Cubot X12 featured_1

Featured Review: Cubot X12

July 15, 2015 - Written By Kristijan Lucic

Cubot is one of many Chinese smartphone OEMs in China. This company isn’t exactly one of the better known Chinese smartphone manufacturers, but they have released a number of really solid and yet affordable devices thus far. We’re here to take a look at one such device, the Cubot X12, an entry-level handset which costs only $100. This phone won’t blow you away in any way, but if you’re on a budget and are looking for an entry-level smartphone which doesn’t cost over $100, this review might interest you. Either way, let’s take a look at what Cubot X12 has to offer, shall we.

Specs

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Cubot X12 is an entry-level handset, and as such, it offers entry-level specifications. Interesting enough, this handset does sport 4G LTE connectivity (FDD-LTE Band 1, 3, 7 and 20), which is not many similarly-priced devices can say for themselves. Unfortunately for users outside of China, the phone doesn’t offer TD-LTE connectivity though. One of MediaTek’s lower-end processors is fueling this handset, and 1GB of RAM is also available here in order to help out with multitasking. That being said, let’s take a look at Cubot X12’s specs in detail.

  • 5-inch 960 x 540 OGS IPS display
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of internal storage (expandable up to 32GB
  • MediaTek MT6735M Cortex A7 quad-core SoC running at 1.0GHz
  • Mali-720 GPU
  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera (LED flash included)
  • 5-megapixel front-facing snapper
  • 2,200mAh battery
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Dual-SIM
  • 4G LTE (FDD-LTE Band 1, 3, 7 and 20)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 143.8 x 71.2 x 8.1mm
  • 143 grams

Hardware And Build

Cubot X12 hardware_1

Cubot X12 is made entirely out of plastic, but it doesn’t feel that cheap in the hand. The phone actually feels quite good and there’s no squeaking present here, and its back cover is quite grippy as well. The back cover has some sort of a brushed feel to it, which makes this phone really pleasant to hold. Speaking of which, the back cover actually wraps around the sides of the phone, as you can see in the images down below. The Cubot X12 isn’t exactly the smallest 5-inch device in the world, but it doesn’t feel that big despite the capacitive buttons below the display and not-so-small bezels on the top and bottom of this device.

The menu, home and back capacitive buttons are located below the display, respectively. The power / lock button is placed on the right-hand side of the phone, and the volume rocker buttons are located on its left side. The rear-facing camera and flash are placed in the upper left corner of the phone’s back, and the loudspeaker is available in the bottom portion of the phone’s back. As far as the general design of the device goes, well, it managed to surprise me in a good way. The back cover is really nice, and the sides of the device have some design hints that make the phone look interesting. The front-side of the Cubot X12 is actually quite regular and not that exciting, but for a phone that costs this much, the design is actually quite solid.

Display

Cubot X12 display_1

As already mentioned, this handset features a 5-inch 960 x 540 OGS IPS display. It would be great if Cubot managed to include at least a 720p panel here, but the 960 x 540 OGS IPS display is not that bad actually. It definitely has its downsides, starting with the resolution of course, this display is definitely not as sharp as it should be. Interesting enough, the sharpness hasn’t bothered me all that much during the testing, and I’m actually using the LG G3 as my daily driver at the moment (QuadHD panel). The blacks on this display are not exactly as black as they should be, they’re actually kind of grayish more than anything, but the display is actually quite bright and other colors are quite vivid. I’ve used quite a few OGS IPS displays before, and they’re always bright and vivid, their worst characteristic is definitely the black color representation, and the viewing angles aren’t that great either because the color gets washed away rather quickly.

That being said, let’s talk a bit about the digitizer on this thing. The touch responsiveness of the display is very important, of course, and this is not the most responsive display I’ve ever encountered, but far from being the worse as well. The moment you start using the Cubot X12 you’ll realize that the display is not extremely responsive, but you get used to it really fast actually. After an hour or two of usage, I’ve gotten used to it, and keep in mind that the phone arrived with the screen protector pre-installed, so it is possible that the display becomes a bit more responsive when you peel it off, though the protector is quite thin and it shouldn’t really affect the sensitivity of the display all that much. All in all, the display is quite average and you really need to manage your expectations here, but considering the amount of cash you’ll spend on this thing… well, the display is alright and it will do a good job.

Performance

Cubot X12 Performance_1

Performance is very important, you expect a smartphone to perform well no matter how much you pay for it, but you also have to manage your expectations from device to device. The MediaTek MT6735M Cortex A7 quad-core SoC clocked at 1.0GHz isn’t exactly a powerful chip, but it performed better than I thought it will. In terms of basic performance and app usage, the Cubot X12 performs really well. This handset basically has stock Android pre-installed on its, Cubot has only added the icon theme pack on it. This is actually a good thing, because this device has ‘only’ 1GB of RAM, and thanks to the bloat-free version software, the phone really has plenty of room to breathe and perform. Keep in mind that you won’t exactly be able to use this normally if you’re a hardcore user though, it can take a certain amount of multitasking, but if you push it too far, you’ll notice it in the performance.

What about gaming? Well, I’ve installed three games on this device in order to test it out, Chess, Despicable Me, and Asphalt 8. Chess is a rather basic game, and it ran like a champ on the Cubot X12. Despicable Me is actionable arcade similar to Temple Run, and it ran fine, though the intro animations were rather stuttery. Once loaded and in action, the game ran very nice and I didn’t have any issues with it whatsoever. The last, but not least, the Asphalt 8. The game automatically set ‘medium’ graphics settings for this device, so I decided to leave it at that. I fired up the gameplay and it wasn’t overly stuttery, but it did not feel as smooth as it should. It was quite obvious that we’re not exactly talking about a powerful SoC nor GPU, and coming from a much more powerful phone, this can be really annoying. The game was playable though, don’t get me wrong, some people probably won’t even notice these issues.

That being said, I could have installed something even more graphics intensive on here, but Asphalt 8 was plenty enough to show us that this is an entry-level device. You can play a graphically intensive 3D game on Cubot X12, but don’t expect it to run as smooth as butter because that won’t happen. As far as casual gaming goes, go for it, Cubox X12 should be more than enough for ‘regular’ and non-graphically intensive titles. If you’re not a gamer and are not a heavy user, Cubot X12 should be enough to serve you well, as long as you remember that this phone has a rather limited CPU and ‘only’ 1GB of RAM, which doesn’t exactly make it a multitasking machine.

Battery Life

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Battery life has become a rather big issue in today’s smartphones. Processors are getting more powerful, higher-res display are being used more and more by the day and yet smartphones are getting thinner and thinner. Battery life technology used in smartphones hasn’t really changed for a long time, and that’s a problem. You’ll hardly be able to fit a big capacity battery in a small chassis, which results in rather poor battery life in a lot of smartphones these days. How does Cubot X12 fare in this regard? Well, let’s find out.

The Cubot X12 sports a 2,200mAh unit on the inside, which might seem small at first, but you have to consider this phone’s hardware before you judge its size. This handset features a 5-inch 960 x 540 display, and a rather old SoC, which doesn’t exactly make it power hungry. As a comparison, a much more powerful Nexus 5 handset sports a 2,300mAh battery on the inside (5-inch fullHD display and Snapdragon 801). The Nexus 5 didn’t exactly have a good battery life, and I took it as an example because it runs stock Android and has a similarly-sized battery.

Well, considering Cubot X12’s hardware, this 2,200mAh battery is not only enough to power the device, but enough to last you a whole day with some hardcore usage of the device. As you can see in the screenshots down below, I managed to squeeze out over 5 hours of screen-on time and still had 45% of battery left (results were rather consistent during my testing)! One thing to remember here, is the fact that I used 3G connectivity considering I’m not located in China and was unable to take advantage of 4G LTE. So, in general, you should be able to get way over 5 hours of screen on time with this thing, even 7 hours should be easy to hit using this handset, which is truly impressive.

Software

Cubot X12 software_1

Cubot X12 ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, in other words, this entry-level device comes with the latest version of Android you’ll find out there (5.1.1 aside). Interesting enough, this is more or less stock version of Google’s operating system. Cubot did add a custom icon theme on this device, so you won’t find Google’s stock icons included, and also some of the pre-installed system apps are not exactly stock Android, but there’s no bloat on here. You won’t find any crazy apps you’ll never used pre-installed or anything like that. Cubot X12 is very light as far as system RAM usage goes, and that’s not only good, but great.

Chinese OEMs like Cubot tend to include all sorts of gestures and what not in their software offerings, but you won’t anything like that pre-installed here. The camera UI, alarm, gallery, and some other apps may seem a bit outdated though. Their UI is quite similar to the one you can find in KitKat, but it’s not that bad. If you like Holo UI, you’ll like the design in some system apps used in Cubot X12. If you take a look at the gallery below, you’ll be able to see this phone’s software with your own eyes, including a number of system apps. It’s up to you to decide if you like it or not, but it could be much worse I guess. The Android 5.1 Lollipop offering which ships on Cubot X12 feels really smooth overall, and that’s the main thing.

Sound And Call Quality

Cubot X12 speaker_1

As already mentioned, this handset’s loudspeaker is located on its back, the lower part of the back of this handset that is. The speaker itself is plenty loud, but it lacks quality. You can fire it up all the way up but the sound will suffer. The sound becomes distorted, and you loose clarity very quickly if you fire it up. The quality of sound reproduction isn’t exactly great to begin with, but it’s rather decent if you don’t tune it all the way up. Don’t expect the Cubot X12 to produce loud and crisp sound though, because that won’t happen.

You have to remember that this phone costs only $100, and as such it has its limitations, and sound quality is definitely one of those limitations. If, on the other hand, you plug in headphones in this thing, you’ll get a rather solid sound reproduction out of it, much better than if you use the loudspeaker, that’s for sure. The phone comes with ‘Music’ app pre-installed, and the app is pretty basic, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You get 4 tabs up top (artists, albums, songs and playlists) and of course some settings while playing the song, what you’d usually find in a music player on a device.

When it comes to call quality, Cubot X12 won’t exactly produce the best and clearest sound, but it will do the job. I was able to hear people who called me without a problem, though I’d appreciate a bit of quality in the earpiece. As far as output goes, people said I sounded just fine on their end, ‘quite loud and normal’ were their words actually. All in all, this handset produced a very solid call experience, something you’d expect out of a mid-range device of any kind, which is not a bad thing considering this is a very cheap entry-level smartphone.

Camera

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The camera on this thing is actually very interesting. First of all, it is worth mentioning that the manufacturer didn’t specify which sensor is located on the inside. We do know that this camera offers a f/1.8 aperture and 5MP lens though, and it sports face recognition, and of course, autofocus. How does it perform? Well… that’s the interesting part. The daylight shots under right light come out really, really good, if you like warmer colors that is. The photos that come out of this device turn out really warm for some reason, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you like that. I myself, prefer a more realistic looking photos, so I’m not exactly a fond of the camera on the Cubot X12, it all depends. The camera does provide plenty of detail under the right light though.

One thing worth mentioning is that it flickers when exposed to direct sunlight or reflections, don’t really know why that is, but there’s an ‘anti-flicker’ setting in camera settings which helps tone this down to some extent. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t notice this when using the camera for normal shots, but it might happen when pointed at bright light / direct sunlight. The camera also performs well indoors, though the performance will depend on the lighting, of course. The warm colors are a bit less pronounced indoors, but they’re still very much present here. The 8-megapixel sensor does a good job of providing details though, in normal light scenarios at least.

Things change when you start taking pictures in low-light though, as you’d expect. Very few smartphone cameras actually do a good job in low-light, so you can’t really expect a $100 phone do excel in this area, now can you? You can use it to shoot images in low light, but don’t expect great results though. As it’s the came with most 8-megapixel shooters in low and mid-range devices, the picture loses a lot of detail and graininess comes into play. This is a regular 8-megapixel snapper and it certainly has its limitations, especially in low-light conditions. That being said, it really does a fairly good job under the right light, and it is surprisingly solid considering this is an entry-level device. Just keep in mind what I mentioned, and if that doesn’t bother you, this camera will serve you just fine. The front facing camera is not that great, especially when it comes to shooting an image which includes sunlight. The 5-megapixel sensor up front tends to suffer from poor white balance, but that’s not uncommon on entry and even mid-range devices. The camera will do just fine for a selfie here and there, as well as video calling, just managed your expectations and that’s it.

Regarding the LED flash on here, we’re talking about a regular single-LED flash which won’t exactly be that helpful in low-light. LED flash sensors usually tend to ruin the image anyhow, they wash it out and you end up with a rather unrealistic picture. If you do use LED flash though, this LED flash can be used if your object is relatively close, anything that is further away will remain unlit. As far as video recording is concerned, well… it’s rather similar to this camera. It’s not that great, but not that bad either. This sensor doesn’t come with OIS or anything of the sort, so you’ll definitely notice the shakiness if your hand isn’t perfectly still, but the output is relatively solid if you manage to keep your hand still.

Main Camera Samples:

Dusk / Night Samples:

Front-Facing Camera Samples:

Conclusion

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What’s the bottom line? Well, Cubot X12 is a rather capable entry-level handset. This $100 smartphone is definitely not for everyone, but for those of you who are not heavy users, don’t need an HD display on your smartphone, and are content with rather average performance all round, this device will serve you well. Truth be told, I was actually expecting a lot worse performance from Cubot X12, same goes for its build, so I was very surprised while using this thing. Cubot X12 is a bloat-free, extremely affordable, well-made and all around solid offering by this Chinese smartphone OEM. If you can put up with a number of its limitations, Cubot X12 might be an option in a world of entry-level devices, and remember, this handset is available all over the world. If you’d like to get a copy, just follow this link which will take you to AlieExpress’ listing of Cubot X12, which is one of reseller sites you can get this device from, price is more or less the same no matter where you look. There you have it, our review of Cubot X12, let us know if you decide to purchase this smartphone, we’d love to hear about your experience using it.