I’m always up for a bargain, and while the outdoor geek is strong in this one, so is the upbringing that a bargain isn’t to be ignored.

The Note Android N8000 is a Star mobile, or a tablet if you’ve got small hands, that comes in at only £120 or so all in. Essentially, it’s modeled on the Samsung Galaxy Note, but priced at around a fifth of that model. You don’t get the same features as that high end mobile, but you certainly get more than 20% of them!

To start with, you get two batteries out of the box, which is excellent if you’re an optimist, or perhaps an ominous sign of poor battery life to a pessimist. That aspect of the mobile I’ll come to later. While some reviews bemoan the charger, this charges with the standard ‘mini/micro usb socket and so you’re more than likely to have a collection of cables and chargers hanging around the house anyway. I also had two headphones, one pair of cheap looking ones and an expensive looking pair similar to Skull Candy that are in-ear.

The next impression you get is that of the high quality of the phone, which does not feel cheap and plasticky as I expected. There’s a false back you can put on, which is rather naff but is apparently there in order to make the phone compatible with Galaxy Note cases which is actually a touch larger and thicker than the Note Android N8000. The generic ‘android’ badge on the back does look rather odd, but I suppose they had to put something there.

The phone runs Android 4 – ICS, and the downside of such a device is that an upgrade is probably never going to happen. On the bright side, this might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to teach yourself how to install Android yourself! The next pleasant surprise is that the phone is free of any bloatware, a massive plus in my opinion. The only thing you need to delete are a few Chinese specific bookmarks. My last phone was so full of bloatware that you were unable to remove, that it was almost unusable. By that I mean that I didn’t have enough memory to install Angry Birds, ’nuff said.

The screen is responsive enough, and is certainly large enough. Just don’t compare it side by side with a higher end device as the difference is truly striking as the resolution is a modest 800×480. It rather reminds me of when you connected a Sinclair Spectrum to the family telly rather than the 14″ portable, with everything just a lot bigger. While we’re on video, there’s a useless analogue TV function, though it’s probably very useful in China so it would be rather churlish of me to complain about that.

The camera function is OK, but it takes far too long to load up. Here’s a small gallery of images that I took with the phone, which are average with a slight colour cast.

The N8000 images on the right, while my trusty old Fuji Finepix F300EXR took those on the left.

After installing just about everything, there’s plenty of breathing space. As far as storage goes, you only get a free bundled 256MB micro SD, but see that as a bonus. I just put my 16GB card in from my old phone and I was away. Micro SD cards are so cheap that this really isn’t an issue. There’s only 512MB RAM by the looks of it, but whatever the specs are, it doesn’t slow the browsing and the phone was still slick even with a few apps running. The GPS works as expected and it runs my usual outdoor apps (Backcountry Navigator being flavour of the month at the moment) without a hitch.

There’s a final trick up this phone that keeps on giving’s sleeve. You can include two sim cards. Only one can be used over 3G, but if you find yourself often in an area with poor mobile coverage on your main operator, you can switch over to another sim that has a signal.

The only thing I cannot comment on is long term durability, but I’ve not rated many mobiles I’ve had highly in that regard. The Motorola Defy was well built, and I think would have outlasted the contract had I not drownded it. The screen on the N8000 isn’t Gorilla Glass, so will need to be kept away from the keys in the pocket, but does come with a screen protector as standard which I managed to scratch the first weekend and is starting to look a little worn a month later.

Finally, there’s the battery life. For a device with such a large screen, I’d still expect this to last all day with a bit of lunchtime browsing, email and a couple of short calls and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it has usually lasted two days between charges which is quite impressive, and with no battery saving tweaks.

Overall, if you’re after a cheap mobile that does virtually everything the high end phones can do, then this is an ideal choice. Even ordering from China was painless, using Dracotec, and the whole process and phone gets a phenomenal 4.7/5 out of over 100 reviews on Amazon and which I can add a similar rating to as well.

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