Among the many Chinese manufacturers of smartphones out there, Doogee stands among the crowd by not just offering the standard cheap pricing and quality build that's become so common among Chinese manufacturers in the past year or two, but tends to pack in more features with their own OS too. Besides this bit of software difference Doogee seeks to differentiate themselves with some unique hardware traits that aren't found elsewhere, like a rear touch panel and multiple LED notification lights. All these components are packed into a colorful shell that retails for around $120, a feat that's certainly nothing to be scoffed at and one that certainly looks like it could be the best value of 2015 if everything falls into place. Let's delve into this unique little device and see exactly what's being offered.
More and more often $120 is buying better and better phones, and part of this is because there's so much competition in the space that used to be considered entry-level. As a result this field has gotten increasingly more incredible, encroaching upon the performance and specs of device that were two to three times as expensive only a few months ago.
- 5-inch 720p IPS Display
- MediaTek MT6592M 1.4GHz Octa-Core Processor
- Mali 450-MP4 GPU
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB internal storage, microSD card support
- 2,200mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2
- 13MP rear-facing camera, LED flash
- 8MP front-facing camera
- 142.5mm tall x 71.4mm wide x 8.2mm thick
- Dual-SIM card support
In the Box
Value is the name of the game with the Doogee Valencia 2 Y100, and the contents of the box certainly don't stray from that mantra at all. Besides the phone you're going to find the requisite microUSB cable and accompanying wall charger, as well as a pair of headphones, a screen protector and even a micro-fiber cloth for keeping that screen nice and shiny. Just about the only thing Doogee doesn't provide here are extra color backs, which are sold separately and are easily interchangeable, which we'll discuss in a bit. This package is a phenomenal value all the way around.
Doogee is certainly going for that wow-factor rather than the approval of color accuracy purists here, but that's likely something that'll please more people than it would turn away. Saturation is the name of the game here as the screen is ultra bright and super saturated, displaying incredibly bright and vibrant colors that'll knock your socks off nearly every time you turn the phone on. At its highest brightness the screen is an absolute torch and honestly is almost too bright even in direct sunlight because of the level of saturation present in the colors. Whites are slightly cool but don't affect the colors in a negative way, and again if you're a color lover you really don't need to look any further than the Valencia 2 Y100 to find the best out there.
This panel is absolutely incredible looking any way you shave it, and that even includes things like black levels and viewing angles too. 720p resolution might not sound like a lot in the days of quad-HD on flagship devices, but when it's a good 720p 5-inch panel you'll likely be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and some 1080p panels out there. This is a seriously sharp display and it's done without the use of sharpening filters too, representing a very pure 720p image that doesn't feel soft in the least bit. Even the refresh rate is good here, something that many panels at this price point with this many other positives usually have to cut back on. On top of that the digitizer can't be faulted at all and performs just as well as you would expect it to on a modern Android-powered smartphone. Keeping up with fast typing isn't a problem here, and multi-touch applications work exactly as they should too because of it.
Hardware and Build
Plastic phones are nothing new, especially in the world of sub-$150 phones, so it's no surprise that the Doogee Valencia 2 Y100 is made entirely out of plastic. As you might have learned from countless other plastic devices out there, plastic doesn't automatically mean the device feels cheap. In fact with the Valencia 2 Y100 Doogee has managed to keep this all-plastic clad device feeling no cheaper than anything else out there, and quite honestly better built than many plastic devices in this price range. The Valencia 2 Y100 doesn't feel hollow at all and has a nice weight to it without feeling heavy. It's thin and has respectable bezels on its face. The removable back adds a little bit extra size because of its shell design that wraps around all sides of the phone, but it's not hefty in the least bit.
The back is easily removable and is secured by simple clips all around the frame. On the back you'll find the circular camera lens and a single LED flash as well as a really interesting touch panel area. It's not immediately obvious how large this touch panel is just by looking at the back from the outside, so taking the back off is the easiest way to tell. Behind here you'll find the removable battery as well as the pins where the touch panel meets. There's a regular sized SIM slot, micro SIM slot and a microSD card slot above the battery as well, although you'll need to take the battery out to reach any of these. There's also a single speaker near the bottom of the back too, and the entire back is textured in a really interesting and nice feeling line pattern for extra grip.
Both the volume rocker and power buttons are situation on the right side of the phone, while the top houses both the 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB port. The front face of the phone fits three capacitive buttons below the screen, from left to right a menu, home and back button. I'm never one to praise OEMs for using a menu button and nothing is changing here, as it only creates more confusion and makes multi-tasking more difficult.
Performance and Memory
The Valencia 2 Y100 isn't using one of MediaTek's absolute latest 64-bit chipsets, rather its the last of the 32-bit kind. As we've seen from Qualcomm's chipsets that's not a bad thing at all, as the MT6592M that powers this phone is zippy and fast in most situations. Just about the only situation where I saw the phone stutter at all was when installing apps, which isn't something that's done all that often while a user is on the phone. Even still it wasn't enough of a pause to break the experience or become a frustration, just caused a few hiccups in audio playback and slight pauses in app interaction. Running intensive apps was no problem for the phone at all and I never ran into a time where I was wishing for more horsepower while using an app. Memory speeds left a bit to be desired though and were pretty typical of phones in this price range. That means loading large apps and installing apps might take some time, and you'll likely run into pauses and hiccups while multi-tasking.
Speaking of multi-tasking outside of having to hold the home button down or double-tap it to bring up the multi-tasking view, apps quickly loaded and I had almost no problem moving between them at all. This is impressive singularly because there's only one gigabyte of RAM in this phone, something that's proved problematic with devices this day in age simply because apps and games have become so complex and require more RAM to move between. It feels like Doogee must have done something special with the way Android handles apps, and while Android 4.4 KitKat that powers the phone is built for devices with as little as 512mb of RAM, that doesn't mean the experience is a good one with that little. The multi-tasking interface is very iOS without a doubt and features large thumbnails that scroll horizontally, all with their app icons below. Swiping up removes an app while swiping down locks it into memory to an extent.
2,200mAh isn't big enough of a battery to get most people through a full day's usage, and that's unfortunately the story here with the Valencia 2. While I easily made it through a full work day of streaming music and occasionally chatting with friends or making phone calls without a problem, getting to the actual end of the day before bed was very difficult without needing a bit of a recharge. This negative mark is slightly negated by the fact that the battery is completely removable and can be switched out at any time, but that's still an inconvenience over simply having a larger battery.
Futuremark's PCMark test suite, which puts the phone through a rigorous series of tests for several hours, determined that the average user should be able to get over 4 hours of on-screen time before running to the 20% battery mark. That's certainly better than what I averaged with the phone but I'm a rather heavy user of my tech and may not represent the average user anyway.
Phone Calls and Network
Plenty of phones sold only in China will only support worldwide 2G bands and nothing more outside of China, but the Valencia 2 Y100 isn't one of these. Fully supporting worldwide 2G and 3G bands this phone worked great for me on both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks and provided a solid 3G HSPA signal. As the device is plastic it inherently has better reception strength than an all-metal phone likely would, and I never found the phone dropping from 3G to 2G because of poor reception. Speeds are your typical HSPA fare with fast downloads of up to 20Mbps in good areas, uploads in the 1-3Mbps range, and ping times normally under the 200ms mark. As the HSPA handshake takes a little longer than LTE you might find yourself waiting a few extra seconds when loading new data for the first time, but normally once it gets going there's no issues with speed for streaming music or video.
Call reception and quality was phenomenal and represented some of the best I could think of despite the price tag. Volume through both the earpiece and loudspeaker were phenomenal and I never found myself wanting higher volume when talking to anyone, even in a fast moving truck on the highway. Dual-SIM support is here for those that need it, with one regular sized SIM card and one micro SIM card, as well as the ability to choose between carriers for your calls, data and texts.
Doogee OS, as Doogee's custom skin for Android is appropriately called, is what powers the experience here. Built upon Android 4.4.2 KitKat this highly skinned and fully-featured OS is not only chock full of features that you'd normally only find on more expensive phones, it's flat-out beautiful and colorful too. Just by looking at the interface you'd be hard pressed to tell this is Android 4.4 KitKat, which is nearly two years old at this point in time, and looks much more like a brand-new custom version of Android built upon Android 5 Lollipop instead. The influence of Apple's iOS and Xiaomi's MIUI are unmistakable here, but if you're familiar with any of those you'll be able to tell the difference with just a little bit of usage time with the phone.
The biggest problem with the UI is one that plagued MIUI for the longest time; extremely poor notification support. This is a bummer since Android specializes in notification delivery, and you'd find yourself hard pressed to even know about notifications at all if it weren't for the three LEDs Doogee has placed on the left side of the phone. These notification lights are separate to let you know about missed calls, missed messages and the third is reserved for one other app of your choice. If you'd rather just have it set to all other notifications that can be done too, but you can't specify colors per app or anything like that, so while it's a really cool concept it falls a little short in the end. Again the biggest problem is not knowing you even have a notification by glancing at the screen, as there's no indication on the lockscreen and no icons or anything in the notification tray up top to let you know. Pulling down the notification shade reveals said notifications but it's irritating to have to constantly do that when you shouldn't have to.
Visually Doogee OS looks stunning, with ultra bright and saturated pastel colors and each built-in app having its own unique tinted status bar as well. Remembering that this is Android 4.4 KitKat and not Lollipop becomes hard when you see the tinted status bar, the animations and the overall beauty of the OS, but incredibly Doogee has transformed KitKat into something you're absolutely not going to recognize no matter how hard you try. Bright whites and bright colors are the name of the game here, from the rounded square icons on the stock launcher to the colors of each Doogee-developed app there's no denying how colorful and vibrant this OS looks. The notification shade features a tinted glass-looking background and the quick toggles are situated on a page to the right of the actual notifications, accessed by a quick swipe between the pages.
The whole gamut of apps expected are included and all look just like the rest of the OS, showing the care that Doogee put into designing their Android skin. Apps like Calendar and Calculator have a Google functional design but a very Doogee look to them. Unique apps included are FM Radio, Backup and Restore, Wallpapers, Sound Recorded, Camera Box and a handful of others. None of these apps take up much room which is a relief since there's only 8GB of internal storage, with 2GB of that being taken up by the ROM itself. That's actually incredibly small for most ROMs and gives users more space to work with out of the box before having to buy a microSD card to expand the space.
Doogee has packed the Valencia 2 Y100 to the brim with features, and they're all found within the settings menu of the device. Rather than run through them line-by-line let's explore them in video format below.
As has become standard on many Chinese phones these days, per-app permissions are a selling point for the Valencia 2. This allows you as the user to control which apps have access to your information on an individual permission basis. For example if an app wants to access your contacts but you don't like that sort of thing to be happening without your knowledge you can easily deny permission via the handy pop-up box that comes up when an app asks for permission. This extends to everything from camera access to GPS location and more. Permissions are organized by type or by app, so you can easily see which permissions a specific app has access to or which permissions all apps have access to. In addition to this users can control which apps start up with the phone automatically in the security section of settings, keeping apps from wantonly running without you asking them to.
Sound output via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm headset jack from the Valencia 2 is nothing short of phenomenal. It's not quite on the level of phones that cost $300 or more but that's completely understandable since it's only a little over $100 in the first place. In fact this might be some of the best sound I've heard from a phone in this price range in quite a while, and on the positive side the sound really doesn't need to be adjusted much through the built-in equalizer for most sound systems I tested it on. There's some seriously excellent balance going on here between lows, mids and highs and none of these seem to be overly adjusted for out of the box. Even audio coming from the single speaker on the back is truly great; audio is loud, clear and well balanced.
At $120 or less there's just not a lot of room for some of the more expensive components like quality camera sensors or lenses. Doogee once again surprised in this area by providing a really decent camera experience overall and seems to excel over some other phones in this price range. The 13-megapixel sensor behaves like an actual 13-megapixel sensor rather than a lower resolution one that's just interpolated to a higher resolution. As a result pictures are crisp and clear with lots of detail for this price range, provided that you manually press the screen to focus. Auto focus was a mixed bag for me and at times didn't seem to focus on anything at all, as can be seen in the example shots below. This leaves the image looking a bit fuzzy but not too bad, and would certainly be usable on social networks and the like without issue.
Color and white balance was generally fantastic, and surprisingly the camera seemed to bias toward the lower exposure levels rather than over-exposing as many smartphones tend to do. Doogee seems to prefer a lower ISO over a faster shutter which means moving objects in lower light are likely going to turn out blurry. This is an unfortunate side effect of trying to keep noise low but it does work well in that regard, and the denoise filter that's applied to images doesn't have to go into overdrive which helps preserve details. Color accuracy was also phenomenal even in low light, something many sensors even at a slightly higher price point can tend to struggle with. There's no discoloration or lens aberration that's obvious.
Video seemed to have the same weird focusing issues that some of my pictures with the Valencia 2 did, leaving the overall feeling of the 1080p videos a bit soft. Much like the still frame camera the white balance and color accuracy was excellent, preserving a more natural look to the scene without making it too warm or cool looking.
While there are generally concessions that have to be made to make a brand-new smartphone this affordable, Doogee seems to have chosen just the right ones in the Valencia 2 Y100. If color is something you really like there's an option for just about everyone here, as Doogee makes the Valencia 2 in a standard black with many different color back shells to switch out. A removable batter, microSD card support and dual-SIM card capability make this a winner for many out there, and an overall quality build make the phone feel solid in the hands. There is a lot of care and customization to Android in the Doogee OS that's included with the phone, and fans of MIUI won't need to look far to see the resemblance here in both look and features. Even so the color palette Doogee chose and the customization of each app included keep the phone from looking like every other Android 4.4 KitKat powered phone out there. Great sound output, a good camera for the price range and an excellent user experience make this one of the best phones in this price range hands down.
If you're in the market for a brand new phone and really love what you see of the Valencia 2 Y100 we suggest picking one up for yourself at an unbelievable $102 thanks to our partners at GearBest. You're really going to be hard pressed to find a better deal than this in the smartphone world.