The Chinese smartphone market is the biggest market in the world, and the competition over there is off the charts. Many OEMs are selling their devices in China, which includes foreign companies and tons of China-based OEMs. UMi is a Chinese smartphone OEM, and even though they're not exactly a big company, they're trying to make a name for themselves by releasing compelling products. UMi actually sells their devices via various China-based resellers, which makes their products available to people all over the globe. UMi has recently released a rather interesting device called the UMi Iron, which we're here to take a look at. This is a rather interesting smartphone which is made out of metal and sports really compelling specifications on the inside, not to mention that it's pretty affordable. Anyhow, let's take a look at what the UMi Iron has to offer by taking a closer look at the device.
NOTE: the UMi Iron unit we've tested doesn't run the final version of the software, and is lacking some functions that are available in the final version, like the retina scanner capability and UMi's fitness app. Keep that in mind before moving forward, thank you.
The UMi Iron is a well-equipped device in terms of specs, this thing actually packs in 3GB of RAM and a 1080p display, though it doesn't exactly sport a high-end processor. MediaTek's MT6753 64-bit octa-core SoC is available here, which is MediaTek's mid-range processor offering. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, the MT6753 is a very capable chip, and it's in here for a reason. This chip basically lets you use the 4G LTE connectivity of this device all over the world because it supports a ton of different networks / bands. That being said, here's a list of UMi Iron's specifications:
- 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LTPS display (403 PPI)
- 3GB of RAM
- 16GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64GB)
- MediaTek MT6753 64-bit octa-core SoC running at 1.3GHz
- Mali-T720 GPU
- 13-megapixel rear-facing camera (Sony's IMX214 sensor) + dual-LED flash
- 8-megapixel front-facing shooter (OmniVision's OV8858 sensor) + LED flash
- 3,350mAh battery
- Android 5.1 Lollipop OS
- Dual-SIM (2 x Nano SIM)
- 4G LTE (4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz)
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 152.3 x 76.5 x 7.9mm
- 148 grams
Hardware And Build
The UMi Iron's design is something you'll most definitely notice, its design is everything except understated. The phone is made out of metal, which makes it look great, and feel cool to the touch. The device fits well in the hand even though it might be too big for some people. This thing sports a 5.5-inch display, and it's noticeably bigger than the LG G3 for example, a device which sports the same sized display. The Iron is not huge though, it measures 152.3 x 76.5 x 7.9mm and weighs 148 grams. The device might be both too tall and too wide for some people, but most of you won't be bothered by its size.
The Iron has a curve on its back, which help with the in-hand feel, though keep in mind that the phone is quite slippery due to its all-metal design. There are no capacitive buttons on this smartphone, you'll need to use the on-screen ones that are part of its software. UMi has also implemented an LED notification light below the display, and it looks really cool, at least in my personal opinion. The light is at the very bottom of the front side of this phone, and it's quite wide and thin, it really complements the design and I think most people will like this. You can, of course, turn it off if that's not your thing.
Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that both power / lock and volume rocker buttons are located on the left-hand side of this phone, and only the dual-SIM / MicroSD tray is located on the right side of the UMi Iron. The speaker lays on the back of this phone, along with a 13-megapixel camera and a dual-LED flash, both of which we'll talk about later on. Interesting enough, the LED flash is also available on the front side of this device, in order to complement the front-facing snapper. Something else that is located up front, is the eye scanner sensor.
This handset sports a 5.5-inch LTPS FullHD (1920 x 1080) panel, which essentially means we're looking at the same display you can find on the OnePlus One for example. Is it any good? Well, yeah, it is. This is a very solid panel, it is plenty bright and quite sharp, no to mention the viewing angles on this thing are really good. Contrast is quite solid as well, though don't expect colors to be overly saturated as they are on an AMOLED panel. Blacks are also more than decent, they're quite good actually. The display is pretty sensitive, I've seen better though, but you won't have any problems using this. It's a true capacitive panel and the digitizer is also quite good.
Keep in mind that there are black bars present around the display, which means it's not exactly and edge-to-edge display. The PPI count on this panel is 403, which is more than enough actually. I personally do think that QuadHD displays are completely unnecessary on smartphones, and coming from a QHD display on the G3, I didn't find myself lacking anything on this panel. Truth be told, I actually enjoyed using the LTPS panel on the UMi Iron, simply because it was more than sharp enough, and it was a whole lot brighter than the LCD3 QHD panel LG G3 is rockin', What's the bottom line? This display is really, really good, you'll get great colors, plenty of brightness and the colors won't exactly wash out when you tilt the device.
As far as performance goes, the UMi Iron exceeded my expectations despite the fact the final software isn't installed on this unit. This handset offers a really solid set of specs, the MediaTek MT6753 64-bit octa-core SoC is a mid-range chip, but it performs really, really good. Let me start this off by saying that as far as general navigation through the system, opening up apps, multitasking and everything of that sort is concerned, you won't have any issues with this device whatsoever. The UMi Iron blasts through such tasks like a champ, MT6753 is more than powerful enough for that, and 3GB of RAM ensure that the system is buttery smooth. Speaking of the system, UMi Iron is powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop with very few OEM apps installed on top of it, which is one of the reasons this device offers such performance.
As far as gaming goes, I fired up 4 games on this thing, Chess, Despicable Me, Asphalt 8: Airborne and Dead Trigger 2. If you're a gamer, you're probably going to buy the latest and the greatest as far as hardware goes, but UMi Iron can hold its own as far as this is concerned. The phone blasts through Chess and Despicable Me, though that is to be expected considering those are not that demanding titles. Asphalt 8: Airborne was loaded on medium details by default, and the phone performed admirably during my testing. It did have issues when tuning up the details to high, but that was also to be expected. As far as Dead Trigger 2 goes, you won't have any issues playing this thing either, the phone did really well in this test too, taking down zombies was a breeze, no issues whatsoever. The UMi Iron did heat up to a certain level and was quite warm after some time of playing, but never got unbearably hot.
If you take a look at the gallery down below, you'll notice quite a few benchmark app screenshots down there. Benchmarks aren't exactly the best way to determine how well the phone performs, but it does give you the general idea of how powerful the phone's SoC and GPU are. The UMi Iron tested as expected, as other phones fueled by MediaTek's MT6753 did, really well. To give you a better idea how powerful this chip are, it lays somewhere in between Snapdragon 615 and 801.
The UMi Iron features a 5.5-inch 1080p display, and a not-so-small 3,350mAh battery powers this device. That being said, the battery life isn't that great, but it's also not bad either. I managed to get over 4 hours of screen-on time with the UMi Iron, but only barely. The battery life results weren't all that consistent from day to day though, it all depends on how you use your device. I also wasn't able to get to 4 hours on one occasion, but in a vast majority of days I tested this device, it lasted over 4 hours. Keep in mind that I'm a heavy user and have a ton of apps installed on the device. Constantly have 3 e-mail accounts running in the background, and quite a few apps working in the background.
The LG G3 is my daily driver recently, and I've been having a hard time getting over 3 hours of screen-on time out of that thing, so that should give you an idea how heavily I use my phone. Taking that into consideration, the UMi Iron's battery life is rather solid, and depending on how much you push it during the day, you might even be able to get better results than I did during my testing. The 3,350mAh battery should be more than enough to power the 1080p LTPS display which is available on this device, and for most of you, it will probably be more than enough.
UMi Iron comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop pre-installed, and a very light skin actually. The company did add some of their own apps on top of Google's OS, but nothing that would bog down the system. The phone runs really smooth, as I've already mentioned, and aside from a different icon pack and a couple of UMi apps and gestures, this is stock Android. The Settings menu looks as it does on stock Lollipop, same goes for the notification tray. You get the double-tap-to-unlock option here (which works great by the way), as well as some other gesture features, you can write the letter 'm' on the screen while the display is in standby and the phone will launch the messaging app. That being said, let's take a look at what UMi apps you'll find pre-installed on this device, shall we.
UMi has pre-installed MAXX EQ, Backup and Restore, BLE Manager (Bluetooth Manager), Eye Scanner and Fitness app (we were unable to test the last two). You probably already know what each of these apps do just by looking at their names, but let's go over them real quick. The MAXX EQ is basically an equalizer app which gives you control over the phone's audio output. You can choose some presents within the app, like Rock, Pop, Jazz, Hip Hop... while you can also manually tune the sound to fit your taste. Backup and Restore app is self-explanatory, the app lets you backup or restore your 'Personal Data' and 'Applications' (Application Data). The BLE Manager basically gives you control over the connected Bluetooth accessories, that's it, works similar to the general Bluetooth option within the settings.
Sound And Call Quality
What about the sound quality? Well, the UMi Iron comes equipped with a rather small rear-facing loudspeaker, which is quite frankly not loud enough. The sound output is not awful, but it's not that good either. The sound is crisp enough, but the speaker is just not loud enough for the output to be considered good. I've cranked up the volume all the way up and it just didn't produce the wanted volume, especially if you're watching a movie or something to that effect, the dialog is too quiet for my taste and you'll probably want to use a headphone set. That being said, the sound quality is alright, but I would have preferred it to be quite a bit louder so that I can test it properly. Another thing to note, is the fact that the loudspeaker is located in the middle bottom part of the phone's back, which makes it somewhat easy to cover with your hand when watching a video on the phone.
The loudspeaker could be better, but the call quality is actually quite good. I've performed a number of calls from this device which lasted a couple of minutes each, and I was able to hear the person on the other end of the line just fine. The microphone seems to be quite good as well because I didn't get any complaints from the people I called, they were able to hear me just fine, and said that the volume is spot on as well. The call quality is rather crisp and you shouldn't have any problems making calls from this device. Same can be said about using earphones / headphones via the 3.5mm headphone jack, the sound output was good. I've used phones with far worse earpieces, but on the other hand I've also handled a better ones, I'd say that the sound quality on this device is rather average in general.
As previously mentioned, the UMi Iron features a 13-megapixel rear-facing shooter. UMi has decided to implement Sony's IMX214 sensor, which is quite good if used in the combination with the right software. So, is the UMi Iron's camera any good? Well, I'd say it's alright, but not that great. The camera is rather finicky, I was actually able to take really good looking shots outside when the lighting wasn't perfect (sunset, starry sky), and sometimes pictures looked really odd in such conditions. That being said, if the lighting is good when you take shots with this camera, the pictures will look just fine.
When did I encounter most problems with this camera? Well, indoors when the light was not that good and the camera seemed to struggle when it comes to white balance from time to time, but you can't really expect this camera to perform any better under such conditions. Keep in mind how much this phone costs, and don't expect the camera to be on par with some higher-end devices, and you'll be fine. This shooter can take really solid pictures under right conditions and I'm sure that it will serve most of you just fine.
The 8-megapixel front-facing shooter pack in OmniVision's OV8858 sensor, and the camera is alright for a front-facer, but it honestly looked more like a 5-megapixel snapper. The white exposure and color accuracy were a bit off, but I've seen far worse front-facing cameras if I'm being honest. Anyhow, if you'd like to check out some UMi Iron camera samples, check out the gallery down below, there are quite a few images for you to take a look at.
So, is this phone worth $179.99? It definitely is, at least in my humble opinion. The UMi Iron has a lot of positives, but there a couple of negatives in the mix as well. The phone performs exceptionally well, it will power through anything you throw at it. The animations and transitions are smooth, and the phone opens apps in a blink of an eye. The build quality is spot on, and the display is also quite good an bright. The downsides of this device are its camera sensors and loudspeaker, but other than that, the device is definitely worth its price tag. If you're not buying a phone primarily for its camera, or don't intend to use the loudspeaker all that often, this device is a steal. Even taking into consideration its downsides, the UMi Iron really has a lot to offer.