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Cubot King Kong [REVIEW]

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Cubot King Kong, big name for a seemingly mediocre smartphone. It packs a Mediatek’s quad core MTK6580, 2GB of RAM and a five inch screen with the resolution of 1280*720. It’s specs say “regular smartphone” but the Cubot’s King Kong stands out because of something else – durability and looks.

Buttons and build quality

What’s the first thing you notice when you pick up this smartphone? It’s build and weight. In an ocean of thin and fragile combinations of aluminum and glass, phones like the King Kong stand out because of their build. Everything except the screen is hard matte plastic, the phone weighs in at almost a quarter of a kilogram and it’s thickness goes over a centimetr. Only on the outside, this phone has twenty one screws, two of which you need to unscrew in order to reach the microSD and SIM slots. On the back of the phone, Cubot did the extra work and put textured pads to prevent the phone slipping out of hand. On the top of the phone is a little rubber cover under which are both the headphone jack and a micro USB port. Those ports are covered as a part of the phone’s waterproofing, but I only see a weak point that’ll break with use.

Phone doesn’t have any software buttons because Cubot decided to put three capacitive buttons right below the screen. Those are the classic assortment of back, home and task switch. Those buttons have proven to be responsive, but they are positioned way too close to the screen. Because of that, I often accidentally touched the screen even though I wanted to touch one of the three buttons. Even more peculiar, the sensitive center of those buttons is located a bit below the printed icons, so when you press them, always aim a bit below the icon.

The phone also has physical buttons for volume control and power. Those physical buttons have a pretty gummy feel and don’t have any defined click to them. It’s probably because of the IP68 waterproofing this phone was classified for, so I won’t rag on it too hard. Despite the gummy click, those buttons too are responsive and they are positioned in a way you can’t misclick them.

Android system

King Kong comes with Android 7.0, and it’s security patch is from November 5th, 2017 which is fairly good since it isn’t vulnerable to any of the common exploits. Still, the software on this phone has a lot of minor bugs and inconveniences. For example, a lot of the elements in the system take the design (and other things too, probably) from older Android versions going back to Gingerbread! Music player, file manager, stock web browser and the camera all use elements from their older Android counterparts. That leads to a very inconsistent UI and makes the phone look very cheap. Also, when you start the camera by double pressing the power button and going into the gallery, it sometimes crashes. In that case, you need to unlock the screen in order to use the camera again.

You want over the air updates for your phone? That’ll happen if Cubot releases an update, and if the OTA application manages to connect to the internet. That’s not the end of it’s problems, in the status bar there’s a 3G icon that never goes away regardless of your mobile data settings. Also, there are two mobile data toggle icons in the quick toggles. Redundancy maybe? These are all minor mistakes which don’t affect the usage but show the lack of care from Cubot. Still, everything mission critical is still there and if you ignore these minor mishaps, this phone shouldn’t cause you problems. Also, it’s nice to know that the phone’s bootloader is easy to unlock. Allow bootloader unlocking in developer options and unlock it over fastboot. Easy peasy!

Connectivity

When it comes to connectivity, this smartphone turns no heads. It supports WiFi b/g/n which means no upper band for those using 5GHz at home or work. Bluetooth version is also stuck on 4, which is kinda old. Version 4 of that protocol dates back to 2010. 2G GSM is there, of course. 3G WCDMA is also there. 4G? Oh, where did that 4G go now? Truth is, my readers, 4G support is simply not there.

For a phone announced in 2017, that’s a very weird decision by Cubot. 4G has better single base station coverage when compared to 3G, it also has faster speeds and better security. On 3G, this phone doesn’t even reach a megabyte per second which is absurdly bad for today’s standards. Of course, since I don’t have a personal base station I can’t test the maximum speed of this phone’s network hardware so take these results with a grain of salt. Still, the lack of 4G connectivity is really bad given the low price of 4G equipment today.

Battery

Battery life on a single charge should be the strong point of this device. King Kong packs a 4.4Ah battery, but how does that reflect battery life with regular usage? I downloaded a few popular games and played them for a considerable amount of time. Some of those games include Crossy Road, Candy Crush Saga, Smash Hit, Subway Surf and more. After two hours of constant gameplay, the battery level fell only 10%.

The phone lasted for the whole next day. Considering I disconnected it from the charger around 10AM and it lasted up to 4AM next day, I’d say the battery is radical. Keep in mind the price of this phone, though. For about a hundred bucks, you get a rugged phone that lasts for over two days of normal usage. Of course, the size of it’s battery poses a little charging problem. With a 2.1A charger (which is 1.1A stronger than the charger which comes with King Kong), the phone charged up around 80% in 6 hours. This is unfortunately normal since the phone can only pull maximum of half an amp, which is way too little for such a big battery. Looks like that’s where the price cuts occured.

Benchmarks and real life performance

The phone’s performance is just like the phone itself – average. All the games I’ve played on it ran at about 30 frames per second average. There were a lot of microstuttering so the framerate jumped around a lot. Of course, all those games were playable and this phone was never marketed towards gamers so it can be forgiven.

General UX was fine, task switching was fast and I had no problems with background applications getting killed. Only thing that caused performance problems was the Chrome web browser which loved to freeze for a second and then spring back to life while also being very slow to load and render websites too. I believe it’s the Chrome itself that’s at fault here since the device generally feels pretty zippy. I’ve also done synthetic benchmarks – on Antutu it scored 20764 points, on Geekbench it got 419 points for CPU single core, 1187 points for CPU multi core and 780 for compute.

Photography and video recording

Cameras on this phone are a long story. I first have to note that the phone doesn’t actually shoot at 13 and 8 megapixels, which are the advertised resolutions of it’s cameras. The software actually extrapolates the raw images to those resolutions, but that doesn’t make the photos look better. Actual sensor resolutions are 8 and 5 megapixels, which really isn’t that bad. Today’s phones sport cameras which go over 20 megapixels but nobody stops to think if we actually need such resolutions for Instagram and Facebook.

Of course, Cubot wanted to make this camera as impressive as possible, so they cranked up the sharpening to eleven. Because of this, photos may look a bit sharper, but it actually kills the details and makes the photos a lot worse when zoomed in.

Still, the King Kong reproduces colours and contrast pretty good. For such a phone, the colors are great and the white balance is often on point. Night time sensitivity is also pretty fair, but there is visible noise. This phone also shoots HDR which, when turned on, shoots two photos with different exposures and combines them. I tried it out, but I wasn’t really satisfied with the results. The difference with and without HDR is minor and sometimes not even noticable.

Both cameras have the FOV at around 60 degrees which is right about the average today. Video is a whole different story. Phone shoots in Full HD, but there’s one problem which is instantly noticable – the jelly effect. It’s most noticable with fast phone movement and shaky hands. This problem is caused by the phone’s rolling shutter being too slow to record the whole frame before the phone moves. Of course, the video is also massacred with sharpening, which doesn’t help the already below average quality.

Weirdly enough, this phone has electronic image stabilization! In the search for a better video quality, I turned it on but it only got worse. Not only did the FOV get reduced, the image is getting even more bent out of shape as the phone’s software tries to stabilize it. In the end, it’s better to turn off the EIS because then, at least you have a bigger field of view.

Fun fact, the camera API of this phone supports the dumping of RAW bayer files directly from the image sensor so RAW support is technically possible. Still, I don’t believe Cubot will ever add this feature officially.

Speakers and the headphone jack

Audiophiles, please close the tab. Now we’ll go through the sound characteristics of this phone. I’d first like to note that there’s no problems with the speaker. The earphone is pretty loud and has a nice sound, the voices are deep and very intelligible. The back speaker used for multimedia is also pretty loud without any distortion on the highest volume.

It’s sound is very nicely colored with middle frequencies, there’s not much of the deep end because it is a phone speaker, but there aren’t too many highs either so it’s not grating to listen to. I was pleasantly surprised with the speaker… Headphone jack, on the other hand… My oh my… At the highest volume there’s some distortion in the low end which is also a bit less loud compared to my DAC which I usually use for music. It’s nothing unlistenable, but there are a lot better options out there.

I’d love to test the frequency response and other things, but the headphone jack caused me a lot of headache. From the two pairs of headphones and four different cables, it only worked on one and after connecting them to the phone, I heard weird digital buzzing that went away after a few seconds. Even on those headphones, the contact was still imperfect and they managed to disconnect themselves multiple times. Maybe this is just one of the thousand King Kongs that has this issue, but I’m just putting this out there.

Screen

There’s not much to be said about this phone’s screen. IPS panel with the rezolution of 1280*720, colors are vivid but you can see that they’re inaccurate. You really notice that when you look at the reds, they just look off sometimes. Of course, this is a budget smartphone and not a professional device for developing digital photos so it can be forgiven. I believe that the most users will like the vivid colors, and the screen’s also fairly bright during the day so that’s another plus.

Only problem is that the screen has a very slight burn in. If we leave the same image to stay on the screen for 20 minutes, it’ll stay slightly burned in for the next minute or so. Weird, seeing as this isn’t an OLED panel… Someone may comment on the screen’s low resolution, but I have to say that there are no problems with reading small text at 5 inches, everything looks sharp and the GPU doesn’t have to work overtime to push some absurd resolution. For such a screen size, this is just the right resolution.

Conclusion

All in all, I’d say this is a good phone, especially for it’s price. I won’t count the headphone jack issues against this phone because I honestly hope it’s just my unit which came with that problem. Except for that problem, though, I’m pleasantly surprised with the phone. Camera could be better, software could be too, but for the money you get a phone with a massive battery and a fair screen. There are probably phones with a better price/performance ratio in this sea of technology today, but Cubot made a really fair phone which I’d use without hesitation.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Hardi

    May 25, 2018 at 08:59

    Hi,

    I think the problem with the headphone jack is quite normal. I have the same problem. I changed to bluetooth but nevertheless it is not ok.

  2. Jose Luis Reyes

    Oct 2, 2018 at 21:13

    Hi folks. I got something to report about this model. I downloaded four apps from Google Play Store. Two were Device/System Maintenance apps. When I opened them at separate times, each time the phone would suddenly blackout, then re-start. Then…it went black…turned off. I tried to re-start it, but it never did. I had to return it. Note: None of this behavior was present before the extra apps were downloaded. The phone functioned superbly. So…does this mean that this phone, with it’s CPU MTK 6580 chip might be vulnerable to apps that are not pre-installed by CUBOT even though they are deemed “Google Play Safe”? Has this happened to anyone else that has this phone?

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Phones

5 Reasons To Buy New Mi 10

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This week Xiaomi has presented new flagship smartphone models Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro. The presentation was in an unusual online format because of coronavirus in China. But the company prepared for it on a really high level making the video stream on different online platforms.

So, let’s talk about the new models and 5 reasons why you should change your smartphone to the new one Mi 10.

Reason 1 – Display

Mi 10 features really best 6.67 inches SuperAMOLED display with resolution 2340*1080 pixels. As you can see the frames are really small which creates the effect of total bezel-less display. The model has rounded edges, but all the display is protected with durable Corning Gorilla Glass.

Reason 2 – Top configuration

The model is equipped with a Snapdragon 865 eight-core processor. The performance was increased by up to 20 percent compared with the previous generation.

Reason 3 – Updated Memory

The model uses the LPDDR 5 memory standard which is high-tech and modern. Xiaomi is the second brand after Samsung who implements this decision into smartphones. Also, the model uses Wi-Fi 6 technology.

Reason 4 – Cool camera

The model has four camera sensors situated on the rear panel. The most powerful sensor is 108MP which is supplemented with one 13MP sensor and two sensors with 2MP resolution.

Thanks to the AI algorithms the user can work with original photo testing different effects.

Another interesting feature is text recognition. Sometimes when you should take a photo of documents or book pages the shadow of the smartphone can ruin the photo making some zones not visible for reading. But thanks for AI algorithms it’s not a problem anymore.

Reason 5 – A powerful battery

In order to keep the necessary level of performance, the model has a 4780 mAh battery. Thanks to the cooling system the model can be fully charged in 56 minutes. Moreover, it supports wireless charging.

The global launch date is currently unknown. So stay tuned.

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The Google Assistant-powered “Ambient Mode” is rolling out to OnePlus devices

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Photo: OnePlus Community

By partnering with Google, OnePlus is excited to bring the Google Assistant-powered “Ambient Mode” to your OnePlus device (available onOnePlus 3 and above).

Ambient Mode is a “proactive” Google Assistant experience that is available whenever the device is being charged. You can access proactive information and suggestions on weather, agenda, entertainment, reminders, and more. The feature can also be used to turn a phone into a digital photo frame or as the interface to control smart home devices, such as lights, or music players. Check out this video made by Google to learn more:

To opt-in this feature, please connect your OnePlus device to the charger, click the notification and follow the guidance to finish the setup process, or you can enable this feature in Google App Settings > Assistant > Devices (Phone). Please note that this is a staged rollout, which might take up to a week to a full release, your patience will be appreciated.

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Phones

10 things to know about Android 10

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Photo: Google

Android 10 is here! With this release, Google focused on making your everyday life easier with features powered by on-device machine learning, as well as supporting new technologies like Foldables and 5G. At the same time, with almost 50 changes related to privacy and security, Android 10 gives you greater protection, transparency, and control over your data. This builds on top of their ongoing commitment to provide industry-leading security and privacy protections on Android. Google also built new tools that empower people of all abilities, and help you find the right balance with technology.

Here are the 10 things you should know, centered on innovation, security and privacy and digital wellbeing:

Simpler, smarter, and more helpful

1. Smart Reply now suggests actions. So when someone sends you a message with an address or a YouTube video, you can open and navigate in Google Maps or open up the video in YouTube—no copying and pasting required. And Smart Reply now works across all your favorite messaging apps.

2. Come to the dark side… with Dark Theme. You can enable Dark Theme for your entire phone or for specific apps like Photos and Calendar. It’s easier on your eyes, and your phone battery too.

3. Take advantage of larger, edge-to-edge screens with the new gesture navigation. With simple swipes, you can go backwards, pull up the homescreen, and fluidly move between tasks. After switching, you won’t want to go back to visible buttons.

4. With a single tap, Live Caption will automatically caption videos, podcasts and audio messages across any app—even stuff you record yourself. Live Caption will become available this fall, starting with Pixel.

New privacy and security features put you in control

5. You can choose to only share location data with apps while you’re using them. You’ll also receive reminders when an app that you are not actively using is accessing your location, so you can decide whether or not to continue sharing.

6. In a new Privacy section under Settings, you’ll find important controls like Web & App Activity and Ad Settings in one place.

7. With Google Play system updates, important security and privacy fixes can now be sent to your phone from Google Play, in the same way your apps update. So you get these fixes as soon as they’re available, without having to wait for a full OS update.

Find the right balance with technology for you and your family

8. You have greater control over where and when notifications will alert you. Mark notifications as “Silent” and they won’t make noise or appear on your lockscreen, so you’re only alerted by notifications when you want to be.

9. Now Family Link is part of every device running Android 10, right in settings under Digital Wellbeing. Parents can use these tools to set digital ground rules like daily screen time limits, device bedtime, time limits on specific apps, and more. They can also review the apps children install on their devices, as well as their usage.

10. Want to be in the zone but not off the grid? Digital Wellbeing now brings you Focus mode. Select the apps you find distracting—such as email or the news—and silence them until you come out of Focus mode. Sign up for the Beta to try it.

There’s lots more in Android 10, including a new enterprise feature that lets you use different keyboards for your personal and work profiles, app timers for specific websites so you can balance your time on the web, new gender-inclusive emoji, and support for direct audio streaming to hearing aid devices.

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