Review: ZOPO Speed 8

ZOPO has recently released the Speed 8, which is their latest smartphone sporting a deca-core processor and a rather large 3600mAh battery. Many probably have never heard of ZOPO, but they are a smartphone maker that was founded in 2015 and is located in Shenzhen, China. So it definitely makes sense as to why many in the West haven't heard of them before. The ZOPO Speed 8 appears to be a great device for the company, but how great can it really be? We'll find out in our full review here.

Specs

The ZOPO Speed 8 is sporting a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 resolution display here. Powering the device is the MediaTek MT6797 (also referred to as the Helio X20). This processor is a deca-core processor, and it breaks down with two 2.5GHz cores, four 2.0GHz cores and four 1.4GHz cores, and that is paired with the ARM Mali-T880 GPU. For multi-tasking we have plenty of RAM, looking at 4GB of RAM here and 32GB of storage. All of that is powered by a 3600mAh battery that is non-removable.

As far as connectivity goes, there's Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n, GPS, GLONASS and of course cellular connectivity for 2G, 3G and 4G networks. These are the bands that the ZOPO Speed 8 supports:

GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900

W-CDMA: 900, 1900, 2100

LTE: 800, 1800, 2100, 2600

LTE-TDD: 1900, 2300, 2500, 2600

For the cameras on the ZOPO Speed 8, we're looking at a 21-megapixel Sony sensor on the back with dual LED flash, and a 8-megapixel OmniVision sensor on the front with LED flash - something you don't normally see on the front.

In the Box

Inside the box, ZOPO has included the usual suspects. With the Speed 8 sitting on top, the USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable is beneath it. Along with the wall adapter and packet full of paperwork. ZOPO has also included a SIM ejection tool, since the device does indeed have a SIM tray - since the back is not removable. Other than that, there's not much in the box. Which is to be expected.

Hardware and Build Quality

ZOPO's build quality on the Speed 8 is pretty impressive, to say the least. We're looking at a metal frame, with a faux brushed metal back. While we would have loved to see a metal body here, going the faux metal route means that we don't have those annoying antenna lines on the back and on the frame of the Speed 8. Making the device look even cleaner. Additionally, with the back being a darker color, it gives some character to the Speed 8, being dual-toned. This is especially true with the fingerprint sensor and ZOPO logo on the back, both of which are in silver, and really stand out.

The camera on the back does protrude just a little bit. It's not overly noticeable, but it is there. Of course, below that 21-megapixel camera, we have the dual-tone LED flash and fingerprint sensor. Which we'll talk about a bit later on. Other than that, the back of the Speed 8 is actually pretty plain, and it looks good. Now on the right side of the Speed 8, there's the volume rocker and power button with the top housing the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left is your SIM card slot, which it is a dual SIM card slot, and the bottom has the USB Type-C port. It's really great seeing USB Type-C on more and more devices, hopefully this will help USB Type-C become more widely adopted.

With a 3600mAh battery inside, I actually expected the Speed 8 to be a bit heavier than it actually was. It is likely lighter due to the fact that the back isn't actually real metal, but plastic - and we all know that plastic is lighter than aluminum. Holding the Speed 8 in your hand, it feels really comfortable. It is slightly curved, but not to curved to where the smartphone wobbles when typing on it on a flat surface - like the Nexus 6 would. The power and volume rocker on the side are in a great spot, allowing you to use them without needing to shimmy your hand up the device all that much. Definitely important with larger smartphones these days, although a 5.5-inch smartphone is starting to become small, at least according to some people. The ZOPO Speed 8 is definitely a looker, and the company definitely did check all the boxes when it comes to build quality here. Again, they may not have used the most high-end materials, but it seems like they used the best materials for making the device look the best, without sacrificing signal strength or design.

Display

Here, the Speed 8 sports a 5.5-inch 1080p panel. Similar to the Moto G4/G4 Plus and the OnePlus 3. All of which cost quite a bit more than the Speed 8, but it does still perform quite well. Viewing angles on the Speed 8 are pretty amazing. Allowing you to show the display to a friend and still be able to see what's on the screen. Viewing angles haven't been much of an issue lately, with smartphones though, so this isn't a huge surprise. The colors on this panel are nice and vivid. They aren't as saturated as what you'd find on something like the OnePlus 3, due to its AMOLED display, but many will still be perfectly fine with it. Of course, the Speed 8 does support MiraVision, which allows you to adjust aspects of the display. This allows you to choose between Standard and Vivid, or go into User Mode and change up the contrast, saturation, picture brightness, sharpness and color temperature. So you can make the display look perfect.

Besides how the colors look on the display, and how high the pixel density is, the other big concern with displays is typically the digitizer. For those that may not know what the digitizer is, basically the digitizer is what registers your touches whenever you touch the display. That includes opening apps, tapping on settings icons and any other time you touch the display. And when you touch the display, you expect it to register your tap and do what you want, instantly. That's all up to the digitizer. Typically with these cheaper smartphones, the digitizer usually suffers. Causing many to think that the phone lags, when it's just the digitizer being terrible. Luckily, we've had zero issues with the digitizer here on the Speed 8. Whenever we touch the display, it registers our touches instantly, and never had any lag with the digitizer at all. Definitely a good thing, especially since the display is already pretty incredible.

Speaker & Sound

ZOPO gave us a front-facing speaker on the Speed 8. Pretty amazing right? But, you'll probably notice I wrote "speaker" and not "speakers". That's right, there's just one speaker on the Speed 8. And it's at the bottom of the display. ZOPO could have easily given us dual front-facing speakers, with the earpiece doubling as a speaker, but sadly that didn't happen. However, that's not the end of the world here. The single front-facing speaker performs quite well on the Speed 8. It gets very, very loud. In fact, most of the time, it was too loud for me. And I had to turn the volume down. Even when the volume is all the way up, the sound still sounds great. It's not distorted, and doesn't sound tinny at all.

Fingerprint Reader

The fingerprint reader here is located on the backside of the ZOPO Speed 8, and that's definitely where we prefer it to be. It's just below the camera module, making it an almost perfect spot, seeing as that is about where your finger would normally be resting when holding the Speed 8. For me - and obviously not everyone has the same size hands nor holds their phone the same way - the fingerprint reader was just above my index finger, which made it easy to use it to unlock the phone and such.

Now when it comes to the accuracy of the fingerprint reader here, it was decent. It wasn't perfect, but most of the time we found it to recognize our fingerprint pretty quickly, and usually on the first try. There were a few times here and there where it didn't recognize our finger on the first try, but not all that often. Luckily the Speed 8 is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which means the Fingerprint API is supported here. Meaning you can use your fingerprint to unlock the device as well as authorize purchases in Google Play and login to other apps that support it - instead of typing in your password each time.

Performance

Inside is the MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 4GB of RAM. The Helio X20 is a tri-cluster processor, where there are two Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 2.3GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz, and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz. Now the way this is supposed to work, is that when the phone is in idle, the four 1.4GHz cores are running. When you're doing a bit more resource intensive tasks like checking Facebook, email and such, the four 1.8GHz cores kick in. And when you're gaming, or using Snapchat (since we all know how bad Snapchat is at being optimized) then the two Cortex-A72 cores kick in. The reason for this is to give us better battery life. And it seems to work.

The Helio X20 has performed great for us in the Speed 8. Our experience with it in the Speed 8 was pretty similar to what we found in the Meizu PRO 6 earlier this year, which also sports the Helio X20 processor. Pair that with 4GB of RAM and you have a pretty amazing experience. While the Helio X20 is a deca-core processor, and many may feel it's overkill for 2016 and smartphones, it could use some improvement. The middle cluster could use some speed adjustment, as the phone felt a bit slow at times. Sort of like when using a smartphone running the Snapdragon 808 or even the Snapdragon 617. Luckily, there's no type of overheating issues here with the Helio X20.

Phone Calls & Network

We used the ZOPO Speed 8 on T-Mobile USA for about a week, during the review period. As you'd expect, it does only get Edge, with a couple of bands for 3G and HSPA+ on both T-Mobile and AT&T. So if you were hoping to bring it into the US, keep that in mind. Having said that, the data speeds we got were right on par with what we expect from T-Mobile in this area. Phone calls weren't a problem either. There's no HD Voice or VoLTE included on the Speed 8, however. But that shouldn't be a big deal for most people, anyways.

Benchmarks

As usual, we ran AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 3 on the ZOPO Speed 8, which you can check out the results below. The ZOPO Speed 8 scored pretty favorable, and very similar to what we saw from the Meizu PRO 6 which ran the same internals.

Battery Life

So battery life here isn't amazing. It's decent, at best. Now we will preface our thoughts, by saying that we did spend a decent amount of time playing Pokemon GO on it. Which does definitely drain the battery much faster. But standby times were pretty decent on the Speed 8. We have seen better - even from the same Helio X20 processor - but on the flip side, we have also seen worse. You can definitely get through a full day of usage on the Speed 8, unless of course you are playing Pokemon GO. Then you'll definitely need a power bank or at least to charge up the phone in the middle of the day.

According to PC Mark, the ZOPO Speed 8's battery life is only about half as good as the Moto G4 Plus. Which given the specs here, leads us to believe that there isn't much going on here in terms of software optimization. While it may seem a bit cliche to say that, it does make a huge difference in battery performance, as well as overall performance on any smartphone.

Software

As we've mentioned already, the software running on the ZOPO Speed 8 is indeed the latest version of Android, in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It's also running the March 1st, 2016 security patch. Which isn't really a good thing. Sadly, it's still more up-to-date than most other smartphones out there, but March was about 4 months ago (almost 5 months now). Surely ZOPO could roll out the latest security patch. After all, the Speed 8 is running a basically stock version of Android here. Now just because it is running an old security patch, doesn't mean that it has a slew of unpatched vulnerabilities. But it would give users more peace of mind in having the latest or at least June's security patch installed.

It's essentially stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow here on the Speed 8. You won't notice much difference between the software here and what is on the Nexus 6P (running Marshmallow of course). One of the few changes here is actually the quick settings in the notification drop down. They've added a Data Connection toggle, as well as a HotKnot and Audio Profiles. Which seemingly take up the entire display, so you'll actually be scrolling through the quick settings to use the ones you want. The launcher that is pre-installed here is actually the Google Now Launcher. Complete with the Google Now page on the left side of the home screen. A nice look for ZOPO, and something you don't see too often with smartphones out of China.

ZOPO also has a few gestures, which are part of "Smart Wake". These can be toggled on if you wish. And be toggled individually as well. Some of them include double tap to wake the screen, draw up to unlock, draw down to pause music, draw right to switch to next song, draw left to switch to previous song, and many others. ZOPO has also included a scheduled power on and off feature here. Allowing you to schedule the Speed 8 to turn off at a certain time and then power back on a certain time. This is actually a feature that is pretty common in Asia, so not too surprising to see it here on the Speed 8.

Camera

The camera app on the Speed 8 actually uses the Google Camera icon, but don't let that fool you. It's not the Google Camera (although it can be downloaded from Google Play and used instead). What we have here is a rather basic UI for the camera on the Speed 8. When holding the smartphone in landscape, you have the modes on the left side - which only include normal and panorama - with the shutter and recording button on the right side. There's also the shortcut to your gallery and settings on the right side. With a few quick settings at the top - including switching the camera, flash, HDR, and using a gesture to take a selfie. At times the camera can be a bit slow to take pictures, but it doesn't seem to be every time, or even every time in the same lighting conditions. Making it appear that it is a bug, so hopefully a software update will sort that all out.

Camera Quality

In low light, the camera seems to do pretty well. In the gallery below, you'll see an image from a dimly lit restaurant, where the picture came out pretty good. But then there's another one indoors with somewhat bad lighting, that has plenty of noise. So as with most cameras, it does depend on the lighting. Now outside, in daylight, the camera can take some amazing photos. Which is what we've come to expect from this Sony 21-megapixel sensor that has been available on other smartphones. It didn't perform as well as it did on the Motorola  DROID Turbo, which leads us to believe that there is some funny stuff going on with post-processing, and unfortunately we are unable to take photos in RAW.

The Good

Display: It gets plenty bright, and still looks amazing, even in direct sunlight.

Helio X20: MediaTek continues to amaze us this year with their low-cost, but very powerful and efficient processors, like this deca-core processor.

Software: It's always nice to see stock Android on smartphones, but it was pretty surprising to see the Google Now Launcher pre-installed here. That's something you don't see that often.

Storage: 32GB of storage here, out of the box.

Fingerprint Sensor: Nice to see this coming to more and more smartphones, especially cheaper ones. And what's even better is the fact that it works really well.

The Bad

Storage: Yeah, it's a double-edged sword here. There's no micro SD card slot, but ZOPO does give us 32GB out of the box which is nice.

Battery: It's decent, but not amazing. And we expected more given that it has a 3600mAh battery inside and also sports a 5.5-inch 1080p display.

Camera: While the camera does take some great pictures in great lighting, in low-light it suffers quite a bit. And to be honest, that's where most people will be taking their photos.

Wrap Up

The ZOPO Speed 8 is priced at $299. Now that's a bit expensive compared to many other smartphones coming out of China. But this smartphone does have some pretty great specs, to be honest. With a 5.5-inch 1080p display, MediaTek's Helio X20 processor and 4GB of RAM, the specs alone make it worth the money (in fact specs are pretty similar to the Moto G4 Plus we recently reviewed). Despite being $300, the ZOPO Speed 8 does include quite a bit of value for the price. Is the ZOPO Speed 8 perfect? Of course not. There is no perfect smartphone. But it is a great smartphone. The only question we have here is about updates. Whether they will come and how often they will come.

Should I Buy the ZOPO Speed 8?

There's no doubt, the ZOPO Speed 8 is a great smartphone. But is it right for everyone? I would say so. Unless you live in the US, where the ZOPO Speed 8 won't get LTE on either T-Mobile or AT&T, the Speed 8 is a great smartphone to check out. Even with its somewhat mediocre camera, it's still one that is worth recommending.

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