After a few weeks of hands on use we have finally completed out evaluation! Keep reading for the complete UMi Cross review.
I first layer eyes on the UMi Cross, well at least the rear panel and chassis of the phone on a trip to Shenzhen in September. At that time I was visiting phone companies, helping them to better understand the international phone market and check out their latest unreleased products.
When Charlie and Superman (a UMi forum moderator and designer at the company) handed me the rear panel of the Cross I was a little apprehensive about the footprint of the device. At 6.44 inches in display size and bezels measuring almost 4mm, the Cross is by no means a smaller device and I for one was convinced it was just too big.
So have my feelings toward the UMi Cross changed during my hands on time with the retail product? Keep reading to find out.
Video: UMi Cross Unboxing and first hands on
UMi Cross Specifications list
The UMi Cross packs almost everything we have come to expect from a flagship Chinese smartphone. The display is a 6.44-inch OGS unit with a FHD resolution of 1920 x 1080, there is a quad-core MT6589T processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB of built-in memory, SD card memory expansion, dual-SIM support, 8 mega-pixel front camera, 13 mega-pixel Sony Exmor rear camera, support for Miracast, OTG and HiFi audio.[komper pid=116 compareform=no]
One feature that is missing, and one which many online resellers are listing the Cross as having is NFC. The UMi Cross which we were sent for review did not have NFC listed in the spec, there was no mention of NFC in the settings and there was no NFC chip on the rear cover.
UMi Cross: Design
UMi arranged for Antelife to send me the UMi Cross for review I was less than enthusiastic. I was/am already snowed under with many reviews and projects, and the prospect of reviewing a phone which I had already labelled as just too big wasn’t all that appealing to me, however I agreed to the review and the phone arrived.
If you didn’t watch the above unboxing video you would have missed me expressing my surprise after handling a complete Cross device for the first time. Sure the UMi Cross is big, but I could actually picture myself using the handset, at least for the duration of the review.
The Cross measures in at 172 x 90 x 8.96mm making it slightly thinner than some smaller phones like the JiaYu G4 and Neo N003. At 90mm wide I was am able to easily grip the phone with one hand, but for one-handed operation a less secure hold of the phone must be adopted. If I balance the rear of the phone on my fingers rather than holding it securely I can almost reach across to the opposite side with my thumb. It isn’t a particularly safe mode of use, neither is it comfortable so for most of the time I took a 2 handed approach. Thinner bezels on a UMi Cross 2 would be more appreciated!
In Asia phones of this size are very popular with women who like to use their phones as a high-tech mirror and their own personal photo booth, so when designing the Cross UMi have done their best to make it look as fashionable as possible. The white model which we received certainly grabbed the attention of more than a few people while we used it in public, partly due to the size but the attractive grid effect rear pattern also received a few compliments too. Each square in the grid is angled differently so light hitting the rear gives a nice holographic effect. Very cool!
Taking a tour around the phone we have the 6.44-inch OGS display upfront. About the display we have light and proximity sensors along with an 8 mega-pixel front facing camera with f2.4 aperture.
Across the chin there are 3 capacitive touch buttons with LED backlights. This is the only real area of concern for me on the quality of the phone as the lights are dimly, and unequally lit. This gives the impression of a cheap phone, which at $300 the UMi Cross is not!
Turning the phone over to the rear we get to see that attractive grid pattern once again. There is also a dark blue version available, but the white is our favourite. A 13 mega-pixel rear camera with F2.2 aperture sits at the top with a single LED flash just below. Below that is an Aliun OS logo, the international version has a standard UMi ROM. And at the bottom we have the Cross logo, CE mark, specification details and speaker grill.
The only physical buttons on the UMi Cross are the power/lockscreen button and volume rocker both located on the right hand side.
A 3.5mm headphone jack can be found at the top of the phone and micro USB in base.
Just about the volume rocker there is a small recess where we can place a fingernail and pull the rear case off revealing the large battery, dual-SIM bays, SD card slot and 3D printed LDS antennas for WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth, GSM, WCDMA etc. The idea behind LDS antennas is that they are fast and cheap to produce, take up less room, offer more surface area and better performance, they also look better too.
Compared to previous UMi phones such as the UMi X1 and including the UMi X2, the UMi Cross represents a huge leap in manufacturing, quality and materials.
UMi Cross Screen
Measuring in at 6.44-inch with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, the UMi Cross offers ample space for viewing your app drawer, playing games, browsing the web, typing emails and watching movies.
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The display is so large that the Cross makes for a great budget option for customers interested in the equally large Sony Xperia Z Ultra, and allows easy viewing and sharing of images and media with a group of friends. I also personally found the large display of great benefit when showing friends new mountain bike trials to ride, with the large display offering enough room for comfortable check a section of map together rather than huddling over a smaller device.
With a pixel density of 342ppi, the screen on the Cross is right on the money for current generation models and gives a bright crisp image in all but the brightest direct sunlight conditions. Touch performance and accuracy are also spot on. Not once during our review did we notice ghost touches, something common on some other phones.
UMi Cross Performance
The Cross has a 1.5Ghz quad-core Mediatek MT6589T processor with PowerVR SGX 544 GPU and 2GB RAM, enough for a 5-inch 1080 phone but how does this set up handle the larger 6.44-inch FHD panel of the Cross?
As a gaming device I would keep things mellow as any game with which requires a fast frame rate, and advanced graphics struggles to run smoothly on the Cross. As usually I ran Riptide GP2 on the cross, a game I know to run exceptionally well on 5-inch 1080 Mediatek phones. My first attempt at running the game proved to be so slow that I had to restart the phone, subsequent attempts were better but still far from smooth and much slower than I have come to expect.
It didn’t come as a surprise that Antutu and other benchmark results were lower than phones with similar hardware but smaller screens. On Antutu the UMi Cross received an average score of just over 14,000 points. The highest being 14,358.
Nenamark tests showed that the Cross can only handle a frame rate of around 51fps.
Quadrant gave a score of 4706.
After a full week with the UMi I believe that the display size and resolution to be only part of the issue with the performance. I came to find the that ROM on the international UMi Cross to be less than perfect and I was forced to restart the device on a number of occasions.
Bugs which I came across with my time with the Cross include the camera failing to start after switching from the front camera to the rear, GPS which failed to lock on out of the box and odd behaviour when charging which had the display flash on and off showing no power then the percentage it had charged. These bugs are hopefully going to be addressed with updates, and if you are less of a gamer and more of a web browser, email writer and media consumer you should find the Cross to offer more than enough power.
UMi Cross Camera
The Cross ships with pretty good camera specifications. The main camera is a 13 mega-pixel Sony Exmor with F2.2 aperture and the front is an equally good 8 mega-pixel camera with F2.4 aperture.
Both the front and rear cameras do a great job of capturing images and overall I was impressed with the majority of photos I was able to take and found the front camera to be particularly impressive.
One complaint I often have with Chinese Mediatek phones is the performance of the LED flash. Many manufacturer get the timing all wrong and have the LED flash activate at the wrong moment causing either too bright or dark a picture. UMi have got theirs right and photos taken with the flash turned out pretty well.
Low light indoor performance is also pretty good, but enough of words here are some photo samples taken with the Cross.
UMi Cross photo samples
Battery life and connectivity
A 4180mAh replaceable battery is more generous than some manufacturers would allow you, and I found that I could easily go a day or more on a single charge. Keep in mind though that this was with WIFI and 3G on constantly, with emails pushed and all social media notifications on.
I also liked to have the screen on quite brightly, so could easily believe that more conscientious users will be able to get more than a day of life from the Cross on a single charge.
As mentioned above, GPS was a pain from the start. The first time I attempted to get a fix took around 20 minutes, subsequent attempts were faster but no where near the speed you or I expect. Call clarity and reception, Bluetooth and WIFI worked flawlessly though out our review.
UMi Cross: Conclusion
Considering that I expected to dislike the UMi Cross, and wasn’t all that excited about reviewing it, I really did enjoy my time with the Cross. The large screen was a real treat to use during my review, and the quality construction, good camera and acceptable performance all conspired to create and enjoyable experience.
Going from the 6.44-inch Cross back to my 4.3-inch Xiaomi has been a real eye open, and I will certainly invest in a larger 5-inch+ device for my next phone, however I’m still not convinced that the huge screen of the UMi is for me.
The Cross is a well made phone, and UMi have really gained much need experience in both manufacturing techniques and manufacture for the Cross, but the buggy software, lower than average gaming performance and poor GPS do let the phone down.
Those users wanting a large phone with good cameras, battery-life and want to be productive on their phones will want to give the UMi Cross a serious look, gamers stay clear until performance has been improved.
The UMi Cross is available from resellers now, UMi have teamed up with Antelife who are one of their official resellers and are also offering the UMi Cross at $299.99 to GizChina readers with the following code: Gizcross