[Sponsored] Obi Hornbill S551 unboxing and first impressions: bringing the oomph into affordable phablets

“The Obi Hornbill may not be too pricey, but doesn’t skimp on style or power”

Phablets are a dime a dozen these days, and there are a plethora of brands and options available even if you don’t want to spend a bomb. Store shelves, both online and offline, are stacked with contenders vying for your eye, and your money. It’s tough to choose one, especially since most of them look the same and offer the same specs. Loading up on the style factor is a great way to make a device stand out from the crowd in such a scenario, and that’s exactly what the new Obi Hornbill S551 is trying to do.


Maybe we’re giving the suspense away, but the Hornbill S551 is a looker for sure, and one glance is enough to see how it could be a compelling choice in a sea of blocky and similar-looking devices. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a peek into what the brand includes in the retail pack, and then dive a little deeper into the design, specs and features.




The phablet comes encased in a plain white box, with the device lying right on top when the lid is removed, as expected. A plastic wrapper and a layer of foam on the sides keeps it from harm. Beneath that and a thin layer of cardboard are all the accessories. A screen protector comes out first, followed by a swanky-looking flip cover. The white flip cover replaces the removable back panel of the device, and also protects the screen without adding too much bulk.


You’ll also find all the usual stuff – including a two-pin wall charger, a micro-USB cable, a stereo wired headset (featuring a tangle-free cord), and the regular documentation such as the user guide and warranty information. A 2,200mAh battery is included as well.


Now that we’re done with the unboxing, let’s shift focus to the device itself. As we mentioned earlier… it’s a phablet that impresses with its design right at first glance. At 7.9mm, it’s quite slim, and the metallic bands on the sides add to the premium feel. The fascia is typical with the large screen taking centre stage, along with three backlit capacitive keys at the bottom and the earpiece, front camera and sensors on top. Black bezels surround the display, and the top and bottom sport a glossy black finish too.

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The bottom is home to just the microphone, while both the audio socket as well as the micro-USB port are on top. The right is where the power key is, while the volume rocket is on the left.

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The rear is where things get more interesting. The matte white rear panel sports a subtle dotted pattern. You’ll also see a square window with the lens for the primary camera, with a chrome strip below it carrying the LED flash and shouting about its 13-megapixel credentials. Obi branding can be found below, with a speaker grille placed lower.

Prying the panel open reveals the cavity for the battery, along with a pair of SIM slots and a microSD card slot. As you’d have guessed by now, the Hornbill S551 is a dual-SIM device… and accepts a micro-SIM and a regular-sized SIM. Both SIM slots support 3G – a feature which is difficult to find at this price.

Overall, the looks are quite stylish, and we’d score the Obi Hornbill S551 quite high in this respect. Style is something that ranks amongst the top parameters when buying a new smartphone, and most of the other options in the same price range miss out on this.

Talking about the core specs, the Hornbill S551 sports a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. Under the hood, there’s a 1.3GHz quad-core processor from MediaTek, working in tandem with 1GB of RAM. The internal storage is 8GB, and it’s partitioned – with a little less than 2GB for apps and 4GB available for storage.

On the camera front, yet another highlight of the device is the 13-megapixel autofocus camera, which is also a rarity at the price. Fuelling the selfie fad is a 5MP snapper at front.

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The software side of things are made up by Android 4.4 KitKat, and the brand hasn’t played around with the interface much in terms of skins or custom layers. Pre-loaded apps include Hungama and Truecaller, apart from the usual suite of Google apps. However, a few interesting features have been added to make the phablet even more compelling.

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First up is the gesture support for switching home screens and browsing through images in the gallery, using a wave of the hand on the front sensors to do the needful. Then there’s support for gestures that give you access to common apps and functions straight from standby. For instance, drawing the letter ‘C’ on the screen launches the camera, while the letter ‘S’ opens up settings. The same actions can be customised as per your liking to launch other apps too.

In our brief time with the device so far, we didn’t experience any lags and the usage seems quite zippy. The 720p screen looks quite crisp too.

The Obi Hornbill’s rivals include the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note (review) and the Celkon Millennia Epic Q550 (first impressions), plus quite a few others. If making a style statement is important, then the Hornbill certainly has an edge, and it’s not a wimp in other departments as well. And with its Rs 9,250 price tag, it doesn’t take a heavy toll on your wallet either.

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