The Panasonic Eluga sees the brand entering the Android race with an ultra thin smartphone that can go underwater despite looking like a slick business phone
The Panasonic Eluga AKA Panasonic DL1 looks slick and screams business. Alongside the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and iPhone 4S, the Eluga is a slim slice of matt black style with more than a few quirks which take cues from the Nokia Lumia 800 and Sony Xperia S.
Panasonic Eluga: Build
The Panasonic Eluga DL1 is slim, very slim - 7.8mm in fact. Add in the featherweight 103g spec and the Eluga feels like a high-end remote control for a new range of luxury TVs. General build is very good: the 4.3 inch screen goes very close to the edge of the phone, with smart silver Android buttons sitting beneath.
The white lights alongside the buttons are a needless extra and we're at a loss to see their practical function. A very narrow speaker grill sits at the top of the body, adding to the minimalist styling.
The 8-megapixel camera lens dominates the matt black reverse and offers a raised surround to avoid scratches.Curiously an 'NFC' title sits beneath the camera while an arrow logo shows the SIM card slot at the top of the smartphone. Fans of the Nokia Lumia 800 will see that the quirky pop-up covers for the SIM and MicroUSB input are at odds with the slickness of the overall Eluga design.
The power and volume buttons are on the edge of the back of the body, rather than the side which is counter-intuitive - you'll find yourself using two hands to operate basic volume functions which is disappointing.
Panasonic Eluga: Features
Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) comes as standard while Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is expected in the 'summer', according to Panasonic. The 8 megapixel camera is expected given the £399 price tag but produced average results and surprisingly there's no flash.
The 8x zoom works well but, really, we expected more against the 12 megapixel Sony Xperia S camera and flash. NFC is a nice if rarely used bonus, as is the IP57 waterproof spec, despite the distinctly non-rugged appearance of the Eluga.
The 8GB of internal storage is a major disappointment when rivals like the Sony Xperia S offer 32GB as standard. There's a MicroSD card input but it feels like cost cutting in 2012 (alongside the lack of a front facing camera) and a throwback to the iPhone 3GS.
The Panasonic tweaks to Android are distracting with sharing icons difficult to understand, the Settings menu at the end of the app line-up and the back button located to the right of the line-up of three Android buttons.
The back button placement will be alien to anyone upgrading from an Android phone with the back button on the left and feels counter-intuitive from the start. The news app is simply a feed of stories linking to mobile sites and feels years behind dedicated apps from dedicated news sources like The Guardian.
The waterproof test worked as planned - sitting in 30 cms of water for 20 minutes with no ill effects which means it can easily survive a toilet dunk. The Eluga is one of the first high-end smartphones to offer waterproofing as standard but, ultimately, it's little more than a neat trick to those with phone insurance.
We left the Eluga in 30 cm of water without a problem and even managed to use the screen while submerged. For the average British climate, it repels rain in style but, really, have you found your phone damaged by rain before? We can't help thinking that regular surfers and beach fans would benefit much more, typically people outside of the UK
Panasonic Eluga: Screen
Perhaps expected from Panasonic is a decent 4.3 inch QHD screen with a 960 x 540 pixel resolution but it falls behind the best in class. We found a slight lack of depth to web pages, photos and a lacking response time. The Sony Xperia S screen is the same size but allows 342 pixels per inch against the Eluga's 256 pixels per inch display.
The screen does manage to go close to the edge of the body but we needed to disable the auto-brightness setting to get a picture which delivered the expected brightness of a high-end smartphone.
Panasonic Eluga: Performance
Although the Eluga features a dual-core 1 Ghz processor, performance felt sluggish against the 1.5 Ghz Sony Xperia S, the nearest match in terms of a smart, slick smartphone from a manufacturer making an Android debut at £399.
The browser is the biggest disappointment in day to day use, rendering pages slowly and struggling to respond to basic commands. Using the AnTuTu app to benchmark the Eluga, the overall score was 5301 against a 6492 ranking for the Sony Xperia S.
Games and camera work performed well for both stills and video but flicking between apps and menu screens showed obvious stutter. Bizarrely, the 8 megapixel super-fine shooting mode displays a '2 MP' icon when you take shots - a glitch which hasn't been rectified.
Panasonic Eluga: Battery
The 1150 mAh battery does offer fast charge time - around 30 minutes to reach 50% charge - as long as ot has 10% in the first place. Fast charging is useful but then again, it's relative to the small size of the battery - the Xperia S features a 1750 mAh battery..
Panasonic Eluga: Verdict
The Panasonic Eluga is a smartphone which looks great and feels good in the hand but from the moment you start looking for the power button, the flaws of a first-time Android manufacturer become clear.
The style, screen and waterproof spec are all admirable hardware wins but a camera without a flash, low internal storage and a counter-intuitive selection of apps and functions means overall user experience is poor and against consumer demand.
Giant icons stare at you, begging you to understand and orientate yourself when all you really want is a phone that works brilliantly every time. Android has become a great OS but the Eluga is a poor high-end companion that faces competition from the mid-range of aggressively priced smartphones from Android experts HTC and Samsung.
The forthcoming Eluga Power boasts a 1.5 Ghz processor and a 5 inch screen but we fear the core problem may be the same and that's before you consider the higher price tag. We hope Panasonic can prove us wrong - stay tuned for a full review of the Eluga Power...
Panasonic Eluga availability: Available now
Panasonic Eluga price: £399