers even have the choice to shoot in a guide mode that gives nuanced management over ISO, white stability, shutter velocity, publicity and focus. You will want these controls if you wish to grasp low-mild or night time images with the Robin too — whereas darkish photographs weren’t fairly as grainy as I anticipated, the digital camera had a troublesome time specializing in topics when issues began to get dim.

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

That is all good, however there’s one problem I can not recover from. There’s typically a big delay between tapping the shutter button and the digital camera truly snapping the photograph. Even with HDR off, it takes a full second for the digital camera to focus and seize what you are taking a look at. Sure, maybe I am spoiled by units like final yr’s Moto X and its close to-instantaneous photograph seize, however one second might be the distinction between artwork and a missed alternative. Unusually sufficient, the delayed shutter response by no means appeared to yield a blurry or in any other case dangerous photograph; it is just like the telephone truly captures the shot once you need it to however freezes briefly anyway.

The difficulty appears a bit of worse on the 5-megapixel entrance-dealing with digital camera, which in any other case takes respectable selfies. My evaluation unit additionally had some points with the constructed-in Gallery app: Tapping the icon to see the newest photograph labored positive, however it by no means let me scroll to see footage I might snapped prior to now. Nextbit says a repair is coming quickly, however you’d nonetheless do nicely to control it.

Efficiency and battery life

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

Utilizing the Robin as my day by day driver for every week and a half was principally painless, an expertise marred solely by the occasional hiccup when firing up app after app and bouncing between all of them in a match of productive madness. The Snapdragon 808 is hardly the most recent chip, however it nonetheless supplies greater than sufficient energy for most people’ day by day routines. The state of affairs modifications barely once you push it with excessive-efficiency video games — the hiccups grow to be slightly extra pronounced — however general utilizing the Robin felt rather a lot like utilizing an LG G4 or a Moto X Pure Version. Which is to say, not dangerous in any respect.

Nextbit Robin Nexus 5X Moto X Pure OnePlus 2 AndEBench Professional 9,930 6,519 9,686 9,945 Vellamo three,597 three,662 four,401 three,025 3DMark IS Limitless 19,506 14,610 18,747 23,598 SunSpider (ms) 687.6 687.6 n/a 1,516 GFXBench 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) eleven 15 15 25 CF-Bench 31,079 32,376 seventy four,237 seventy nine,168 SunSpider Decrease scores are higher.

Nonetheless, I want Nextbit had been extra formidable when it got here to the Robin’s battery life. I imply, sure, that superbly svelte body in all probability would not have been potential if the corporate had opted for a much bigger cell, however the 2,680mAh battery right here does not precisely thrill. My workdays often see me coping with a torrent of Slack messages and emails, with a handful of YouTube movies and Spotify binge periods thrown in for good measure. On common, the Robin put up with my nonsense for a bit of over thirteen hours earlier than shutting down utterly. Keep in mind, we routinely obtained over 14 hours from the Nexus 5X, which has a battery that is solely marginally greater.

In the meantime, in our commonplace video rundown check (looping a 720p video indefinitely with WiFi related and display brightness set to 50 %), the Robin solely lasted seven hours and 20 minutes. That is noticeably decrease than the Nexus 5X, which managed to stay round for over eight hours on a cost. The 5X’s much less-than-stellar battery already rubbed us the incorrect method final yr, and it is unlucky that a small firm that constructed the telephone they needed to see did not make battery life a much bigger precedence.

The competitors

Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect‚Äč

There is not one other telephone out that embraces the cloud the best way the Robin does, however nonetheless: You will get loads of smartphones for $399 today. The Moto X Pure Version, considered one of my favourite units from final yr, is obtainable for as little as $399, however that solely will get you 16GB of inner storage. You will virtually definitely need to match the Robin’s baseline with the $449 32GB Pure Version, which makes use of the identical Snapdragon 808 chip and 3GB because the Robin. Past that, you will get a 21-megapixel digital camera that, whereas not prime of its class, provides extra element and velocity than the Robin’s. And hey, there’s one thing to be stated for customizing your telephone as an alternative of accepting another person’s definition of cool.

For those who’re much less involved about storing information than you’re about getting Android software program updates with the quickness, you may need to think about the 32GB Nexus 5X ($399). As I discussed earlier, it too has a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chip, albeit with two gigs of RAM versus three. Nonetheless, you get a totally untouched model of Android Marshmallow in trade for that slight efficiency dip. The digital camera expertise is not almost as poky, both. And should you’re drained listening to about that dang Snapdragon 808, the 64GB OnePlus 2 ($389) comes with a speedier 810 chipset and 4GB of RAM for simply $10 lower than the Robin. Then once more, in the event you have been contemplating going with Robin in any respect, you then care at the least a bit of about design and certainly, the OP2 is sort of conservative by comparability.


Nextbit Robin review: Beautiful, ambitious and far from perfect

If have been a fortune teller, I might do two issues proper now: work out the subsequent massive Powerball payout numbers, and peer into the longer term to see if Nextbit’s cloud-centric strategy pays off. The corporate’s cloud backup system simply works — typically works surprisingly properly. Might it use somewhat extra polish? You guess, however the truth that it runs this easily is already a testomony to the care its designers lavished on it.

The flip aspect is that Robin, cute as it’s, is way from good. The digital camera might be irritating. So can the battery. The reality is, have been it not for Nextbit’s charming design or the handy cloud backup, the Robin can be simply one other sufficient, fairly priced Android smartphone. If the considered probably by no means worrying about space for storing is thrilling to you, the Robin could be well worth the plunge. Everybody else, although, ought to wait and see if the Robin 2 presents a extra nicely-rounded package deal.

Gallery: Nextbit Robin photograph samples | 14 Pictures

Chris spent his adolescence taking aside Sega consoles and writing terrible fan fiction. To his utter shock, that zeal for electronics and phrases would ultimately lead him to masking startups of all stripes at TechCrunch. The primary telephone he ever swooned over was the Nokia 7610, and to today he cringes every time anybody says the phrases “Bengal Boy."He additionally actually hates writing about himself within the third individual.