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Featured Review: Verykool Cyprus S6001

April 21, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Big screens are still a pretty important thing to many users, including the ones that don’t want to spend $600 or more on a new phone.  While the boundaries of displays have been stretched to their limits it seems that most users are most comfortable with screens between 5 and 6 inches, providing plenty of space to work with, without being too big to actually use as a daily phone.  The Verykool Cyprus S6001 fits the category of large phones with its 6-inch display and is also super affordable, coming in at $199 unlocked.  Verykool is the brand name used by InfoSonics, a San Diego-based company that operates in the US and builds its phones in China.  Is a 6-inch screen enough of a differentiation for the Cyprus to stand out from the pack of cheap Chinese phones, or does it fall flat on its face?  Let’s find out.

Specs

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$199 is becoming a more common price with phones nowadays, and it often includes components that perform just well enough to get you through every day tasks.  $200 isn’t exactly a lot of room to work in while manufacturing a phone and making money as a company at the same time, so there are certainly some concessions that have to be made, especially when a 6-inch screen is a phone’s selling point.  Let’s take a look at the rundown of all the specs onboard the Verykool Cyprus S6001.

  • 5.5-inch 720p IPS Display
  • MediaTek MT6582M 1.3GHz Quad-core Processor
  • Mali-400 MP2 GPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB internal storage, microSD card support
  • 2,300mAh battery
  • Android 4.4.2
  • 13MP rear-facing camera, LED flash
  • 3.1MP front-facing camera
  • 166mm tall x 85mm wide x 8mm thick
  • 200g

Display

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Cheap displays are a dime a dozen, and so are large displays.  The one included on the Cyprus S6001 fits in both of these categories, fitting a 720p HD resolution within a 6-inch IPS panel for your viewing pleasure.  It’s not the most high resolution display around by any means but it’s not offensive either, delivering images that are soft but ultimately not bad.  Colors are good, delivering realistic colors that aren’t oversaturated or overly skewed to warm or cool either.  Contrast and black levels are on par with other LCD IPS panels in this price range and exhibit a fair amount of light bleed when held to an angle.  Viewing angles as such lose a good bit of black levels when held to the side but colors stay consistent and true.  Ghosting is likely the biggest offender outside of the resolution, producing obvious trails around any high contrast object found on screen.

The digitizer in general is excellent, exhibiting none of the issues we’ve seen with some other cheaper phones.  This means multi-touch works like it should and you won’t be getting frustrated over weird ghost swipes and other problems like that when typing.  Nothing is more frustrating than using a phone with a bad digitizer, and thankfully this is not an area where InfoSonics skimped to save a dime.

Hardware and Build

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Arguably the nicest part of the phone, the build quality of the Verykool Cyprus S6001 is absolutely the best I’ve seen in this price range.  Not only does the phone have a nice weight to it but it feels very solidly built, and it’s super thin too.  8mm is thinner than most phones out there, and with a 6-inch screen the feeling of being thin is even more exaggerated.  It’s an all plastic build, which is no surprise given the price tag of the phone, but it doesn’t feel like the usual cheap phone plastic at all.  The back of the phone carries a very interesting texture that feels more akin to fabric than plastic, with a latticework of ribbed edges to make it feel more like fancy denim than anything.  The actual look of the phone is elegant too, as the gold color I was sent for the review suggests.  It’s even got a nice little sheen that feels wholly unique to metal or another more premium feeling material.

For button configuration we’ve got a power button on the left side and a volume rocker on the right, the opposite of most phones out there.  This threw me off a bit when using the phone but it’s just a small change that takes a little bit of time to get used to, nothing drastic.  Up top are both the microUSB ports and 3.5mm headset jack, which is a convenience when you have to both charge and listen to music at the same time.  On the back you’ll find the 13mp camera with single-LED flash situated near the top left as well as a single speaker near the bottom left.  On the front is a unique looking speaker grill up top and 3 capacitive keys on bottom: menu, home and back.  The bezel is fairly sizable on this phone unfortunately, making the phone slightly larger than it probably needs to be, and make no mistake about it this is a very large phone no matter how you cut it.  Be ready for plenty of juggling and difficulty using it with one hand no matter how you hold it.

Performance and Memory

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Right after the best feature of the phone unfortunately comes its worst, and this is probably the worst place to skimp next to the digitizer.  MediaTek is best known for their budget chipsets, and sometimes those chipsets can be a little too under powered for their task.  This is the case with the Verykool Cyprus and it makes the phone feel slow no matter what you’re doing.  Apps take seconds to come up, menus and the multi-tasking menu feel like they take ages to appear, and everything is just generally slow.  This feels more like an old Android phone from 2010 rather than a quad-core model launched in February 2015.  This sort of performance isn’t something to take lightly and it’s an unfortunate black mark on a phone that otherwise feels fantastic in the hand.

Games ran OK on the phone, and as long as an engine is able to scale down you likely won’t have a problem running something.  The screen is only 720p so resolution certainly helps with performance, but having a GPU from 2012 means that things are still going to perform at 2012 levels no matter what you do.  Multi-tasking was OK at best because it’s hampered not only by the fact that users need to long-press on the home button to pull up the multi-tasking Recents screen, but also because there’s only 1GB of RAM.  This would of course be worse if the resolution of the screen was higher but even so, 1GB isn’t exactly a lot of RAM nowadays.  This manifests itself most when switching between apps, forcing apps to constantly reload since they were pushed out of memory after switching to another app.  This doesn’t happen all the time as not all apps are the same size, but bigger ones like Chrome with multiple tabs open will be forced out more often than desired.

Battery Life

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2,300mAh isn’t exactly big for any phone, much less one this size.  I’m not entirely sure why InfoSonics only packed this size battery inside such a large phone but it wasn’t the best decision in the world.  As such the battery life is less than stellar and will require some charging mid-day if you’re planning on using this heavily.  Standby is at least superb and will keep the phone from dropping battery for hours when not in use, so if this phone is going to be sitting in a pocket, bag or desk for most of the day you won’t have to worry about it draining by itself as some phones do.

Phone Calls and Network

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Call quality was as good as regular cell network calls get, with good clarity from the speaker and good overall volume.  I received no dropped calls in my duration of testing the phone and was generally impressed with the reception.  The Verykool Cyprus S6001 supports up to 3G HSPA+ and worked flawlessly on T-Mobile’s HSPA network.  This means a normal maximum download speed of 20mbps and an upload speed of 3mbps on a good day.  HSPA is primarily slow because of its low latency, not its speeds, so websites and other network traffic take a little longer to respond, but once the download gets going you’ll likely have no complaints.

Software

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Verykool has kept the software light, which is a good thing given the relatively low horsepower under the hood.  That’s not to say there aren’t any extra features added here over stock Android as the phone might suggest upon initial inspection.  The look and feel of the overall OS is stock KitKat with some minor modifications, all feature and none visual thankfully.  That means the interface eschews Holo design language as Google intended it and doesn’t feel cluttered, although it’s not nearly as smooth or pretty as Android 5.0 Lollipop.  Little added extras like the ability to cast your screen from the notification shade are a great convenience, although not having Do Not Disturb mode gets annoying at night and during times when you don’t want the phone to make noise.

Moving into the settings menu you’ll find the first added feature over stock Android to be something called Gesture Sensing.  This is similar to what Samsung launched with the Galaxy S4 and uses a sensor positioned near the top of the screen to sense hand waving over the device.  There’s all sorts of gestures that can be done here including taking a picture in the camera, making a call by placing the phone next to your face when in the messaging app, and sillier things like moving through the picture gallery with the wave of your hand.  Most of these are superfluous but are nice in some situations, and it didn’t seem to drain the battery leaving the feature on at all.

Next is a feature called Smart Wake which allows users to draw different shapes on the screen while it’s off to automatically unlock the phone and launch a specified app.  The most basic of these commands is double tap to wake the screen, which has become a popular feature on many phones nowadays.  The biggest problem here is that the phone doesn’t use the proximity sensor to sense if its inside of a pocket or other place where it can be dangerous to unlock the phone.  As a result you’ll like end up pocket dialing and doing who knows what unknowingly with this feature on, so just turn it off if you ever experience these issues.  The other gestures are much harder to accidentally pull off so they’ll work just fine.

There’s also an option to schedule the device to power on and off by itself, sort of mitigating the lack of a do not disturb mode in a way.  Obviously this keeps the phone from receiving calls in case of emergency but it also keeps the phone from having unnecessary battery drain while sleeping for instance, waking up whenever you need it.  Verykool has really only added a few extra apps that are all useful, as well as including their own app that features things like a news feed, blog, recommended downloads and promos.  It’s not a bad app and includes download links to some pretty decent wallpapers, but it’s a forgettable app for the most part.  Having little bloat is great since there’s little room to store anything on the phone in the first place.

Sound

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There’s plenty of different ways to get sound from your phone, from the physical speaker on the device to the 3.5mm headset jack up top, and of course through Bluetooth as well.  But not all sound output is created the same, and it has a lot to do with the chips inside the phone and how the reproduce that sound moving from the digital nature of the chips to the analog nature of audio.  Verykool has equipped the Cyprus with a good digital to analog converter, or DAC for short, and as such it reproduces some fantastic sound, especially for a device in this price range.  Some phones in this price range or cheaper tend to produce muddy audio no matter what a user tries to equalize the output to, but the Cyprus S6001 didn’t need much tweaking when using the 3.5mm headset jack for the audio system in my truck.

The speaker on the unit is a different story, but not necessarily in a way that’s expected.  The actual quality of the audio coming from the speaker was great, from good quality calls to music from games I was generally impressed with the tiny speaker’s output.  The problem here is volume and that it just isn’t loud enough for almost anything outside of a quiet room.  Loudspeaker was impossible to hear in the car for phone calls, and in general this speaker could use a serious volume boost in a future software update for sure.

Camera

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For the price range this camera really isn’t too bad at all.  Often times when a phone goes under a certain price range the first things to get cut are the display and the camera sensor, and while this isn’t anywhere near the performance of phones like the Meizu M1 Note or the Elephone P5000 it’s also a less expensive phone.  It’s definitely better than the camera on phones in the $150 or less price range and that’s great to see since it’s going to be a sliding scale based on price.  What you’re going to get with the Verykool Cyprus S6001 is a decent camera that fares well in any lighting condition, and while it’ll deliver a clear picture that looks good enough on the phone’s screen or even a larger screen zooming in will reveal very little additional detail.  On the bright side it’s a solid performer even in low light, with a fast shutter, low amounts of noise and overall good light balance.

As is common with many smartphones the bias is almost always towards overexposing the picture in general, and this can always be helped by touching a place on the screen that’s a little brighter so as to bring the overall exposure of the scene down.  HDR mode is a mixed bag and helps in some areas while it’s really detrimental to picture quality in others.  Thankfully it saves a copy of a non-HDR photo at the same time as the HDR photo, although it takes several seconds to process the photo in the first place.  Auto mode is the best way to go when needing fast photography, and there’s a slew of options found within the camera to satiate your need for tweaking the image a bit.  Video is also good and considerably better than many phones in the price range, delivering a clear image that looks somewhere in between a 480p and 720p image in terms of sheer detail and quality.  Auto focus in video mode seemed to have difficulty and I found myself constantly having to readjust the focus by pressing on the screen.  Check out the image samples below for your own conclusions.

Conclusion

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The Verykool Cyprus S6001 isn’t a bad phone for $200, and it’s one of the few cheaper Chinese manufactured phones that’s sold by a distributor in the United States.  It’s also designed for US carrier spectrum unlike most Chinese phones we review, and the few extra services provided on the phone are all meant to be used in the US.  The build quality is absolutely top notch and eclipses even that of phones almost twice its price at times, but the performance of the device really keeps it from being a must-have for the price range.  There’s just too many other Chinese phones out there that offer considerably better performance for the same price and unfortunately Verykool seems to have prioritized build quality and screen size over performance, drastically cutting down on enjoyment for the device.  On the bright side the camera is definitely a notch better than other phones at this price range or cheaper, and the sound quality that comes from the phone’s 3.5mm headset jack is absolutely superb.  While this will certainly do everything you need it to do in a day you’re likely going to need some patience unless a significant update is rolled out that can address the performance issues, and unfortunately that’s what drags down the device the most.