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Featured Review: Doogee Valencia 2 Y100 Pro

September 18, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Among the swath of smartphone manufacturers sits a fairly small company named Doogee.  As a Chinese manufacturer Doogee constantly has to do things that help differentiate it from the pack of other OEMs out there, and it seems that creating standard and pro versions of its latest handsets is the latest trick in getting people to notice the company.  We reviewed the Valencia 2 Y100 only 2 months ago, and today we’re going to take a look at the pro variant of that phone and what is different versus the slightly cheaper older sibling.

Specs

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Starting from the specs we see some bumps in key spots that really heighten the experience from the original.  The same size and resolution screen from the Y100, 5-inch 720p IPS of course, is still present here although it’s clearly a different panel.  Under the hood is an upgraded 64-bit MediaTek MT6735 quad-core processor running at 1.3GHz as well as a more powerful Mali-T720 MP4 GPU.  RAM has been doubled from 1GB in the Y100 to 2GB in the Y100 Pro.  Internal storage has also been doubled from 8GB to 16GB and microSD cards are also still supported. The back and 2,200mAh battery are fully removable and under the trunk you’ll find dual-SIM card slots (regular size and micro-SIM) as well as the microSD card slot.

The rear camera sensor stays the same, a 13MP Sony IMX219 Exmor RS sensor, while the front camera sensor is a 5MP sensor.  Dimensions of the phone run 71.4mm wide x 142.5mm high x 8.3mm thick and weighs in at 142g.  Last but not least everything is powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop with a very stock looking skin, a massive departure from the Valencia 2 Y100 to say the least.

In the Box

For around $120 you normally wouldn’t expect too much extra in the box, but somehow Doogee has managed to pack quite a bit in the box in addition to the phone of course.  A clear plastic case is installed on the phone already and provides some protection from the elements of life.  You’re also going to find a microfiber cloth for keeping the screen clean, a screen protector, a manual, USB cable, wall charger and even a pair of headphones.  Pretty insane stuff for sure that you won’t even see out of some flagships!  Check out the unboxing video above but ignore the section about the non-removable back, it wasn’t easy to pull off and I didn’t want to break the phone before I used it for the first time.

Display

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A 5-inch 720p display isn’t usually anything to write home about, and that’s certainly the case for the Y100 Pro.  For this size and budget the resolution is pretty common, and the display ends up coming out a tad bit soft when compared to more expensive phones with higher resolution displays.  Since that’s nothing surprising we’ll take a closer look at other attributes of the display, like it’s color accuracy for one.  The panel is quite cool and everything has a slight hint of blue to it, including whites and other lighter colors.  Saturation isn’t very high unlike the extraordinarily saturated regular Y100, which is quite a relief for anyone looking for more accurate colors.

Black levels are pretty pedestrian for an LCD display and are pretty decent but again nothing to write home about.  At the very least the response time of the display is excellent and ghosting isn’t noticeable at all.  On top of that the digitizer is mostly excellent, only lagging behind a tad bit when I was in a typing frenzy, but normally it kept up with everything I threw at it.  Brightness levels were extremely good and at its brightest this thing is a torch.  I had no problems seeing the screen outside even without brightness maxed out though, which is always nicer for battery life.  MiraVision is included for advanced screen calibration, although I couldn’t get the cold tint of the display to go away without significantly altering other colors for the worse.

Hardware and Build

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A pretty typical plastic build encapsulates the Doogee Valencia 2 Y100 Pro, but this one feels a little more solidly built than many other plastic devices in this price range.  First of all it’s got a rather nice weight to it, not too light but not too heavy, which lends a bit more of a quality feel to the phone.  Secondly it just feels solid, with a thick removable plastic shell rather than just a back with flimsy clips as many in this price range have.  Last but not least the raised “2.5D glass” on the front of the phone feels a little more elegant than many in this price range, and all of these things make this feel like a more expensive phone than it is, albeit nowhere near something in the flagship price range mind you.

The right side of the device houses the power button and volume rocker, while the top holds both microUSB charging port and the 3.5mm headset jack for optimal music listening and charging if need be.  On the back is a single LED flash sitting below the round camera lens, while a sound bar sits closer to the bottom.  On the front are an unfortunate set of capacitive buttons that hold menu, home and back keys, all of which make this automatically feel like a cheaper device right off the bat.  It’s unfortunate to still see OEMs using menu keys as we sail through the second half of 2015, but it is what it is.

Performance and Memory

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Regardless of being a newer, more up to date 64-bit processor, the performance of the Y100 Pro lagged behind in games and benchmarks when compared to the regular Y100.  Part of this is moving down to a quad-core from an octa-core chipset, forcing the stronger quad-core to do more of the work and not having that weaker quad-core processor to offload simpler things like the UI and sound.  Regardless of what benchmarks and raw numbers show the overall user experience of the Y100 Pro was just as good, if not maybe even better, than the Y100.  This is in part likely to Android 5.1 Lollipop being aboard, providing smoother animations and transitions over previous versions of Android.

Another performance winner here was multi-tasking in which the phone switched from apps to apps like a pro.  You can thank 2GB of RAM and a 720p display partly for this without a doubt, but the upgrade from the 1GB of RAM in the Y100 can be felt.  While switching was quick it could have been much quicker if an Overview button was used in place of the menu button on the front of the phone.  This would allow single-press multi-tasking instead of pressing and holding the home button down.  At the very least memory speed is a significant improvement over the Y100, besting most in this class pretty handily.

Benchmarks

As was said above, benchmark performance wasn’t exactly impressive, but it wasn’t bad either.  Check out all the benchmarks we ran on the phone below and feel free to compare them to your favorite phone or any device we’ve reviewed for that matter.

Phone Calls and Network

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The phone will work internationally via 2G 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands and 3G 900/1900/2100 bands.  There’s no listing for 4G LTE bands so those looking for this functionality are sadly going to have to go without it.  There are tradeoffs that have to be made at this price range and often times 4G LTE is one of those things that’s just not always on the books.  Call quality as a whole was good, with clear, loud volume coming from the earpiece.  The loudspeaker was also great and provided plenty of volume, something that’s not always the case with a rear-facing speaker.

Battery Life

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Surprisingly enough battery life was pretty stellar even with a pretty minuscule battery.  A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that we’re dealing with a low power MediaTek processor that’s hedging toward the weaker side of quad-cores when it comes to performance, as well as only having a 720p display.  Less pixels being displayed means that the processors don’t have to do as much to keep things smooth, something the results in less CPU/GPU usage and therefore less battery usage all while keeping the experience smooth.  I got a pretty average screen on time for myself, around 4 hours with heavy usage, and even nearly got through a full day with this sort of usage.  Again a 2,200mAh battery is quite a few hundred mAh lower than the average phone, but there are steps here to nullify that disadvantage.

Software

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Unlike the Y100, the Y100 Pro not only runs the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop, it also runs a mostly stock looking version of Android too.  Whereas the Y100 runs an extremely heavily modified version of Android 4.4 KitKat that looks very similar to Xiaomi’s MIUI, Doogee took it easy with the Y100 and basically just darkened all the menus and changed out the icons all while adding plenty of extra features that stock Android Lollipop just doesn’t have.  All the proper menus are here along with the excellent quick toggle system in Android 5.1 Lollipop’s notification tray, and it’s easy to adjust brightness, connect to different WiFi hotspots and Bluetooth devices all without having to navigate to separate screens.  The proper Lollipop lockscreen is here too, giving users easy access to notifications without having to unlock the device or swipe the tray down.

The stock launcher feels very similar to an AOSP based launcher complete with an app drawer, and of course the icon pack makes things look a little different too.  Moving into the settings menu you’ll find quite a few additional options here over AOSP 5.1.  HotKnot support is here meaning easy screen-to-screen sharing with other HotKnot devices (read: most MediaTek powered phones), however lack of NFC means no mobile payments unless a QR code is involved.  Aside from the MiraVision engine that MediaTek’s processors use to enhance picture quality during video playback, you won’t find a whole lot in the settings menu until you make it down to the personal section.  It’s here that you’ll find additions like Smart Gestures and Smart Wakeup.

Smart Gestures use a series of sensors to achieve a goal.  For instance while the camera is open you can wave your hand over the screen to take a picture, or while in the gallery waving your hand over the screen without having to touch it will swipe from picture to picture.  This is a little gimmicky in some applications but works quite well in others.  The camera, for instance, is quite handy to have this feature enabled since it’s not always easy to press that little shutter button but might be easier to wave your hand a bit over the device instead.  There’s also some digitizer tricks like swiping 3 fingers down to take a screenshot instead of pressing the usual volume down+power button combination.  Less button presses are usually welcomed, and in general these features worked quite well.

Smart Wakeup is a bit of a mixed bag, and it’s because of its implementation.  First off the proximity sensor or front-facing camera isn’t checked when these gestures are made, so some of the more simple ones like double-tap-to-wake will often go off in pockets and wake the phone up, leaving it to the mercy of your leg to perform whatever tasks it pleases on the screen.  Other more complicated gestures, like drawing a circle to launch the phone app, are harder to accidentally do and work better because of it.

There’s a handful of included apps with the phone outside of the normal phone, messaging, browser, etc.  Go Keyboard is included as a built-in alternative to the AOSP Google keyboard if you like, and Documents to Go will give you some basic MS Office editing abilities without having to install additional apps.  There’s an FM Radio here if you’ve got a headset with an antenna in it, and Xender to aid with sending files across different platforms like Windows and iOS with ease.

As far as security goes Doogee has added some cool little things that’ll give you some peace of mind over what’s currently offered in stock Lollipop.  Auto Start Management keeps those pesky additional apps from automatically starting up with a fresh reboot, ensuring some apps won’t run unless asked to (this is particularly nice for apps with lots of push notifications).  There’s also a mobile anti-theft that’ll let you locate and even wipe the phone via a series of text messages just in case you lose the device or it gets stolen.

Sound

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I was actually quite impressed with the audio output from the Y100 Pro.  Most phones in this price range don’t exactly produce great audio, and while this one isn’t going to win awards for best audio in the industry it’s considerably better than most phones we’ve reviewed in this price range by far.  The usual enhancements that come with lots of Chinese phones are here, including lossless Bluetooth audio, a generic audio enhancer, loudness setting and even a virtual surround sound setting.  The real kicker here is that there’s not just an equalizer built in, it’s an equalizer that actually works well.  A lot of phones out there don’t have great audio chipsets and as such adjusting the audio via the equalizer ends up diminishing the volume.  I didn’t run into this issue with the Y100 and actually got some really nice audio out of it, especially when using some of the nicer Bluetooth speakers I’ve got lying around.

Camera

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Much like the sound output the camera quality of the Y100 Pro is definitely above the majority in this price range.  Using a Sony IMX219 camera sensor, one of the latest sensors in the more budget lineup of 13-megapixel sensors from Sony, the software does quite a good job of keeping the ISO and noise levels low while capturing plenty of details.  Since the ISO and noise levels are kept low the anti-noise algorithm doesn’t have to go crazy, giving more detail than I’ve seen out of most phones in this price range.  Overall color accuracy and dynamic range were pretty fantastic too, pumping out lots of little details even when the contrast of light and dark was stark.  Details were high and pass the TV test where we put the picture on a 60-inch TV and see if they still look good.  This is important as many people will share pictures via Chromecast or other media streaming box.

Low light was pretty decent and is both helped and hurt by the limited ISO range in the software.  The ISO doesn’t seem to go higher than 341, an odd number for sure but one that keeps noise pretty low regardless of lighting conditions and details high.  When light gets really low though, like at night for instance, it’s almost impossible to make anything out in the picture even with some street lighting.  This is because the sensor isn’t allowed to take in additional light via the ISO setting and makes dark shots harder.  Check out the samples for some low light samples to see what I mean.  As usual there’s a bit of discoloration in lower light too, something that’s common with cheaper phones regardless of the sensor and is likely caused by a cheaper lens.

Speaking of the lens there’s some weird aberration along the edges, particularly the lower right and left sections.  This didn’t show up all the time but seemed to be negatively brought out by the HDR mode.  While we’re talking about it HDR mode worked quite well actually, and while it’s a slower exposure bracket type of HDR it actually combines high and low exposure shots quite well and makes an overall more appealing picture.  Just make sure not to move while it’s doing its thing otherwise you’re going to end up with weird looking blurry shots.  Again see the samples for an example of this.

Video wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.  Dynamic range was decent and the framerate was solid, but overall quality was pretty lacking even when running in high-quality mode.  The video feels more like DVD quality than anything, and not a great DVD transfer either at that.   There’s work to be done but it’ll probably share on social media just fine if that’s all you’re using it for.  Check out the full picture gallery below on Flickr for full resolution samples.

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Conclusion

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In all honesty it feels like the Doogee Valencia 2 Y100 Pro is above average in every category in which we measure phones up to.  A great camera, sound output and build for the price are combined with a decent screen, good battery life and mostly stock Android 5.1 Lollipop.  Additional features are thrown on top of Lollipop and add some value, while a light skin changes up the look from your average Lollipop-powered phone.  The biggest detractor here is the performance which can be lacking in some applications, and was noticeably slower than the standard Y100 by about 30% in most benchmarks and performance tests.  Check out the Y100 Pro from our trusted partners at GearBest if you’re interesting in picking one up for around $120!