The Ulefone Power 3 delivers all day use and formidable specs.
At a median retail cost of around $300, Ulefone’s mid-range Power 3 is the company’s best offering to-date in the battery-focused category. Unlike many other phones that compete in that portion of the smartphone industry, however, this device has far more going for it than just its battery. Ulefone has poured a substantial amount of effort into making the new Power 3 a performer. In fact, this handset easily trounces the company’s previous offering in the category, the Ulefone Power 2. It may even be fair to say that, in spite of its pricing, the specifications of this handset could comfortably fit it into the lower ranks of Android’s premium tier. However, no smartphone is perfect and this device is no exception since it won't necessarily be usable on the global scale either. In fact, the relatively small range of frequency bands on which it will work may be the most damaging to its potential to be viewed as a flagship, which is generally a title reserved for global devices. With that said, this device is nonetheless well worth a look for those users in regions where it is available for use.
Taking a look at the Power 3 purely from the perspective of specifications, there really is quite a lot to love here. The leading sales point is, of course, the 6,080mAh non-removable Li-Polymer battery pack, which is Fast Charge 4.0 enabled at 5V/3A via USB Type-C. That drives an octa-core MediaTek Helio P23 SoC comprised of 8 ARM Cortex-A53 cores - four clocked at 2.0GHz and four clocked at 1.5GHz. A Mali-G71 GPU is included on-chip. Backing that up is an impressive 6GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage that can be expanded via one of the two built-in 4G-capable SIM slots up to 256GB. Audio is bolstered by an Awinic AW8736 amplifier while on-chip radios provide support for Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4G and 5G protocols and Bluetooth 4.1. Each of the sensors one might expect from a flagship is present as well, including a fingerprint scanner, light sensors, a compass, GPS, and GLONASS. All of that is packed into a solid metal frame measuring in at 159.2mm x 75.9mm x 9.85mm and weighing in at 210g. This phone comes in either a black or “golden” color variation, with the latter appearing closer to rose gold.
Fitting snugly over the top of that is a 6-inch 1080p FHD+ (2160 x 1080 pixels) in-cell LCD display with pixel density of 402 ppi and a ratio of 18:9. That’s coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 4. Above that screen is a dual selfie camera with sensors rated at 13-megapixels and 5-megapixels and an aperture of f/2.2. A forward facing “softlight” is included alongside the LED notification light on the opposite side of the earpiece. That’s intended to make taking selfies in low-light circumstances a much less daunting task. Meanwhile, the dual SIM slot drawer is located on the left edge, opposing a power button and volume rocker on the right. Rolling to the back of the device reveals the fingerprint scanner, located below yet another dual-camera array. The Samsung-built main camera is rated at 16-megapixels, interpolated to 21-megapixels, backed by a 5-megapixel camera. Those are covered in a five-element lens, with the aperture set at f/2.0, while a dual LED flash sits to the left. Along the bottom is a USB Type-C port, which doubles as a headphone out port, accented by two speaker grills and a mic.
In the Box
The package that powerhouse arrives in is no joke. All of the usual accessories are included, such as the standard two-prong Type C wall adapter required for charging in its intended sales region. A stylish red-colored 3.28-foot (100cm) USB A to USB Type-C cable is in the box as well, along with the user manual, warranty card, and SIM tool. However, Ulefone takes things a bit further and includes a TPU soft case with bumper protection and a protective screen film. The company also includes a micro USB to USB Type-C adapter to make charging on the go a bit easier, as well as an OTG USB Type-C to standard USB adapter cable. Further still, a USB Type-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter is included so that users can take full advantage of the Hi-Fi audio chip without having to rush out and buy new headphones. With consideration for the price and specs, the only thing that could have made this package better would have been the inclusion of USB Type-C headphones.
Hardware and Design
In terms of design, the Ulefone Power 3 looks subtly stunning. Our test model is the black coloration but both variants are trimmed with a silver metal lining running around the screen. The screen protrudes from that with smooth rounded edges and the matte coloration does a decent job keeping fingerprints from showing up on the body. On the back are a set of thin twin silver lines running along the top and bottom, presumably showing antenna placement but adding a nice premium touch to the aesthetics. Meanwhile, every port, button, and edge has been smoothed over. So there are no edges to catch on anything and the whole device has an exceptional in-hand feel. The only real issue here is thickness and weight since both are a bit above what one might expect if this were a flagship device. That’s not much of a surprise given the size of the battery, but it is worth pointing out.
The rest of the hardware, meanwhile, is also well thought-out. Nothing about this phone necessarily feels fragile and the USB port doesn’t feel loose at all. The physical buttons placed along the right-hand edge are solid and clicky, while the power button has a tactile texture so that it’s always easy to distinguish from the volume rocker with no effort. Finally, the fingerprint scanner is well-placed and using it should be a familiar experience since rear placement is most common in modern smartphones. It’s also very responsive and doesn’t seem to have any issues detecting a fingerprint, no matter how haphazardly a fingertip may have been placed on it.
The Power 3’s display takes up around 90-percent of the front of the device, so it’s a bit unfortunate that the company didn’t opt for a higher resolution here. The pixel density of Ulefone’s Power 3 does seem a bit low and it simply isn’t going to render graphics for the most intensive games as well as some more expensive devices will. However, that really shouldn’t be too much of an issue since this is, after all, a mid-range handset. With that said, at a 2K pixel resolution for under $400, it’s difficult to complain about. Brightness doesn’t present any problems, either, as Ulefone has ensured that the screen won’t get washed out except under the most extreme circumstances. Reading information was as easy under direct sunlight as in shade or indoors while the display’s overall size also plays well with accessibility settings when font sizes are increased.
Performance and Battery Life
If only the benchmarks were to be considered, it might be easy to write the Power 3 off as just another budget device. The scores simply weren't spectacular on the performance side, despite the hardware powering this device. However, real-world testing of performance showed that this device will keep up with most modern mobile games, with lag and input delay only becoming apparent in the most intensive titles. That means it should also handle the vast majority of more standard applications with no problems. Moreover, it's able to handle multitasking of those with relative ease thanks to its generous helping of RAM. In fact, in day to day use it proved easy to forget Ulefone's Power 3 is a mid-range handset. Meanwhile, during standardized stress tests, battery tests, and other tests, there was no overheating to speak of. The optimization of Ulefone's Power 3 handset keeps it cool under pressure and that's a rarity even in premium smartphones. The testing also didn't seem to impact the remaining battery much at all.
That's hardly surprising since battery life is where this device was designed to shine. With the benchmark keeping the SoC working at between 50 and 60-percent capacity and despite that no power savings modes were turned on, we achieved a staggering 23 hours of screen-on time. That actually left 5-percent remaining at the end. It's hard to imagine that wouldn't get much better with battery saving turned on but the results should already allow for days of use between charges. Our real-world testing matched that longevity pretty closely as well. What makes that interesting with this device is that it nearly doubles other smartphones with a similar SoC and battery sizes. It's not really clear how Ulefone optimized things to accomplish that but, in no uncertain terms, that's very impressive. Perhaps best of all, this handset only takes between two and three hours to charge. Taken with the overall battery life, that puts a massive dent in the downtime users will experience.
Connectivity and Audio
Audio quality, despite the Hi-Fi chip included in this device, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. The audio from the speakers themselves is crisp but severely lacking in terms of bass. Things only improve slightly when using Bluetooth or the included USB Type-C headphone adapter. Worse still, in songs that are intentionally bass-heavy and or feature heavy distortion, there is an immediately noticeable lack of dynamic range. The speakers are very loud, which is useful for notifications and ringtones but the quality of the audio just doesn’t seem to line up with what’s advertised.
In terms of connectivity, this handset will not work with U.S. carriers except on a select few bands. That means that if it works at all, and it didn’t work on Straight Talk’s AT&T bands, it is going to be weak and spotty in the U.S. That’s not too shocking since that isn’t the intended market. Wi-Fi connectivity is strong, however, and Bluetooth strength is as to be expected for Bluetooth 4.1. A video call over Wi-Fi made it clear that, at very least, the built-in microphone and earpiece will not disappoint in those regions where a mobile data connection is available. But it would be a good idea to double check whether it works in a given region before purchasing. The Ulefone Power 3 supports the following bands.
2G: Bands 2, 3, 5, 8
3G: Bands 1, 8
4G FDD-LTE: Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20
On the software side of the equation, this Ulefone runs Android 7.1 out of the box. It's also got a somewhat older version of the Android Security Patch - December 2017. However, Ulefone does plan to bump that software all the way up to Android 8.1 at some time in March, bringing all of the latest features and security to the handset via OTA. In the meantime, the software is not necessarily lacking in features anyway. Along with fingerprint security, the dual front-facing cameras allow for facial recognition to be enabled and the included lighting assistance mentioned early helps tremendously with that. Login is secured via an additional layer of encryption for added security. Aside from that, the Power 3 appears to be primarily rooted in AOSP, with some Google apps included. Casting, Google Assistant, and QR code scanning are available with no additional downloads required. Screen recording is enabled in the notification shade’s quick settings menu, as well, so there’s no need to download a secondary app to capture what’s on-screen.
For those users who would ordinarily feel uncomfortable accomplishing things on a 6-inch device, there are also one-handed mode and gesture controls included with this smartphone - accessible via the settings menu. The one-handed mode works as expected, effectively shrinking down the display to either the left or right side of the screen so that the entire U.I. is easily accessible. Gesture controls, on the other hand, allow for easy access to specific functions such as silencing the device by flipping it over or shaking it to perform actions. Knock-on features are also available, as are various fingerprint scanner gestures for controlling menus.
Compared to some of the cameras found in the sub-$400 price range, the Power 3's cameras are very good. The large aperture allows plenty of light to be absorbed, while Samsung’s dual cameras provide a great amount of detail. The software driving that, including the auto-HDR function, is well optimized to limit motion blurring and capture details quickly. Shutter lag, upon snapping a photo or starting a video does feel delayed. But that doesn’t seem to translate to a delay in the actual capturing process in any noticeable sense, so it’s likely something that will get fixed with a software update. Additionally, photos can be taken in rapid succession, up to 99 photos at a time. The bokeh effect enabled in both main camera shots and selfies seems to perform adequately, and face-detection features work as expected. Meanwhile, there are a ton of filters and overlays to choose from to add a bit of flare. The front-facing “softlight” is a monumental improvement over the usual need to search out a well-lit area for capturing selfies. Aside from the usual stock AOSP camera features, there aren’t a lot of unexpected frills to the camera software itself. However, a "pro mode" is included for those who want to take a bit more control over their shots.
Battery life stretches for days
A comparatively large number of accessories are included in the box
High resolution 18:9 display for media
Solid design language with elegant touches
A fingerprint scanner and facial recognition are included
Low cost relative to well-optimized hardware and specs
Front facing LED softlight with dual cameras front and back
Photo quality is consistent with mid-range handsets
No 3.5mm audio jack
A relatively low number of frequency bands is supported
No rating for dust or water resistance
Thickness and weight take away from the premium appeal
Hi-Fi audio chip does little to improve audio quality over even the most affordable handsets
The amount of effort Ulefone has put into its mid-range Power 3 Android handset really shows through in day-to-day use. The battery is the obvious showstopper here since, with power-saving features turned on, this device could last well beyond 3 days between charges. Unless audio quality is paramount, there’s not a lot to complain about. The cameras are better than might be expected thanks to good optimization and there aren’t many applications that will slow this handset down. It may not be the sleekest smartphone to have released over the past several months and it isn’t likely to win many awards with so many more mainstream competitors raising the bar over 2018. Having said that, Ulefone’s Power 3 is a smartphone worthy of consideration for those looking in its price range.