Budget Chinese handsets have been flooding the market for years, but over the past 12 months we’ve been seeing some real quality Chinese handsets hit the streets. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the Ulefone Be Pro, a 5.5 inch Android smartphone running a quad-core MT6732 processor, alongside LTE speeds and dual SIM capabilities. The Be Pro is no typical $160 Chinese handset, let’s get into why.
Hardware – When Mid-Range Becomes Good Enough
What we have here is solid mid-range specifications with average materials, which comes together in a surprisingly pleasant package. It sports a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1280x720p and a quad-core Mediatek MT6732 processor with 64-bit architecture (which also means it comes with LTE). Under the hood we can find 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage (which is expandable with a Micro SD card slot) and dual-SIM capabilities. The camera happens to be half decent, which is usually not the case for devices at this price point. However, this 8 MP sensor doesn’t disappoint. The Be Pro is a little long. Its dimensions dial in at 157 x 77.8 x 8.8 mm, and it weighs 160 grams.
It has a spec sheet that doesn’t turn heads, but when you do have it in hand it doesn’t feel that bad. It does creek a little if you grip it tightly, though. I wouldn’t say it has a premium construction, but when I checked the price point, I was actually shocked. It has a sleek, simple design that doesn’t scream budget. In fact, its simplicity actually adds to the appeal (we’ll get more into that in the Software section).
Design – A Little OnePlus One Never Hurt Anyone
There is no doubt that the Ulefone Be Pro takes some of its design notes from the Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One. It has the silver, faux aluminum band around what looks very similar to a floating display. The back cover pops off, dislaying the 2600 mAh battery, dual-SIM slots and MicroSD card slot.
I do have some concerns about the quality of the finish. I have been using this as my dedicated handset for a week now (totally loving it, by the way) and the top-right corner is showing some signs of wear. This isn’t a good sign for the longevity of the product and its aesthetics.
My hands are not huge, but for a girl they really aren’t tiny, either. I think the power button on the right side is great, but it could be a little high for those without longer fingers. If you’ve got small hands and expect to use this with with one hand… forget it. I can barely do it, and reaching the far side of the device is a stretch.
I also found the hardware buttons at the bottom add to the length. Personally, I don’t have a preference between software or hardware buttons, but in this case I do wish they had gone with software if that meant shortening the device. The top and bottom bezels are just way too large.
Display -No complaints Here
At 5.5 inches and with a resolution of 1280x720p, the display has a ppi of 267. This means the screen won’t consume too much power. I’ll gladly take killer battery life over being able to show some screen porn to your friends (LG G3 and iPhone users do it all the time).
The display is decently bright. On average, I kept it at about 40%. I found myself squinting and turning down the brightness during my morning and night time phone sessions. I opted to not use the auto brightness, though the day I used it I thought it worked fine. Outdoor viewing was acceptable, although at 40% I did have to go in a few times and hit auto brightness to see what was going on.
On budget handsets, displays tend to be where you can start to get a sense of the price of the device. The Ulefone Be Pro had me thinking I was looking at something more akin to $250. These usually have a washed out effect you tend to see while testing viewing angles. Either that or they have horrible viewing angles. The Be Pro has neither. It’s bright, vibrant and offers insane color fidelity. For an IPS panel the whites are very white and blacks are impressively deep.
Sound – Loud Enough To Get Ready to in the Morning
I was surprised at how loud the single speaker was. If I was getting ready in the morning, I actually ran to check to make sure my roommates door was closed… so concerned was I that I would wake her with my loud music! That says something about the volume it’s able to push. If you take the back cover off when you’re playing music there is a small mesh that you can actually feel vibrating. The sound quality isn’t that of the HTC One M8, but it’s clear and not distorted.
Performance – Quad Core 64 Bit Architecture in the House
Even if the processor is well positioned, what always matters to me most is whether it lags during day-to-day operations or not. Thankfully, it doesn’t. I think this is because of a few different reasons. I have seen the MediaTek MTK6732 stutter in other handsets, but what we’ve got here is a near-stock build of Android.
It’s so vanilla that there is nothing in the way of smooth performance. No crappy customized version of Android slowing things down. We do also have to give MediaTek some props for the MTK6732, which has 4 A53 cores clocked at 1.5 GHz and paired with 2 GB of RAM. If you’re into gaming, you’ll be able to get by, as the Mali T760 is no slouch… it won’t be winning any benchmark battles, though.
Ulefone Be Pro (MediaTek MTK6732) Comparison Benchmark
|Snapdragon 400 (Xperia C3)||Snapdragon 801 (Xperia Z2)||Intel Atom Z2580 (ZenFone 6)||MediaTek MTK6732|
|3DMark – Ice Storm||4657||18753||8041||4976|
We’ve got a bunch of benchmarks in here if you wanted to really get your geek on:
Camera – Great for a $160 Smartphone
The camera is a hit or miss, but it can perform. You just need to take the time to set up your shots. I can also say this about every flagship smartphone currently on the market.
It actually comes with an 8 MP OV sensor on the rear. There was some scandal about this, as apparently Ulefone lied that they’d put in a 20.7 MP Sony Exmor sensor. Honestly, it’s all about the software processing, not the MP count. The Lumia 930’s camera was significantly better after the Denim update. Likewise, Ulefone is doing a decent job and I hope that they will only get better.
Battery Life – Solid All Day Battery Life for a Moderate/Heavy User
This is what has kept me from switching back to my daily drivers (the Xperia Z3 and Lumia 930). The Be Pro gives me real all-day battery life experience. I can get 30 hours if I use it lightly. If I’m going out to meet friends for the night and have 35% battery left, I know I’ll be able to get through the night. And that means checking WhatsApp, taking a few photos and checking in… possibly even a 30 second phone call or two. I might run out in the cab ride home. That is if I’m getting home around 2 am… if it’s an 11 pm good-girl night out I can obsessively check Facebook on the way home.
What I found about my usage is that I don’t feel the need to plug it in at night. I’ll sort it out later, maybe when i get to work. This is something that I honestly have never experienced in a $160 budget Chinese handset.
I’ve got a bunch of screen shots showing the battery drain, however, there is a definite issue in the software. They’ve mislabeled a connection or two. It’s not possible that mobile standby and phone idle are consuming that much power, but as you can see I did get 1 day and 7 hours. And you know I use my phone. I listen to music at least an hour a day. I also check my email and catch up on news in bed for at least 30 minutes every morning. And I am not mentioning my many 5-15 minute phone session I’ll have throughout the day.
Software – Very Vanilla Android
Part of the reason that Nexus devices are so popular is that they deliver Android without any of the extras. Some manufacturer skins are great – whenever I leave a Sony handset I miss that when I plug in my headset the music player auto launches. But a lot of these features you can recreate with apps from the Google Play Store. There’s not many add-ons and so few apps come pre-installed. You even have to go download the Google suite if you want it. It doesn’t come with YouTube or Google+, though Maps and Gmail are included.
There are a few extras, including Cast Screen, which allows you to throw content from your phone to a nearby device (it has to be enabled and compatible). HotKnot allows for transferring information to another device when you touch displays. It must work on gesture or NFC; I didn’t take the time to install it on another device to test it. It’s not really something that I would find useful in my daily life. Gestures are included as well – moving your hand from left to right in front of the galley will take you to the next photo, or to the next song in the media player.
Is it going to get Lollipop?!
Now, this is something that I usually can’t say about Chinese phone makers, Ulefone is among the first of the Shenzhen manufacturers to show Lollipop working on their devices, and they’re planning on updating the Be Pro. This is a huge bonus, because usually smartphones at this price point never see any updates at all.
Price – Can’t be Beat at $160
This is one of the first times I’ve reviewed a budget Chinese handset that had great battery life. You can pick it up at Gear Best for $170. Amazon has it going for a little bit more, but you may trust it more, too. .
So if Amazon is your purchasing platform of choice, is this handset worth $200? I would say yes. It has a decent enough camera, great battery life and clean software that’s going to be updated.
The Verdict – Worth Every Penny
For the first time in a long time I can say that a budget Chinese phone doesn’t have all the typical shortcomings. In such devices, battery life is weak, the camera is pretty much unusable and build quality very questionable…. Actually, I do have some concerns about the overall build since the finish is already fading on the top right corner after only 2 weeks of use, but if you can find a case for it you’ll be smiling.
You won’t be winning any spec wars with this handset – the camera is only 8 MP and the display only 720p. The processor has 4 cores and 64-bit technology with LTE, but while offering very decent performance, it isn’t going to satisfy a gamer. In fact, gaming is going to suck up your battery life rather quickly.
Other issues are nothing but tiny glitches. For example, I couldn’t get the OTG working, but there aren’t that many people that are going to want on the use USB with their handset. Honestly, this list is pretty small considering how many things could go wrong with a phone.
If you’re looking for a phone that is quick, with good battery and is reliable… look no further. I would even consider making this my daily driver. I won’t, but I took a week longer to write this review because I didn’t need to push this out so I could go back to a true flagship device. If that doesn’t convince you, I’m not really sure what would.
Here is my 15 second Instragram Review video in case you really can’t be bothered to read the review: