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Featured Review: Doogee Nova Y100X

October 14, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Affordable smartphones have continued to push the median price down all while maintaining reasonable specs, and in some cases even pushing those specs forward.  MediaTek has been a big player in getting affordable high performance processors to the masses, and with companies like Doogee designing phones with said processors the overall performance and price has continued to get better for consumers in every way.  For around $85 the Doogee Nova Y100X promises to be Doogee’s best budget handset yet, coming in at under the price of any of the other three Doogee phones we’ve reviewed, so how does it stack up against the more expensive models?  Let’s take a look.

Specs

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Finding decent specs on a phone that costs under $100 is difficult, but Doogee seems to have put one together here.  The Nova Y100X features a 5-inch 720p display with 2.5D curved glass and also features anti-fingerprint coating on top of the Gorilla Glass.  Behind the glass sits a MediaTek MT6582 quad-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz, Mali-400 MP2 GPU clocked at 500MHz, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage with microSD card support for expandable storage.  On the back you’ll find an 8-megapixel OmniVision sensor as well as a 5-megapixel one on the front.  Build wise we’re looking at a height of 141.2mm, width of 70.2mm and a slim 7.9mm thin, all coming in at 119 grams.  Last but not least is the 2,200mAh removable battery and Android 5.0 Lollipop that powers the software side of things.

In the Box

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Surprisingly enough Doogee has not only made a well specced phone for under $100 but has also included plenty of extras inside of the box.  The phone is already fitted with a screen protector as well as a clear plastic case, both pre-installed for your convenience.  In the box you’ll find another screen protector for when you need to replace the built-on one, a manual, wall charger and USB cable as well as a pair of headphones.  That’s some pretty insane value that plenty of phones many times more expensive don’t even bother to pack in.

Display

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It’s not often that a display on a phone this cheap can compare with ones on more expensive models, but the quality of this 5-inch 720p display is definitely right up there with phones double its cost.  At 5 inches the 720p resolution still looks great and comes in 293 pixels per inch, which isn’t quite “retina” quality but you’d be hard pressed to see pixels here when holding it at an ordinary length away from your eyes.  White balance is really excellent and is actually more perfectly balanced than just about any phone we’ve tested in this price range.  Most phones at this price have super cool screens with very blueish whites, whereas this is a much more balanced screen.

Refresh rate is good and there’s no obvious ghosting when images are moving, and black levels are even good for an LCD panel.  Viewing angles drop the black levels a bit, especially from extreme angles where light bleed on the edges is more apparent.  Color accurate is great too thanks to both the white balance and the fact that the screen isn’t over saturated.  The digitizer used here is just OK at best, as single hand typing and swiping worked great, but once I moved to typing with both thumbs it became near impossible unless I went very slowly.  Multi-touch capabilities and gaming were just fine but fast typing is definitely out here.

Hardware and Build

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Chrome and black is the name of the game here, although it also comes in white too if you prefer.  The design looks and feels closer to a Galaxy S III than anything else, right down to the wave on the trim and the shiny plastic back.  The most unique parts of the phone is the volume rocker, which actually sits on the back left of the phone rather than the sides or in the middle of the back like an LG phone.  Right handed customers will likely love this position as it perfectly lines up with where you hold the phone and where your index and middle fingers rest.  Those that hold it in the left hand won’t find it as nice, as it’s not possible to press with your thumb at all given the position and the slippery plastic back.

The power button is up top along with the 3.5mm headset jack, while the bottom houses the microphone and microUSB charging port.  On the back is a sound bar, large round camera lens and single LED flash.  The bezels around the screen are nice and slim but not jaw-droppingly so as many of LG’s designs have proven.  Below the screen are three capacitive buttons, menu, home and back.  The phone is ultra light and feels like it weighs significantly less than the average smartphone all while not feeling cheap.  The included clear plastic case helps keep it all protected and provides an extra layer of smudge-free shine.

Performance and Memory

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The MediaTek MT6582 isn’t exactly a new chipset, in fact it was announced almost 2 years ago now and has been gracing phones for almost as long.  This is an older 32-bit Arm v7 architecture chipset and as such has a few choke points you don’t find in the more recent MediaTek SoCs.  As such you’re going to find that this one performs just fine in 2D games and menial 3D games, but anything more taxing won’t fare as well.  In addition the UI is mostly smooth and fluid, with nice transitions that you would expect from Android 5.0 Lollipop.  Things started to chug a bit though when a lot was going on, and that’s likely due to a memory bottleneck as well as internal storage speeds.  Low internal storage speeds mean the phone has to wait until another task finishes to complete another, something that’s problematic at this speed without a doubt.

Multi-tasking was decent at best but is hampered both by the relatively small 1GB of RAM as well as the fact that there’s no dedicated Overview button.  Having to hold down the home button to open up the recently used list of apps takes an extra few seconds, precious time that’s likely not going to be taken by users because it’s just annoying to launch that screen this way.  In addition to that 1GB of RAM is low for any modern smartphone, even if Android supports down to 512mb of RAM, and apps will definitely have to reload if you’re switching back and forth between a few at a time.

Benchmarks

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As expected from an older SoC this one doesn’t exactly breaks ranks with what’s expected from performance of an $85 phone.  Benchmarks show this one well under even 2-3-year-old flagship devices, which is not at the level of the newer MediaTek SoC’s in even slightly more expensive phones.  Check out our suite of benchmark results below.

Phone Calls and Network

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Being a GSM-only phone I was happy to see that it worked perfectly with T-Mobile US’s network in every way.  HSPA data and clear phone calls were present and I found no problems with dropped or lower signal strength than I would expect from a modern smartphone.  Dual-SIM card capabilities are here for those who need it, both a micro-SIM and a regular sized SIM card with a unique stacked SIM tray.

Battery Life

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MediaTek’s processors are known for their low power requirements and overall efficiency ratings, and that shines through here with the fairly small 2,200mAh battery inside the Nova Y100X.  Regardless of the size though you certainly wouldn’t know it’s a smaller battery, as the Nova Y100X gets very normal battery life for a modern Android-powered smartphone.  That means anywhere upwards of 3 hours of screen on time in an average day, so light and moderate users likely won’t ever need a charger before bedtime.  Heavy users could certainly find themselves in a pinch though, as this is certainly enough to get through a day of music streaming and chatting but not heavy web browsing or video watching.  On the bright side the battery is removable, so if you’d rather not carry around a charger or a battery pack it’s easy enough to pop off the back and replace the battery when needed.

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Software

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Surprisingly the Nova Y100X only runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and not 5.1 as the Y100 Pro we recently reviewed does.  Regardless of this though it features a similar skin to some other Doogee phones, namely a very blackened version of Android Lollipop with interesting squared-off bubble icons.  The launcher is very much stock AOSP feeling but with some visual changes, and still has the dedicated Google search bar up top as well as prominent Google app placement right up front.  Anyone who’s used Android Lollipop will feel very at home here, as the visual look is the only major change and everything is still organized the way Google intended.

Additions to Lollipop include Smart Gestures, which include waving your hand over the proximity sensor above the screen to execute specific tasks like taking a picture in the camera, swiping through the gallery and skipping songs in the built-in music app.  The most useful one in this list is likely the hands-free mode in which you can hover your hand over the screen for a moment to answer the call and automatically put it in loud speaker mode.  This is fantastic when you’re in the kitchen cooking or somewhere else that you’d got the phone rested on a surface and can’t really get around to touching it.

Smart Wake Up is the feature that lets users double tap on the screen to wake the device, as well as draw a number of shapes and letters while the screen is off to unlock and directly launch a given app.  The apps that these gestures launch are completely customizable, so you can pick what works best for you.  Lastly there are some system-wide gestures including swiping two fingers together to adjust the volume (in case that unique volume rocker placement doesn’t work for you), three fingers to take a screenshot, and double tapping anywhere to lock the phone.  You’ll also find a few motion-based gestures here including flipping the phone over to silence it, answering the call by swinging the phone from your pocket to your ear, and pressing the phone against your ear to take it off loudspeaker.

Aside from these mostly phenomenal gestures come a few built-in apps that will work to serve your basic needs, including Doogee’s own browser which features some additional options over the stock AOSP browser, a utility that enables transfer from an iPhone without hassle, a built-in FM radio that works with certain headphones included in the box, and screen and voice recorders to cover the basics for you.  Doogee keeps it light which is smart considering there’s only 8GB of internal storage to work with here, a limit you’re most certainly going to reach sooner rather than later without having to expand the storage.

Sound

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Honestly this was easily the most impressive segment of the review process of the Nova Y100X to me.  It wasn’t too long ago that basically every phone under $200 brand new would only have OK sound at best, giving fair representation to a song’s quality when using cheaper headphones (as that’s a limitation of the headphones at that point), but once hooked up to higher quality audio equipment the limitations of the phone were readily apparent.  This is not the case for the Nova, which is easily one of the best sounding phones I can think of in this price range, maybe ever.  Sound range was excellent, everything sounded balanced and I was generally impressed with the quality of sound reproduced here.

Both Bluetooth audio and analog audio coming from the 3.5mm headset jack quality for this praise, and I didn’t even have to further adjust the sound using the built-in equalizer either.  Sound from the speaker was average and presents audio at a fairly decent volume with average quality coming from a single speaker bar.  Loudspeaker on the phone was fine too but not above average, with audio loud and clear enough to hear the person on the other end even when on a highway, albeit when on the road it could have been a tad bit louder.

Camera

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As far as smartphone buyers on a budget are concerned, the camera here is definitely not bad at all.  Speed of launching the camera is slow for sure and takes quite a few seconds to start up, and the shutter speed could definitely be improved, but overall quality of the images was worthwhile in this price range without a doubt.  Details are decent for an 8mp shooter but the denoise filter on the software seems to be in overdrive, causing lots of artifacting on the individual pixels when zoomed in.  These sorts of limitations aren’t noticeable when sharing amongst mobile devices and on social networks though, so if that’s all you’re doing with the shots it’s nothing to worry about.  HDR helps with shadow detail too in areas with high contrast, whether it’s low light or not, but a slow shutter between exposure brackets means you’re going to get shadowing and double imaging here if you don’t hold perfectly still (or if your subject moves).

Low light was a bit odd at times as the ISO levels seem to be capped at around 600, which means that shutter speed either has to be held open for quite a long time or you just end up with a dark picture.  HDR mode was able to deliver a better image but at the expense of double imaging if you move at all.  Video quality is OK at best and looks more like SD video rather than HD video.  The format used creates lots of compression artifacts too, even when set to the highest resolution mode in the camera, and causes an unnecessary loss of detail.  Check out all the samples below and see what you think for yourself!

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Conclusion

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It’s difficult to criticize a phone that costs $85, because afterall that’s at the point where it can be considered a burner phone if you will.  Still if you’re looking for a temporary device, a backup one or just don’t want to spend very much on a new smartphone this is a great way to go.  You’re not going to get the best in any class, which should be expected at this price range, but a well-rounded device that is good enough is almost every regard.

Buy Doogee Nova Y100X at Gearbest.com