Sep 20 2015

Review: UMI X3

UMi X3

On paper UMI X3 has nicely balanced quality components, a big 5.5″ screen, beautiful design and a massive battery for a great price. How good is it in real life use?

What is UMI?

UMI-logo

In 2012 UMI emerged as a new and exciting Chinese smartphone manufacturer with the announcement of the UMI X1. The X1 boasted similar specifications than then popular JiaYu G3 in a slimmer, sexier package. Since then UMI has released many exciting phones with nice hardware at a competitive, affordable price. In 2015 UMI introduced several Android phones such as the Zero, Hammer, eMax and Iron.

Specs

UMI X3

Priced at $220/200 € (late 2014):

  • 5.5″ 1920×1080 display
  • MediaTek MTK6592 Octa-core 1.7GHz
  • 2 GB RAM + 16 GB ROM
  • Mali 450 GPU 700 MHz GPU
  • 3G WCDMA 900/2100 MHz
  • 13 MP back camera + 8 MP front camera
  • 3150 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 154.4 x 76.4 x 8 mm
  • Weight: 185 g (with battery)

Unboxing

UMI X3

UMI X3 comes in a small sturdy carton box that has basically just the phone and a charger. The case and the protective film were provided by Antelife.

Chassis

UMI X3

First thing I noticed was the weight giving the phone a really sturdy feel. Also I was impressed with the build quality: everything is solid, no loose parts, no gaps, no squeaking.

UMI X3

UMI X3

UMI X3

The second thing I noticed was the sharp metal strip surrounding the front of the device. It gives a nice exquisite look to it, although I feel the edge is a bit too sharp. The back has glossy white finish and the bottom has machine drilled speaker grills.

UMI X3

UMI X3

UMI X3

The 3.5 mm headphone jack has a unique metal plug that protects the hole from dust and moist. The right side has a volume rocker and the power button. A notification LED is located on top of the display.

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My measurements for the phone are: 154.4 x 76.5 x 8.25 mm compared to the “official” 154.4 x 76.4 x 8 mm. I have seen in the past that the official measurements are always smaller than in reality, and it is the case also with UMI X3.

UMI X3

The real weight of 190 g is about the same as official 185 g.

UMI X3

The left side has a single hybrid SIM card/micro-SD slot.

UMI X3

The chin has three capacitive touch buttons from left to right: context, home and back. I personally really like the unique dotted design of the buttons.

Display

UMI X3

The display is a nice and solid 5.5″ screen with excellent vivid colors and good viewing angles. The colors however may be too saturated for someone’s taste but I personally love them. However I am not impressed by the sharpness; I could not tell if it is a 720p or a full-HD 1080p panel.

The bezels a quite thin: 2.84 mm.

One serious concern though: The glass covering the display is not tough, gorilla-type glass! I managed to drop the phone from about knee-high and the glass was shattered. Additionally I have not been able to find a screen/glass replacement for it.

UMI ROM (Manufacturer’s Custom Android Version)

The UMI stock ROM was quite clean and there was the normal persistent Google Now search bar on all desktops. I got rid of the Google search bar by replacing the stock launcher by Nova Launcher.

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I found that the Android 4.2.2 which came pre-installed was a bit buggy. Sometimes the screen would not wake up no matter which buttons I pressed. However, using Google Translate, I was able to install a custom GizChina.it ROM that was stable and worked flawlessly. I may post a step-by-step guide later.

Languages/Locale

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The stock ROM supports a plethora of languages, please refer to the screenshots above. It also supports the charsets of these languages out of the box.

Mediatek and GPS

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Mediatek chipsets are notorious for taking their time to get GPS fix. It is the time that it takes to get a proper location set based on different GPS satellites’ positions. There is a well-known fix to correct the slow positioning on Mediatek powered phones but during the test period it was not necessary to apply.

Software

UMI X3 came with some standard Chinese apps, such as Baidu and Weibo, and you are free to uninstall them. GAPPS (Google Services, Google Play, Google Maps, etc) were pre-installed and worked flawlessly.

Benchmarks

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Antutu gives around 30,000 points so performance-wise the X3 sits right where it should.

FM Radio

FM radio worked really well during my test period.

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Camera

With the large aperture of f/2.0 I expected good quality photos. Large aperture should mean good photos in low lighting and excellent bokeh in macro shots meaning that while the object is sharp, the background is softly blurry. The resolution of the 16:9 photos is 4096 x 2304 which yields 9.44 million pixels per photo. The reason why the photos do not have 13 million pixels even when the sensor is 13 MP, is that the sensor actually has a native aspect ratio of 4:3. The 16:9 aspect ratio is achieved by simply cutting the picture from the top and bottom and thus losing some of the pixels of the “full frame” photo. What annoys me is that we are living the year 2015 and still all camera sensors are 4:3 even though we have not had 4:3 televisions or monitors or displays in ages.

Camera Settings

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The camera software has quite many options and tweaks. Noticeable settings are: EIS (electronic image stabilization), zero shutter delay and continuous shot.

Normal Shots

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Macro Mode

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It is normal that Chinese phones have cameras that take great macro shots and UMI X3 in no exception. The macro shots have great sharpness with smooth bokeh.

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HDR Mode

The High Dynamic Range can help when the lighting is challenging, there are bright and dark areas and if you adjust the shutter speed to the other, then the other will be over/under exposed. The HDR mode takes several photos (usually 2-3) with different shutter speeds and then combines the optimally exposured areas from each photos into one result photo. I love HDR and I use it personally really often. What it also usually does is that it saturates colors giving the photos more vivid and richer colors. Not all photographers like the color saturation but it is a matter of personal preference.

UMI_X3_HDR

HDR mode is fast and creates perfect photos, nothing to complain here.

Panorama Mode

UMI X3  Panorama Landscape Mode

UMI X3 Panorama Landscape Mode

UMI X3 Panorama Portrait Mode

UMI X3 Panorama Portrait Mode

Panorama mode is fast and fun and it stitches the photos together quite well.

Low-Light Conditions

I dare to say that all modern smart phone cameras take good pictures when there is enough light, for example in bright daylight or sunshine. The true quality of the optics is revealed when there is little light available.

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There is really great amount of noise in the low-light photos. By tweaking the settings I could get the photos brighter but there is still a lot of noise plus the sharpness has deteriorated.

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The flash light is quite powerful.

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Video

Both cameras record about average quality videos. Let’s say it is not the worst I have seen. Compression is rather heavy and in high-detail views the details are lost. Otherwise the quality is pretty decent and the colors are reproduced accurately and there is no frame drops.

The main camera records rather odd resolution of 1920×1090 (Full-HD is 1920×1080). The secondary front-facing camera records 640×480 (4:3). The video format is 3GP.

Battery Life

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The battery could easily last through the day. In the evening the battery percentage was at about 30%.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Sturdy chassis
  • High-quality materials, nice finish
  • Thin
  • Powerful processor
  • Excellent battery

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Low in-call volume
  • Old Android
  • Heats in use
  • Screen not Gorilla Glass (shatters easily)

Where to Buy?

This is an older UMI model that may be hard to find at the time of writing (late 2015). However, some resellers (try AliExpress) might still have it.

The UMI X3 in this review came from Antelife.com.

Summary

UMI X3 is a good solid phone with sturdy chassis and enough horsepower (fast CPU + enough RAM) to be a daily driver but the lack of Gorilla Glass makes it too vulnerable for drops. I would buy it a good and strong case.

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