Poptel's P10 is a slim and rugged handset that delivers style and baseline functionality with nearly stock Android.
Poptel is not necessarily the most well-known OEM for Android handsets but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a device worth considering where the hardware and service are supported. Priced at between $189 and $229, depending on where it’s bought, the company’s P10 is a budget handset that makes several trade-offs in order to cater to a very specific audience. Namely, rather than putting the focus on a super high-resolution display panel or offering USB Type-C, Poptel has focused on the underlying performance, battery efficiency, and durability. Along with faster RAM and a solid SoC that's proven to operate well in the real world, the 5.5-inch handset brings a unique style to the table in a design that's made to withstand some fairly brutal punishment. So it's definitely a suitable device for any prospective customer who values those aspects of a smartphone.
The Poptel P10 is powered by a MediaTek MT6763 Helio P23 SoC. That’s an octa-core processor with two groups of four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.0GHz and 1.5GHz, respectively, and coupled with a Mali-G71 GPU. Stepping away from the LPDDR3 RAM that’s ordinarily packed in alongside the chipset in budget handsets, Poptel has included 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB storage. Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Glonass, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and Wi-Fi hotspot are all supported by the chipset as well. That’s all driving Android 8.1 Oreo and backed by a 3,600 mAh battery, packed into an IP68-rated shell that’s been tested at 3.9 feet for up to 30 minutes and to continue working between -4 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit. That 74.6 x 155.2 x 11.9mm frame and the embedded glass are shockproof and dustproof, to top that off. Weight comes in at 334 grams. The display itself is a 5.5-inch 18:9 panel set at a lower-than-usual resolution of 640 x 1280. The primary camera is a Sony IMX135 sensor rated at 13-megapixels with a f/2.2 aperture. Selfies can be taken with the 8-megapixel snapper on the front. The P10’s SIM drawer sports a nano-SIM/micro SIM hybrid slot and a micro SIM slot. SD card support is also present for up to a further 64GB of storage.
In The Box
The box Poptel’s P10 arrives in holds the phone itself and a few accessories. It’s worth noting that there’s no SIM tool included here. Instead, there’s blue opening pick. That’s a wedge-shaped tool ordinarily used to pry at the edges of a device when opening it up. That appears to be included because the SIM drawer, charging port, and the headphone jack is either designed with a groove or flap to gain access and the tool does make accessing those easier than using a fingernail. The Quick Guide booklet clearly tells users not to dismantle the device, so it isn’t likely in the package for that purpose. Aside from those, there is also a warranty card and a pair of soft-tipped wired earbuds, in addition to a micro USB to female USB cable. The USB to micro USB charging cable is accompanied by a wall adapter rated at 5V/2A on the output side for charging up the P10 itself.
Hardware and Design
In terms of hardware, the Poptel P10 actually feels very slim and is much smaller than other budget handsets currently hitting the market. Aside from the glass front panel, everything else is comprised of rugged polycarbonate, aside from a metal frame. The handset can also be bought in a total of three colors. The first design is black with an orange surround and accent on both front and back, the second is grey with black bumpers, and the third is blue design with a black surround. Our test unit is the orange variant. The materials in use here are soft but not too pliable and, in combination with the device’s overall weight, provide both a great feel and a sense of solid durability. Despite how thick this handset is compared to some contemporaries, it doesn’t feel dated or bulky.
‘T’ screws hold the abovementioned metal frame in place and the rubber flap covering the bottom ports. The rear-facing fingerprint reader, camera, and flash are embedded below the surface level of the body. That should provide some added protection against drops. Meanwhile, a single rear-facing speaker is placed on the lower half of the device and the three buttons - a volume rocker, power button, and ‘custom’ button - are actually textured differently to make them more intuitive to use. Those do feel a bit soft when pressed in, which can take some getting used to. However, that appears to be deliberate, resulting from the overall design rather than being a design flaw here. Finally, every other portion of the device has some level of texturing as well to prevent slips and drops.
Not only is the display in use on the P10 much lower resolution than many handsets hitting the market these days, at a 640 x 1280 HD resolution. The bezels are also very large with consideration for the current trends on that front. It does feature a modern aspect ratio and luminescence is high enough that the device can be used under most circumstances. However, while color is vivid, the color tone of the display itself is quite a bit warmer than on most handsets. That means it tends toward a more yellow tone than the more blue-white tones seen on competing devices. That’s not necessarily a negative thing since blue light can be harmful with overexposure but it is something to be aware of.
Performance and Battery Life
The performance side of the Poptel P10 approaches that of a mid-range handset, although the benchmarks do not betray that fact. That means this handset should be able to handle any word-processing, media streaming, and most Android games with no problems whatsoever. Obviously, that precludes many modern titles that don’t typically perform at their peak on anything but top-tier hardware. However, there is not any lag to speak of when undertaking the vast majority of tasks or media consumption sessions that Android devices allow for. In particular, we tested the handset running Pokemon Quest, Alto's Odyssey, and Helix Jump - three titles that are new and relatively popular on the platform. While loading times weren't always the best, sometimes taking up to 20 or 30 seconds, each game performed as smoothly as on any other Android handset.
On the other hand, the screen-on time from the P10’s 3,600 mAh battery was great. Our benchmark and real-world use lined up fairly closely here at nearly 10 hours with the CPU running at upwards of 70-percent for the duration. What’s more, no battery saving features or other optimizations were active throughout that test and we didn’t feel the need to turn them on throughout the day either. While much of that battery savings likely stems from the low resolution of the handset and its comparatively low-spec internals, that means that at least a full day’s usage should be easily obtainable for just about anybody. Charging Poptel’s budget-end rugged device isn’t slow either and fast charging is enabled. Although we never topped off the battery, we did note that more than 30-percent charge could be obtained in under a half-hour.
Connectivity and Audio
Audio, as with almost all device under a certain price range, leaves a lot to be desired. The P10 is loud enough to be used for almost any purpose but upper tones do drown out everything else. The same is not true of the wired earbuds or Bluetooth-driven audio experiences, of course, and the earbuds are particularly good with consideration for what they are. Output through the 3.5mm jack is well-balanced, with plenty of bass intonation and without ruining the overall sound of a given piece of media. These aren't the best quality and most users will likely have their own preferred brand and model of headphones but they aren't bad at all for an included accessory.
We tested the Poptel P10 on T-Mobile's network towers through a prepaid MVNO and were happy to note that 3G was immediately available but did not see any support for 4G. That could easily be due to the location of testing but it is promising, in any case, to see support for US bands from a device that is not chiefly intended for sale in the region. With that said, the bands and frequencies supported by the P10 open it up for use on the vast majority of US carriers and subsidiary or MVNOs with only a couple of exceptions such as Sprint or Boost Mobile. Call quality was great and we didn't notice any issues with other communications options either.
2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz
3G: WCDMA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHz
4G FDD-LTE: Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20
4G TDD-LTE: Bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41
Software, with the notable exception of the now nearly ubiquitous face unlocking features, is very stock Android 8.1. The sole exception to that is the icons used by Poptel, which have a bronze-colored metal look for system apps. In fact, the ‘custom’ third physical button doesn’t appear to have any user-facing dedicated hardware. Instead, that seems primarily tied to the camera, allowing for quick and easy photo shooting without needing to do much work. That’s a great feature to include with an outdoors or work-oriented handset but the use of the term ‘custom’ does seem to be stretching it. On the other hand, everything else is exclusively Google services-driven or AOSP and only takes up a small portion of the allotted storage space. So users can effectively install and use whatever applications they need without the hassle of preinstalled bloatware they might not use. There’s no noticeable lag with the out-of-the-box software and operating software tied to the fingerprint scanner and other hardware is a smooth experience.
Similarly, the camera software doesn’t go out of its way to be more than what is typically available from an Android smartphone. In fact, there’s substantially less, as Poptel seems to have focused on simplicity and ease-of-use over anything else. Users can adjust basic options for photo output, including some overlay filters or choosing between scenes. Basic functionality for fine-tuning is included in settings and a panoramic mode is available at the tap of a button. Meanwhile, HDR mode is included as part of the package as well as a forward-facing LED flash. Colors captured by the snappers is mostly accurate in the majority of lighting situations.
With that said, the software is a bit on the slow side, as is the autofocus feature. There isn’t any delay between swipes or taps and a reaction from the camera app, however. The app obviously registers a swipe over to video mode or a tap to set focal length and then moves the UI to accomplish the desired task. But that happens over what feels like a very long time compared to other devices on the market. What's more, although the autofocus software is accurate, small variances in the texture or depth of field result in details being lost to spotty focus clarity upon closer inspection. Fortunately, all of those kinds of issues would be generally addressable with a software update. Unfortunately, for the time being, the experience that doesn't quite feel as good as the rest of the what the Poptel P10 has to offer and whether or not an update is planned for the issues is not known. The camera would definitely be serviceable in a pinch or to quickly document something on a worksite but as of this writing falls well outside of being great.
Smooth UI and a predominantly lag-free experience
Slim and stylish for an IP68-rated rugged design
Works in fairly extreme temperatures
Near-stock Android Oreo with plenty of room for apps
Quick fingerprint scanner
Lots of global band support
Dedicated physical camera button
Slow camera UI
Overly simplistic camera software lacks final touches to optimization
Screen tone can feel too 'warm'
Comparatively massive display bezels
Audio could be improved
What Poptel has made with its P10 is not an Android Oreo handset that needs to serve every need for every user. Instead, this is a workhorse device in a slimmed-down package that is perfectly suited to outdoors enthusiasts or workers in various fields of labor. The camera is imperfect but simple and assisted by a dedicated hardware button, which tends to work well in circumstances where job site documentation or a quick shot of the outdoors is needed. The ruggedization and shockproof glass are similarly engineered to fit those purposes. Given its price, The Poptel P10 actually seems as though it would be a great alternative to some of the other big names in the market that are targeting those audiences.