Marshall London review - World Exclusive

Marshall is a globally recognised brand with many big name bands using its guitar amps and it also has a popular range of headphones. So you were probably as shocked as us when it recently announced a smartphone. We've been lucky enough to get a sample of the music focused handset so here's our full and in-depth Marshall London review. Updated on 29/9/15 with our video review. Also see Best smartphones 2015 and Best Android phones 2015.

Marshall London review: Price and availability

The Marshall London is now available to buy in the UK from the firm's official website and if you were keen enough to pre-order you will have got a free pair of headphones too. It's more likely that you're reading this review to decide whether to buy so that deal is long gone. Also see: Marshall London phone in pictures.

We've not heard of any mobile networks offering the Marshall London so you'll have to buy it outright and the asking price is £399. While that's a reasonable amount less than a big name flagship from the likes of Sony, Samsung and HTC, it's quite a lot for the specs you're getting (see below).

What you're getting for your money is the branding and the style which we'll talk about next. If you're more insterested in great specs for the price take a look at the OnePlus 2 and Motorola Moto X Play.

Marshall London review

Marshall London review: Design and build

We'll get to the specs in a bit (scroll down if you just can't wait) but a major reason to get the Marshall London is the brand.

Image is a big deal these days – just look at the phenomenal rise of the selfie – and owning the Marshall London is partly about making a statement. You'll be shunning the conventional options and being part of something more unique and one-off.

The Marshall London looks the part on almost every level and has been designed from scratch by the company in Sweden rather than just picking up a white label phone and slapping the logo on. This is clear when you look at the details involved. There's the infamous logo on the front and back, patterned edge, textured rear cover and white piping which all ensure the London fits Marshall's recognisable style.

It's a bit disappointing to find the rear cover is extremely thin and plasticky making the device feel a little cheap but it's not so bad when clipped into place. Brass details make up for this a great deal which include dual-headphone ports, an 'M' button and the frankly awesome volume scroll wheel on the side. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.

Marshall London review

We discovered it by accident but the scroll wheel also clicks if you push it in to launch the camera app but not with the screen off which is odd. It would have been neat if this was the power button instead as it's in a more natural position.

To explain, that M button on the top isn't the power button (that's camouflaged on the side above the scroll wheel). Instead it's for instantly accessing your music so press it, even with the screen, off and you're taken to the custom music player so you can get the tunes rolling without delay.

Don't be mistake, there are much better built devices out there for this asking price (and less) but are they as cool as the Marshall London? We don't think so.

Marshall London review: Hardware, specs and performance

So the Marshall London is one of the coolest phones we've ever seen but things take a slightly negative turn when it comes to the hardware on offer. With many budget and mid-range phones offering astounding specs, they make the Marshall London look somewhat under equipped for the price.

Although the device itself is fairly large (bigger than a Nexus 5), it only has a 4.7in screen size so there's a lot of bezel going on. We can get over that but the resolution is just 720p when we would typically expect Full HD for this price. The screen is IPS though so viewing angles are good and a pixel density of 312ppi isn't exactly atrocious - let's not forget the iPhone 6S is still 326ppi.

Marshall London review

Moving on and the Marshall London has 16GB of internal storage available. There's no option to buy a larger capacity but there is a Micro-SD card slot for adding more so this isn't the end of the world.

Powering the hip new phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 which is the same as the new Motorola Moto G which costs less than half the price. It's quad-core and clocked slighter slower at 1.2GHz and Marshall has put 2GB of RAM to back it up.

Yes, this spec is available for a lot less but we've found performance of the London to be very smooth – partly thanks to its almost entirely vanilla version of Android (see below). You can see how the Marshall stacks (get it?) up against rivals in the table below. The numbers don't make for exciting reading but the reality is a smooth experience and the firm isn't trying to win on this front anyway.

Having a lower resolution screen does at least mean a less demanding draw on the battery and we've found battery life on the Marshall London to be good. In our benchmark test it lasted for five hours and 54 minutes with a score of 2303 which isn't bad at all – it beat the LG G4 by more than an hour. There are no fancy things like Type-C USB or wireless charging but the 2500mAh pack is removable.

On the camera front are an 8Mp rear camera with single LED flash and a 2Mp front camera. It's unusual to find that it shoots in 4:3 by default (you need to drop to 6Mp to get 16:9) and it uses the regular Android camera app.

Overall the main camera is pretty average. The focusing isn’t particularly fast and quality isn't anything to shout about either. You can shoot video in up to 1080p and features include HDR, Panorama and Lens Blur. It's good enough for sharing the odd snap on social media but as with other specs, there's a lot better out there and with change left over.

Marshall London review

It's clear that Marshall doesn't particularly care about the above pieces of hardware. Just look on the official site and it's all about the design and the music. And thus we come to the positive area of the hardware line-up.

As mentioned earlier, there are two headphone ports so you no longer need to carry around that splitter or share an earbud each. This also negates the need to use on-board speakers but if you want to, the Marshall London is well equipped with front facing stereo speakers. The firm says it 'might just be the loudest mobile phone on Earth' and while we're not sure that is the case, the speakers are pretty good.

And no, the phone volume doesn't go to 11, it goes all the way to 36.

Marshall London review

Back on the headphone front and the London is supplied with decent Marshall Mode in-ears worth £45 but there's also Bluetooth with aptX if you want to go wireless. There are also dual-mics so you can record spur of the moment ideas in stereo. To complement all this is a Cirrus Logic WM8281 Audio Hub – a separate processor just for audio and audiophiles will be pleased to head that the London supports FLAC.

Pre-installed is LoopStack, a 4-channel 16-bit recorder but we were more interested in the global graphic equaliser so you can adjust (with presets) exactly how you want things to sound, boosting bass for dance music or stripping it back a bit to hear the detail in jazz. This is found in the Marshall Home, accessed by the 'M' button which not only lets you play local music but also provides access to Spotify, SoundCloud and Mixcloud. The app also provides shortcut access to LoopStack, and settings such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

That's a whole lot of audio centric features and is really what the Marshall London is all about – it's clearly for music rather than those bothered about pixel density and processor cores.

Marshall London review

Marshall London review: Software and apps

As you would expect from a phone arriving in the second half of 2015, the Marshall London runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. That's not the most up to date version but we're told it will be upgraded to 6.0 Marshall in due course.

Hopefully you won't have to wait for too long for that upgrade either as the device is running almost stock Android making it a much speedier and pain-free process.

Although it's stock Android, Marshall adds a few little bits and pieces including stylish wallpapers and a various clock widgets which displays the time in words. The Phone and Messaging apps also have custom icons. Lastly is a darker theme for the settings menu.

Marshall London review

That's a nice balance of smooth performing, familiar Android with added unique elements. As mentioned earlier there are also some apps pre-installed such as Spotify, LoopStack and SoundCloud. There's also Equalizer+ Pro and a slightly bizarre game called Rockbilly Bros where you have to manage a band.

Luckily you can uninstall them all, apart from Equalizer+ Pro if they are just taking up valuable space.

Marshall London: Specs

  • Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
  • 4.7in IPS screen, 720x1280, 312ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 16GB of storage
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • 8Mp rear camera with LED flash
  • 2Mp front camera
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Blueooth 4.1 LE with aptX
  • GPS
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual-mics
  • Dual-headphone ports
  • M-button
  • Brass scroll wheel
  • Cirrus Logic WM8281 Audio Hub
  • 4G LTE
  • 2500mAh removable battery
  • 70x140x9.5mm
  • 145g
  • Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
  • 4.7in IPS screen, 720x1280, 312ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 16GB of storage
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • 8Mp rear camera with LED flash
  • 2Mp front camera
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Blueooth 4.1 LE with aptX
  • GPS
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual-mics
  • Dual-headphone ports
  • M-button
  • Brass scroll wheel
  • Cirrus Logic WM8281 Audio Hub
  • 4G LTE
  • 2500mAh removable battery
  • 70x140x9.5mm
  • 145g

OUR VERDICT

Focussing on core specs, the Marshall London isn't a very good deal at all. You get the kind of hardware (in some cases worse) available on phone less than half the price. However, this isn't the point of the phone. Buying the London is all about the brand, the style and music and on these fronts it delivers in amp shaped bucket loads. Marshall has made the coolest phone we've ever seen (we just don't have a rating for that).

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