The Tecno Spark 8C is a fine choice for anyone on a budget. There's much to like and enough in the middle of the road that you won't feel cheated. The camera and processing power could be better, but the battery, Samsung-like shape, and similar design are all worth your money. But if you're not on that budget, it's perfectly fine to look elsewhere.
The Tecno Spark 8C knows exactly what it is – a budget Android smartphone. It looks and feels like a cheaper Samsung doing its best at replicating the higher-budget feel of newer flagships. For R3,000, you can’t expect the Spark to do much more than that. It makes calls, lets you watch YouTube, play Candy Crush, and take passable photos. What more could you ask for (besides a USB-C port)?
Pretty in turquoise
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice on the Spark 8C is its rear panel. Where there’d usually be a glass finish, Tecno opts for a plastic back. It’s not a problem here. The Spark doesn’t make you gag when looking at it; a big plus for budget phones. The large “Stop at Nothing” motto on the back is a little… in your face. This is acceptable, since the rear isn’t exactly in your face 24/7. A cover solves the problem, so it’s not a major issue.
The front, however, is in your face 24/7. There’s nothing special here. Picture a Samsung Galaxy A smartphone, add some width to the body and you’ve got the Tecno Spark 8C. The Spark is working with a 6.6in slab of glass with a surprisingly thin bezel. If you’re not a fan of camera dot-notches, then the Spark’s front-facing camera might feel a bit obnoxious.
Surrounding the screen is a thicker-than-we’d-like edge with a set of buttons coated with the same plastic you’ll find on the back. There’s the standard power button, volume button, and SIM tray on the sides. The bottom edge hosts a micro-USB port, speaker grille, and audio jack. The audio jack’s presence helps us forget the pain caused by the absence of a USB-C port.
Flip the Spark over and bypass the large ‘Stop at Nothing’ and you’ll focus on the camera. It takes up a chunk of the casing’s real estate, which is fine since it shares that space with a fingerprint scanner. Unlike the Spark 7 Pro, the camera avoids sticking out past the phone’s chassis. The Spark does its best to imitate more expensive Androids, but it can’t turn water into wine.
As much as we might not like the motto splattered on the back, the real meat lies inside the phone. Once the phone is on and past all the standard set-up phases, you’ll be greeted by Hi OS. Hi OS is Tecno’s own Android skin running on a watered-down version of Android 11. It feels only slightly different from the flagship Android OS. Which is to say, it’s good. It’s not as pretty looking, but if you’ve used any sort of Android before the layout will feel intuitive.
But the screen and processor are what hold it all together. The 6.6in display is coupled with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 1612×700 resolution. It’s not the greatest, but on a 6.6in screen, it’s not so noticeable. Just note — a quick visit to the settings is needed to actually turn on the 90Hz refresh mode. It’s not on by default – presumably to save on battery.
The brightness leaves a lot to be desired. We found ourselves constantly turning the brightness up even when just playing around in the Stuff offices. Tecno hasn’t listed the Spark’s peak brightness anywhere. We’re not surprised, considering.
Under the hood, the Spark runs a Unisoc T606 processor – something we could only find out by resorting to Google. The Spark itself didn’t want to tell us and neither did Tecno. Which… says a lot. All you’ll learn from Tecno is that the Spark has a 1.6GHz octa-core processor under there. And for good reason. This thing won’t be running any races with other smartphones when it comes to processing power. It’s powerful enough to keep you going, but we do wish it had a little more to add to its CV. Our review model came packed with 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. A cheaper 64GB/2GB option is available as well.
At least with the Spark, you won’t catch COVID any time soon (this is sarcasm). Tecno’s phone doesn’t have a 5G chipset, limiting it to the 4G network. Not to sound like a broken record, but this might have something to do with the phone’s R3,000 price.
It’s free real estate
Despite the large amount of real estate dedicated to cameras on the Spark’s rear, it doesn’t make the best use of the space possible. There’s a 13MP main sensor (f/1.8) coupled with an 8MP front-facing camera. Neither is great. The cameras are good for snapping the odd funny-looking bird when you’re out and about, but otherwise… the Spark left us with nothing to praise.
What we will praise is the surprisingly large 5,000mAh battery Tecno squeezes in. After several of hours of heavy use, the battery barely dwindles past the 80% mark. It’ll last all day and then some. The only problem is charging this baby up since it doesn’t support USB-C charging. You’re stuck with the micro-USB port. We know this is a budget smartphone, but we thought we’d moved past the plodding micro-USB era. Guess not.
Tecno Spark 8C Verdict
R3,000 for the Tecno Spark 8C is perfect. You’re missing 5G, USB-C, and a good camera – which feels almost fair. The Spark makes up for it with a good battery and looks that feel familiar to Samsung’s own budget devices. It’s not powerful, but we never expected it to be. For anything that just needs a smartphone to perform the most basic features (and then some), the Tecno Spark 8C is probably a good choice. You can do better elsewhere, but you’ll do okay here too.