Is the Ulefone Be Pro worth its hype? – Phone review

Is the Ulefone Be Pro worth its hype? – Phone review

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Another 64-bit handset has hit us for a review. It’s the Ulefone Be Pro this time. Ulefone make quite some noise recently after being active as an OEM manufacturer for the most part and now starting to develop their own brand. They managed to achieve quite a big success within a comparably short time, gathering lots of fans among them. But how much of all that is just hype and how good are those Ulefone devices really? Let’s find out!

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Unboxing, Design, Build

P1020046

The Ulefone Be Pro comes in a surprisingly small and simple white box with the Ulefone logo right on top and a specs-sticker on the rear. Pulling it open reveals the phone. Beneath the phone Ulefone placed a protective film, a user manual and two separate boxes containing the micro USB cable and a 1A wall charger.

The Ulefone Be Pro is frequently being called a OnePlus One knock-off, which we consider only as partially true. Indeed the design language is very similar, but that’s about it. All in all the Ulefone Be Pro is far away from being a 1:1 clone. The phone does look very nice with its curved contours and the frame that does look like metal. Also the build quality is on a high level. This starts from everything being perfectly in place and ends after pulling off the rear cover just to stumble upon some LDS antennas, which definitely aren’t the norm in this price range.

But if you believe that we don’t have anything to complain about this time, you unfortunately are wrong. First of all: This handset is huge – even for a 5.5-inch device. Ulefone would’ve done good using a smaller screen, smaller bezels or another design concept. The 5.5-inch screen, the thick bezels and the metal-frame that does stand out as well add up to a whopping 156,5 x 78 x 10,3mm at (luckily low) 166g. The next part we didn’t like that much are the status LED and the missing backlight of the touch-keys. The status LED is placed too deep inside the phone, which results in it being invisible if you don’t look straight at it. Also, it somehow is extremely hard to hit the touch buttons of the Be Pro at night with just one try. Another thing we dislike about the Ulefone Be Pro are the loose hardware buttons. They aren’t shaking, but they are extremely easy to press, which resulted in us pressing them accidentally numerous times. The last part left to complain about is the rear cover. It’s curved, making the phone feel great in the hands, but laying it down onto the table will make it inoperable, as it’s moving a lot then when tapping on the screen.

All in all, these flaws make it seem like Ulefone didn’t quite think all this to the end and they should really pay more attention to such details with their next phones.

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Display

The Ulefone Be Pro comes with a 5.5-inch IPS OGS panel. Unfortunately the resolution only is 1.280 x 720 pixels. While this doesn’t mean that quality is unbearably bad, it still is noticeable through a reduced sharpness compared to a 5-inch panel with the same resolution. We also noticed that colors are a little weak, but that isn’t necessarily an issue as it simply is a thing of taste. We furthermore would’ve wished to see a better contrast with the screen, but again, it’s not bad. Brightness is pretty high, making outdoor use possible. Combining all that within one sentence: The screen does its job, but nothing more.

There is one big issue though, and it’s caused by the digitizer. Fast typing is nearly impossible on the Ulefone Be Pro, as the sensitivity of the screen is just too low. You have to put a fairly good amount of pressure onto the screen to properly recognize your input, and that can be quite annoying. We are pretty sure that this is a software issue which hopefully will be fixed with the next update.

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Specs, Performance & Software

Being equipped with Mediatek’s entry-level 64-bit chipset (MT6732) with four ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz and a powerful Mali T760 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of memory the Ulefone Be Pro does sound quite attractive. And indeed, even the MT6732 is performing much better than any MTK SoC of the previous generation – the MT6595 put aside of course. We already had a quick meet-up with this SoC inside the Doogee F1, but there the 1.3GHz version had been used. Ulefone however is making use of the 1.5GHz version, and that’s really adding some additional boom. Of course all current games are running without any lags and on highest settings on this phone, which essentially means that the overall performance is about twice the MT6592. It’s just a pleasure using devices with those new MTK SoCs.

That being said, let’s have a closer look at the phones software part. Currently, the Ulefone Be Pro is still running Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Ulefone did a pretty good job with this ROM, as they left it a plain Vanilla Android without any changes to the interface or bloatware installed. Some neat features have been thrown in though, and that includes off-screen gestures, a status LED control and an option to use the LED flash as a status LED. They also fully implemented Mediatek’s MiraVision, which is able to enhance picture quality of the screen massively, and also helps saving energy by optimizing the backlight level depending on the content displayed on the screen. Essentially that means that the more black you got on the screen, the darker your backlight gets. We didn’t stumble upon any significant bugs with the OS and were happy to see it being update on a regular basis. During the time-frame of testing this handset, we got two OTA updates. The next scheduled OTA update is Lollipop, which should arrive any day from now.

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Audio Quality

The Ulefone Be Pro’s audio quality is worth getting it’s own chapter because of two reasons. A good and a bad one. First of all, the internal media speaker isn’t bad at all for a budget device. It’s fairly loud after enabling the volume boost in settings and features slight basses and distortion free playback. Also the headphone jack does sound great with our Xiaomi Pistons v2.1. There is no background noise and the output is balanced and powerful. So that’s where Ulefone did a good job. However, they certainly didn’t when it comes to the 3.5mm jack itself. It appears to be a little too large, which results in about 50% of headphones not being compatible with this phablet. They either don’t get any contact or they only play audio on one channel, plus slip out of the jack easily. The only headphones we own that work without any issue are the Xiaomi Pistons.

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Wireless Performance

Here is where the Ulefone Be Pro disappointed us once again. Being equipped with LDS antennas we expected reception quality to be up on high-end level, which unfortunately came out to be not the case. Both Wi-Fi and mobile networks suffer from a limited signal strength. We wouldn’t call it unusably bad, but it definitely is far away from being high-end. In case you live in some area with weak wireless signal you might run into issues with this handset. Something that did surprise us was GPS performance. The MT6732 as all new Mediatek SoCs does support GPS, A-GPS, Beidou and GLONASS. Together with a well dimensioned antenna, this results in an excellent performance. The GPS test you see below was done during bad weather and with buildings nearby. With good weather conditions it is possible to get a fix for up to 23 satellites, which definitely is on-par with current chipsets from Qualcomm, Samsung or HiSilicon.

Screenshot_2015-02-26-11-06-16

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Camera

Ulefone really screwed it up here. If you remember back a few weeks, you probably know that Ulefone once claims the Be Pro to come with a 13 mega pixel Sony camera. Later on, this came out to be a plain lie. Instead of a quality Sony sensor, the Ulefone Be Pro comes with a 8 mega pixel OmniVision sensor that is interpolated to 13 mega pixels. Now a OmniVision sensor doesn’t necessarily mean that the camera does perform bad, as everyone owning a Doogee DG850 will be able to confirm, but in case of the Ulefone Be Pro it sadly does. Landscape shots look blurry, low-light images show tons of noise and all images show a reddish tint that results in a sepia effect. Only close-ups and macro shots get sharp. What’s more, the focus of our unit died after two weeks. It seems like the camera module Ulefone are using here is a very low-quality one, and they probably should choose another supplier for those. The front camera also takes pictures with 8 mega pixels, but hasn’t been able to impress us either.

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Battery Life

The Ulefone Be Pro’s battery definitely is the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we already know that those new Mediatek 64-bit SoCs are very power saving, but together with the power saving properties of Mediatek’s MiraVision and the comparably large battery of the Ulefone Be Pro (2,600mAh), this handset reaches an impressive battery life and screen-on time. As usual, we tested screen-on time using PC mark. It took the battery 8 hours and 13 minutes to drain from 100% to 20%, which is what we call insane. Such a battery life is usually known from high-end phones, but definitely not a budget phone. In real-life this translates to a battery life of about 1.5 – 2 days with intense usage. And it doesn’t stop there: The Be Pro even appears to support fast charging. If you don’t use the charger that comes with the handset, but a more powerful 2.4A one instead, your handset will charge from 20% to 100% in just one hour and 20 minutes. Of course the battery can be replaced, which is another huge plus.

Screenshot_2015-03-07-08-14-32

Ulefone Be Pro Review: Verdict

This time, building a conclusion out of all this isn’t quite an easy task. The Ulefone Be Pro is a very attractive phone with lots of potential, but it has some significant flaws at the same time, which significantly disturb the overall picture. So let’s put all stuff we learned together:

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Good performance
  • Very good GPS
  • Good build quality
  • Bug-free OS
  • Upcoming Lollipop update
  • Support of FDD-LTE Band 20 (800MHz)
  • Charges fast

Cons

  • Design mistakes
  • Headphone incompatibility
  • Bad camera
  • Weak Wi-Fi signal strength
  • Only average 2G / 3G / 4G performance
  • Screen could be better / smaller

So what now? Well, taking the opinion of guys from various communities into account, we only can give you a limited purchase recommendations. You have to consider that some of those flaws might be less significant for some than for others. This is why everyone has to decide on his own if he likes this handset or not. After all it’s your money and all we can do is to show you which pros and cons are there – which is exactly what we did. Our job is done, and now it’s your turn.

Btw, we’ve got the Ulefone Be Pro directly from the manufacturer this time. In case you wonder where to purchase it, the cheapest places to buy at this time (in ascending order) are Aliexpress, Pandawill and Coolicool.

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  • Oz

    I bought this phone for around $140 delivered by expedite shipment from Gearbest using coupon.I was very disappointed with the camera and poor quality of both connectors – 3.5mm and microUSB.This phone has its positives and negatives. The PROs are described by.Christopher Straßer.
    I am looking to buy a better phone like KINGZONE Z1.

    • What’s wrong with your micro USB connector? Mine is working just fine :/

      • Oz

        Nothing wrong- it just loose fitting.like the earphone connector.

    • ksafan0

      My microUSB and 3.5mm ports are okay. Power and vol buttons are flaky.

  • ksafan0

    I kind of agree with this post having a Ulefone be pro myself except that the camera is good inspite of it being an 8MP shooter. Definitely a little biggy, wifi signal is better than my Kingsing S2. Screen is bright and excellent. Overall, phone is good but could have been better, but for the price it certainly is worth it.

  • Sam Butler

    Yeah the connector is a bit annoying, although I have never used a 3.5mm jack ever. I use bluetooth exclusively, But most micro USB’s are easy to come out, but the cable that comes with it fits snug.

    Its funny how some reviews have found the ca,era bad and some good. In bright light, where I really only take photos, it is pretty good.

    Bezels could be smaller, but yes the buttons on the side is the most annoying part.

    But its really minor, I really like this phone a lot so far.

  • Owsley_66

    On my first Be Pro, the microphone didn’t work. Shame on Ulefone. How could they let that phone get through quality control? Gearbest replaced that phone, no questions asked, and I’ve had the new Be Pro for about three weeks.

    I didn’t buy the phone for the camera but I am a little disappointed with picture quality. Part of this could just be the fact that I’m new to Android phones and maybe I’ll learn how to use the camera over time. Maybe not.

    But here is what I really don’t like about the phone: I live in the U.S. and have AT& T. AT&T has towers everywhere but this phone cannot stay locked on to a signal. I can be sitting within a few hundred meters of a tower with all the bars lit up and the next second the phone loses the signal. When this happens, it can take more than a minute to lock onto the signal. It doesn’t seem to drop the signal when I’m on a call, but if I’m not on a call, have good bars, and then want to check my email, then it seems that half the time I have to wait for the phone to lock onto the signal, again. I live in a small town and often travel to a large city to shop. On the way, even though I can see towers everywhere, this phone cannot lock onto a signal. I almost have to drive up to the tower and sit for a minute so that the weak antenna can find the signal. Very frustrating.

    Next, I cannot use the speaker phone when I’m on a call. The speaker is not loud enough and I have gone into settings and done everything I know of without success. This does not happen if I’m listening to music or watching a youtube video. Then, the speaker seems to work fine. It’s only when I want to use the speaker on a phone call.

    Neither the camera, the antenna, nor the speaker phone are going to fixed with the Lollipop update so I’m going to have to live with these problems until I decide to move on to a new phone, but I would not recommend this phone to anyone. Yeah, I know, it’s a budget phone and you get what you pay for but even a budget phone should have a functioning antenna.

    When I sent the phone back for replacement, I bought a Doogee Voyager 2 for $90 so I wouldn’t be without a phone. The antenna on the Doogee is far superior to the one on the Be Pro and the wifi antenna is absolutely amazing. I wish I could say this about the Be Pro.

    Hopefully, Ulefone will read this and do something about these issues because otherwise they won’t be around in a year. IMHO.

    • Muhammad Yasir

      i hope their upcoming phones are an upgrade…
      all in all , THIS represents the DARK SIDE of chinese tech and the dangers of buying it…

    • Seems like you had bad luck with both Be Pros you got. Makes me sick reading stuff like that. Looks like buying the Ulefone Be Pro is like playing Russian Roulette. Will push your comment directly to my contact at Ulefone.

      • Owsley_66

        I’d much rather see Ulefone survive and thrive than go under but they’re going to have to get their act together right now. If they want to compete then they’ve just got to have a product that people are happy with and proud of. It’s that simple.

        And thanks for sending my comment to Ulefone. I hope it does some good.

        • p.mo

          Hi,

          i’ve got exactly the same problem. Now i’m looking for solution. Did You found any? With Ulefone’s help maybe? I know Your comment is 2 years old, but I hope You can help me.

          Thanks in advance!

  • balcobomber25

    Ulefone is an exciting brand to watch as they seem really committed to creating a community around their products. This phone checks a lot of the boxes I would want in a phone but sadly two of things I value most are horrible with this phone: the camera and the design. It is too thick for a phone in 2015.

  • Xalis

    Waiting on the Mlais M52 review.

  • Arg

    Finally a review that says things the way they are.Good Job Chris!

  • Floris

    I paid $147 for this phone with the beautiful sandstone rear from Gearbest. IMHO the good: looks great, fast, nice vanilla OS, the OK: wifi, 3g/4g is doing fine (not great but certainly no real issues here), camera (certainly acceptable in this price range), curved back (it might be annoying when you place it on a table but it is better when you have it in your hand, so I guess this is just what one prefers) the bad: Battery life (with intensive use the battery doesn’t last a day), GPS (while it does lock fast the location is often not really accurate 10-20 m off), microphone (it has happened several times my wife heard my surroundings better than me, this seemed to be fixed after a reboot and it’s maybe only once a week, but it is really annoying. I suppose this is a software issue). Even with those issues I do think the phone is worth the money I payed for it, certainly since it included the sandstone rear. Since it seems to be more expensive now I would rather go for the jiayu s3 or preorder the mlais m52.

  • Iliyan

    Hello!

    I have owned Be Pro for around two weeks as of now and I completely disagree with many of the cons that were mentioned!

    The camera is actually reeeeeeeeeeeeealy nice and performs well in almost any condition, of course when it’s dark there are artifacts and the quality drops, pretty much as every other phone!

    The design and feel of the phone are not like HTC One or some other super premium device, but are quite good. The phone feels solid and the buttons despite being a bit loose for my liking are very responsive and provide excellent feedback! Also the volume rockers and the power buttons are on two different sides of the phone!

    The phone DOES NOT HAVE METAL FRAME!!! What was the reviewer thinking of when he as reviewing this phone? This is plastic, but there is nothing wrong with that! Plastic is more intelligent solutions as it is lighter and is much better at isolating the inside from extreme temperatures.

    Battery life in real world conditions is between 3 and 5 hours screen time, depending on your usage of data connection. With heavy apps and constant connection to the internet you will get around 3 hours of screen time for the day.

  • Iliyan

    And what is that con “screen could be smaller”? Are you stupid or blind? The screen is as big as it needs to be, and it works great! The speed on Wifi and 3G is absolutely mindblowing, as well as the overall performance of the phone!!!

  • Gigi Grace

    Ulefone Be Pro is the most cost-effective mobile phone I have ever had, the quality is ok for me,

  • Robert Porter

    I’m interested in your source that the Android 5 (Lollipop) OTA is on the way. I’d really like an answer with some direct input from uleFone themselves.

    I bought back in January based on a review here. Since then, the camera sensor wasn’t what was advertised (not huge but a bit disappointing), and the promised February LP update never showed. Now the Q&A at the retailer that was recommended now shows this (in addition to still saying it was coming February 2015 in the description):

    “Question:When will this product be available with Android 5 ?

    Reply: Hi,MaNo !We are sorry the Supplier have not plan for the Android 5 temporary .”

    And this:

    “Question:I will buy when the phone is update to 5, FEB, MARCH OR MAYBE APRIL OR MAY ?…………………….OR NEVER.

    Reply:Hi,william !The phone can not update to 5.”

    These seem to indicate that LP isn’t coming to the Be Pro for at least the foreseeable future if ever.

  • Richard, Chinatech25

    Do not install the OTA update, ulefone have released the wrong one causes some major problems.