Vertu Aster review

Vertu finally makes a phone that will make you wish you had $7,000 to burn

The Vertu Aster is a no compromise, luxury smartphone with a strong processor, long-lasting battery, an excellent camera, and your own (real) personal assistant.
The Vertu Aster is a no compromise, luxury smartphone with a strong processor, long-lasting battery, an excellent camera, and your own (real) personal assistant.
The Vertu Aster is a no compromise, luxury smartphone with a strong processor, long-lasting battery, an excellent camera, and your own (real) personal assistant.

Highs

  • Superb design
  • Much improved camera
  • Excellent battery life
  • High-class materials and build quality

Lows

  • Expensive for mere mortals

DT Editors' Rating

An aster, for those who don’t know, is a pretty, daisy-like flower. It’s attractive and colorful, but not particularly rare, nor does it really stand out in the world of plants. In the UK, it’s a relatively common sight, and therefore not the name one would expect extravagant luxury smartphone brand Vertu to choose for its latest model.

However, after using the Vertu Aster for a week, it turns out to be highly appropriate. The aster is a flower which makes nature lovers smile, and like no Vertu phone before it, the Aster also attracted many admiring looks. Those who I showed it to made appreciative noises, caressed the metal and leather like they would a kitten, with some even making a vague attempt to justify the four-digit price tag to themselves.

Never before had this consistently happened. Was it a sign the Aster will be Vertu’s breakthrough device?

Hands on video

Vertu’s design philosophy has evolved

Looking back at Vertu’s Android hardware reveals a fascinating evolution of design. The effects of whatever mind-bending drugs were used to create the TI have clearly worn off in the calmed-down Aster. If the TI was Vertu turned up to 11, then the Aster is a far more reasonable 6. Getting Derek Smalls out the office is the best thing to happen, and the Aster looks absolutely fantastic.

If the TI was Vertu turned up to 11, then the Aster is a far more reasonable 6.

When I first saw the phone, it took me a while to warm to its subtleties. Blind dates are always hard, but it was the beginning of a burgeoning relationship I haven’t wanted to end. Not one angle is unattractive, not one screw, panel, or material used feels wrong, and every decision taken to tone down the madness was correct. It’s perfectly weighted in your hand, incredibly solid, and beautifully made — by hand, don’t forget.

We’ve discussed Vertu’s use of titanium, leather, and fifth-generation sapphire before. Their inclusion is a given on the Aster, and the expertise with which they’ve been applied equally so. It’s the amalgamation of all these aspects which make the Aster Vertu’s most desirable smartphone to date. Desirability is what pulls people in, and exclusivity is the reward.

You’ll still need to justify the price, but probably only to your bank manager. Yes, a lot of its appeal is about showing off, but that applies to every expensive luxury product, whether it’s a Rolls Royce, a Saville Row suit, or a Rolex. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided you’re not uncouth about it.

Android KitKat, and your own personal assistant

Android 4.4.2 is installed on the Aster, and it’s almost standard, aside from a selection of Vertu’s own apps. Noticeable due to their classy black and white icons, the standouts are Concierge, Certainty, and Life. Concierge is Vertu’s personal assistant service, and it’s the full experience; you’ll speak to the same person whenever you call. It’s free for the first year, and a major benefit of ownership.

Certainty offers secure calls, messages, and a global Wi-Fi access pass. Vertu Life lists the events and exclusive offers which are available to owners. In a way, Life gives you a glimpse into what it’s really like have the means to own a Vertu. The phone kept offering me the chance to book a test flight in an Albatros training jet, or buy an exclusive Patek Phillipe watch – starting at a mere £90,000. It’s all very cool, and one phone call to the Concierge secures whatever has taken your fancy.

There is some dead weight, such as the Recommended Apps and shortcut link to Vertu.com, and sadly they can’t be deleted, only hidden. There’s 64GB of internal storage memory, and just under 3GB is used when the phone arrives.

Pre-installed wallpapers include those which match the leather on the phone, and a very attractive 3D wallpaper, which moves and flows as you scroll through the home pages. Vertu’s classic analog clock has also been given a 3D option, complete with a tiny 3D moon-phase indicator.

All the power and ability you want

A quad-core, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM powers the Aster, and the 4.7-inch, 1080p screen is covered in a beautiful piece of fifth-generation sapphire crystal glass. A pair of stereo speakers are mounted beneath the display, while the phone also has wireless charging as standard, and worldwide 4G LTE connectivity.

Take any modern flagship smartphone, and they will all handle most things you can throw anything at them. It’s the same with the Aster. Running a Quadrant benchmark test returns a result of 21,884, while GeekBench 3 gives a multicore score of 2,497.

Vastly improved camera

The camera performance on the Signature Touch was disappointing, even after Hasselblad had a go at tuning the final image. Things have been improved considerably on the Aster. The rear camera still has 13 megapixels, autofocus, and a dual-LED flash, which is the same as the Signature Touch, but the images it takes are excellent.

Vertu Aster

Testing it in varying light conditions on a changeable fall day in the UK provided some beautiful images, especially when using the HDR mode. Even lowlight conditions didn’t throw it off, and a picture taken in a cinema when shooting towards the floor came out surprisingly well.

It’s now a camera which takes pictures one can be proud of, and if there is a downside, it’s the ease with which the volume key can be pressed to activate the shutter. For every one picture I meant to take, I usually took another by accident while I orientated the phone. Thankfully it can be turned off.

A Vertu with a good battery

Finally, we have a Vertu phone with a decent amount of standby time. The 2,275mAh battery, accompanied by the Snapdragon 801’s energy-efficient ways, saw the Aster last for almost two days without a recharge. It’s a huge improvement over the Signature Touch.

Even with the phone connected to an Android Wear smartwatch, and a full day using the camera, apps, and a spot of navigation, it still had more than 20 percent left when it went on charge last thing at night. That’s good for any smartphone, and a revelation for a Vertu.

It’s the Vertu to buy

It’s simple. If you are considering a Vertu phone, then buy the Aster. It eclipses every other Android phone the company has produced in just about every way. It’s damn good-looking, more than fast enough, comes with a real personal assistant, and has a battery that will last you for a couple of days. The camera takes some great pictures, and if you’ve got the cash, Vertu will personalize the leather and a case to match.

It’s even, by Vertu’s standards at least, reasonably priced; starting at $6,900 for the black calf-leather version you see here. That’s still too rich for me, and while returning any Vertu phone after reviewing it is unpleasant, this is the first time I’ll actually resist. If you’ve got some money to blow on something extravagant, then you won’t regret choosing the Vertu Aster.

Highs

  • Superb design
  • Much improved camera
  • Excellent battery life
  • High-class materials and build quality

Lows

  • Expensive for mere mortals