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Featured Review: UMi Hammer S

October 23, 2015 - Written By Kristijan Lucic

UMi is one of many Chinese smartphone OEMs which have been releasing devices this year. The company has released a couple of really compelling products, such as the UMi Iron and UMi eMax, both of which we’ve reviewed already. UMi has also released the Voix Blu Bluetooth headset, a pair of headphones which we’ve reviewed as well. This company makes solid products, at least based on the ones we’ve had the chance to review, and the good thing is, they ship their devices all over the world through a number of Chinese resellers. That being said, we’ve received another device from UMi, this time we’re looking at a mid-range handset which is already available for sale. Anyhow, let’s dive in, shall we.

Specifications

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As mentioned in the previous paragraph, UMi Hammer S is a mid-range smartphone. This device features a 5.5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) IPS OGS display along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64GB via microSD card). This smartphone is powered by MediaTek’s MT6735M quad-core SoC clocked at 1.0GHz along with a Mali-T720 GPU for graphics. The 13-megapixel shooter (Sony’s IMX179 sensor) is available on the back of this device, and a 2-megapixel camera can be found on the phone’s front side.

Android 5.1 Lollipop comes pre-installed on this phone with a couple of additions from the company, but it’s mostly a stock software on it.The 3,200mAh removable battery can be found on the inside, and on the bottom of the device you’ll notice the Type-C USB 3.0 port for charging and data transfer. The device does offer 4G LTE connectivity as well (2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz ; 3G: WCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz ; 4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz), and it’s made out of metal and plastic. There are two SIM card slots available here, in case you need that functionality as well. The phone measures 154 x 77.4 x 8.5mm, while it weighs 200 grams.

Display

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The UMi Hammer S features a 5.5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) IPS OGS panel which we’ve seen a number of times thus far. I personally have reviewed a number of devices which have this panel built-in, and having in mind this is not the sharpest display you’ve ever seen, the panel is quite good. It’s plenty bright, and even though it might not have the best color saturation around, it does offer rather accurate colors. The display is alright in direct sunlight, though we’ve seen far better. All in all, for a device at this price range, this display is a good choice, and most Chinese devices which still ship with 720p displays are sporting this exact panel.

What about actual usability / touch responsiveness? Well, that comes around to the digitizer used in this device. Now, touch responsiveness is passable, but not exactly as good as you would have hoped. The device is responsive, but you won’t be able to type as fast as you’d be able to do on some other devices. LG G3 is my daily drivers and it’s far more responsive than UMi Hammer S’ display, though this is probably an unfair comparison. This digitizer is actually quite similar to the ones I’ve seen in some other similar devices, like the UMi Iron and Ulefone Be Touch 2 for example. They’re all good, but if you’re used to something far more responsive, then this might not be up your alley.

Hardware and Build

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UMi Hammer S definitely is a well-built device, though keep in mind that it’s very hefty as well. The UMi Hammer S sports a metallic trim around the device, and weighs a whopping 200 grams. When you hold the device you’ll immediately notice how hefty it is, but if you don’t mind the heft, this phone lays in the hand well, and you can feel how sturdy its build is. It sports chamfered metallic edges all around the device, and they’re not as smooth as they are on some other devices, but sure feel nice when you hold the phone.

I asked some of my friends to hold the device and tell me what they think, every single one of them mentioned the heft, and premium feel, while a few of them said that the edges feel a bit too sharp for their taste. That’s a matter of preference, of course, I didn’t mind it, but some of you might. On the back of the phone you’ll notice the soft finish plastic which is not slippery, and that’s a good thing. That back cover actually offers grip to this device, so it won’t exactly slip out of your hand so easily.

The power / lock, as well as volume rocker physical buttons are located on the right-hand side of the device, and both are very tactile. It was a really pleasant experience using these metal buttons, I have to admit. The loudspeaker is located on the bottom of the device, and is flanked by a noise canceling microphone and a Type-C port. The 3.5mm headphone jack is available on the top of the device, and same can be said about the IR blaster as well. If you flip the phone over, you’ll notice the fingerprint scanner which is placed below the camera sensor.

Performance and Memory

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The UMi Hammer S is powered by MediaTek’s MT6735M 64-bit quad-core SoC running at 1.0GHz along with a Mali Mali-T720 GPU. All of this is helped by 2GB of RAM which also happen to be included here. All of this doesn’t sound all that impressive, now does it? So, how does the phone perform? Quite well actually. I have to say I was somewhat impressed with its performance. Android 5.1 Lollipop certainly has something to do with it, but the device really performed well. I installed all sorts of apps on it, though didn’t exactly go overboard, and the phone did have some skipped frames from time to time, but nothing that would annoy me one bit.

Now, when I say it performed ‘quite well’, I refer to general performance and multitasking. This doesn’t mean you can’t run 3D games on this device, but just keep in mind this is not a gaming powerhouse. I was actually able to play some 3D games without an issue on the UMi Hammer S. Let’s take Dead Trigger 2 for example, that game performed flawlessly on medium details, so the Hammer S can actually be used for some 3D gaming as well. Other, not so graphically intensive titles ran great on the device, I didn’t have issues whatsoever. This is yet another area that managed to surprise me here, despite the entry-level chip used inside of this phone, the UMi Hammer S managed to offer really solid performance.

Benchmarks

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As it was to be expected, UMi Hammer S wasn’t exactly brilliant as far as benchmark results go, but this phone is yet another piece of evidence that proves benchmarks aren’t everything. The phone performed really good despite not being up there in terms of benchmarks. The MediaTek MT6735M SoC is an entry-level 64-bit chip from the company. In GeekBench, the phone managed to hit 480 points in single-core, and 1,315 in multi-core test. As far as AnTuTu scores go, UMi Hammer S was able to get 19,289 points, which is not a really impressive score compared to some other devices, but that doesn’t stop this phone from performing really well in more or less every aspect.

Phone Calls and Network

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Ah… phone calls. What good is a phone which can’t make phone calls, right? Well, luckily, UMi Hammer S doesn’t have issues in this area. I didn’t experience any dropped calls during the week I’ve tested the device, and the sound quality during calls was alright, or shall I use the world ‘passable’. The people I called didn’t have any issues hearing what I was saying, but I apparently didn’t sound as good as I usually do.

I actually tested the device on both ends, I’ve received calls and have let others call me from this device in order to test it. The results are rather similar on both sides, the sound is alright, but it’s not clear enough. You won’t have any problems talking to someone, but if you’ve used a phone with better sound quality during calls, you’ll definitely see the difference, at least until you get used to it. I’m presuming the earpiece and microphone are to blame here. Don’t get me wrong though, the call quality is decent with no real issues here.

As far as network connectivity goes, everything went smoothly. Both Wi-Fi and 4G were quite stable during my testing, and didn’t have any issues in this area. 4G connectivity is kind of limited in my area (speed-wise), so I wasn’t able to push the phone all the way and see how far can it go, but it took advantage of the available speeds with flying color. The same thing can be said about Wi-Fi as well actually.

Battery Life

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As you already know by now, the UMi Hammer S sports a non-removable 3,200mAh battery on the inside, which is apparently plenty enough for this phone to last you a long time on a single charge. This is not exactly all that surprising considering the device sports a 720p display and is powered by MediaTek’s MT6735M 64-bit quad-core SoC. Anyhow, let’s talk numbers, shall we.

If you take a look at the two screenshots down below, you’ll notice that I still had 48% of battery charge left and have been using the phone for a full day and the screen was on for 3 hours and 53 minutes. This screenshots was taken at 11:59pm, and I unplugged the phone from a charger at 7am that day. The performance was quite consistent during the days I’ve used it as well, which is great. So, all in all, the battery on the UMi Hammer S is… well, great. I’ve been using phones with really awful battery life, and as far as longevity goes, this phone will last you a full day’s use, for sure. I’ve been watching videos, browsing the internet, played a game for about 10-15 minutes, sent quite a few e-mails and messages in general (referring to the day this screenshot was taken).

However, it is worth mentioning that my particular unit had some charging issues. The device was charging really slowly at first, so I decided to try out another charging brick, that didn’t really help. I was getting about 10% of charge per hour, which essentially means it will take up to 10 hours to charge up the device from 0 to 100%. This issue could probably be resolved by changing the Type-C cable which comes with the device, but I didn’t have a spare on me at the time, so I can’t confirm this. I do hope this is not the case with other Hammer S units because it would be a shame. Keep in mind that these issues could be isolated to my device.

UPDATE: UMi reached out and said they’ll ship a new Type-C cable due to the fact this one has issues. I’ll update the review once the cable arrives.

Software

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This handset ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, and the good thing is, this is an almost stock build. UMi did include their own skin on top of Android, but it’s very light. The company has included some gestures inside the settings, which are quite useful actually, like the double tap to wake feature, and various shortcuts for launching different apps / performing actions, like the camera for example.

There are also a couple of pre-installed apps on this device, such as the file manager, ZaZaRemote and SIM Toolkit. It is also worth mentioning that the device comes pre-rooted with SueprSU pre-installed, at least the review unit did. Thanks to such a light skin, the device really does perform really well despite it’s not so great specifications. In case you’d like to take a look at UMi’s software, take a peek in the gallery down below.

Sound

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The UMi Hammer S has a bottom-facing loudspeaker, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I always prefer front-facing speakers, no doubt about that, but I do find bottom-facing speakers to be more useful than the rear-facing ones. The speaker on the UMi Hammer S is quite loud, but it lacks sharpness. You can really tune the volume quite high, but you won’t feel like it’s producing a particularly rich sound. That’s not such a problem to the vast majority of people though, the most important thing is that it’s loud enough, and the sound is alright.

Now, the bottom-facing speakers are more usable that rear-facing ones in my opinion, but it’s quite easy to cover up with your hand, especially if you’re holding the device in landscape mode, which you probably do most of the time when you need the loudspeaker. No matter if you’re playing a game or watching a video in landscape mode, you’ll have to be careful not to cover up the speaker with your hand because that will kill the sound completely, this is not a particularly big speaker.

Camera

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The camera is one of the things that surprised me most when it comes to UMi Hammer S. I was pleasantly surprised after the first few shots that I took with the phone, and was quite eager to see what it can do under more difficult conditions. The result? Well, the phone did really good at first, but… well, it turns out that it’s kind of a hit and miss type of thing. I was able to get some really great shots from the phone, but after taking the same shot again from a slightly different angle the picture was really bad.

The phone is capable of taking really nice images indoors when the lighting is good, and even sometimes when it’s not that good, but as soon as you dim the lights further, the image deteriorates. The shots turn out to be quite noisy, the graininess becomes apparent, and that actually applies to images shot outside in low-lit areas. What about outside shots? Well, They can be somewhat good, sometimes, but UMi Hammer S tries to sharpen the images which end up ruining them completely in some cases. If you take a look at the gallery down below, you’ll get to see quite a few shots which have been over-sharpened by the software, which is not good, of course.

The front-facing camera, however, is passable, but nothing to write home about. It will get the job done, that’s pretty much it. So, to sum this up, the UMi Hammer S has a passable camera if you considering the price point, but overall, it’s really not all that good. I wasn’t expecting much from this camera, and that’s exactly what I got, it works fine, but don’t expect it to awe you or anything of the sort.

Conclusion

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So, is the UMi Hammer S worth the money? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for in a handset. The device’s camera is not exactly great, but the phone performs really well. Those of you who don’t really care about the hardware inside a phone and are into sheer performance might be really happy using this phone. Now, keep in mind that it has its shortcoming, the device is quite heavy, its digitizer could be better, and I do hope that charging issues are isolated to this device. On the other hand, the device offers really good performance, solid camera, solid sound output and is overall a well-built smartphone.