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Featured Review: Elephone P7000

June 30, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Elephone is one of the many up-and-coming brands out of China, developing phones with unique features and looks that rival the bigger guys by offering similar experiences for a fraction of the price.  Having just launched its newest phone, the P7000, Elephone sent us one to keep people up to date on what they’re developing and how they’re products are coming along.  We’ve already reviewed a couple of Elephone’s devices, namely the P5000 and the ultra affordable G1, and both pass the test of worthy competitors. Speaking of Elephone’s devices, if you’d like to purchase one, visit this link which will take you to the list of resellers with whom this company partnered up with.  That being said, Elephone’s P7000 is the newest in the lineup of mid-range phones from the company and features some unique aspects and an elegant build.  Let’s take a look at this $230 phone and see what makes up its experience.

Specs

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$230 is right in the middle of the mid-range segment, and gives us an idea that this phone could offer in terms of value and performance.

  • 5.5-inch 1080p IPS Display
  • MediaTek MT6752 64-bit 1.7GHz Octa-Core Processor
  • Mali T760 GPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage, microSD card support
  • 3,450mAh battery
  • Android 5.0.2
  • 13MP rear-facing camera (Sony Exmor IMX214) , LED flash
  • 5MP front-facing camera
  • TouchID Fingerprint Scanner
  • 155mm tall x 74.7mm wide x 9.3mm thick
  • 160g

Display

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1080p displays have become more common than not on modern smartphones, and seeing this trend continue down to the mid-range and entry-level markets at times is excellent.  At 400 pixels-per-inch this display looks excellent and clear and features an RGB stripe pattern to keep the clarity and effective resolution as high as possible.  Black levels are slightly above average for a cheaper LCDas black images are actually just very dark grays.  This isn’t a problem though when using the display in normal circumstances and generally isn’t noticeable unless comparing with other displays.  Viewing angles are fantastic and light bleed from the edges, color changing or black level reduction at an angle isn’t noticeable at all no matter the angle.

Colors as a whole are fantastic and realistic, not too over-saturated although bright colors tend to have a slightly unnatural look about them.  The build-in messaging app in particular uses a sort of neon green that pushes this a bit but most apps don’t use quite this bright of a color.  The digitizer is excellent and registers multiple touches and fast typing with accuracy that’s not always seen in less expensive phones.  I never once had an issue typing with Fleksy, which is a keyboard that relies on accurate gestures and handles quick typing well.

Hardware and Build

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Elephone is clearly going for a more elegant look here than it did with its more utilitarian looking P5000.  The unit I received is the gold colored one which features a brushed metal looking plastic back with actual brushed metal flat sides.  This brushed metal frame continues uniformly around the body of the phone, only interrupted by small volume and power buttons and the occasional port or antenna.  On the top you’ll find the 3.5mm headset jack along with the microUSB slot for convenience, especially when needing to charge the device while listening to music.  The volume rocker is situated on the left side while the power button is on the right, a standard configuration that’s sure to please plenty of people.  These buttons are metal as well and feature the same brushed metal pattern as on the sides.

At the bottom is a dual-speaker setup with holes not unlike the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6 or any number of Meizu’s phones.  The brushed metal pattern on the back helps keep the look of the device uniform and definitely eschews elegance in design.  Situated at the top in the aligned to the middle of the phone is the circular camera sensor, to its left a single LED and below the camera a round finger print scanner.  This finger print scanner is recessed into the body and makes it easy to find without smudging up the camera lens in the process.  The weight of the device also helps lend a more luxurious feel to the build, as it’s got some nice weight to it but it’s not too heavy, making the metal frame feel actually metal and heavy.

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The face of the phone could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 6 Plus at first glance, but further examination reveals the differences.  The single visible button is the rounded-square capacitive home button that lights up green when pressed.  The light can be changed to any one of seven pre-defined colors and can be used as a notification light for calls, messages and other notifications.  A back button is to the right while a menu button is to the left, but these are completely invisible no matter what you do; there’s no shape or light to denote there are actually buttons here.  There’s also a rather thick bezel around the screen itself that’s recessed under the glass, giving the illusion that the bezels around the screen are smaller than they actually are.

Performance and Memory

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MediaTek’s newest lineup of 64-bit octa-core processors continue to impress no matter what device they power.  Many times MediaTek’s processors are inside phones with only 720p screens, making it considerably easier on the processor and effectively artificially inflating scores when compared to phones like the Nexus 6 or Galaxy S6 who are pushing four times the resolution of those phones.  1080p is 50% more pixels than 720p though and even with the jump the MT6752 still impresses with high scores in every benchmark we normally run for reviews, and of course the all-important daily usage too. Memory speeds are off the charts fast and are significantly faster than anything I think I’ve ever seen in this price range.  As you can see from the memory test below the speeds average well above 200MB/s and even pushes near 300MB/s for reading speeds.  This results in snappy overall performance that you would expect from a modern phone but not necessarily one that’s this inexpensive.

Every app and game thrown at the phone runs like a dream, with no frame drops between animations and a consistently high framerate in every game.  The only strange thing is the UI, which at times tends to drop frames even when just pulling down the notification shade.  This is likely just a bit of optimization that needs to be done and should be ironed out in an update.  Multi-tasking in its raw form is fantastic, with 3GB of RAM and a very stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop helping keep the load light no matter what apps are used.  Pulling up apps from the Overview multi-tasking screen is lightning fast and redraws or reloading of pages in the browser was seldom seen, if ever.  The biggest problem is just getting to the screen, which takes a press and hold on the home button to pull up.  This antiquated way of multi-tasking was done away with in stock Android years ago for a reason, replaced by a dedicated Overview button over the years that some manufacturers don’t seem to want to adopt.  It’s a shame too because the useless menu button cannot be remaped to an Overview one, which would have helped considerably here.

Battery Life

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Big screens need big batteries and Elephone has delivered here.  Many 5.5-inch phones have a 3,000mAh battery or so which makes this about 10% larger than those, a choice that could make all the difference in the world by the end of the day.  MediaTek’s processors have a pedigree for having great battery life and that’s definitely the case here, as the phone doesn’t just offer plenty of performance but great battery life too.  In fact I was able to eek well over 5 hours of screen-on time with the Elephone P7000, a feat that I normally can’t pull off with many smartphones.  Running Futuremark’s PCMark battery life test backed this up and said I should be getting even more out of it, well over 6 hours of screen-on time, but of course that’s going to depend on your usage.  I stream a lot of music over Bluetooth throughout the day so my screen-on time isn’t always representative of everyone else’s battery life results.

Phone Calls and Network

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There are plenty of Chinese phones out there that don’t play nice with T-Mobile’s US network because of the bands supported, but thankfully the Elephone P7000 wasn’t one of them.  Supporting up to T-Mobile’s 3G HSPA network means that you’ll have plenty of network speed for everything you’re looking to do including streaming music and video without problems.  The same would hold true of any other GSM carrier in the US such as AT&T or any MVNO like StraightTalk or Cricket too since they should be among the supported bands, but always be sure to check with your carrier before purchasing any non carrier-branded phone of course.  Call quality was as good as I can imagine on a non-HD Voice call, and MMS and data worked great in my testing.  Check below for the full list of supported bands.

2g – 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz

3G – 850, 900, 1900, 2100MHz

FDD-LTE – 800, 1800, 2100, 2600MHz

Software

UI and Apps

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Elephone is one of the Chinese manufacturers out there that doesn’t like to mess with stock Android, and that’s truly a fantastic thing given the massive overhaul Google and the Android team have given Android starting with 5.0 Lollipop.  Everything in the UI remains visually untouched from Google’s vision, including the overall theme and color scheme of the UI.  This includes lockscreen notificatons, the double pull-down notification shade with quick toggles and one-finger expandable notifications too.  The only additions here are the Audio Profiles and Data Connection quick toggles, the first of which is rather handy since there’s no easy way to get to silent mode in Lollipop without something like this.  Even the launcher is reminisce of the Google Now Launcher, just without Google Now always on the left-hand side.

The LED located within the home button of the phone can be controlled by the software to an extent, allowing users to notify them of calls, messages, other notifications and the regular light up color too.  7 different colors of the spectrum can be selected and function in a rather unique manner, as most of the time the capacitive keys on the front of the phone just light up white.  Off-screen gestures are in full force here allowing users to double-tap to wake the device or draw any number of different letters or symbols on the screen to launch any app on the phone without even having to turn the screen on.  These are generally best used in conjunction with the fingerprint scanner or a password as it’s too easy to have the phone wake up in your pocket, launching some app and possibly wreaking untold havoc.

There’s almost no pre-installed apps other than the super basics that are required to function as a smartphone.  The phone, messaging, browsing and other standard apps are all here and feature Material Design for the most part, or at least just a tinted status bar so as to not look out of place.  A single page of apps is present upon first bootup, the sign is an OEM that isn’t willing to fill up the phone’s space with stuff you might not need.  Something that isn’t always seen, especially with the bigger OEMs out there, are regular updates and bug fixes.  We’ve seen some other Chinese manufacturers do this with their devices and Elephone has been great about providing regular updates.  Launching on Android 5.0 Lollipop helps stem the tide of requests for major updates, so the little ones are nice to see even without constant harping from users about one problem or another.

Security

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Certainly one of the highlights of the phone are the many security-driven aspects Elephone has brought to the table.  First and foremost is of course the fingerprint scanner, which is a big selling point for the phone in general.  The fingerprint scanner isn’t one of those annoying swipe types, rather it’s the kind that Apple popularized on the iPhone a while ago and remains the best way to scan a fingerprint that’s available right now.  It’s fast, accurate and easy to use, and most importantly it’s placed in just the right spot.  Located under the camera lens on the back of the phone it’s located inside a dimple, which makes it painless to find and keeps users from smudging up the lens in order to find it.  What’s great is that Elephone doesn’t just use this to unlock the phone, rather they’ve also added a way to fingerprint-protect apps as well.  Don’t want someone who’s using your unlocked phone to get into the messaging app or something else equally as private?  Upon opening the app they’re presented with a screen asking to read their fingerprint, a surefire way to keep private stuff just the way it was meant to be.

App permissions are here in all their glory, allowing users to allow or deny any permission to any app they choose.  Apps can be sorted by name or by permission, seeing specifically which app you’d like to restrict or which apps on the phone have a specific permission like making phone calls or accessing messages.  There’s also a way to keep apps from automatically gaining access to permissions, so when something is requested a dialog box pops up on the screen asking whether you’d like to allow or deny a privilege.  Apps can also be restricted from starting up with the phone, keeping boot up time quick and battery life high for apps that don’t always need to be running.

Sound

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Sound quality from the Elephone P7000 is great overall, producing clear audio with great highs and lows via the 3.5mm headset jack and Bluetooth audio.  There are a number of predefined enhancements under sound options that don’t generally seem to have a positive effect in my testing, however the lossless Bluetooth audio mode kept the audio from pausing or stuttering the way Bluetooth audio tends to do on most devices.  As a whole many devices in this price range seem to have issues with the mids being a little too high on certain types of music, a problem that can be partially rectified via the built-in equalizer.  As the DAC isn’t high powered the volume drops as the levels on the equalizer change, but the quality of the audio isn’t affected at all.

Sound out of the speakers on the bottom of the device is loud but a bit muddled.  Enabling the BesSurround mode seems to help this a little bit but it’s not the most full sounding audio in the world.  Still it’s going to get you by playing games, listening to the occasional video or other casual listening as would normally be done through a phone’s small speaker.  Loudspeaker on the phone was sufficient as well, allowing me to easily hear the person on the other end of the phone even when on the highway.

Camera

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Here’s where the biggest area of confusion came for me.  All the other specs of the phone line up with the real world performance of the device; all except for the camera.  Featuring the proven winner of a sensor, the Sony Exmor IMX214, and an f/2.0 lens this sounds on paper like it would be just about everything you could want out of a camera on a smartphone.  Afterall it powers phones like the OnePlus One, Xiaomi Mi4 and Mi Note, Oppo Find 7 and tons of others, yet somehow falls incredibly short of all those phones.  What I feel might be the biggest issue here is the lens, as the photos themselves usually look pretty great in the middle but tend to be discolored and have other weird irregularities the further out from the center of the image you get.

I noticed this problem in nearly every lighting condition except for maybe in the brightest of sunlight, and it gives a bad feeling to the photos as a whole.  Otherwise performance of the camera would have been stellar, with fast picture taking on auto, great white balance, accurate colors (outside of the discolored zones) and an overall superb clarity level.  Denoise can be slightly aggressive in lower lighting situations, and HDR is completely useless in all but the brightest conditions as it just takes too long between exposure brackets to take the shot.  This leaves double images and makes the picture useless, something I couldn’t avoid on basically any HDR shot.

Software wise we’re looking at a pretty standard interface that can be found on almost all Chinese phones in this price range.  Modes like Auto, HDR, Panorama, object tracking and a handful of others make up the gamut here.  There’s also plenty of options like zero shutter delay, anti-shake, voice capture, face detection and more to find.  On the downside having software that looks and feels like all the other phones likely means there wasn’t a whole lot of tailoring to the sensor’s strengths, and modes like instant HDR or 4K video recording that are found on other phones using this sensor simply aren’t present.

Video quality was good but suffered from the same weird discoloration of the lens in most lighting conditions.  I’m hoping that this is just a defect in my unit or maybe a problem with the first batch, as this issue is normally only found on really cheap phones.  Check out the full resolution samples below on Flickr to see for yourself.

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Conclusion

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A superb build combined with incredible specs and a great price make it hard not to recommend the Elephone P7000.  Having a 1080p display puts it right in line with many in the $200+ segment but the performance of the phone rockets it much higher than that, besting phones more than twice its price in many areas.  Fast internal memory, lots of RAM and the ability to add a microSD card to expand storage tick the boxes necessary for a lot of people who are looking to purchase the device.  The audio output is slightly above average but the camera unfortunately seems to suffer from some sort of lens issue, a problem that could likely be easily rectified if it’s not just a defect in my review unit.  A mostly stock build of Android 5.0 Lollipop certainly helps seal the deal here, and let’s not forget about the fingerprint scanner that’s as lightning fast as the memory is.  All in all this is a great phone with some minor problems that could likely be fixed in a software update, so be sure to add this to your comparison list when seeking out your next phone!

If you are looking to purchase one our trusted reseller Gearbest.com has a great deal on Elephone P7000 .