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Featured Review: Elephone Vowney

January 11, 2016 - Written By Kristijan Lucic

Elephone might not be the best-known brand out there, but this China-based company sure has released some interesting devices lately. The P7000 and P8000 handsets were actually really good, and their new P9000 line is supposed to be announced on January 15th. Elephone will announce three devices as part of this line, one of which will sport no bezels on the sides. The company is also planning to push out the Elephone W2 and ELE Watch smartwatches to the market as well, and the latter one will be powered by Android Wear. As you can see, Elephone is truly trying to get consumers’ attention, and we’ve actually managed to get our hands on their latest flagship, the Elephone Vowney. This smartphone is the most powerful handset Elephone has released to date, so let’s see how it performs, shall we.

Specifications

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First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that this handset is made out of metal and plasic. The phone is available in Gold color option only (Grey will be available later on), and it sports a set of on-screen buttons, the symbol you can see below the display is actually an LED notification light, not a capacitive key. The Elephone Vowney features a 5.5-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) IPS LCD display along with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64GB via a microSD card). The phone is fueled by MediaTek’s Helio X10 (MT6795) 64-bit octa-core processor clocked at 1.9GHz along with a PowerVR G6200 GPU running at 700MHz.

The 20.7-megapixel shooter is located on the back of this phone along with a dual-LED, dual tone flash, and an 8-megapixel snapper can be found up front. The 4,000mAh battery is also a part of this package, and it is built into this device. The Vowney also offers 4G LTE connectivity, FDD-LTE: Band 1/3/7/20 (800/1800/2100/2600MHz) and TDD-LTE: Band 40, while you’ll also find two SIM card slots on the inside. This smartphone measures 155 x 76 x 8.9mm, while it weighs 156 grams.

Display

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The Elephone Vowney sports a 5.5-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) IPS LCD display. Now, this is definitely not the best IPS panel I’ve seen to date, but it’s not bad at all, I’ve actually seen worse. The bottom line is, this is a display with QHD resolution, and I believe that the vast majority of you will be happy with it. There are some things you should know though. First and foremost, the display is extremely bright, and I’m not exaggerating. I was actually forced to lower brightness to about 10% in order to keep it from hurting my eyes, the display is really, really bright.

As far as sheer performance goes, the Vowney actually has a rather decent digitizer. The touch responsiveness is well balanced, and I doubt many of you will have any issues with it. The digitizer on this phone is actually one of the better ones I’ve encountered lately, at least as far as less known Chinese brands go. The colors on the panel are well balanced as well, but once again, keep in mind that this is an LCD panel, and that there are better IPS LCD panels out there (LG’s for example), so don’t expect that kind of quality.

Hardware And Build

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Now, as far as build goes, I was somewhat surprised here. The phone seemed to be significantly bigger in images than in real life. It’s not that big, and it really fits in my hand well. Keep in mind that the device does not sport a metal unibody design as its back panel is made out of plastic, but the frame is metallic. Both the power and volume rocker physical keys are placed on the right-hand side of this device, and are quite tactile. There are some black bars around the display, but they’re not thick at all, and the phone looks really sleek overall.

You’ll even get an LED notification light, which Elephone calls ‘BreathLight’, and it is located below the display. Some of you might think that is a capacitive home button, but it is not, this phone sports on-screen buttons. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to customize that LED notification button to let you know when you receive a message from third-party apps (at least not in this particular software build), but you can use it to let you know when the battery is low, you receive a message or have an incoming call, while it will light up when the phone is charging as well. The phone’s speaker grills are placed on the bottom of the device, and we’ll talk more about those in the audio section of this review.

Performance And Memory

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What about performance? Well, the Elephone Vowney sports really interesting specs on the inside. This phone is actually Elephone’s new flagship, and the Helio X10 is technically still MediaTek’s flagship processor (Helio X20 is still not available), not to mention the phone sports 4GB of RAM and has an almost stock software build on the inside. The Vowney offered an extremely smooth performance during my testing, the phone was able to chew through everything I threw at it without a hitch.

Some people might say 4GB of RAM is an overkill, but this really allowed the phone to shine when it comes to multitasking, though I think I’d get the same results with 3GB of RAM as well. Gaming was also really smooth, the Helio X10 might not be the most recent SoC, but it’s still more than capable of pushing pretty much every game available out there. Dead Trigger 2, Modern Combat 5, and a couple of arcade titles performed really well on the Elephone Vowney. I doubt anyone will be disappointed with performance here, everything from simple browsing, multitasking to gaming works really, really good. It is also worth mentioning that the fingerprint scanner on this device performs quite well too. It’s not the most accurate fingerprint unit I’ve stumbled upon, but it will work 9 out of 10 times, and that’s good enough.

Benchmarks

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As mentioned in the previous section, the phone is fueled by MediaTek’s Helio X10 SoC. I ran AnTuTu and Geekbench benchmarking tests on this device but unfortunately was not able to run to 3DMark due to the phone not cooperating for some reason. The Vowney scored 50,774 points on AnTuTu, which is not comparable to Kirin 950 or Snapdragon 820, but is still a really solid result. You have to keep in mind that this is MediaTek’s flagship SoC from last year. As far as Geekbench goes, the Vowney scored 871 points in a single-core test, and 4,502 in the multi-core test. All in all, this is a solid result, and in combination with the phone’s software you’ll get really smooth performance through and through.

Phone Calls And Network

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The Vowney isn’t exactly the phone with the best earpiece and microphone I’ve tested, but it’s not the worst either. I’d use one word to describe my phone call experience on this phone, and that word is good. The phone offered solid performance in this department even though the earpiece could be louder. I didn’t experience any dropped calls or anything of the sort, and the microphone is quite alright as well.

The same thing can be said about 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity. Everything performed as expected, and in the 5 days I was testing the device, I didn’t experience any problems whatsoever. 4G speeds were as expected, the phone took advantage of what my carrier had to offer, but keep in mind that I don’t really get the ultra-fast 4G speeds here, so I was unable to push 4G to the limit on this device. All in all, the phone offered really solid performance here, but keep in mind that there are phones with far better earpieces out there, so manage your expectations.

Battery Life

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This device packs in a rather big 4,000mAh unit on the inside, but it also sports a 5.5-inch QHD display, so putting such a big battery on the inside of this phone was definitely a good move by Elephone. The battery life results weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either. I tested the device for 5 days, and the good news is that the battery performance was quite consistent. I was able to get around 4 hours of screen on time basically every time except one day when the phone died on me at around 3 hours, 48 minutes of screen on time. To tell you the truth, I expected a bit better battery life here, but I guess this is not bad considering the fact this phone ships with a 5.5-inch QHD panel, and its display is quite bright at all times basically. Every day of my testing included quite a bit of messaging, web browsing, YouTube-ing and a bit of gaming. I’ve also used various editing applications, and on some days have fired up the phone’s Bluetooth.

Software

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As I’ve already mentioned in the ‘Performance’ section of the review, this device comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop pre-installed, and a quite stock version of Google’s OS. Keep in mind that Elephone did skin some default apps on the inside, like messaging for example. You also won’t get Google Camera pre-installed here, but the default system camera app. The same thing goes for various other apps, but the company did not include any bloatware on here. You’ll get Elephone’s official app here, and also the company’s application for updating the software, and that’s it. There are no gestures added here or anything of the sort, which means the software is quite clean, which some of you will greatly appreciate, I know I did. There are quite a few images of the UI included in the gallery down below, in case you’d like to check those out.

Sound

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Elephone’s loudspeaker is located on the bottom of the device, which is not a bad thing, although we always prefer front-facing units, as far as they’re not bad, of course. The loudspeaker on the Elephone Vowney is not bad, but it’s not great either. The speaker could be somewhat louder and crisper, though it’s far from the worst one we’ve seen. Those of you who do not require great audio on their phones will be more than pleased with this unit.

When holding the phone in landscape position, you will have to be careful not to muffle the sound, especially while gaming. Once you plug in your headphones, you’ll be able to enjoy rather average sound output. The sound output is not exactly bad, but it’s not great either. Elephone Vowney is capable of reproducing solid out, but only average, so don’t expect miracles out of this phone in terms of sound output.

Camera

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Now, Elephone has included a really solid sensor in the Elephone Vowney, Sony’s IMX230 21-megapixel Exmor R sensor. On paper, if used right, this sensor can reproduce good images. Elephone’s camera software isn’t exactly that good, though this sensor lets a lot of light enter your shots, but makes them look kind of average in the end. The camera is not Elephone Vowney’s strong suit, the shots are usually lacking detail, they’re kind of smudgy, though you can get good results out of it if you hold your hand still and there’s plenty of light in the image. Another thing to keep in mind, if you zoom in the image all the way, you’ll notice some odd black dots in it. This is only visible if you zoom all the way in though, so it is probably not something that should worry you, and software is probably to blame here.

If you take a look at the gallery down below you’ll get to see quite a few camera samples in various conditions, and you’ll see that white balance is somewhat off in some of those shots, and low light shots are quite grainy. Most of the sample shots are a tad bit blurry, and lack detail. This sensor is not the latest and greatest Sony has released, but it’s still a pretty good sensor. Elephone can still amend all this by releasing an update and improving the camera software, we do hope that will happen. We have seen far worse cameras out there, but considering this is the company’s flagship, we’ve expected this camera to perform a bit better.

Conclusion

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What is there left to say, is this phone worth the $300 price tag? Well, I’d say yes, without a doubt. The Elephone Vowney is a non-bloated device, which offers really solid build and great performance. You get 4GB of RAM on this device, and in combination with its software and the Helio X10 chip on the inside, Elephone Vowney is a joy to use. It doesn’t exactly offer a great sound output, and its camera is not that good, but other than that, this is a really, really good device. If you need performance and a QHD display, and are limited in terms of what you can spend on a phone, Elephone Vowney might be just the thing for you. If you’d like to know more about the phone, you can visit the company’s official website, and if you’re interested in buying one you can pick up the phone at Gearbest’s website.

Buy The Elephone Vowney - $299.99