Fairly stylish with surprisingly good performance for a low price
iLA may not be a phone brand you’re familiar with and that’s ok, because to be quite honest before receiving this phone to review, we weren’t either. iLA is a Chinese phone brand, one of many, many brands that seem to be attacking the budget phone market in China and other parts of Asia. Like those other brands the iLA-X has a few things in common. One is the price as this won’t end up costing you an arm and a leg. It’s also fairly stylish and it has surprisingly good performance for the low price that iLA is asking, which seems to be more and more common these days. How does it stack up though? We’ve been spending some time with this phone over the past week or so to check things out and see how good of a device you’re getting for the price you pay. So let’s take a closer look at the iLA-X and see what it has to offer interested consumers.
First and foremost the iLA-X is a budget phone so the specs aren’t going to be blowing away anyone who is used to having a top-tier phone. That said the specs are pretty good for a phone that is just barely over $100. It comes with a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 640, which is pretty much HD but the resolution is a bit lower due to the aspect ratio of the screen. It comes running on Android 7.0 Nougat so the software is mostly up to date, though it is going to be a bit behind and lacks things like picture-in-picture mode.
It comes with 32GB of internal storage space and it supports expandable storage if you need more space via microSD card, it has 3GB of RAM, and is powered by a MediaTek MTK6737 quad-core processor. It has a single 13-megapixel rear-facing camera on the back though it looks like it has two camera sensors. It doesn’t, so the extra “sensor” really serves no purpose other than being there for aesthetics. On the front it has a 5-megapixel sensor for selfies and video chat. Rounding out the specs is a fingerprint sensor which doubles as a home button on the front, a micro USB port for charging and data transfer, and a 2,500mAh battery.
In The Box
While not all phones come with extras inside the box, the iLA-X comes with a few. It has a clear silicone case for protecting the device should you want to use a case, and it has a screen protector that comes in the box as well. Other than that you get the phone itself, the charging cable and wall adapter, and the SIM ejector tool.
Hardware & Design
Just as mentioned above the iLA-X is an iPhone X clone. The design is not entirely the same but it is heavily-inspired from it and for the most part you won’t find too many differences in the looks department. That said, the design is pretty nice if you like the look of the iPhone X. Though something to consider is that the screen is not nearly bezel-free, as there is a pretty large bezel at the bottom end of it for the fingerprint sensor. The bezels on the side are also a little thicker than you might expect for something that takes after Apple’s latest smartphone, and there’s a bit of a bezel up top where the notch is, too.
As for the rest of the design and build quality/materials, the iLA-X has what feels like a plastic frame painted to look like metal, and the back looks and feels sort of like glass, but also sort of like plastic, so it’s hard to tell what materials were actually used here. There is a single bottom-firing speaker on the side of the charging port, ambient light sensors, LED flash, and front camera sensor up top. The rear camera is in a vertical module in the to left corner on the back of the phone, while power and volume buttons are on the right side of the frame, and the SIM card slot is on the left side of the frame. Lastly, you’ll also find a headphone jack up top, which means that you can plug in a normal pair of headphones for music, videos, games or anything else. If you prefer them over wireless headphones. Overall, the design is decent and nothing too flashy yet also not too basic.
For a phone that costs around $120 the iLA-X has an ok screen. It looks better than you might expect it to but there are instances where it’s very noticeably a less expensive device. Booting up the phone for example is a time when you can see just a little bit of light bleed around some of the edges, though oddly enough this doesn’t appear to show up once the phone is actually booted all the way up. The display does get pretty bright which is good if you live in an area where it gets a lot of sun, because it helps with the glare. There doesn’t seem to be any ghosting on the screen, and responsiveness was good throughout the time of use as it never once had problems recognizing my finger presses.
Though the color accuracy is pretty good for a device in this range, it is possible to change the color temperature of the display should you find that you want things to appear a little differently. There are predefined options for standard and vivid for the picture mode, or you can set it to user mode which allows you to adjust things based on different parameters like saturation, contrast, and picture brightness, essentially letting you tune things just the way you like it to be. Overall it’s a decent display, with little to no issues, but the clarity is visibly not as good as if the resolution were Full HD. In some cases this isn’t something which you can really tell the difference with, but here with the iLA-X the slight resolution decrease is easier to spot.
For a budget phone the iLA-X actually performed pretty well under most conditions that were thrown at it. Multitasking didn’t seem to be an issue for it, though the level of multitasking that everyone engages in will be different so it’s worth pointing out that there are some users who may end up having and using more apps in the background than others. For the purposes of this review the phone was tested while running apps like Gmail, Facebook, Maps, the Play Store in the background while YouTube played videos. This didn’t cause any problems with lag that were noticeable.
The phone was also tested for playing mobile games. While the iLA-X doesn’t necessarily have the best processor on the market, as it’s an entry-level CPU from MediaTek, thanks to the 3GB of RAM there weren’t any problems with games being played smoothly. For this test the game Arena of Valor was used, which is a MOBA game that comes with some pretty decent graphics for the character models and has some decent special effects. While the graphics would have been sharper with a better CPU and GPU combination, gameplay and performance was still pretty fluid and that’s the important thing as frame rates were good enough to still enjoy the game. While this isn’t exactly your best of the best phone for gaming, if you’re someone who is looking at a budget device and will be looking to play a game or two this phone should be able to handle plenty of them, though it might have problems running some of the most graphically demanding games on mobile, which is something to keep in mind.
Battery life isn’t out of this world here but it’s not bad either thanks to the low-power components that are in use by the phone. The lower resolution screen and the low-power CPU definitely help to extend the battery life, then there are other things that the user is able to control which can help it stay powered on as long as possible during the day and then some, such as adjusting the brightness, and making sure that there aren’t a ton of apps in the background that are running all day draining the battery down. For the purposes of this review the battery lasted about 4 or 5 hours for screen on time. This was sufficiently long enough for my own personal use as I don’t tend to use phones continuously for this long, but for someone else that is on the phone constantly and consistently throughout the day there is likely to be at least one charge happening before the end of the day. Beyond the screen on time, the iLA-X was just fine throughout the day with average use and it only ended up needing to be charged at the end of the night.
Like all smartphones we review the iLA-X was put through a few different benchmarks to see how it stacks up on paper, and while it doesn't score very high on any of the tests, it's also worth remembering that benchmarks aren't the exact representation of how the device will perform during real-world use. To test the device, we ran it through 3DMark for graphics, Geekbench 4, and AnTuTu. You can view the scores in the gallery of screenshots below.
Phone Calls & Network
4G LTE: 2100/800/1800/2600/900
Through and through the fingerprint sensor worked really well without any issues. It was easy to set up and during the setup process it recognized the finger presses right away, something which has been an issue on some phones in the past. After setup, it seemed to pick up the fingerprint every single time, so it has a high accuracy rate which is good, especially for a budget phone as this would not be expected. When it comes to speed, the sensor did just fine here as well. It wasn’t the fastest fingerprint sensor of any device but it does unlock and wake the phone pretty quickly so it should be sufficient for most users.
With a single bottom-firing speaker the audio was never earth-shattering, but it was decent enough as it got loud, it wasn’t too tinny even at a higher than moderate volume and it was mostly clear no matter what the audio was, whether it was coming from playing a game, or listening to different genres of music. The same issues with this speaker are the same issues that arise with many phones that have a speaker placement on the bottom edge of the frame where the charging port is, and that’s the possibility of covering it up just a little bit with your hands when holding it in landscape mode. Unfortunately this is unavoidable unless you either plug in headphones or connect a pair of wireless headphones or a wireless speaker. That said, it didn’t get too muffled so it shouldn’t bother anyone who isn’t expressly concerned with having the absolute best sound.
Software and the user interface were the least exciting parts about using this phone. That isn’t to say that using the phone wasn’t exciting, but the UI and the software are pretty much stock as they’re based on AOSP, and iLA hasn’t added in any special features or software tweak like you’ll find on most devices from Chinese manufacturers. Even the icons have been kept the same as stock AOSP. That said, you’ll find all the standard Android 7.0 Nougat features like improved doze mode, Google Assistant and more. There are no wake gestures or on-screen gestures for launching shortcuts, but those are easy enough to obtain through third-party home launcher applications if you want them. When it comes to using the phone the software seems to be pretty stable and didn’t have many issues save for a few force closes on the settings app from time to time. This wasn’t a big problem as the app was able to open right back up and it was fine, but it seems to happen once in a while so it could get annoying for some users. If you prefer bare bones software then this is a good fit.
Keeping with the theme of bare bones the camera software and UI on the iLA-X is very minimal with only a couple of different features. You have three different modes which include the standard photo mode, the face beauty mode, and the panorama mode. Beyond these three modes, you also have the video recording mode, and a handful of options for color effects if you want to apply filters before you actually take the photo, including, negative, sepia, mono, Aqua and others. There’s also an HDR button, and that’s about where the camera features stop save for your general settings options that every Android phone will have at this point.
In regards to the actual quality of the images, they’re good enough if your aim is to get pictures mostly close up, in good lighting, and with plenty of color. Should you be trying to take pictures of things that are further away or in darker-lit situations then you may find that the quality of the images is not as good as you’ll need to zoom in more, and unfortunately the zoom on this camera is not great which leads to loss of detail and clarity in the image. Furthermore, the images are already a tiny bit grainy and noisy even in good lighting when grabbing a photo of something that you’re quite close to. That said, this is a phone which costs around $120 to buy online, so users shouldn’t be expecting anything outstanding in the camera department. It’s a camera on a smartphone, and a smartphone in your pocket, which means you can always have a camera on you, and as the saying goes the best camera is the one you have with you. So if you have no other options, this will get the job done when you’re looking to take a few pictures.
Fairly fast and pretty accurate fingerprint sensor
Stock Android look and feel
Decent design with good build quality. Phone didn’t feel cheaply made
Pretty good performance
Decent battery life
Android Nougat software
Micro USB instead of USB Type-C
No cool features or software additions
Camera was not the best
Sound quality was ok but could have been better
No support for U.S. networks
When it comes down to it, when you’re looking for phones at lower prices you will end up having to make a compromise here and there, and for the iLA-X the compromises come in the form of lesser-quality sound, a mediocre camera, and a bare bones software experience which is equal parts good and bad. It also doesn’t work in the U.S. which means this is smartphone that’s really only fit for travel for U.S. users, unless the aim is to have something for use when connected to Wi-Fi only.
Should you buy the iLA-X?
If you’re looking for a Wi-Fi-only smartphone or something which can be used in Europe or Southeast Asia, then this isn’t a bad choice. If you need a daily driver that you can use with your preferred U.S. wireless carrier, you’ll want to look elsewhere as this will not get the job done. Though it won’t work with U.S. carriers, it’s decent for the price if you just need something simple when traveling, and at the very least it helps show that even budget phones can be decent.