After a very long hiatus, I finally have a new device in hand to review! I now have a permanent job which can support this (expensive) hobby of mine :)...
As you can see from the title, the item is the relatively old iOcean X7 Elite.
Released way back in September, it was only recently that I have enough money to spend on this gadget.
The specifications are as follows:
CPU: MediaTek MTK6589T Quad-Core Cortex A7 at 1.5GHz
GPU: PowerVR SGX 544 286MHz
OS: MIUI 3.11.1
Internal Memory: 1.59GB Apps, 28.75GB internal.
Screen Size: 5.0"
Screen Resolution: 1920x1080.
Webcam: 13.0MP Rear and 2MP Front.
Battery: 2000mAH Li-Ion.
So enough with the rambles, lets go hands-on!
The box itself it pretty bare but I kind of like the simplistic approach. Perhaps iOcean will move to greener options in the future? After all, for most of the users, the box is a one time affair. You open it and then you simply discard it so why not make it less environmentally-costly?
Once opened, you will find the phone itself, with the usual sets of chinese manual, a charger, battery, and a USB cable. Somehow the seller included a blue plastic cover and a screen cover as well.
So here is the phone. The front is basically one piece of glass forming the screen as well as three capacitive buttons which are annoyingly not backlit. They are also located way too close to the screen in my opinion causing me to repeatedly clicking home instead of space while typing.
There is only the power button on the right side. The buttons on this phone are responsive and gives enough feedback so generally using them feels satisfying.
On the top are the usual 3.5mm headphone jack, the speaker, the front camera and an LED light notification which can be configured to be blue, red or green according to the kind of notifications you have pending.
On the left side you have the volume control buttons.
There is only microUSB port at the bottom.
Finally, at the back there's the loudspeaker at the bottom, a 13MP rear camera and a single LED flash.
Generally I like the build quality. It does not inspire a high quality feeling like phones with a single unibody construction like the HTC one but is comparable to most phones currently on the market. Overall, I would say its comparable, if not better, than that of many Samsung phones.
Before continuing, I must confess that this is my first full HD phone but I have used HTC One as well as Samsung S4 before so I can roughly compare quality. And the conclusion? Its a damn good display. You think OGS is a gimmick? Well you are wrong. Seriously, the almost non-existing gap between the touch panel massively improve the usability in a lot of situations. For example, I find that the screen is easier to see under direct sunlight provided that you turned up the brightness all the way. Glare is also greatly reduced and the touch experience is just much better in general.
Colour is vibrant, viewing angle is excellent due to the IPS panel, white is pretty white and black is quite black. Obviously the black is not as deep as those AMOLED display but its good. The high PPI count makes browsing and viewing videos a pleasure. There is only one downside which is a pretty uneven backlighting particularly in the lower left area in my unit but its not that obvious and even then it is still a good panel!
Loudspeaker and Headphone Output
The phone only has one loudspeaker and if you ask me to describe it in one word, it would be 'meh'. I mean it is acceptable but with all the attention other manufacturers such as HTC and Nokia are giving to their loudspeaker's sonic quality, I was hoping for a lot more. Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic in the first place but really even if I have a low expectation to start with, I am pretty certain that I would still be disappointed.
The maximum volume is barely audible in a quiet small sized room. The output is generally clean, obviously lacking of any bass but the rest of the frequencies sounded pretty decent. If only its louder.... The location obviously does not help in anyway where you can almost block most of the sound simply by putting it on a sofa.
Fortunately, the headphone output is excellent! It has enough power to drive most consumer-grade headphones and it does so pretty well. The output sounds clean with no audible static noise even while charging. Its quite balanced but with a slight tendency to sound a little on the warm side but honestly I quite like this quality.
With the stock 2000mAH battery, I manage to survive one whole work day but would need to charge it once I get home. I get about 4 hours of screen time but I know that's a rather average figure and obviously there are other devices out there which can survive longer. Generally, the battery life is good but in no way impressive. You can always buy the official 3000mAH extended battery so you can get about 6 hours of screen time but I have yet to purchase it. A typical workload for me would be:
- Automatic brightness. I find this feature works quite well on this phone and that it suits my preference.
- Constant email syncing on both Wi-Fi and data.
- Send about 15 sms and make few minutes of phone calls.
I do not usually use the GPS so if you do then prepare for a massive battery drain and shorter battery life than this.
If you ask me what the achilles heel of this device, I would straight away answer that its definitely its radios. Although I have not found any other reviewers complain about this but somehow on my unit, both the cellular and WiFi suck. They are both always inconsistent, sometimes fast but most of the times would just stop transmitting data intermittently. I would be fine if the overall speed was lower as long as it remains stable. The WiFi range is also average and so is the network reception.
I am not sure if this can be fixed via software either as I have used both the stock firmware as well as few other custom ROMs and I did not find any noticeable difference between the radio performance. This is a bit of a surprise to me as the exterior of this phone are made entirely of plastic.
I do not use this feature often but for the sake of completeness, I tried using it a couple of times outside my house only to consistently find that it took forever (not literally) to lock but once it does, it will usually just continue to work. Sometimes it works better but I am guessing that's thanks to the clearer sky. If you absolutely need good GPS performance then unfortunately this is not for you. I tried enabling EPO in an effort to improve the performance but for me that did not help a bit.
Please note that I am using a custom ROM (MIUI 3.11.1) to run these benchmarks if you are using a different ROM then the result will most definitely be different. I have forgotten how it works with the stock firmware but you are almost always better off with custom firmwares anyway.
Using the MIUI ROM, I have to say the general performance is rather excellent! Navigating throughout the system feels smooth although not as smooth as those Snapdragon 800 phones but smooth enough. To be honest, I like the fact that Mediatek opted to use A7 instead of A15 cores although much of this would be due to cost constraint but the positive side effect for me would be a better thermal performance as well as battery life while still providing a good enough performance. Starting apps took some time and is not instantaneous but is never unacceptably long.
The phone only heats up during charging and if I were to heavily use the mobile data connection and maxed out the brightness. In any other situation, I honestly don't recall finding the phone to be uncomfortably hot and most of the time it remains cool even if you were to play games or surf the internet. Overall, I am satisfied with the performance of the SOC and the ROM. Good job Mediatek and whoever developed this ROM!
Since my day job now requires me to call people on a daily basis (I HATE DEALING WITH HUMANS), I think I can conclude that the call quality is very good. I have no idea how well the noise cancelling works (if any) but none of the people I called have any trouble understanding me and on the other side, I also have no trouble understanding them. The ear phone is appreciably loud, sometimes too loud that I have to lower the volume. All in all, this is a good phone to make a phone call with.
As I said before, the radios would have to be the weakest point of this phone but is still usable. Camera performance is sub-par but again sub-par. The loudspeaker, as always, is just too quiet. GPS is slow but that is common across MTK6589 phones so I am not too sure if iOcean is at fault. All that and the minor backlight bleed.
BUT on the positive side, it has a gorgeous screen! So good that I am willing to live with all the other downside. The headphone output is clean, uncoloured and have ample of power. Performance and battery life is more than acceptable. Although the camera is very average, the fast focusing action actually makes it useful in many conditions other than very low light conditions. Finally, the most important positive point in my opinion would be that there are enough ROM developers for this phone out there to ensure that we would at least see Android KitKat run on this phone although God knows how long that will take (I am feeling very optimistic lately).
Would I recommend this phone to everybody? Err, that would be a no. Would I recommend this to those trying to find a good budget full HD phone and willing to compromise by having to install custom ROMs and live with all the shortcomings? My answer would be a very enthusiastic yes.
You see, unlike my previous Freelander i20 where the kernel is so obviously flawed and is closed to the developers making it a horrible device to use most of the time, the iOcean X7 has no major fault that would prevent me from enjoying it. It is also backed by quite a few ROM developers so you actually have a choice in which stable ROM to use.
That does not sound like a conclusion but to be honest, I myself have not decided on what to think of this phone yet. I am sorry if the conclusion is not helpful so you would have to read all the wordy reviews and decide on your own!