Little Chilli LA-M1 outshines other QRD-based quad-core budget phones, we go hands-on

Spotted outside the auditorium at Qualcomm's China QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Summit earlier today were a handful of -- surprise, surprise -- QRD-based smartphones from China, several of which featured the Cortex-A5-based quad-core MSM8x25Q announced back in September. The usual suspects were there in the quad-core lot: Yulong had its Coolpad 5890 (EVDO) and Coolpad 7268 (UMTS), along with Hisense's U958 (UMTS) and Tianyu's K-Touch U86 (UMTS). These all fall within the so-called "¥1,000 ($160) phone" category and yet they are also gifted with a second SIM slot. But what really got our attention was Beidou's Little Chilli LA-M1, which also does dual-SIM (UMTS) but packs an OGS gapless IPS display, while the others came with an LCD panel of obviously lesser quality. Read on to learn more about this mysterious phone, as well as checking out our hands-on photos of the other aforementioned quad-core QRD phones.

Here's a little background: Little Chilli is Beidou's fairly new brand that attempts to follow Xiaomi's online retail model, but without supplying a heavily customized version of Android like MIUI. Most of its earlier models didn't really stand out as they carried almost the same set of components used by other budget phones; but that was until Beidou and ZTE announced their ¥999, Tegra 3-based U950, followed by the Little Chilli Q1 which was officially launched four days ago. The latter went on sale yesterday and the first batch of 20,000 units promptly sold out -- not a surprise since it comes with Tegra 3 and a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display for just ¥999 as well.

Giving the Q1's recent availability, you could say the timing of the LA-M1's announcement today wasn't ideal, which is likely why Beidou has yet to mention the price and availability for its newer phone, but we did hear mentions of a sub-¥1,000 on the show floor. That would be pretty decent for the specs we know so far: 4.5-inch qHD IPS gapless display, MSM8225Q quad-core chip, dual-SIM support, an eight-megapixel main camera (which produced reasonably good photos, from what we could see), a two-megapixel front-facing camera, and Baidu cloud service integration with 15GB of storage for life, plus another 15GB free for one year. No word on battery size nor battery life yet, but our guess is that neither should disappoint.

While it isn't exactly the most handsome phone on the planet, the M1 that we got to touch actually felt pretty solid, and it ran the native Android 4.1 quite smoothly. So given the choice (and assuming they cost the same), it's either the M1 with its dual-SIM capability but qHD display, or the Q1 with the 720p display but with just one SIM slot. Regardless, Beidou could be well on its way to become the new Xiaomi (sans the software part), though only time can tell whether it has the reliability and after-sale service to prove it. If not, there's still plenty of opportunity for others -- Qualcomm's already completed over 170 QRD-based projects, with about 100 more in the pipeline. Watch out, MediaTek!