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Featured Review: Elephone P5000 – Battery for Days

March 28, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Elephone is known in China for their affordable phones with lots of community support.  Elephone takes a slightly different look at Android from most Chinese manufacturers in that it provides users with a mostly stock experience with only a few tweaks here and there.  The Elephone P5000 is the company’s latest mid-ranger from the company that sports an absolutely massive battery along with a finger print scanner inside of its physical home button.  Are there enough things here to differentiate it from the crowd, or is this just yet another 200-something dollar phone from China?

Specs

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You’ll notice from the specs that this one falls right in line with almost everything else from China in this price range.  Like every phone out there in this price range there are some trade-offs depending on what the manufacturer thought was more important.  Elephone thought having a larger battery was more important than a faster processor versus others at this price point, and of course the display is a little smaller than others too which may or may not suit your tastes.  A point to note here is that the Elephone P5000 actually includes NFC; something almost no Chinese phones at this price level or otherwise include.

  • 5.0-inch 1080p IPS LCD Display
  • MediaTek MT6592 1.7GHz Octa-core Processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage, microSD card support
  • 5,350mAh battery
  • Android 4.4.2
  • 16MP rear-facing camera, LED flash
  • 8MP front-facing camera
  • 146mm tall x 73.6mm wide x 9.3mm thick
  • 206g
  • NFC

Display

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IPS panels are the most common type of display nowadays, and this is a pretty middle of the road IPS display too.  While it doesn’t look bad by any means it’s not going to raise any eyebrows when comparing it to other phones at the same price.  At 5-inches this 1080p display is pixel dense, ensuring that you’ll basically never see a pixel no matter how close you look.  Colors are accurate and don’t feel over saturated, and the balance between warm and cool is pretty even here delivering whites that actually feel white.  Contrast is good but fades along with colors if you view the screen at an angle, making viewing angles in general less than desirable but again not horrible.  There’s little latency here and ghosting is not noticeable in most scenarios.  One of the best things about this display may just be the brightness, which is viewable in even the brightest sunlight.

Hardware and Build

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The Elephone P5000 is a heavy phone.  At 206g you’re pretty much guaranteed to be amazed at how heavy the phone feels compared to most other smartphones out there.  Even something as large as the Nexus 6 doesn’t feel this heavy, and at 9.3mm thick for a 5-inch phone you’re going to feel the same way about the thickness too.  These two factors are all because Elephone has crammed an absolutely massive tablet-sized battery into what’s considered a smaller phone nowadays, leaving little room for components unless they fatten it up a bit.  It’s not so fat or heavy that it’s awkward though, and this definitely feels like a well built phone.  Behind the removable plate you’ll find the battery is not removable at all, but there are at least dual-SIM trays as well as a microSD card slot for expandable storage space.  The face of the phone features a physical home button with a finger print scanner inside, as well as two capacitive buttons flanking it on either side.

The build of the phone is all plastic, which you would expect at such a price range.  The sides of the phone feature a faux-metal matte finish plastic that goes all the way around the phone.  On the right side you’ll find the power button in the middle with the volume buttons above it, and up top sits the 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB charging port.  This is a great design because if you’ve ever found yourself listening to music and charging the phone at the same time you’ll know how annoying it is to have cords coming out of the top and bottom of the device.  The bottom of the phone carries a dual-speaker setup , and you’ll find the 16-megapixel camera on the back of the phone situated near the top left side.  The back of the phone is a soft-touch plastic, feeling more like a rubberized material that gives a little extra grip than shiny plastic would.

Performance and Memory

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Elephone chose a slightly slower MediaTek chip than Meizu did in its M1 Note, and the software as a whole feels slightly sluggish.  It’s not entirely clear if it’s the chipset that’s to blame or this particular skin of Android, but I’m feeling like it’s more down to this skin than anything else.  iOcean uses a similar looking skin in the iOcean Rock M6752 and even though that phone’s chipset is also more powerful it feels just as sluggish as this phone does.  It’s a shame too because this is a much more stock Android looking skin than usual running on top of Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, which shouldn’t be slow even on the lowest end of chipsets.  Gaming is just fine on the phone thankfully, so even brand new games like Gameloft’s Modern Combat 5 runs like a dream on the phone if touchscreen controls are something you like.

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Multi-tasking works just fine but it’s incredibly slow to use because there’s no dedicated Recents button.  In fact, what’s really interesting here is that unlike Xiaomi who uses a button that looks like the menu button but functions as a Recents button, Elephone does the exact opposite.  While the button to the left of the home button looks like a Recents button it functions as a menu button.  To make matters worse the home button doesn’t always respond like it should, and I found myself having to hold the button down more than a few seconds to get the Recents screen up, and there was more than a few times where I had to press the home button more than once to just get back to the home screen.  There’s definitely some weird performance issues here even with ART enabled instead of Dalvik, but ART was a definite improvement in my testing.

Battery Life

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Easily the biggest selling point of the phone, the battery life of the Elephone P5000 is absolutely epic.  The 5,350mAh battery is twice the size of most phones batteries nowadays, and having a lower mid-range chipset and a 5-inch 1080p screen only helps extend the battery life beyond what you would think.  To make things even better Elephone by default turns on a power saving function that keeps the CPU scaled at a lower level to help save battery as often as possible.  Standby is absolutely bonkers good, losing 1% over an 8 hour time of not using the phone at all.  This was with a SIM card in as well as my Google account logged in and all regular syncing going on.  Impressive doesn’t even cover how good the battery life was here, and while I was “only” able to squeeze two full days usage out of the phone it’s rated at 4 days for light users.

Phone Calls and Network

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In my testing I found zero issues on T-Mobile’s 3G HSPA+ network.  Voice quality was as good as it can be, and I had a consistent data connection throughout the day.  As usual with Chinese phones there seems to be a little bit of an issue with T-Mobile’s bands that aren’t present on AT&T, and I found myself on EDGE or GPRS more than once while using the phone in an area that normally has good 3G coverage.  On the bright side I didn’t get dropped calls even in areas where dropped calls are prevalent.  Dual-SIM support is here for those who need it, and there’s good controls over which SIM to send data, calls and texts through.

Software

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Elephone’s software is very much stock Android feeling, with a stock Android 4.4 KitKat lockscreen, a very stock feeling launcher and an all around stock Holo look.  Quick toggles haven’t been changed from their AOSP descendants, rather there have been a few added such as Cast Screen and Audio Profiles.  My biggest pet peeve with what’s been changed is that the notification shade isn’t accessible from the lock screen, and without proper lockscreen notifications as Android 5.0 Lollipop brings, this becomes very annoying very quickly.  Outside of a few small apps like compass, file manager and FM radio there’s almost no bloatware on the phone at all.  This keeps the fairly small internal memory clear of garbage and gives you an extra couple of gigs that many manufacturers don’t offer because of all the stuff usually included in a phone.

NFC is included which is a phenomenal change from the vast majority of Chinese phones out there.  NFC isn’t something you’ll use every day unless you use your phone for mobile payments, but even if you don’t you’ll find it invaluable for sharing local files with other Android users as well as pairing with supported Bluetooth speakers and other accessories easily and quickly.  Additional features included over stock Android are few but they are notable.  You can perform a number of gestures on the screen when the screen is off, such as double tapping the screen to wake the phone or drawing an M to launch the music app.  The problem with these is that the phone doesn’t use the proximity sensor to make sure it’s not in your pocket before these are drawn, meaning you’re going to have lots of accidental unlocks if you keep the phone in your pants pocket.

The finger print scanner is obviously a huge feature of the phone too, being advertised by Elephone in most of the ads you might see online.  Unfortunately for Elephone this is the type of fingerprint scanner that requires you to slide your finger down over the home button much like Samsung has on the Galaxy S5.  If you’ve ever used one of these you’ll know how truly inaccurate they are, often requiring multiple super-slow swipes to register anything.  This leads to a frustrating experience that’s really not worth using unless you’re super patient or just absolutely must have the extra security.  Obviously the security that’s provided by using a fingerprint rather than a PIN code is tenfold, and you should be able to use this with supported apps like Paypal when paying with the phone.

Anyone looking for more granular control over what permissions apps have and what information they are allowed access to will be very happy here.  The app permissions section of the phone will let you individually turn off permissions for apps, so if you don’t want an app looking at your contact list or accessing your location via GPS you can simply turn that permission off for that app.  There’s also an easy way to sort types of permissions so you can see exactly how many apps have access to each type of permission.  New apps or permissions that haven’t been used yet will pop up on the screen as an app requests it, and you can either allow or deny the request and set it as permanent if you don’t want to be asked again.  In addition to permissions there’s a built-in mobile anti-theft tool that’s found in settings.  This allows you to send SMS codes to the phone if it gets stolen to let you lock the screen or even wipe the phone.

Sound

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Another impressive part of the phone is the sound output from the dual-speaker setup found on the bottom.  These speakers are super loud, very clear and generally have good sound balance.  You’re not going to enjoy heavy bass or be able to play music at parties and be able to hear it, but for phone speakers these are absolutely better than average.  Using speakerphone in my truck on the highway was a better experience than even putting the earpiece up to my ear, which should say a lot about the volume and clarity.

The DAC on the phone is better than average too, delivering pretty good sound through a competent sound system.  Elephone includes some “enhancement” toggles found in sound options but I’m not sure how anyone could call this setting an enhancement.  It absolutely ruins the sound and makes it sound super tinny and compressed, so don’t use it whatever you do.  There is a built in equalizer that works well and provides plenty of customization and presets, and overall I was able to get some great sound out of the 3.5mm headset jack on the phone.

Camera

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As a 16-megapixel shooter you’d probably expect some of the best imaging around, but remember this is still a 200-something Dollar phone at the end of the day.  Overall the pictures aren’t bad by any means, and in good lighting you might actually be generally impressed with the results.  Closer inspection by zooming into pictures reveals decent levels of fine detail, but a sensor that produces a moderate level of noise coupled with heavy denoise filters don’t help things too much.  Overall results were more than acceptable and could even be considered good in many aspects.  The biggest hangup for me was color and white balance in the photos.  Half of the time I felt like the software would get the white balance just right, but other times it got it horribly wrong.  Pictures tend to be overly warm or have other strange color tints to them, but this is all down to the automatic white balance on the software.

The software itself is robust and features plenty of shooting modes and options for users to tweak.  HDR mode is generally pretty good but washes out details in super bright conditions when you would need HDR most in the first place.  I found it useful in some situations and useless in others, but in general it works much better than Meizu’s HDR mode for instance, which takes too long to take each exposure shot and ends up making a picture with lots of ghosting.  I didn’t find this issue here even in lower lighting conditions, although HDR makes the image a bit brighter than it probably should in these conditions, raising the noise level above the pleasant threshold.  Video is definitely a high point for the device, shooting clear 1080p video even in lower lighting.

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Conclusion

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Overall the Elephone P5000 is a great entry into the $200 price point for Android.  The phone is pretty quick, although there need to be some performance tweaks in a future software update to make things feel smoother overall.  The recents button needs to be changed to an actual recents button too, as holding the home button to multi-task is annoying and takes far too long.  The screen is average for a 1080p screen which means you’re going to get some great imaging overall with decent viewing angles and almost no ghosting.  Sound output was above average for this price range and the speakers on the phone itself were loud and clear unlike plenty of other phones out there.

Elephone’s 16-megapixel camera tends to produce some fairly average images, especially given the resolution of the shots, but the results are pretty ordinary in most cases.  If you’re looking for a more stock-type Android experience with an absolutely massive battery that’s going to last for days this might be a solid choice, otherwise I’d whole heartedly recommend Meizu’s M1 Note instead at this price point.  There’s always the possibility of getting an Android 5.1 Lollipop update from Elephone too, as they’re actively pursuing development of a ROM for all their MediaTek powered phones.  The drive for more stock Android, especially Lollipop, could make this a better buy for some than the Meizu M1 Note though.  If you’re interested check out our trusted supplier’s website for the white model or if you prefer how you see it in the review here’s the black model.