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Phablets

Cubot Power [REVIEW]

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Today, we have currently the Cubot’s most powerful smartphone called “Cubot Power”. Looking at the specifications alone, I built up high expectations for this smartphone. Great battery, modern Android, lots of memory, fingerprint reader and an interesting 18:9 screen. Now follow us on this journey as we check out the good and bad things about this smartphone.

Build quality and buttons
At first glance, this phone looks very nice and luxurious. The 18:9 aspect ratio of it’s 6″ screen really helps, just like it’s pretty thin bezels. Unfortunately, the look of the front face is more or less the only good thing about this phone’s design. The buttons are slippery and gummy without a defined click, and the entire back is made out of the cheapest glossy plastic that will quickly get covered in fingerprints and scratched. Same thing with the frame, it’s just cheap chrome. The edges on the camera and the fingerprint sensor are also chrome-plated, although whether that’s a good thing is up for debate. All this really caught me off guard because I expected much more when I saw the front. Thankfully, this phone is pretty heavy in hand, which is nice to see – probably because of its large battery.

Android system
Unfortunately, this cell phone system has similar problems like the last Cubot cell phone we had on review. The first thing I should mention is a rather slow fingerprint reader. Again, it’s faster than typing a PIN each time, but compared to my Xiaomi Mi A1 it’s pretty slow. The camera application is bad and clunky, and the music application always opens a notification about running in background that cannot be removed without force stopping it. Plenty of system applications also take elements from the older versions of Android, making the UI of this cell phone look a bit inconsistent. In the end, the system seems to have no glaring issues. Everything works properly and nothing crashes, only thing Cubot needs to do is work on the applications it packs with their smartphones. This is more or less fully stock  Android 8.1 with a couple of Cubot’s applications thrown in there.

Battery
One good thing about this cell phone is its battery. Its 6Ah is certainly above the average of today’s smartphone and it allows it to run for over two days on a single charge. After half an hour of playing PUBG mobile, the battery level fell only 5%. In the other 20 minutes that I played Does Not Commute, the battery depleted 3%. This means you can play videogames for over ten hours with a full battery. During the charging test, the current was measured a bit below 2 amps which is pretty standard, but some form of quick charging solution would be very beneficial. The battery is charged from 0 to 100% in about three hours, which is not a problem for me personally, since I charge my phone overnight, but for people who are used to charging their smartphones sporadically during the day, this may prove to be too slow.

Benchmark and real-life performance
Time for the benchmarks. This phone scores 94522 points on Antutu. Geekbench gives it 905 for single core test and 4100 for the multi-core test. The Renderscript test is completed with a score of 3170 points. Performance in day to day use with multitasking is very good, everything opens and feels fast without major slowdowns. 6GB of RAM is really showing here because the applications were rarely killed in the background and some were left in memory for quite a long period of time. There were a couple of stutters and slowdowns here and there, but in terms of performance everything was pretty fast. I’ve tested the graphics power by installing the popular game PUBG Mobile and playing at the highest settings. In this case, the game was playable but there were a lot of stutters that made the gameplay difficult. When I lowered the graphics to the lowest settings, miraculously the performance remained the same. I tested the second, less graphically demanding game “Does not Commute” which also ran at fairly low 30 or so images per second. Graphics don’t seem to be this phone’s stronger side.

Photo and video
Cubot Power uses the Samsung’s 16MP S5K3P3 sensor for the read camera, and 8MP GalaxyCore GC8024 for the front camera. Cubot claims that this cellphone shoots 20MP images even though this sensor does not go over 16MP without interpolation. Their page also says that the aperture is f/2.0 although the S5K3P3 has an f/2.8 aperture. The pictures do not have any major issues but the automatic mode gets the brightness and white balance wrong more often than it should. During the night, the details and color accuracy are lowered but they should probably be enough for the majority. The lens could be better since the lens fringing is quite prominent in some cases and the images are always kind of soft. HDR is not too strong but it certainly makes a difference. Feel free to keep it on all the time, except for those shots that contain movement. Also, during the test I realized – wow autofocus does not work. When it comes to things not working, the EIS does not make any difference either. I hope my test unit is broken because this is pretty bad. The manual mode is almost completely useless since it does not have controls for the shutter speed, focus, or accurate white balance. The front camera is also a bit weak, even in the average light. Bad news for you with shaky hands. The video in daylight is surprisingly good. Frame rate is stable, rolling shutter is almost unnoticeable and bitrate is at a fair 17.5 megabits per second. A big problem is when the scene is darkened. The problem is that Cubot’s algorithm in this case dramatically overestimates its capabilities and greatly reduces the shutter speed to brighten everything up. With FreeDCam, I managed to extract RAW images but those could not be read by Photoshop. Your Mileage May Vary. All in all, the camera hardware is ok but Cubot has done quite a shoddy job with the software side.

Speaker and audio output
First, the loudspeaker. At the bottom of this phone we have two sets of holes, but only inside the left one is the speaker located. As far as volume is concerned, this speaker is somewhere average, maybe a bit louder than average but not by much. You will surely hear the ringtone, but I would not use for music. The sound is tinny and without any deep tones, picture an old Sony Ericsson but a bit louder. Audio output does not really impress, but there aren’t any specific problems. In real life, on large 55ohm cans, the sound is not too loud. It does not cross any boundaries at the highest volume. It’s not a problem with a pair of earbuds, though. The headphone connector is well built and the headphone jack did not fall out of it when used. That’s good for you athletes out there.

Screen
The screen is one of the nicer points of this phone. Inside we have a FullHD+ 18:9 IPS screen that has very vivid color reproduction and a good contrast. Everything is very legible and visible under strong sunlight as the brightness of this screen goes to fairly high levels. At night it doesn’t go down too low but I’ve seen worse cases. Otherwise, the physical edges of the screen are quite close to the edges of the body which looks pretty sleek.

Conclusion
I opened Cubot Power like a child their present on a Christmas morning, but I quickly became disappointed. Another tragic story about a cell phone that had potential but was crushed because of the lack of attention from Cubot. This smartphone is a great example of specifications not being omni-important. The camera on this smartphone is a big obstacle to its value since a good camera is a very important thing today. One of the most popular social networks “Instagram” is based on images. That’s why it’s important for companies to make sure their sensors are accurate and sensitive while keeping their software fast and light. Of course, this phone also has some up sides – the system is pretty barebones except for a few small modifications from Cubot. The screen is also very nice and fairly visible under the sun even through additional protective glass is attached to it. There is also the big battery, and I won’t even mention the abundance of RAM and internal memory. With a relatively low price of around $200 depending on where you are buying it, this phone can be a pretty tough decision for some. If you do not mind the design and a weird camera, I say go ahead!

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Phablets

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 [REVIEW]

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Released just a few months before we got it, the Redmi Note 7 is Xiaomi’s new phablet with a few interesting things hiding behind it’s regular looking shell. Latest Android Pie, fast mid-range chipset, bigger battery and a camera which claims to shoot 48MP photos! Given the price bracket, this is going to be a tough competition as there are many other contenders. Hopefully Xiaomi has made the right choices, so let’s go and find out together.

Build quality

First thing you may notice is that this phone is pretty much all glass. The glass is on the front as expected, but it’s also on the back and on the edges too presumably! This may not be good news for those wanting a sturdy and rugged phone, but who knows, this glass might be tougher than expected.

We have a pretty big camera dock on the back, a small droplet of a notch on top, and three very extruded and clicky buttons on the side. The USB-C port is located on the bottom of the phone in between the speaker and microphone holes. This phone feels relatively heavy in hand given it’s glass build, but that also means it’s a big fingerprint magnet and more prone to cracking.

Android OS

Since it’s a Xiaomi, the MIUI OS is to be expected. Redmi Note 7 comes with the latest MIUI 10 from Xiaomi claiming better visual integrity, improved speed and generally just more features. For the fans of Apple’s iOS, MIUI 10 draws lots of design cues from there whilst remaining very polished and fast. The transition animations are fluid and the phone shows no stutters or major hiccups in regular usage.

Given that it’s a heavily customized version of Android, some “bloatware” is to be expected. Unfortunately, most applications here can’t be disabled or uninstalled, including gmail, google chrome, and google photos. We hope you enjoy having two galleries on your phone for no reason. Thankfully, the system is aware of the notch and knows how to handle it, so there shouldn’t be any unremovable black bars while viewing photos and videos.

Performance

First come the benchmark scores. Antutu gave us 144181 points on their benchmark. Using GeekBench, we got 1626 points for single core test, 5540 points for multi core test and 5617 points in the RenderScript test. Compared to some recent phones we had on review, the Note 7 scores come in par with the Mi A2, and both of them score a lot lower than the Pocophone’s super fast flagship, the F1.

The user interface is smooth and browsing, task switching and watching videos is completely lag free. Jumping over into a graphically intense game gives you a hiccup here and there, but for the most part it was running relatively stable at around 30FPS or more at the highest settings I could set.

Screen

As most often seen in similarly priced phones, the display is a regular IPS LCD panel with 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a FHD+ resolution of 1080×2340. As per usual for IPS phone panels, the brightness levels are nothing special and the color reproduction is pleasant without being too saturated and intense.

Even though they tried to make the screen seem bigger with the notch, Xiaomi ultimately failed at that goal because of the very thick bezels this phone has. This is not necessarily a bad thing for those who prefer a bit of space around the screen for gripping, but it certainly makes the phone seem bulkier.

Cameras

Now here comes the interesting bit, the phone’s 48MP shooter. Right off the bat we’d like to point out that in order to get the best color quality and night-time sensitivity, you should shoot at 12MP because of the camera sensor’s quad bayer pixel arrangement. If however, you just want the sharpest photos of the biggest resolution, then switch the camera into the 48MP mode in the “Pro” section.

Speaking of the Pro section, this phone’s manual mode isn’t too special, but it still gives you control over focus, shutter speed and ISO. The controls aren’t too precise, but at least the shutter speed extends up to half a minute for those saucy long exposure shots. White balance control is unfortunately severely limited to only four rough presets, and there appears to be no RAW option either. Bummer. Really unfortunate too, since the Note 7 has a tendency to get the coloration wrong, making some photos look unnatural.

This camera does offer a night mode which is surprisingly good and gives you some really tasty shots in bad lighting conditions. Portrait mode also works correctly on both the front and back cameras which is pretty cool given that it’s doing the front camera depth sensing completely in software.

When it comes to videos, the stock camera application offers 1080p recording at 30FPS with EIS as the default. The stabilization is pretty good even though it trips up with shakier scenarios. You can also shoot in 60FPS with reduced stabilization or in slow motion 120FPS with no stabilization at all.

You be the judge of the image quality this phone produces, but I just have to say that the camera application could use some improvements in usability and configuration options. In it’s current state, it feels somehow limiting to use, and the lack of customizability doesn’t help it’s cause. All in all, the camera is competitive in this price range, but there’s a lot of room for improvement in the software department.

Audio Capabilities

I was excited to check how this phone performs in synthetic audio tests, but unfortunately I couldn’t do them because the phone’s output was just way too hot for my reference audio recorder, and lowering the volume introduced a lot of distortion into the signal for some reason.

Still, the powerful output will probably be a blessing to those with high impedance headphones and big cans in general. It sounds just as loud and juicy as my S9+, if not louder.

The speaker is also very loud and makes the phone’s glass body resonate in your hand. No distortion on the highest volumes too, so it sounds like everything is in order here. It doesn’t use the earpiece as a second loudspeaker so there’s no stereo options there, but the bottom firing speaker does it’s job adequately.

Battery

Given this phone’s slightly bigger battery and relatively efficient chipset, the battery life figures should turn out pretty good. Starting off with the Lab501 test, this phone had it’s battery drained by 4% during the 15 minutes of running the gaming sequence at maximum brightness. Playing PUBG Mobile for 15 minutes on maximum brightness drained the battery by 7% which means you should get roughly 3.5 hours of gameplay on a full charge.

Given the phone’s 4Ah of battery, these figures aren’t that good. I’d personally attribute it to the quite heavy MIUI running underneath since the Snapdragon 660 isn’t that power hungry, but we can’t know for sure. Thankfully, with the help of Android’s battery saving technologies, the battery should prove a lot better in regular day to day usage.

Additional features

This phone also has some interesting additional features. It’s good that it has FM radio for emergency situations and low coverage areas, but it also has an IR transmitter that can be used to control various appliances via the Mi Remote application. There are countless presets inside for various models, and with them I’ve managed to control both my air conditioners and my TV.

The fingerprint reader is very fast, unlike the GPS which had trouble locking in unless I was in an open space with perfectly clear skies. Your mileage may vary. Thankfully, the OTG support seems perfect which is not even that surprising these days. Mounting USB drives works, and it provides enough power too.

Closure

The Redmi Note 7 is a sleek device with an attractive price point for users who aren’t interested in dropping $1000 for a smartphone, but also want a device which will serve them well over time. The hardware specs should be future proof given the 6GB of RAM, 4000mAh battery, 48MP camera and the well established Snapdragon 660 chipset. For the price point of just around $230, some of it’s negative aspects can be easily overseen given that they could be fixed with a proper software patch from Xiaomi.

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Phablets

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 [UNBOXING]

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Just three months old at the time of writing, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 has fallen into our laps. Xiaomi’s new competitor includes all the hip, new features of today. Even though it’s very small and unobtrusive, the notch is still present on the top of the screen. The dual camera setup is also there, with the main shooter boasting 48MP capabilities.

Even though the body is made out of plastic, it does come in three different snazzy colors and feels fairly heavy in hand given its 186g of weight. The 4000mAh of battery should also come in handy if you’re a heavy user or should you need some extra screen time at some point. Here’s the full spec sheet:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Specifications:

Model: Note 7
SIM Card: Dual (2x Nano SIM or 1x SIM + MicroSD)
OS: Android 9
CHIPSET: Snapdragon 660 (Octa core)
GPU: Adreno 512
RAM: 6 GB
ROM: 64 GB
Removable storage: Yes
Connectivity: GPS, Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 5.0
-2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
-3G: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
-4G: Yes
Fingerprint:
Yes
Screen: 6.3“ – 1080×2340 (19.5:9)
Camera:
 – Front: 13MP
 – Back: 48MP + 5MP
Flash: Yes
Battery: 4000mAh, non-removable
Package contents: Phone, Charger, Type-C Cable, User Guide & Warranty Info, Clear Soft Case
Price: $219.99

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Phablets

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 [REVIEW]

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Something is stirring up the waters in the smartphone world, and who would have guessed, it’s Xiaomi. Known for producing great phones at great prices and making the very popular “MIUI” Android distro, this time they’re setting the bar even higher. The idea of having flagship specifications at low prices is as old as it gets, but there’s always someone pushing it farther and farther.

This time we get a phone that’s powered by the Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845, with an absurdly big 8GB of RAM and a pretty big 4Ah battery too. The special liquid cooling solution is also what sets this phone apart from the crowd, not to mention it’s price. We’ll start off with the build quality, and work our way up to see how this phone compares to it’s competition.

 

Build quality

The first thing that caught my attention is the plastic back on this phone. Various materials like aluminum, leather and even glass are usually chosen to cover the back of flagships, but Xiaomi opted in for a pretty boring matte plastic. Thankfully, that’s pretty much the only problem if you can even call it that. Plastic backing gives it the advantage of having better grip not affecting the signal reception, plus it still looks pretty similar to it’s aluminum counterparts.

The phone itself feels pretty heavy and sturdy, but in reality you never know how many hard drops it can withstand. Thankfully, the front glass is made by Corning so it should have some protection against scratching. The power and volume buttons on the side are moderately clicky and well separated, but the power button is unfortunately still not textured. The extruded part in the middle of the back holds two cameras and a mirror-like fingerprint reader which is an another weird decision. Why put glass somewhere that’s bound to be smeared by fingerprints?

Overall, this phone doesn’t do any big mistakes when it comes to it’s build. The matte plastic back and the glass fingerprint reader may pose a problem to some, but the rest of it is completely fine and up to the buyer’s subjective tastes.

 

Android OS

Compared to a few previous phones we had on review, the Poco F1 has a pretty complex Android distribution installed on it which is heavily based on Xiaomi’s world-renowned MIUI. While I wouldn’t say that it has any bloatware per se, it does have a *lot* of functions and applications. This isn’t your regular, clean Android that you expand on by installing the applications you need – it’s much more complex and tightly packed with features. Expect to spend at least a week getting to know the system and getting accustomed to all of it’s functions.

It even has a few redundant applications like the Google’s photo gallery and Xiaomi’s gallery. Unfortunately, you can’t even disable most of these without rooting the phone. Despite all of that, the system still runs extremely smoothly without any hiccups. Really, with the specs we see on this phone, such performance is to be expected. Speaking of performance…

 

Performance

Benchmarks first! When tested with Antutu, the Poco F1 gets 293160 points. On Geekbench it scores 2396 points for the single core test and 8717 for multi core. Finally, on the Renderscript test inside Geekbench, it scores 13341 points. Getting such scores, it’s currently taking the 10th place on Antutu’s list of fastest phones with both the Samsung’s Note 9 and Google’s Pixel 3 XL scoring lower.

Benchmarks don’t always tell the full story, but this phone has just absurdly powerful hardware for it’s price. Of course, this means that it’s performance in day to day use is as smooth as you can get it nowadays. Games also have no issue running maxed out as the F1 doesn’t break a sweat handling them. Xiaomi chose maybe a bit overbearing name of “Master of speed” for this phone, but I can certainly see why. As benchmarks and real-life tests have proven, you’re not going to get much faster than this. Only thing left for Xiaomi to do is provide updates and optimize their software.

 

Screen

Of course, if you’re on a budget you’ll need to be cutting corners one way or the other. Instead of using an OLED panel. Xiaomi instead opted in for a regular IPS LCD screen for the F1. IPS panels don’t have burn in and can achieve better color accuracy at such a price point, but I think those factors take a second place to the benefits of OLED in smartphones. For what it is, the F1 still has a very respectable screen.

With a pretty wide notch at the top and all four corners rounded, this phone really does follow the design trends of today. I’m also happy to say that it has very good brightness levels with the minimum being pretty dark and the maximum being bright enough to easily be seen in the sunlight. The screen itself unfortunately has pretty non-standard aspect ratio of 18.7:9 but thankfully it keeps the resolution fairly reasonable given that it’s Full HD.

 

Cameras

If we take the worst phone camera and the best phone camera, the F1 would probably fall somewhere above the middle. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much so let’s take a look at the cameras themselves. There’s a relatively useless 12MP + 5MP dual camera setup on the back with the second camera being used only for depth detection and nothing else. On the front we have a 20MP selfie shooter which surely won’t deliver that amount of detail at night, but during the day you’ll get some exceptionally sharp selfie shots.

Thankfully, the portrait mode does depth detection admirably and with practically no edge-detection issues. The regular photos are also very good given that Xiaomi opted to use a pretty fine Sony sensor. Combined with their clever but light image processing, you can achieve some really good shots with great dynamic range. Even during the night, this camera manages to pull through and make some very reasonable photos.

Unfortunately, there’s no OIS so the video stabilization has to be done electronically. Still, don’t let that stop you – while the stabilization is pretty aggressive, it’s also very precise! During the day or in well lit areas, you can get some absurdly stable FullHD video. Switching over to 4K recording disables the stabilization so you must choose between shaky, sharp video or a stable video with a bit less resolution. Personally, I’d just stick with FullHD.

 

Audio Capabilities

Xiaomi thankfully kept the 3.5mm audio jack, but they added stereo speakers too! In the F1’s case, the earphone complements the bottom firing speaker in order to create a pretty good stereo experience without the use of headphones. The speaker itself isn’t anything to gawk at, but it’s pleasant to listen to, has no audible distortion even at highest volumes and it does get pretty loud! They’ve done a proper job on the speaker, but how is the headphone output?

The headphone output achieves even less interesting results seeing how it lacks power for large headphones and has a relatively poor stereo separation. The frequency response loses it’s linearity under load but the THD remains largely the same except for small changes in low frequencies. Xiaomi was never known for their sound quality, but even the cheaper Mi A1 achieved much better results.

 

Battery

In the sea of 3Ah phone batteries that have pretty much became a norm today, seeing a phone with an extra 1000mAh in there is really a positive change! The Pocophone F1 has exactly 4Ah of battery and anything less would be unsatisfactory given it’s very beefy chipset.

In the 15 minute Lab501 test at maximum brightness, the battery depleted by 4% and in the next 15 minutes that I played Fortnite, the battery level fell down by just 6%. If we extrapolate that information, we get around 4 hours of gameplay on a single full charge.

 

Additional features

While this phone doesn’t have some special features like an IR blaster or a heartbeat sensor, it does have the usual assortment of features. FM radio, for once, is enabled and can be used even without plugging in your headphones. It’s true, the reception is practically non existent without them, but unlike in most phones you can at least turn the radio on. There’s also a fingerprint reader on the back which is very fast and works without problems. The OTG functionality also doesn’t have problems powering on anything I plug into the phone’s USB port and the GPS is relatively quick to acquire my location.

 

Closure

Let’s not kid ourselves here, this phone is practically on top of the food chain in it’s price range. Xiaomi made sure to follow the trends and try to create a phone that’s appealing to people, but personally I think they could’ve made some better choices. For example, they probably should have sacrificed the notch, the dual camera setup and maybe even lower the amount of RAM in order to get an OLED screen in that budget. Not counting that, the F1 is obviously a spec-focused phone and if raw processing power is what you seek, then look no further. This phone is probably going to serve you for years to come since it’s specs future proof it pretty well.

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