Ever since last year, when India saw the first 5G phone launch, there has been quite an inundation of phones that feature the next-generation mobile connectivity, even though the commercial rollout is still far away. So, when Lava, India’s homegrown mobile phone company, launched its first 5G smartphone a few days back, it was bound to create ripples for two reasons: first, it is the first 5G phone from an Indian brand, and second, the 5G bus has still not left. The phone is called Lava Agni 5G, and it aims to punch above its competition.

The all-new Lava Agni 5G is a mid-range phone that has 5G as its biggest selling point. But this phone is important for the brand for reasons beyond 5G. Agni 5G is Lava’s most expensive phone yet. And a lot of ambitions are riding on it, too. It is also the one that is loaded with features that Lava thinks are good enough to entice people who want to do more than just text and call on the phone, such as creating videos or gaming.

The Agni 5G costs Rs 19,999, which is a big ask for Lava because it has practically been a low-end smartphone brand, but there is always a first time. But will it give Lava its best time? Let us find out.

Lava Agni 5G review: Good looks and capable display

Lava’s new 5G phone tries to warrant its price, which is why it follows the trend of gradient designs on phones. The back of the Lava Agni 5G is not anything special but still appealing – all because Lava played safely by creating a design that people have loved on phones from brands like Redmi, Realme, and Oppo. The matte finish with different shades of blue shining in a gradient is what will catch your eye when you look at the Agni 5G – and it is good. The camera bump may not be ergonomically not fit because it makes the phone wobble on a table or any plain surface, but I do not mind the design because it gives the phone half of its good looks.

It is a mid-range phone, which is why expecting something like glass on it would still be unfair – even though not totally out of the question. Agni’s plastic body is solid and gives a sense of safety when you hold it. It does not slip on its own, but the curvy edges and the big size may make it hard for people with small hands to carry for a long time. For them, its grip may also be an issue because even I, who has big hands, found it difficult sometimes to keep the phone in my hands.

The USB-C charging port, the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom is pretty standard, while the volume rocker on the left is in reach of the index finger. The power button is located at a good spot where my thumb would naturally sit, and the fingerprint sensor embedded into it makes unlocking the phone easier. I prefer fingerprint sensors on the back because the power button is the first thing your brain would instruct you to touch when picking up a locked phone, so even if you are trying to check the time on the display, you will end up unlocking the phone for no reason in the case of a side-mounted one. That is a bit inconvenient for me, but to each their own. The speaker, which is also on the bottom, is loud but gives muddy sound output.

I have managed to make payments at shops and more almost instantly because it was unlocked by the time I brought the phone in front of me. That is because the fingerprint sensor is fast. But if you are not a fan, you can choose the face unlock feature, which I found is inconsistent. If the light is proper, the camera will recognise you, no matter if you are biting your lips or have shut one of your eyes. But if it is dark, you will be annoyed at the failed attempts, even though there is an option that claims to brighten the screen during such times. It just does not work, so maybe an update is necessary here.

That is not worth a bad experience because as soon as you look at the display, you are going to be impressed. I was. Lava used a 6.78-inch Full-HD+ IPS LCD on the Lava Agni, and it looks great. I never had issues reading articles on it on a bright day because of its high brightness. The punch-hole camera is not a distraction to me (surely because I am used to this design). The colours just pop, and it is good for most content, such as watching videos and movies on the screen.

Although, Lava may not have done its best here. I cannot live with the fact that I cannot binge-watch Dynasty episodes in true HD on Netflix on this Rs 20,000 phone. It is a shame because the display, otherwise, is excellent. Sure, you have a 90Hz refresh rate here, but that is sort of a staple feature nowadays. A phone worth this price should have at least support for true HD quality on streaming apps. I mean, how else was Lava trying to woo customers who love streaming content?

Yes, gamers will definitely like the screen for its crispness and ability to refresh at 90Hz, but it would take them more to love it. That is because the screen’s response is subpar. I am not proud of telling you that I lost three matches back-to-back because the screen could not communicate better with my thumbs when I wanted to fire the gun at enemies in PUBG: New State. Also, Lava chose to bury the toggle for 90Hz in the “Intelligent assistance” category in the phone’s settings instead of the “Display” category. I found it unnecessary.

Lava Agni 5G review: Does everything fast

For 5G, Lava went with the MediaTek Dimensity 810 processor that I reviewed on the Realme X7 earlier this year. It is a fast processor and pretty reliable when you want to multitask or play a game. Everything from opening multiple websites in different Chrome tabs to opening different apps in the background to recording a video or clicking a photo works fast. Some of the credit goes to 8GB of RAM, which avoids lags on the phone. However, there is an inconsistency that I noticed when using resource-intensive apps.

For instance, when I opened PUBG: New State the first time after downloading it from the Google Play Store, it took a while to fire the screen up back from black. The second time, the load-up time was less, which is understandable because the setup was complete. But when I encountered delays in boot time, maybe the fourth or seventh time, I became a bit unsure about how high-performance apps are handled on the phone. I tried using the maximum graphics on PUBG: New State, but after my loss, not once but thrice, I decided to dial down the settings. This time everything worked fine, but still not great.

You will not easily run out of space with 128GB provided on the phone, but if you do, the phone supports up to 256GB through a microSD card. It is going to be helpful when you unleash a plethora of apps or record a lot of high-resolution videos.

A phone’s software is one of its cornerstones, and Lava did right by Agni by giving it the stock Android 11. It is the pure Android software that you will find on phones by Nokia or Motorola, or even Micromax. The phone is free of bloatware, and I will give Lava a pat on its back for that. That is because even though smartphones from Chinese companies are a bit aggressive on price, they are full of unsolicited apps, no matter if they are worth Rs 20,000 or Rs 7,000. But while I rave about it, I am not sure about software support on the phone because Lava has nothing to say about that at this point in time.

Tapping on an app unfolds into covering the entire screen. I love this animation, even though it makes the process a little slower. You can turn this off anytime you want. Lava made sure to give app icons their animation, too. Select apps, such as Dialler, Contacts, Camera, Google Chrome, Clock, and Google Play Store, will play a short animation when you hit the home screen button. Agni also has Game Space preloaded, which is good as it gives your games the necessary lift that sometimes compensates for the hardware’s incompetence.

Lava Agni 5G review: Battery lasts long

Lava Agni has a 5000mAh battery, and the company said it could give you 8 hours of YouTube. I surely did not try to validate that claim, but I found that the battery lasts for more than a day with typical usage. That would include some hours of chatting on WhatsApp, checking out photos on Instagram, clicking some pictures, and watching at least two one-hour-long episodes of Dynasty on the Netflix app. There is 30W fast charging available, too. So, if you run out of battery faster than I did, a time of around 1.5 hours will be sufficient to get a 100 per cent battery.

Lava Agni 5G review: Average photos

For a Rs 19,999 phone, the cameras are a bit underwhelming. They are not outright bad, but Lava fails to handle tricky light conditions, and that is not a good look for it. The main camera system includes a 64-megapixel primary camera with a F1.79 aperture, a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 2-megapixel portrait camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera.

The photos I took from the primary camera in bright light are very sharp and have a good dynamic range. That means that the amount of light in them is good and you will absolutely like these photos. For instance, the images of the plants look impressive, and I would surely want to upload them on my Instagram. But for sticklers, the superficial colour tones in these photos may be a turnoff. The leaves, for example, look more green and bright than they were in reality. That is true for anything beyond greenery, including people.

But getting those photos is a bit of a task. That is because the autofocus of the camera is inconsistent. It takes time to focus on a subject because tapping on it will not work until you move the phone to a reasonable distance. The autofocus problem gets annoying when you have to click a moment fast, and the phone just would not let you do that. The camera also takes some time to adjust the brightness if you suddenly change the light conditions. I think new software can fix this issue.

The camera begins to struggle indoors and what you get as a result is a smoothed out photo. The sharpness goes for a toss while the edges of the subject become bleaker. But these differences do not really make the photo look bad unless you notice them. Using night mode helps indoors. Check out the photo of the Batman action figure that I took using night mode. The focus is the problem there, but brightness is not.

The wide-angle camera clicks passable photos that lack details, but it is there if you need it. Similarly, the macro and depth-sensing cameras are also average in retaining details and detecting clear edges of a subject in the frame, respectively. The selfie camera clicks acceptable photos but again, with a lot of smoothing done to them.

Lava Agni supports up to 2K video recording, which is strange because the phone costs Rs 19,999. It also uses a 64-megapixel sensor for recording videos, and all the latest sensors support that – unless Lava did not use the latest one. Lava has not specified what sensor is used on the primary camera. If you are looking forward to creating vlogs in 4K on this phone, do not.

Lava Agni 5G review: Should you buy it?

Lava has finally entered the big 5G club with the Agni 5G. Although there is no way to tell the capability of the phone yet, the rest of its specifications make it worth considering. The phone is snappy and decent enough to play BGMI. It has a good battery life and comes with fast charging support.

The display is bright and large, which is good, but the lack of HD support on Netflix is a bit of a bummer. What else is a bummer is the average camera performance. There are a few chinks in the armour and serious ones if you take a look at the price of the phone.

For Rs 19,999, the Lava Agni 5G has strong competition from Realme, Redmi, Oppo, Vivo, and Motorola phones. It is no doubt a good attempt, but it cannot sell on just that merit. Lava has proven that it can go neck and neck with Chinese rivals, but it will need to do more to be doing that.

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