Small and subtle touches like the mute slider deserve more attention.
While just a handful of the more well-known brands in the mobile device industry hold the majority market share and will generally be the only ones recognizable to most consumers, each week we get the opportunity to check out some of the lesser known brands, many of them coming out of China, and many of them offering a fair amount of the features and specs that you can find on more expensive devices from brands like Samsung, Motorola, Lenovo, LG, HTC and more. This past week we’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with one of Elephone’s latest handsets, the P8, and check out how it stacks up to the other devices on the market. Elephone isn’t nearly as massive as brands like Samsung or HTC, or even Huawei which is also a Chinese brand, but it’s also been making phones for at least a few years and is a brand to consider if you’re one who tends to gravitate towards the more budget-friendly devices, a category which the P8 certainly falls under. Let’s take a closer look at the Elephone P8 and see what it has to offer.
In The Box
True to form with nearly every Chinese brand smartphone we’ve reviewed, the Elephone P8 comes with a couple extras. In the box along with the device itself, you’ll get the charger which is comprised of the wall adapter and charging cable, which is micro USB, and you’ll also get the SIM card ejector tool, as well as a clear silicone case and a screen protector. The screen protector is already applied to the display though, and there isn’t an additional one like there are with some phones. Though most devices don’t even come with one so having one at all is a nice benefit. Other that that there is nothing else inside the packaging.
The Elephone P8 is a well-equipped device on paper so it should work just fine when it comes to performance and everyday tasks, though we’ll get into how it functioned later. The device comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD display with 428 pixels per inch for the pixel density, and it’s powered by a MediaTek Helio P25 processor with 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage space, which is also expandable via microSD card if you need more storage than what’s initially available.
The device supports dual nano SIM with Dual standby so it can be used for travel fairly easily if you need a device that can switch back and forth between networks from different regions. The Elephone P8 is working with two fairly high-powered cameras, a 16-megapixel selfie camera on the front with a soft self-timer and an f/2.0 aperture, and this is a Samsung S5K3P3 sensor. The camera on the back is a Sony IMX230 21-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, both of which should be capable of putting out decent shots, though we’ll get into that a little towards the end of the review as well. For the battery the Elephone P8 is working with a 3,600mAh capacity, and was able to hold out for well over a day on average. The device supports Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, GPS, and a fingerprint sensor. Lastly, the Elephone P8 is running on Android 7.0 Nougat for the operating system version.
Hardware & Design
When it comes to the build and overall design of the Elephone P8 things are a little different here than they tend to be with most phones these days. While most of the design isn’t wildly different from a lot of other smartphones out there, one thing that is immediately noticeable as different is the placement of the volume keys and SIM card tray. With many devices currently, the power button and volume buttons usually sit on the right side, while the SIM card tray sits on the left side. With the Elephone P8 though, the power button and SIM card tray are on the right side, while the volume up and down have been moved over to the left. Also included here is a mute slider that can allow you to mute the volume immediately in a pinch, instead of having to press the volume down button when you want to silence the ringer and notification sounds, and then have to hit the volume up button when you want to turn things back up. With the mute slider you can leave your volume exactly where things need to be and once you don’t need things to be silent anymore, simply flip the switch back and your volume will be right back to normal. Simple and fast.
The overall build also has a nice feel to it, with a bit of weight so it doesn’t feel like it’s cheaply made or like it might break if dropped, though we definitely wouldn’t recommend dropping it on purpose to test out its durability. The buttons also have a nice tactile feel to them and are a tiny bit loose, which might bother some, but it wasn’t an issue for me as it didn’t affect the functions of the buttons at all nor did it make them too easy to press or anything like that. These are simply just a nice well-rounded pair of buttons that aren’t too easy to press nor are they too difficult to press. The Elephone P8 is using a completely metal body, with a single (yet powerful according to Elephone) bottom-firing speaker right next to the micro USB charging port, as well as a fingerprint sensor/home button on the front just below the display, a front-facing camera above the display and to the right of the earpiece, with your ambient light sensors to the left. As mentioned above the power button and SIM card tray are on the right side of the device, while the volume up and down buttons as well as a mute slider button are on the left. Flipping things over to the back, you have an Elephone logo at the bottom, with a large camera sensor and the LED flash towards the top center.
As displays go, the one used on the Elephone P8 is a pretty decent display. It’s 5.5-inches so it’s certainly big enough for things like browsing, reading, viewing emails and video, and playing games. For the most part whatever your task is, the size of the P8’s screen shouldn’t give you any issues. It’s also fairly responsiveness to touch and anytime I interacted with it the phone seemed to be just fine with no issues, though this is really due to the digitizer and not the display panel itself.
Clarity-wise, the screen is Full HD so it’s really more than enough when it comes to needed resolution for things to be enjoyable, though some will certainly still prefer Quad HD with sharper and more crisp resolution. That said, the screen on the Elephone P8 is plenty sharp and I found it to be just as good as the screen on my Google Pixel really, which also comes with Full HD resolution. During my time of use the display definitely felt it like it had good viewing angles and color reproduction is was pretty good. If I only had one complaint it would be that it could be a little challenging to see the phone direct sunlight, though not too difficult. Overall the display is pretty decent and most users shouldn’t have any issues with it at all. It looks good, it functions as intended, and it’s of a decent size so just about any task or functions is easy to work with.
For many, performance will be a big issue with a device, and that’s completely understandable as you certainly want the phone to be able to perform its functions with little to no problem. That is unfortunately not the case with all smartphones despite having good hardware. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Elephone P8. During my general use tasks like emails or simply browsing Facebook or Instagram, performance was fine even with multiple other apps open in the background, like Spotify, and it even performed well during gameplay of titles that were more graphics intensive. That being said, and while I didn’t personally notice any lag during gameplay or other tasks that are sure to be more reliant on the power of the CPU and GPU, that doesn’t mean that the experience will be the same for every user as each game may function a little differently.
While the Helio P25 is plenty powerful with its GPU pairing to handle games with high-end graphics, that doesn’t mean it won’t come across a game that stutters every once in a while, as there are some games out there that tend to work better with the absolute highest tier of mobile processor and graphics processor combinations. Most users shouldn’t come across any issues though, so even if you’re an avid mobile gamer who dabbles in all kinds of different titles, the Elephone P8 should suffice. Of course for some the real test might be how the performance of the Elephone P8 holds up over time, and while we didn’t have the phone for extended period, as we only used it for about a week, during that week it held up just fine as we put it through daily paces and it seemed to operate just as well on the last day as it did the first day. If you’re looking for a phone that performs, the Elephone P8 will surely provide what you need.
The use of a fingerprint sensor seems to have become an important element these days for smartphones, partly because it offers up another layer of security when it comes to unlocking the device, but it’s also easier to use the fingerprint to unlock your phone than putting in a PIN or password each time. On top of all that, it also seems to be more of an important factor because more and more manufacturers are including them with devices, even in ones as inexpensive as $100. The thing you’ll want to look out for if the fingerprint sensor is an important detail in your search for a device is how quickly it unlocks and how consistent it is at recognizing your fingerprint each and every time you use it. After using it for the past week, i’ve had no real issues with it at all. It seemed to recognize my fingerprint every time and it was speedy enough for me. When it comes down to it this is a decent sensor even if it isn’t the fastest that we’ve seen on a device.
Performing benchmark tests isn’t something you’ll need to do with your device unless you absolutely have to know the scores it will receive and you’re particularly curious as to how it ranks amongst other devices. Nevertheless we ran the Elephone P8 through AnTuTu, 3DMark, and Geekbench 4, and you can see the results of those tests below if you’re interested in knowing how things turned out.
I was expecting a decent amount of battery life here as the phone does come with a 3,600mAh battery inside and I wasn’t disappointed. It lasted me through the day each day over the past week without any problems at all and I never found myself wishing I had a charger or battery pack handy. On average the screen on time was close to six and half hours, and that’s about what the phone received when we put it through the battery test in PCMark. Essentially you shouldn’t have any problems taking this phone with you without having to bring a charger or battery pack even if you’re a heavy user, though if you like to be prepared just in case, a battery pack is always a good thing to have on hand, however you more than likely won’t need it here.
Like many phones, the Elephone P8 only comes with one speaker, and Elephone boasts on the landing page for the device on its website that the sound is powerful and I found that it actually more or less lived up to what Elephone was claiming. The sound was quite powerful and the audio didn’t seem blown out or tinny at higher volumes, which is more than I can say for some of the other devices that I've reviewed recently. This was a nice little surprise as I usually use my phones a lot for games and video, and when doing either of those things, whether it’s watching endless amounts of videos on YouTube or playing a game for a couple of hours, I want the sound to be good. It doesn’t have to be the best, but it has to be decent, and that’s what I got with the Elephone P8, so that was a nice little perk to this device that I honestly wasn’t expecting.
Phone Calls & Network
As an unlocked GSM device the Elephone P8 will work in a number of places, but the U.S. isn’t one of them unfortunately. Based on the supported frequencies, there isn’t any carrier in the U.S. that you could use this phone with. That might be a deal breaker for some, understandably, especially if you’re wanting this as your main device for in the country, but for those that need a device for travel, this might not be a bad option at all. The supported list of network frequencies is below.
2G: Band 2, Band 3, Band 5, Band 8
3G: Band 1, Band 2, Band 5, Band 8
4G FDD-LTE: Band 1, Band 3, Band 7, Band 8, Band 20
4G TDD-LTE: Band 38, Band 40
I’m not sure what Elephone’s UI is called, if it has a name for it in the first place, but the software experience is mostly stock Android and even the design doesn’t stray too far if at all from something you’d see on an Android One device running on Android Nougat. That being said, while the design of the software and UI mostly looks and feels like stock Android, there are some special software features that will set this device apart in a few ways that you won’t find on some devices that run on stock software. For instance, you have the option to always hide the navigation bar down at the bottom of the device. This is called “closed” mode, and essentially just keeps it off the screen at all times. If you enable open mode, then the nav bar will be there, but you have the option to hide it at any point just by sliding down in the top edge of the nav bar, and bring it back up by sliding up from the bottom of the screen. For me this took a little getting used to when it came to getting it just right in terms of where to slide my finger, but once you get the placement down it’s pretty easy and it’s a nice alternative to simply keeping it disabled completely.
In addition to the nav bar feature, there are some gestures which you can enable as well, and these can be found in the settings menu of the device. That said the gestures are rather limited and consist of a three finger touch on the screen while sliding those fingers down on the display to take a quick screenshot, which can be useful, and a similar gesture but sliding up instead of down, which will take you right into the camera, which can also be useful if you use your phone for photos a lot and need to get to the camera quickly. There is one last software tweak that I found to be the most useful, and it was the quick shortcut action, which lets you double tap the home button to launch an app of your choice. As there are no other shortcuts available here through gestures without loading on a third-party home launcher, this was one of my favorite features and it works quite well. Since the software experience is mostly stock, if you’ve ever used a stock Android device before that was running at least Marshmallow, most things should seem familiar here.
The camera experience is a pretty basic one when it comes to the software. There aren’t a whole lot of extra features in the camera app to play with, though there are some things there to jazz up your pictures. For one, there are a number of included filters you can apply to the viewfinder so your pictures come out with the look of the selected filter, and there is an HDR button for making your photos come out with the HDR effect. There are also two additional modes beyond the standard photo mode, which includes panorama, as well as a picture-in-picture mode, which was an odd thing to see as it’s not typically something that is included in many cameras that are this basic with features, but it was appreciated nonetheless as it’s kind of cool to use, especially for sharing photos on social.
That’s really the extent of the camera app, but it’s not all about the software, and is mostly about how the images turn out, which is pretty decent for the Elephone P8. The camera reproduces colors pretty well for a phone in this price range and even better than some which might cost a little more than this device, and the main camera sensor does a pretty good job at focusing in on the foreground subject. There also isn’t really any noticeable grainy looking detail and there is almost no noise in the shots for the most part, at least in my experience. That said the camera could do a little better in lower light situations but considering the sensor type it did pretty well. If you happen to be shooting in lower light situations, you won’t get the absolute best smartphone pictures on the market, but you will get ok photos, and they’re pretty good in decent lighting. While I tend to go for smartphones that are usually in the top tier, like the Pixel which is my main daily phone, if I was having to use this on a day to day basis and use it for taking pictures I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Lots of storage
Big battery and decent battery life
Decent camera for picture quality
Some extra software features like gestures and a shortcut by double tapping the home button
Stock Android feel made it familiar and easy to use
Pretty good sound quality
Accurate fingerprint sensor that was pretty fast for unlocking
Nice build quality
A Mute slider button was super convenient
3.5mm audio port
Doesn’t work in the U.S.
No USB Type-C
Felt a tad heavy in the hand, but otherwise comfortable to hold
As phones in the lower price tier go the Elephone P8 is a nice one. It has a well-rounded set of features and because the software was pretty much stock save for a few gestures and a shortcut function, it was easy for me to use as I knew where everything was. The most useful feature though is the mute slider - a function which might go unnoticed by some and is likely to be severely underrated, and quite frankly is a feature I wish that more devices offered as it was just so easy to use and extremely functional. For all the good features the P8 offers, it's the small and subtle touches like the mute slider that deserve more attention.
Should you buy the Elephone P8?
That all depends on where you plan to use the phone. If you want this as your main device for the U.S., this isn’t the phone for you as it won’t work within the country. If you want it for travel though or for a main device in another region which supports the same listed frequencies that the phone supports, then this is a good device option as it won’t cost you as much as some of the flagship brands but it still functions well, has good performance, and a pretty good battery life. Overall it’s a decent phone for anyone who wants a little more for their money.