Recently I was able to test out quite a few Lumia phones (Lumia 640 XL, Lumia 640, Lumia 735), all of which are targeted to the budget smartphone buyer. The past month I’ve tested out the Wiko Highway Star – an Android smartphone, which is slightly higher priced than the mentioned Lumia phones.
Design & Build Quality
Although I’m used to the Lumia design language and the Wiko device looks nothing like it I can’t say anything else than: The Highway Star is a beautiful device! With its metal back coming in four different color options (grey/black, gold, cyan and white) the smartphone looks extremely sleek. The black line at the bottom of the back (probably where the antennas are placed) is actually a nice design addition in my opinion, still it could be annoying for some of you. Thanks to the nicely curved sides of the device it is comfortable to hold it in your hands. The curves also make the device look even thinner than it already is with 6.6 mm. While the thinness is nice in terms of design, it’s also slightly impractical. Not only does the camera stand out from the back, but also had Wiko to design the buttons really thin to get them on the side. Actually, the power button is so small and thin that it takes quite a while to get used to press it. Given the fact that the Highway Star supports double tap to wake up the device this isn’t too bad after all. Still, turning off the device the first couple of days wasn’t a great experience. After all, you will get used to it. Something else I just couldn’t get used to is the placement of the volume rocker: Using a Lumia 830 (or Lumia 640 (XL), Lumia 735, etc.) I expect it to be on the same side as the power button. On the Wiko Highway Star though, the volume rocker is on the left side of the device and the power button on the right side. Being a right-handed person it was very unusual to press the volume rocker with an other finger than with the thumb. On the flip side, when I gave the Lumia 640 to my brother he said: “I just don’t like to have the volume rocker on the same side like the power button!” So, this is definitely a very subjective topic. At the bottom and at the top of device there are nice and shiny gold frames which perfectly match the champagne-colored back of my unit. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of smartphones in gold tint but this color option for the Wiko Highway Star looks quite attractive actually. Still, I’d probably go with the grey/black version. On the bottom of device you’ll find the micro-USB port as well as the speaker and on the top of the Star sits the headphone jack. On the right side next to the power button there’s the SIM Card (Dual SIM: one Nano SIM and one Micro SIM) slot as well as the slot for storage expension .
As much as I like the back and its design, I’m not the biggest fan of the plane black front. It feels to me like a separate part of the device which doesn’t really fit to the overall design. With nothing than the camera with its flash, the ear piece and some sensors breaking the complete black surface, this front could be the front of almost every phone. I would like to see some kind of indication that this is in fact a Wiko device – be it just the logo. Some of you may say: “Hey, finally a manufacturer who doesn’t place the logo on the front of the device!” I would absolutely agree with you if the display would be nearly bezel-less but since there is free space, I would have loved to see a Wiko branding. After all, this doesn’t change the fact that the Wiko Highway Star is a really nicely designed smartphone and due to its thinness it gives you this “Wow”-effect. But actually Wiko has an even thinner device in their portfolio: The Highway Pure measures only 5.1 mm.
As far as build quality is concerned, the Highway Star sets the bar high. The metal back feels nothing but premium and the rounded corners and edges allow you to hold the device comfortably in your hands. Moreover, the device is absolutely sturdy which is quite surprising given the thin build. Also the power button and the volume rocker are solid and provide a nice feedback although the latter is slightly too wobbly. Also in terms of build quality the back is more satisfying than the front. There some clearances do cancel out the overall good impressions. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t huge gaps but still dirt enters relatively quickly and is hard to remove again. Still, overall the Wiko Highway Star is a well-built and sturdy device. Sadly, you can’t access the battery.
Pros and Cons – Design & Build Quality:
+ Nicely designed
+ Comfortable to hold
+ Thin and light (123 g)
+ Well-built and sturdy
– Volume rocker slightly wobbly, power button hard to press
– Unattractive front
– Back not removable
One of the most exciting things about the Wiko Highway Star is the display. I’m absolutely satisfied in almost every aspect – Wiko did a great job here! First let’s take a look at the specifications:
- 5” AMOLED
- Resolution: 1280 x 720 (294 ppi)
- Double tap to wake up is supported
- Multiple gestures to launch applications
As I stated in my Lumia 640 Review, even in times of QHD screens on smartphones I’m still very pleased by the 720p resolution. Of course, this varies from smartphone to smartphone due to different screen sizes – but still on a massive 5.7” screen, 720p looks acceptably good. This doesn’t mean I would not wish for higher resolutions and my next smartphone definitely will have a 1080p screen or higher. Still, what I want to tell you: The resolution on the 5” screen of the Wiko Highway Star is fine! You only see pixels if you really want to.
Another part of the display, which is quite important. And once again, the Wiko Highway Star surprised me! The display can get really bright, which makes it even possible to use device in direct sunlight. Of course, then it can sometimes also be hard to see everything but the maximum brightness level of the Highway Star is on a very high level. On the flip side though, the lowest brightness is still very bright. It’s just too bright for usage in a dark environment, especially at night! Therefor auto brightness is great and the display is always bright enough for the particular situation.
I already was extremely pleased with the AMOLED display of the Nokia Lumia 735 and the Wiko Highway Star achieves to satisfy me as well. Colors look very vibrant and while blacks are extremely black! Whites are slightly greyish but still acceptable and in my opinion they’re slightly better than the ones on the Lumia 735. Overall I’m absolutely happy with the color reproduction of the device!
Viewing angles are good on the Highway Star while colors get ever so slightly washed out. Still, one of the better displays out there in terms of viewing angles!
The Wiko Highway Star’s display has the exact same display size as the Lumia 830 – my daily driver – and the Lumia 640, which I’ve tested out just recently. So it should be no surprise that I’m fine with the 5” display of the device. For most people this is the sweet spot with the display not being too small or too large. The compact size regarding the smartphone’s thinness, makes it also easier to stretch your fingers (if you have to) to get to a more distant part of the display.
Double tap & other gestures
A feature, which I really got to love on Lumia devices is also present on the Wiko Highway Star: double tap to wake up the device, which works very reliable. Sadly, there’s no option to turn off the display by tapping on the screen. Therefore, Wiko integrated some nice gestures to launch apps when the display is turned off. If you draw an “S” then you get to the SMS app and if you draw a “C” the phone will Launch the dial pad. This can in fact be quite useful although I’d wish that you could choose which app launches. Nevertheless, this is pretty nice and I would wish for something like this also on my Lumia 830. Wiko also added some other gestures, which aren’t directly related to the display. For example you can unlock your device by simply sliding over the display with your hand. Also you can snooze an alarm by laying down the phone with the display showing to the table. Most of those features are just gimmicks in my opinion but a few might also be useful in your daily usage. And if you don’t want to use them, you can just turn off the option.
Pros and Cons – Display:
+ Auto brightness and highest brightness level
+ Vibrant Colors, deep black
+ Good viewing angles
+ Double tap to wake up
+ Nice gestures for launching apps
– Slightly greyish whites
– Double tap to turn off the display is missing
– Lowest brightness level too bright
The Wiko Highway Star packs a 2450 mAh battery, which is actually pretty huge if you think about the thinness of the device. The battery monitor tells me that my average screen on time with one charge is 5 h and 23 min. In daily life, you will get definitely through one day and if you’re not a heavy user you might also get through two days.
Charging is actually quite fast as you can see here:
|O min||0 %|
|1 h 45 min||75 %|
|Total: 2 h 15 min||100 %|
Pros and Cons – Battery Life:
+ Good battery life (one or two days)
+ Charging is quite quick
– Battery not removable
The Wiko Highway Star’s speaker sits at the bottom of the device. Although this isn’t the perfect placement after all, it’s still better than placing the speaker on the back. Still, when playing games in landscape mode you block the speaker quite easily, which can be annoying. While the quality of the speaker is good enough for consuming videos, podcasts and games, it might be better to listen to music with headphones. Unlike Microsoft, Wiko still has headphones in their boxes. Also those are nothing special but still it’s nice to have some headphones which belong to the smartphone.
Pros and Cons – Speaker:
+ Quality is good enough
+ Headphones in the package
+ Placement better than on the back
– You can easily block the speakers
Like the Lumia 735, the Highway Star has got a 5 megapixel selfie camera on the front. In addition, Wiko also added a flash to the front facing camera. The main camera offers 13 megapixels while you can record videos in 1080p.
Fist let’s take a closer look at the camera app: The app launches very quick and is immediately ready-to-use, although I’d wish for a dedicated camera button. On the right side (if your holding your phone in landscape mode) you can find the release button for taking photos as well as for recording a video. On the bottom right, there’s a thumbnail of the last taken picture. On the other side you can change to the front camera and the flash settings. There’s also a button for the different camera modes: normal shot, panorama shot, face beauty, sports, HDR shot and night shot.
In addition, Wiko added a professional shot mode too. Like the Lumia Camera app, this mode allows you to set many things (ISO, shutter speed, white balance, etc.) manually. Actually, the professional interface looks a lot like the one of the Lumia Camera. Still, the one of the Lumia Camera is more user-friendly and easier to use since all the options are available with just one swipe. In settings you can set things like the picture size and video quality. There are also some gimmicky modes like “hand shutter”: Then the camera takes a picture when it recognizes a V sign or a thumbs up. While it actually worked quite reliable with the V sign, the camera never took a picture when showing the latter. All in all, the Wiko camera satisfied me – especially in terms of speed – although in my opinion Lumia Camera wins when it comes to clarity.
Before I talk about the picture quality, here some sample shots:
As you can see, the pictures look quite nice. Colors are slightly on the colder side but still natural. Furthermore, they satisfy in terms of sharpness. At some points I’d wish for slightly more details though.
Pictures taken with the front camera are ok, but I also did expect slightly better quality.
Overall the camera experience is good and you can get some nice shots. Still, after all the Lumia 640 XL has a better camera in my opinion.
Pros and Cons – Camera:
+ Fast camera app
+ Many different modes including a professional mode
+ Good enough picture quality
– Expected more from both cameras
I will write more detailed about my experience with Android 4.4 on the Wiko Highway Star in another article. In short: All in all I have to say I don’t really like the Wiko launcher. For sure the manufacturer integrated some nice things, e.g. if your on the home screen you can swipe down from everywhere to access the notification center. Furthermore, you can change the effect when your swiping through your home screen pages. Still I had to use another launcher since there’s something that Wiko changed and I absolutely don’t like: There’s no separate app drawer which means that every single app you download will be on the home screen (like on iOS). If you download many apps this can get very messy and your forced to put your apps into folders. Also Wiko’s own apps look quite outdated in terms of design with one exception: the weather app looks absolutely beautiful.
After all, since Android is highly customizable and there are many apps alternatives in the Play Store this isn’t a big problem.
Pros and Cons – Software:
+ Android: extremely customizable
+ Many apps available
+ Wiko’s own weather app
– Wiko’s own launcher
– Wiko apps
The metal body houses 2 GB of Ram and the MediaTek MT6752 – a Cortex-A53 octacore processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. I actually was quite curious how the performance will be like since this is a processor we don’t have in the Windows Phone devices land, where only Snapdragons are supported.
Daily usage overall was very fast with quick app switching and app launching. Only now and then there we’re some stutters when calling up the recent app menu. This is kind of disappointing when you consider the specs on paper. But most of the time normal tasks are blazingly fast.
Playing games on the Highway Star is a pleasure. Not only does the Play Store offer many more games than the Windows Phone store but also do you get a smooth gaming experience. I’ve tested out several high-quality game titles like Asphalt 8, Beach Buggy Racing and (finally!) Real Racing 3 and they all run well on the device. Also nice: In Asphalt 8 you can adjust the graphics quality yourself to get the best compromise between smoothness and great quality – something that’s sadly not possible in the Windows Phone version. Something that has to be said: After a while the device gets noticeably hot when playing games.
Just for fun: I also ran the AnTuTu Benchmark to check out the power of the MT6752. With a result of 39921 points the device ranks directly below the Samsung Galaxy S5 with the Snapdragon 801.
Pros and Cons – Performance:
+ Fast and smooth daily performance
+ Gaming experience
– Device gets noticeably warm when playing games
Wiko is probably not one of the first brands you think of when you want to buy a new smartphone, but actually it’s well worth taking a look at their phones too – at least the Wiko Highway Star impressed me a lot. And this is what you’re getting with the device:
- great build quality and a nice design
- a boring front
- a thin and light smartphone
- overall a great display
- good battery life while charging time is short
- good enough speaker and headphones
- a fast and good camera app
- good enough picture quality
- a device which runs a highly customizable OS with great app support
- blazingly good daily performance as well as great gaming experience
So all in all, the Wiko Highway Star is a really nice phone and I can absolutely recommend checking it out – with a price of 349 CHF (appr. $360) the device is also fairly affordable. Still, I’d like to see the price coming in the 300 CHF region and then the phone gets even more interesting.