Review: UMi SUPER

When it comes to smartphones these days, many of us expect to pay around $500 or more for a "flagship" smartphone. Although, the definition of "flagship" has definitely changed in the past few years. Thanks to companies like Motorola and OnePlus here in the West, we've begun seeing flagship smartphones at prices under $400. Well UMi is looking to take that a step further with their latest smartphone, dubbed the "SUPER". The UMi SUPER is a pretty interesting device here, it's priced under $200, but doesn't have the most high-end specs. So how does the UMi SUPER stack up against the competition? We'll find out in our full review.

Specs

In terms of specs here on the UMi SUPER, we are looking at a 5.5-inch 1080p display. This is a SHARP LTPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 included. Which means that the display shouldn't get scratched easily. Powering the device is the MediaTek MT6755 (also known as the Helio P10) which is an octa-core processor clocked at 2.0GHz. The Helio P10 is paired with the Mali T860 GPU and 4GB of RAM. Storage is 32GB, with a micro SD card slot included. UMi is offering the SUPER in Gray, Gold and Silver colors.

The rear-facing camera here is a 13-megapixel Panasonic sensor, with the front facing being a 5-megapixel GalaxyCore GC5005 sensor. Both cameras are capable of recording in 1080p. UMi has also included a fingerprint scanner on the backside of the device, and it's powered by a USB Type-C port (UMi did keep the 3.5mm headphone jack here). Powering the UMi SUPER is a 4000mAh battery, which the company rates as having 13-15 days of standby. And can be charged at up to 2.5A.

When it comes to connectivity, the UMi SUPER features WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n and 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks. There's also Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and GPS built in. When it comes to bands, they are as follows:

GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900

WCDMA: 850, 900, 1900, 2100

LTE FDD: 800, 1800, 2100, 2600

In the Box

The unboxing experience for the UMi SUPER was actually fairly unique. Unlike most smartphones that come in a cardboard box, the UMi SUPER actually comes in a metal box. Inside the box, you have the UMi SUPER along with the packet of quick start guides and warranty information. There's also the wall adapter and USB Type-A to Type-C cable included. Now, UMi did also ship a clear plastic case with the SUPER. It's unclear whether that was just for review units, or if that will be shipping with retail units.

Hardware & Build

The build quality was fairly surprising on the UMi SUPER. We're looking at an aluminum unibody here on the SUPER. It's a bit thicker than most smartphones, likely due to the large 4,000mAh battery inside. But that doesn't make the phone uncomfortable to hold, whatsoever. We do have antenna lines here, but UMi seems to have taken the Samsung approach here and have put them on the top and bottom of the device. Making it look fairly minimal, especially when looking at the phone from the back. For a 5.5-inch smartphone, the UMi SUPER doesn't feel all that large, to be honest. And it fits in the hand very comfortably.

As far as button placement is concerned, we're looking at the volume rocker and power button on the right side. With the SIM/micro SD card tray on the left side. UMi has also added in another physical button on the left side. It appears to work as a shortcut to the camera, but not as a shutter button. And unfortunately, we were unable to find any settings for the button, to remap it for something else. Maybe for an app shortcut like the dialer or Hangouts. So it was something that we didn't use often, considering it was only able to open the camera, and do nothing else. Now on the bottom of the UMi SUPER, we have a USB Type-C port, along with a speaker and microphone. While the top of the phone houses the 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the backside, UMi has the 13-megapixel sensor, with dual LED flash below it. And below that module is the fingerprint sensor. More on the fingerprint sensor later. The backside of the device has quite a bit of stuff, but it doesn't look all that "busy" to be honest. It still looks fairly minimal, and there is a microphone hole just above the camera. Which works well with recording video on the UMi SUPER.

Display

While most of the specs on the UMi SUPER are rather high-end, the company did decide to stick with a 1080p panel here for the display. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and they aren't the only ones doing it (OnePlus stuck with 1080p on the OnePlus 3). At 5.5-inches, it's definitely noticeable that this is a 1080p panel instead of a 2K or QHD display. But, unless you are using the UMi SUPER for virtual reality (like through Cardboard), then you likely won't notice much of a difference. The display on the UMi SUPER still looks amazing. You can't see individual pixels, and the display is pretty darn bright. The UMi SUPER's display can look a bit cool, to some people. But thanks to MiraVision, you can jump right into the settings and change the temperature of the display to your liking. Something that's always a nice addition.

The range of brightness for the UMi SUPER is actually quite large. You can go from having the display very dim, to having it very bright. Making it a great smartphone to use at night or in the dark, as well as in direct sunlight. The digitizer underneath the display has actually performed quite well. For those that might be unaware, the digitizer is what recognizes your finger touching the display. So if the digitizer is bad, then you'll notice that the phone lags (i.e. when you touch the display, it may take a bit to actually register that touch). Luckily that's not a problem here, even when playing graphic intense games. Now the display here isn't borderless like the Elephone S3's display that we recently reviewed, but the bezels are still fairly small.

Performance

The Helio P10 is here powering the show. This is a true octa-core processor, with eight Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.0GHz. A slight upgrade over the MT6753 that is found in most smartphones in this price range. It's also paired with the Mali T860 GPU. Together, these provide a pretty amazing experience. Obviously, this isn't going to compare with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and the Adreno 530 GPU, but it's still pretty great. During average day-to-day usage (checking Twitter, email, Snapchat, Instagram, etc), the UMi SUPER performed quite well. We didn't notice any type of slowdowns at all throughout the OS. When it came to gaming, the experience was much the same. No slowdowns when gaming, even with more graphic-intense titles.

UMi did throw in 4GB of RAM here in the UMi SUPER. Which definitely does help with the performance of the device. It meant that the phone never felt sluggish, nor did it ever run of out RAM and have to reload apps that were left in recent memory. While smartphones are starting to come with 6GB of RAM now - like the OnePlus 3, and the Galaxy Note 7 is rumored to sport it as well - 4GB of RAM is still plenty for most flagships these days.

Speaker & Audio

As noted, the speaker on the UMi SUPER is located on the bottom of the device. Next to the USB Type-C port. Not the most ideal place to put a speaker, but it could be worse (read: on the back). UMi did throw in the AW8738 audio chip, which technically gives the UMi SUPER HiFi audio. While we are no expert on audio, it does sound much better than most of the other smartphones that have recently came across our desk. Both the speaker and headphone jack are much improved over the likes of the Elephone S3, Oukitel K6000 Pro and the Ulefone Vienna.

Settings for audio on the UMi SUPER are pretty plain. There's no system-wide EQ unfortunately. But UMi does have a few features included like BesAudEnh, BesLoudness and BesSurround, which will improve the audio and bring it more inline with the users liking.

Super Skylight

Also known as a notification LED. UMi has decided to put a circular LED notification light below the display here on the SUPER. It changes colors, and actually looks really nice. Definitely an upgrade over the typical notification LED light. UMi does allow you to adjust the settings here. By default it will light up when charging, with the battery low and when in standby. I turned it off for standby, as it was just a bit annoying - not to mention it likely is using more battery that way. There are also options for using it for missing notifications, and changing the color for incoming calls. The settings aren't that robust, but still pretty impressive, to say the least.

Fingerprint Sensor

UMi has place the fingerprint sensor on the backside of the device. It's actually in almost the perfect spot. It's just above where my finger would normally rest when holding the device. Making it easy to go ahead and place your finger on the sensor to unlock it. Speaking of unlocking it with the fingerprint sensor, it's not all that accurate, unfortunately. It's really the only place where the phone falls short. It's accurate probably about two-thirds of the time. However, my issue isn't with it being inaccurate. It's the fact that it doesn't show you that it didn't read your fingerprint correctly. As the screen stays off, and it vibrates when it recognizes your finger and when it doesn't. So you're left just touching the sensor multiple times until it recognizes it. Not the best implementation, especially on the software side.

With the UMi SUPER running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it means that you'll be able to use the fingerprint sensor to login to apps thanks to the Fingerprint API. We used the fingerprint sensor to login to a few apps, and it worked just as it should. Which is always a good thing here.

Battery Life

It was impressive. To say the least. The battery life here was quite good, and it landed about where we expected it too. The UMi SUPER outlasted the Elephone S3 with its tiny 2100mAh battery that's built-in. However it did not outlast the 6,000mAh battery found in the Oukitel K6000 Pro, and we didn't expect it to, to be honest. The UMi SUPER did last us around a day and a half to almost two days before needing a recharge. Which was pretty decent, to be honest. For heavy users, it should definitely get them through an entire day without any issues whatsoever.

Now with the UMi SUPER, we don't have Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology, and that's due to the fact that it's not running on a Qualcomm processor. However, UMi does have a form of quick charge included here. The included charger can charge at up to 2.5A. Unfortunately, we couldn't use the included charger since it's an EU plug and we aren't in the EU. We used this with a Quick Charge 2.0 charger, and it charged fairly quickly, without damaging the device.

Benchmarks

With the UMi SUPER, we ran AnTuTu, Geekbench 3 and 3D Mark benchmarks on the device, during our testing. It returned some pretty interesting results. Now we haven't used a phone with these specs before, so there wasn't much to compare it with. But on AnTuTu it did score around 46 thousand, which placed it just below the Xiaomi Mi 4S and above the Meizu M3 Note. You can see the results from Geekbench 3 and 3D Mark down below.

Software

When we talk about Chinese smartphones, we typically hear the complaint about them using heavy skins (like Touchwiz and Optimus UI from Samsung and LG), but with UMi, they have stuck with stock Android. Given the price of the UMi SUPER, it's not a big surprise. Given that it is much more cost efficient, as it means that their software developers have to do very little to get Android 6.0 Marshmallow running on the UMi SUPER.

UMi is running a slightly customized version of Android, but for many, you wouldn't even know what the differences were. The biggest difference here is the launcher. The app drawer does exist, and it slides left and right. With 20 apps per page (4x5 configuration). You'll also notice throughout the UI that where Android 6.0 Marshmallow usually has a slightly weird blue color (like in the notification shade) that UMi has replaced it with a black background. It's a slight change, and will probably make a lot of people happy. Especially those that like the darker colors in the UI.

That's about it for the software. With the Helio P10 and 4GB of RAM, Marshmallow runs pretty smoothly on the UMi SUPER, which is definitely nice to see. It would be nice to see UMi throw in a few more goodies within the software too, to help differentiate themselves from the competition out there. As there is plenty of competition in China right now.

Camera

The camera experience here on the UMi SUPER is actually pretty underwhelming. For many, it'll be perfect. Since it is pretty simple. Everything is about where you'd expect it to be. With the gallery shortcut to the right (or above, depending on the orientation of the phone) of the shutter button. With the settings on the left or below it. Within settings, you have the ability to turn on or off the GPS location of the pictures. As well as adjust the exposure and white balance, and change up the scene to get the perfect picture. There are also options for Zero Shutter Delay, Anti-Shake, Voice Capture, Face Detection, Smile Shot and Auto Scene Detection.

Pictures from the  camera are actually pretty impressive, to say the least. The Panasonic sensor worked pretty well. We were able to get some impressive pictures both inside and outside and in different lighting conditions. The shutter did have a few issues where it would be slow to snap the picture. However this didn't happen all that often. You can see some samples from the camera in the Flickr gallery that is posted below.

The Good

The Display: It's pretty amazing for a 1080p panel.

Battery Life: Also another strong point for the UMi SUPER

Build Quality: I'd argue that the UMi SUPER's build quality rivals the HTC 10. And that's saying a lot.

The Bad

Availability: Always an issue with Chinese smartphones, but it still needs to be said. It'll only be available in China, unfortunately.

Notification LED: It's cool and all, but it's tough to figure out why it exists. I kept thinking that it was the home button, when it was just an LED notification light.

Wrap Up

If you're in Asia, or even Europe, the UMi SUPER is definitely a smartphone to check out. It'll work with the bands in Europe as well. A smartphone with a 5.5-inch 1080p display, 4000mAh battery, 2GHz octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for just under $200 is still pretty mind-blowing. That's something you definitely won't see in Western markets, and won't see anytime soon. Here's hoping that UMi can break through the border and bring the SUPER over to the US and other countries on this side of the world.

Should I Buy the UMi SUPER? 

If you're a power user, you'll definitely want to pick up the UMi SUPER, for the battery life and processing power alone. Even if you're not a power user, the UMi SUPER offers tremendous value for the money you'll spend on it. And it's also future-proof, at least for a few years. Something you can't say about many other smartphones, unfortunately.

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