Sharp Aquos Crystal review

You can't judge a book by its cover ... or Sharp's Aquos Crystal by its screen

Sharp Aquos Crystal

Sharp Aquos Crystal

“Its intriguing design makes the Sharp Aquos Crystal a true standout in a world full of look-a-like smartphones. It’s just too bad Sharp compromised on the specs.”
  • Bezel-free screen
  • Refreshing design
  • Decent battery life
  • Mid-range specs
  • Not-so good camera
  • Awkward front-facing camera position

In America, the brand name on a cell phone can make it or break it. International heavyweights like Huawei, Kyocera, and others have struggled to compete against well-known brands like Apple, Samsung, and LG. Adventurous Americans may try a HTC smartphone, but even that isn’t so common these days.

Now Sharp has joined the ranks of global players trying to sweep into the U.S. market with its Aquos Crystal smartphone. The Aquos Crystal is undoubtedly a stunning smartphone, with its bezel-free screen and unique design, but does it have what it takes to make it in America?

Bezel-free design is beautiful

The first thing you notice about the Sharp Aquos Crystal is the near-complete lack of bezel around the top and side of the device. The front of the phone is mostly screen, with only a small portion at the bottom for holding the phone in your hands.

To further the bezel-free effect, Sharp added waterfall (or “crystal”) edges to the screen, so it looks as though there is no boundary between the screen and the edge of the phone. The Aquos Crystal is truly beautiful to look at, and will attract the attention of everyone you meet. Many people did a double take and a few even asked me what it was when I took to the city streets to test the phone’s camera.

Thanks to the lack of bezel around the top and sides of the device, the Aquos Crystal is much smaller in size than most other 5-inch smartphones. It measures 131 millimeters long and 67 millimeters wide, which is less than nearly every flagship Android smartphone, including the HTC One M8Samsung Galaxy S5, and Sony Xperia Z1. The only other phone that comes close to this effect of LG’s G3, but in comparison, the Aquos looks like it’s all screen.

Watching videos on this phone is incredible.

The relatively small size of the Aquos Crystal makes it much easier to use one handed than other 5-inch smartphones. The Aquos feels manageable, even in small hands. I found it very comfortable to hold and liked the way it gently curved into my palm.

There’s a removable plastic back on the Aquos Crystal, which comes in black and white. The back is slightly perforated, so as to offer a good amount of grip. It doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily either, so the phone always looks as good as new from behind. Since the front of the phone is almost all screen, it is a veritable fingerprint magnet.

Beauty that’s skin deep

Sharp offers two different versions of the Aquos Crystal. The U.S. version features solid, mid-range specs, while the Japanese Aquos Crystal X has more premium, high-end specs.

The U.S. Aquos Crystal has a 5-inch screen with a 720p resolution, while the Crystal X has a larger 5.5-inch, 1080p resolution screen. Nonetheless, the American model’s screen looks sharp and clear. For most users, Sharp’s attractive 720p screen will be more than satisfactory. That said, you will notice the difference if you plop the Aquos down next to the iPhone 6 Plus or other Android flagship phones. The blacks and whites aren’t nearly as sharp.

However, Sharp makes up for the disappointing resolution with the Aquos Crystal’s bezel-free design. Watching videos on this phone is incredible. Since there’s no bezel to distract you from the content, the screen seems much bigger than it actually is. I felt like I was watching a movie on a premium, slim-bezel TV.

The U.S. version of the Aquos Crystal has a much less powerful processor than the Japanese model. The Sprint Aquos is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and 1.5GB of RAM. During our testing, we found the U.S. version was quick and we didn’t notice any serious delays during most tasks. However, power users may run into trouble now and then.

The back camera was incredibly disappointing and ruins an otherwise decent, mid-range phone.

The difference shows up in tests. On the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, the Aquos Crystal scored a dismal 4,698. Its score was just slightly better than that of the HTC One Remix, which managed 4,693. To put these numbers in perspective, high-end Android smartphones typically score above 20,000. In the Quadrant test, the Aquos got 8,467 points. The HTC One Remix bested the Sharp phone on this test, coming in at 9,723.

The Aquos Crystal comes with 8GB of internal storage, which is very low for a decent phone. It’s expandable via a MicroSD card slot, which makes it somewhat easier to swallow, though. It’s running Android 4.4 KitKat and features Harman Kardon sound.

Overall, we think it’s too bad that Sharp didn’t keep the high-end specs of the Japanese version on the U.S. model.

Low-res camera takes terrible photos

There’s no way around it — Sharp Aquos Crystal’s 8-megapixel camera takes terrible photos. In full sunlight, the pictures aren’t too shabby, but as soon as it gets cloudy or you’re inside, the photos turn grainy and fuzzy. The colors fade abruptly in low lighting conditions, even when taking close ups. The back camera was incredibly disappointing and ruins an otherwise decent, mid-range phone.

The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera is on par with most other smartphones’ front cameras, but it won’t win any awards – especially not with all the selfie-focused cameras out there. 

Battery

One area in which the Aquos Crystal excels is battery life. The phone’s 2,040mAh battery lasted through a full day of heavy use before needing a charge. Sure, it doesn’t last a day and a half like the LG G3, but it will keep you going from 9 to 5, through your commute, and then some. For a mid-range phone like the Aquos, a day’s battery life is acceptable, especially when you consider the large 5-inch, bezel-free screen.

Conclusion

Overall, the Sprint exclusive Aquos Crystal looks like a powerful, mid-range Android phone. Even though it may not have the most high-end specs available, it’s still a nice device.

However, we were disappointed to find that the U.S. model lacks the impressive screen resolution, processing power, and superior camera of the Japanese version. It’s clear that Sprint and Sharp prioritized price over the most cutting-edge features.

If you’re looking for a flagship phone with a fascinating new design, sadly, the Aquos Crystal is not the phone you’re looking for. Its intriguing design makes the Aquos Crystal a true standout in a world full of look-a-like smartphones – but the beauty fades when you put it to the test.

Highs

  • Bezel-free screen
  • Refreshing design
  • Decent battery life

Lows

  • Mid-range specs
  • Not-so good camera
  • Awkward front-facing camera position

Available at Amazon

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