Elephone maybe a company that you are not overly familiar with, but the U Pro offers a lot for very little. However does that mean you should pick one up?
In the box
With the U Pro you get bundled
- A Type C USB cable
- Type C to 3.5mm adapter
- Sim eject tool
- AC power adapter (EU)
- Screen protector
- TPU case
- Quick start guide
The U Pro t comes with pretty much everything you need and a few nice extra touches. The inclusion of a case and screen protector is good and this just adds to the value proposition that Elephone are going for. So its off to a good start but can it keep that up?
Design, Build and In hand
- Dimensions: 154 x 72.5 x 8.4mm
- Weight: 166g
Like most modern phones the Elephone is a lovely blend of glass and metal. The front and back don glass with the front using a curved variant of Gorilla glass 5 like that found on the Galaxy series of phones. This adds a real premium feel and look to the £350 phone. It’s also sporting super thin bezels which is a staple of devices released this and last year. So overall its right on the money in terms of style.
On the front you’ll find the usual array of things. There’s selection of sensors, the metal covered earpiece, the front camera and LED notification light. At the bottom there is a really small chin, I like that they’ve kept things the same thickness (top/bottom) as this just makes the design look more coherent.
The body of the phone is all metal and again makes this feel like a much more costly phone. The sides are all Black and house the buttons and ports. Up top there is the sim tray, this is dual sim capable and can fit two nano sim cards or one nano sim and micro SD card. The bottom of the phone has the Type C port, single speaker and mic.
The left side is completely clear whilst the right houses the all metal power and volume buttons. The buttons feel great, they are nice and tactile with no wobble at all. You may however be wondering where the headphone jack is, well unfortunately there isn’t one. This is such a shame as there is plenty of room on the device and they could have easily had one installed.
Round the back there is more glass, this maybe something that you love or despise, but it’s here. Luckily it does come with a clear case, but if you want something a bit fancier you’d be hard pushed to find one from the main case makers. As for the quality I couldn’t confirm the grade of glass used on the back panel but I’m presuming its the same as on the front (don’t quote me on that though). Here you’ll also find the dual camera setup as well as the dual tone flash. Below the camera setup is the finger print reader, this is not flush with the back of the phone and has a slight lip to help make locating it that bit easier.
The in hand experience for me was not good. The U pro is very slippery without a case and it makes it feel a little insecure when in use. It’s also very tall too with its 18:9 form factor, this isn’t an issue when you have large hands, but with my average sized ones it’s a bit tricky to fully use the phone one-handed. The lofty aspect also makes it tricky to reach the top of the phone and you need to do some shuffling to reach the very top.
The curved edges don’t help either and it’s quite difficult to get a secure grip on it. It feels great and is quite comfortable, meaning the edges don’t dig into your hand, but its a little too tall and slippery to use one-handed making this more of a two-handed device for the average person. Yes you could use the included case which does help but it does detract from the premium feel. So I guess you’d have to take your pick of the situations.
Overall the U Pro is a very clean and stylish phone that fits in well with what is in fashion right now. The build is solid and feels like phones that cost twice as much. It’s not without its drawbacks, but in all fairness those won’t impact every user.
UI and Software
The U Pro is using Android 8.0 out of the box. The software was very much like stock Android until a recent update added some visual changes. Personally I’m not a fan of what they did and they should have kept it like stock Android. The changes weren’t overly drastic but some icons did change and I am not a fan of the design of them. But that is just a personal preference. You could always install a third-party launcher if you’re not happy with the visual changes.
There is also a theme store too. Again this is if you’re not happy with how the phone looks and you want a change. Unfortunately the choices are a bit limited but with Android there are plenty more to be had via the playstore.
The settings menu is very easy to use and to navigate. Its pretty full featured too and gives you access to pretty much everything you need. I like that they’ve kept it simple and not gone with an over complex layout, this makes it much easier to tweak your device as well as find out the important things you need to.
Some things I do like about the UI are the apps edge feature. This gives you a small toggle to quickly access a few select apps. This is great as you can add all your most used apps as well as contacts, calendar updates and so much more. I also like the split app feature that comes with Android 8.0. I’ve used it on other devices but the tall aspect ratio makes it so much more enjoyable and useful to use.
One more thing to add is if you an avid Twitch viewer the extra screen real estate is brilliant as you get the full video stream as well as the full chat. Compare that to a 16:9 phone where you get the full video with a chat overlay that blocks part of the stream. So if you consume a lot of Twitch, this could be ideal for you.
As a whole the software and UI experience has been solid, its fast, fluid and easy to use. If you’re not a fan of how it looks then you could always get a third-party launcher and customise it to how you’d prefer. Plus the bloatware is pretty much none existent minus a servicing, music player and messages app. But as is, its one of the nicer experiences from a Chinese OEM.
- Size: 5.99 inch
- Aspect ratio: 18:9
- Type: AMOLED
- Resolution: 2160 x 1080
- 403 PPI
- Colour gamut: 103%
- Glass: Gorilla glass 5
The screen, it’s very nice. I really like the way how it flows so nicely into the frame and the curve feels great.
However it does have a few problems. One of those is really quite noticeable. That would be the rather prominent Pink line down the right side of the screen. I’m not 100% sure why this has happened and so far my sample seems to be the only one impacted by this issue. I think it’s a possible hardware fault as this hit a few Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge devices when those came out. You can read that story here. But it looks like this has the same fault those did.
I also made a video on this problem if you would like to see it.
Another few issues with the phones display are the viewing angles and edges. The viewing angles are good but when you view the screen off axis the colour shift is pretty bad, the whites get very tinged and don’t look very nice at all. This is not even at extreme angles either as it starts to shift pretty early on and gradually get worse. The edges all have some issues too, touch response is great and I haven’t had any issues with that, it’s all about colour again. On occasion they can become a little dark and also tinged. It’s not hugely noticeable unless you’re looking for it, however it is more noticeable on White backgrounds for example the Twitter app.
Onto the more positives now and I do like the AMOLED screen, the colours are vibrant but not too over saturated and look visually appealing. Yes they aren’t the most colour accurate but they do look good. Colours really pop, Blacks are nice and inky, Whites are good but only if viewed straight on.
Text is nice and crisp, its clear and very easy to read and the extra real estate does help when viewing a Twitter timeline or a well optimised website. Viewing media on it is great too. In YouTube there is an option to view native media at 16:9 but this does leave some black bars, however you can pinch to zoom in the video and it fills the entire display. There is one small issue with that though as it does crop some of the video off. But a few creators are now starting to publish video in 21:9 and that content looks fantastic.
Video played back via Hardwarecanucks
The screen is very bright too even at around 50%. This means that you don’t have to crank it full to use it. Like mentioned 50% is great and ideal for use indoors, outside you can get away with around 70% unless you’re in direct sunlight. Another plus is that it doesn’t wash out and remains very vibrant even at 100%.
- CPU: Snapdragon 660 (Octa core, 14nm, up to 2.2GHz)
- GPU: Adreno 512
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128GB (expandable to 1TB via micro SD card)
Elephone haven’t exactly scrimped with the internals on the U Pro. The 660 is more than capable of producing some good speed combined with the GPU and large amount of RAM. This is what I experienced, the U Pro is fast, fluid and not bogged down by a heavy skin. Everyday tasks like web browsing, social media, navigating the UI, sending emails and pretty much everything in between is handled without fault. Plus its excellent RAM management means it can store a lot of apps in memory without having to constantly reload them, so if you’re a heavy multitasker you’re in luck.
Lets have a look at some numbers from the usual selection of benchmarks. First up is Antutu and delivered a score of 139,2897. Geekbench provided a single core score of 1621 and a multi of 5834. 3D mark was a little bit disappointing with only 1350 on Open GL and 1067 on Vulkan. I’m not sure why the scores or so low but I did run the test multiple times with these scores being the average. Next up and finally is PC mark where it scored a respectable 6028. So apart from the 3D mark scores, the U Pro does very well.
So how do those numbers translate, well I can watch Twitch and YouTube at the same time with no issues at all (if you really want to), but more than likely you’ll be watching a video whilst doing some web browsing or social media and it handled that with no issues either. It pretty much handled every game I threw at it with no problem and I can’t really fault the performance at all. I tried games like Asphalt 8 with high settings, Tekken, Marvels contest of champions, guns of boom, Star wars heroes and it handled them all without any frame drops, lag or any other performance issues at all. So if you like mobile gaming, this would be a good choice.
Gaming video demo.
Overall its fast, great for heavy use, great for gaming and does everything you need it to in a very timely manner.
- Capacity: 3550mAh
- Charging: QC3.0
- Wireless charging support
Battery life is often a bit of an issue with some phones, flagship and mid range devices are getting ever more powerful but battery capacities remain pretty much the same. Yes the new CPUs and GPUs are more power efficient, but they still could benefit from a larger capacity. The U Pro does stick around the average with 3550mAh on offer. This however is plenty to get you through a full days use and even through a day and a half with more moderate use.
The first day testing involved downloading all my apps, running a few benchmarks, gaming, social media, using the camera, web browsing, email and watching YouTube. This gave me 5 hours 54 minutes of screen on time (SOT) before it needed to charge. The screen was set to 50% brightness for this day.
The second testing day was under medium usage, this included some gaming, social media, media consumption (YouTube, Twitch) web browsing. The screen was set to 50% brightness. With this lighter use I managed to get 6 hours 33 minutes of SOT needing to charge. Speaking of charging, via my Anker Powerport 5 it took 1 hour 31 minutes to get from 15% to 100%. This is not the fastest on the market but it’s quite impressive.
Test day three was a bit more intense with more gaming, more video consumption and other general use. I set the screen to 75% for this one to see how much of an impact that would have and it turns out, not that much. I still managed 5 hours 46 minutes of SOT. I did also take the battery down to 10% which is past what the phone suggests and from that 10% it took 1 hour 40 minutes to charge to full.
After the testing phase I am still very impressed and with light general use I’m easily getting through the day with battery to spare, so it’s again an impressive performance from the U Pro.
- Rear camera: 13MP + 13MP (RGB & Mono) f/2.2
- Image size: 4160 x 3120
- Phase detect auto focus
- Dual LED flash
- Rear video: 4K DCI, 4K UHD, 1080p, 720p, VGA, CIF, QVGA
- High frame video: 60, 90, 120
- Front camera: 8MP f/2
- Image size: 3264 x 2448
- Screen flash fill
- Front video: 1080p, 720p, VGA, CIF, QVGA
- Rear/front: Image stabilization available (EIS)
The rear camera low light shots though are a mixed bag. They’re noisy, grainy and not overly impressive. The flash isn’t that good either as it creates a hot spot on the subject and doesn’t provide a wide fill leaving the background very noisy. It does improve the quality of the subject but again not that impressive. Using the flash wider with more distance from the subject does improve its effect but its still not that impressive.
Give the camera some more light and they do improve, there is still some noise but that is reduced and you also get a bump in quality as well with better detail and sharpness. There’s also a bokeh mode which artificially adds bokeh to the subject. This can be good but it does struggle with complex shapes.
There are also some more add on effects to play around with that add different finishes to your photos. These each have varying effects and again some look better than others. You’re probably not going to be using these all the time, but they are there if you want a bit of fun.
Outdoor the camera is mixed too, some shots look good and others tend to be under or over exposed. A fair amount have blown out highlights which leaves the subject properly exposed but the bright spots overly so. Some shots do look good and are nicely sharp, detailed, have good dynamic range and decent colour reproduction. Colour accuracy is not bad, photos tend to be a bit warmer than they were on the day which leaves them looking a bit yellow tinged. Colours do have decent amount of vibrancy and are fairly accurate.
Fine detail in the photos is passable, even at 13MP you wouldn’t want to crop in too much. Also I noticed a small problem, if you select the focus point the camera tends to blow out the background and leave the subject highly exposed, if you let the camera select focus it under exposes the image. I noticed this quite a lot and its worse with close up subjects.
Bokeh mode didn’t really have that much of an impact outdoors and the results were a little underwhelming. The shots indoors had a more defined blur whereas outdoors it was hard to tell the difference between shots from auto mode and bokeh mode.
The camera is capable in some situations but if you really want amazing photos all the time, this may not be what you’re after.
Video samples and tests.
The camera app is good but it does have a few low points. The plus points are that its easy to use, plenty of modes to choose from, access to a wide variety of settings and effects. Navigation is either based by swiping or be opting to select the various different options.
The low points are the lack of a dedicated manual mode, now this may not bother some but for the avid mobile photographer it might. However you can actually adjust ISO, exposure and white balance in the settings. I personally would have preferred a manual mode with focus control as that is not an option right now. Yes you do get to tweak the settings but having to dive into a settings menu every time you want to change something is a bit of a chore and having a full time manual mode would be a great improvement.
As is though the app is user friendly in auto mode, but if you want that extra control, you’ll be a bit disappointed.
As there is no headphone jack you’re pretty much left with either Bluetooth or using the adapter that comes bundled with it. The quality from the adapter is pretty good and you shouldn’t be disappointed by it. Its powerful and can easily drive hard to run headphones. It gets loud and has good detail and bass reproduction. It is a little inconvenient not having the 3.5mm jack but with how good Bluetooth headphones are getting, its not a huge deal breaker.
The speaker is mono and gets very loud with minimal distortion. Its really clear and has a bit of depth to it. Its not the speaker speaker out there but it is better than that found on my G6. Only problem is its placement is a bit easy to cover up when viewing media or gaming in landscape mode.
Check out the audio speaker test.
Other features and Usability
- Cellular: GSM/WCDMA/TD-SCDMA/CDMA/LTE
- GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8 (1900/1800/850/900)
- WLAN: 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4GHz/5GHz
- GPS: Support
- NFC: Support
- Bluetooth Version: BT5.0
- OTG: Support
Using the phone daily has been great and its really daily driver material. Like mentioned its fast, fluid and does everything you could possibly need. It does (like every phone) have its drawbacks. The finger print reader I’ve found isn’t 100% accurate and works around 90% of the time, it is quick though and it unlocks your phone very fast. I’ve had no issues issues with the WiFi whether its running on 2.4GHz or 5GHz. Its solid, stable and fast. Its the same for Bluetooth. Again I’ve had no issue with it at all and its use has been without fault. This is important as without the headphone jack you may need to consider a set of Bluetooth headphones or earphones.
So is U Pro a good phone? Yes. Should you pick one up? Maybe. It all depends. If you don’t have the budget the stretch to a flagship device and want a phone that will perform on par, this is worth a look. Its just as nice looking as any other flagship phone, its just as well made, its fast, has a good display (minus the few minor issues), has great battery life and an almost stock UI.
It’s not without fault though. The camera is a mixed bag and often under performs, the audio in video is not great at all, the missing headphone jack is a negative too as it could have easily had one and it does have a few small problems with the display.
But for £350 it’s a great phone that does a lot of things right and it should be a serious contender if you can live with its shortcomings.
Pick one up here via Gearbest