Aspera Nitro 2 review
Image: Adam Turner.

Aspera Nitro 2 review: get up and Android Go

7.7

Taking advantage of Google’s lightweight Android Go, the Aspera Nitro 2 smartphone runs lean to ensure you get change from $200.

First launched alongside Android 8, Android Go is designed to run Android on ultra-budget smartphones which aren’t blessed with an abundance of processing power, RAM or onboard storage.

The Android Go operating system and native Google apps are optimised to be less resource and bandwidth-hungry, plus you’ll find third-party Go versions of popular apps like Facebook and Spotify in the Google Play Store – although these days they favour the term ‘Lite’.

Facebook Lite and Spotify Lite are missing a few advanced features, but they offer more than enough to keep you happy if your needs are simple. Thankfully, you still have the option to install the full Android versions if you really require them.

Designed for handsets with 2 GB RAM or less, these days Android 13 Go Edition is primarily aimed at budget smartphones sold in developing markets and few devices have made it to Australian shores.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to see Android 13 Go Edition on the Australian-designed $179 Aspera Nitro 2, which packs a 1.6 GHz power plant, 3 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. That said, with that price tag and spec sheet, the Nitro 2 is very much at the budget end of the Australian market.

Aspera Nitro 2 review

Aspera Nitro 2 first impressions

Out of the box, the Aspera Nitro 2 is a slick-looking device, as most budget handsets tend to be these days.

It features a generous 6.56-inch display, and thankfully it’s not too wide to hold thanks to the narrow 18:9 aspect ratio. The fingerprint reader is on the back of the handset in the middle, alongside the camera array, where you can reach it with your pointer finger. This is handy but perhaps not as convenient as building it into the power button.

The Nitro 2 sticks with the standard design of a power button halfway up the right-hand edge, sitting under your thumb, with volume buttons above.

The handset is a tad heavy at 192 grams and features retro-style thick edges rather than the tapered edges typically found on more premium handsets, plus you understandably miss out on the elegance of an aluminium unibody or glass back. The upside is that it’s not as slippery as some sleek handsets.

Fire up the Aspera Nitro 2 and you encounter one of the key areas where the handset makes compromises; a lowly 1600 x 720 resolution display which is barely enough to do 720p video justice and lacks the benefit of High Dynamic Range.

That low resolution means that, even though it’s a big screen, you can’t squeeze in as much text when looking at a website. That said, older users who tend to bump up the font size – a likely target market for the Nitro 2 – might not notice the difference.

The screen brightness is enough to use the handset in direct sunlight, but it falls short of the extra-bright “Sunlight Display” offered by the Oppo A18 – a close competitor in this price bracket with a similar spec sheet.

It’s worth noting that Aspera doesn’t list the exact screen resolution or the brightness in the spec sheet, which is unusual for a phone maker. It’s a clear indication that the Nitro 2 is aimed at people who don’t tend to ask such questions.

As for cameras, you get a single 13 MP main shooter on the back, accompanied by a depth sensor. You’ll find an 8 MP selfie camera at the front. The megapixel count of both is a bit higher than what you might expect in this price bracket, but once again Aspera is light on details such as the aperture.

In terms of connectivity, the handset features a dual nano-SIM port (supporting 4G but not 5G) which can also take a microSD card. At the bottom, you’ve got a USB-C port, alongside an old-school headphone jack.

Aspera Nitro 2 specifications

Display size6.56 inch, 18:9 aspect ratio
Display resolution1600 x 720 pixels (320 dpi)
Display technologyIPS
Bands2G, 3G, 4G
ChipsetUnisoc SC9863A, Octa-core (4 core x 1.6 GHz, 4 core x 1.2 GHz) processor
Rear camera13 MP
Front camera8 MP
RAM3 GB + 3 GB virtual
Onboard storage64 GB
SIMDual 4G nano-SIM cards
microSD slotup to 256 GB
ChargingUSB-C, 10 W AC charger supplied
Battery5000 mAh
Wi-FiWi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, VoLTE
ConnectivityUSB-C
Bluetooth 5.0 LE (Low energy)
NFC
Operating systemAndroid 13 Go Edition
SecurityFingerprint reader, Face Unlock
RuggednessN/A
Dimensions164.4 x 75.8 x 8.9mm
Weight192 gm
ColoursPearl and Black
Price$179 RRP
Warranty1 year
Official websiteAspera

Features

Android 13 Go Edition looks and feels like the full version of Android 13, with Google working hard in recent updates to bring more advanced features to Go Editions. Aspera hasn’t yet announced how many years of OS and security updates will be available to the Nitro 2.

These days, Google draws less attention to the Android Go apps. The Nitro 2 runs the Go version of the Assistant app, as well as the Gallery app for viewing your photos, rather than the full Google Photos app offered by Android 13.

Thankfully, you can install the full version of Google Photos if you need it. Aspera has also pre-installed the full version of Facebook, but you can find Facebook Lite in the Google Play app store if you want to try it.

In the early days of Android Go, when you launched the Google Play store you were pointed in the direction of the Lite apps. That’s changed, now you see the full apps by default and the Lite apps generally stay hidden unless you seek them out. 

That’s understandable when it comes to the user experience in terms of app functionality. The trade-off is that users aren’t getting the performance boost that Lite versions would deliver – unless they know to go looking for them.

You’re also missing out on the storage savings, with Facebook Lite taking up only 3.3 MB, compared to its big brother’s heftier 66 MB.

When Android Go is intended for low-spec hardware, you could argue that Google is doing users a disservice by failing to highlight the Lite apps.

To be fair, people who are satisfied with a sub-$200 Android phone are looking for a very basic device that just works. They’re probably more likely to tolerate sluggish performance than to tolerate missing features in their apps. 

Speaking of performance, under the bonnet the Nitro 2 sports the Unisoc SC9863A – a low-powered power plant packing a similar punch to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450. It’s accompanied by only 3 GB of RAM and a pitiful 64 GB of onboard storage, with the option to convert 3 GB of that storage into virtual RAM.

The good news is that the Nitro 2 features a generous 5000 mAh battery. Combined with the low demands of the low-res display and lowly processor, this means it should easily get through the longest day.

When it’s time to top up, the phone comes with a 10 W USB-C AC charger, with no support for wireless charging. There’s no IP ruggedness rating, so handle the handset with care.

Quality

The Aspera Nitro 2 won’t run Geekbench 6, but Geekbench 5 benchmarks tell a very underwhelming story. Even with the optimisations of Android Go, the handset can only muster a woeful CPU score of 147 single-core and 790 multi-core.

That wouldn’t matter too much if the handset was still snappy, but unfortunately, it offers generally sluggish performance when it comes to launching apps and browsing the web. Not enough to drive you to tears, but enough to frustrate you if you’re familiar with devices with more zip. It’s worth noting that Facebook Lite loads in half the time of the full Facebook app.

It’s a similar story with the cameras, they’re unlikely to satisfy people with an eye for detail. Photos look a bit washed out, colours are muted and it struggles with contrast in brightly lit scenes where the sky can easily blow out. Low-light performance is also very disappointing. 

It is nice to note that the cameras avoid the overly aggressive image processing and selfie retouching which plagues many Android handsets these days.

Who is the Aspera Nitro 2 for?

At $179, the Aspera Nitro 2 is obviously aimed at people with extremely basic needs. Most likely seniors, as even pre-teens may bump up against the performance limitations.

You’d need to be on a very strict budget to favour the Aspera Nitro 2 over what the likes of Motorola, Nokia and Oppo can deliver at around the $200 mark, with the benefit of running full Android 13.

Aspera Nitro 2
The low-powered Aspera Nitro 2 does more with less thanks to the lightweight Android Go.
Features
7.5
Value for money
8
Performance
7
Ease of use
8
Design
8
Positives
Affordable
Large display
Large battery capacity
Negatives
Low-powered, low storage
Mediocre photos
No IP ruggedness rating
7.7