UMI Zero review

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The year 2014 witnessed the entry of a number of Chinese device makers, giving sleepless nights to Indian and global brands alike. One of the most intriguing thing about the offerings from Chinese brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus is the value for money their smartphones deliver. Packing in premium hardware, innovative designs and software enhancements, the quality of these devices rivalled phones from established brands.

UMI, a relatively unknown brand from China, shot to prominence after announcing the Zero, a smartphone that features premium materials, a Samsung Super AMOLED display and sleek form factor. It’s primarily aimed at Android enthusiasts and comes rooted out of the box. The company is all set to launch the phone in India in April. We’ve been using the phone for the last few weeks and here’s our detailed review…

Build and design

The UMI Zero claims to be the slimmest dual-sim Android smartphone at 6.4mm. It weighs 145gram and doesn’t feel too heavy. Having said that, it doesn’t feel flimsy either and is good to hold albeit a little slippery due to the use of glass.

To be honest it reminded us of Gionee’s Elife E7 and S5.5 as there’s liberal use of glass and metallic materials similar to the two phones. UMI claims the phone features aviation-grade aluminium – magnesium alloy metal frame and Gorilla Glass 3 panels at the front and back. We have to say that the UMI Zero exudes a premium feel and is a well designed phone.

However, at 146mm, the phone is slightly on the taller side (for 5-inchers). This means one hand use could be an issue for people with small hands. The phone sports a rectangular form factor and the corners of its edges are sharp, similar to the Xiaomi Mi 3. Again, a number of users may find it difficult to carry in their pockets for this reason. The left and right edges are rounded while the top and bottom edges are flat.

The front panel features the 5-inch Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass and three capacitive touch buttons. The glass panel is slightly beveled along the bottom and top edges.

The volume rocker and power keys are placed at the left edge. The buttons offer decent tactile feedback and were pretty responsive but have some travel. The positioning allows users to reach the power button easily.

The right edge sports the sim-card tray which is not flush with the body of the phone. The 3.5mm headset jack is at the bottom edge while the micro-USB port sits at the top. The sim card tray has two slots and you can either install two micro-sims and or a micro-sim and a microSD card together.

The 13MP sony lens and dual-LED flash are placed at the back towards left while the speaker outlet is closer to the bottom.

Overall, it can be safely said that UMI Zero is one of the sleekest phones around and the use of premium materials makes it even more attractive.

Display

UMI Zero features a 5-inch full-HD(1920x1080p) Super-AMOLED display made by Samsung, protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass panel. The display offers vivid albeit over-saturated colours. However, the black levels are very good and the display looks gorgeous with black themed apps and wallpapers.

Brightness levels are great and we didn’t encounter any problems using the phone in sunlight. Even the viewing angles were pretty wide. It’s safe to say that the UMI Zero offers a vibrant display if one can ignore the over-saturated colours.

The panel’s touch response was also good and we did not encounter any issues while using the phone.

Software

The UMI Zero comes with a near stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat with a few additional features thrown in. Interestingly, the phone comes rooted and pre-loaded with Chainfire’s SuperSu app that lets enthusiasts tinker with advanced system settings and install and use apps that need root access.

However, the phone does’t support over-the-air software updates though you can easily download and flash ROMs through UMI’s RootJoy PC tool. The PC tool offers one-click installation of Android ROMs. We installed the latest version of UMI’s ROM through the tool without encountering any hiccups.

Clearly, the phone will appeal to Android developers and enthusiasts who like to tinker and play with ROMs.

The phone’s settings also feature controls to enable air gestures and smart screen but these features did not work for us. It also offers an additional lock screen option that features recent videos. The lock screen offers shortcuts to messaging, camera, and phone apps.

Camera

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The UMI Zero sports a 13MP Sony IMX214 f/1.8 rear camera with dual-LED flash and an 8MP front-facing camera for selfies and video chats.

The Camera app offers controls for granular settings in addition to HDR, Panorama, Multi angle view, motion tracking and live photo (short video clip) modes.

Pictures shot in daylight were reasonably good with accurate colour reproduction and good detail. Macro shots were also pretty good.

Pictures taken in less light turned out to be a little grainy but did not miss out on detail. Focusing takes time and is often a little tricky.

The phone supports 1080p video capture and videos recorded with the phone were also good.

The front camera clicks good quality selfies and is great for video chats. The camera app also offers beautification features.

Hardware and performance

UMI Zero is powered by a 2GHz MediaTek MT6592 Turbo octa-core processor, Mali-450MP4 graphics and 2GB RAM. The phone boasts of powerful hardware and we did not notice lag while launching and switching between apps and browsing multimedia content in the gallery. However, we did observe that the phone gets pretty warm trying to run multiple apps in the background or playing games and HD videos.

In synthetic benchmarks, the phone scored 30,708 in Antutu, 12,847 in Quadrant, 2391 in Geekbench 3(Multi-core) and 65.2 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests. Some of these scores are better compared to other MediaTek octa-core smartphones.

However, we’d not recommend a phone based solely on benchmarks as real world performance can be different at times.

The phone comes with a 2780mAh battery, and can easily sail through a working day (12-14 hours) with moderate to heavy use and almost 3 hours of screen on time. The phone comes with Power saving and an Ultra power saving modes that limit background tasks and apps and turn off connectivity features to save on battery juice. The phone’s charger offers fast charging and can charge the battery to half its capacity in 15 minutes. However, the phone gets heated up while charging and we even got a warning message about the phone’s temperature crossing the normal levels.

The phone comes with 16GB storage out of which 13.24GB is available to the user. The phone comes with a microSD card slot but you’ll need to choose between storage expansion and dual-sim functionality as the phone uses a hybrid micro-sim – microSD card slot.

We were able to play most video and audio files on the phone without encountering problems. The phone offers decent call quality and signal reception. It was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups.

The external speaker on the phone offers loud sound output but clarity levels were not optimum. The sound gets muffled when the phone lies on its back, which is a problem with all such designs that place speakers at the back. The phone doesn’t support 4G and NFC connectivity.

Gaming

The phone is able to handle graphics-rich games without any hiccups. We were able to play games like Looney Tunes Dash, Leo’s Fortune, Asphalt 8 (with visual details set to 100%) and Riptide GP 2 without encountering any problems.

However, the phone gets heated up within a few minutes of playing graphics-heavy games.

Verdict

UMI Zero was launched at $299.99 and is available at a price as low as $219 (roughly Rs 13,000). The company has said that it may launch the phone in India at a lower price. The phone will be available in the first week of April in India through an online retailer.

At this price, the UMI Zero is a good option, especially for Android enthusiasts who want to root their phone and use different ROMs. The phone has premium looks, bloatware-free software and decent performance. However, we’re really concerned with the heating issues. UMI needs to optimise the phone’s software to take care of this problem.

It also needs to be seen how UMI will offer post-sales support in the country. We’ll update our review once more details are revealed. There are a number of alternatives available in the market including YU Yureka and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G if you’re okay with a 720p display. You also get the additional benefit of 4G connectivity, which the UMI Zero lacks.

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