With so many Chinese Android phones now available will THL’s flagship T100S offer enough to win over from its rivals? Keep reading for the full THL T100S review.
Since Mediatek launched their 8-core MT6592 processor the Chinese Android landscape has boiled over with new octa-core phones with their own unique styling and features. This brings us to the THL T100S which we have been testing over the past few weeks.
The THL T100S is one of the first 8-core Meditek phones to go on sale in China and one of only a few which can be ordered internationally, but it has plenty of rivals from the likes of Zopo, TCL, GooPhone, Huawei and others.
THL T100S Specifications[komper pid=139 compareform=no]
THL T100S Design
The THL T100S has been designed from the ground up to replace the THL W11 aka Monkey King. The new phone features a few similar aspects with the older phone such as the 5-inch display and dual 13 mega-pixel cameras, but other than that this is a new phone.
Opening the packaging reveals the sleek black and wedge-like THL 100S. The design reminds us of an Oppo N1, or Sony Xperia phone with glass taking up almost the entire front of the phone with just a thin sliver of anodised metal above and below.
Just below the surface of the glass sits a 5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display, capitative touch buttons below the screen allow you to easily navigate though the preinstalled Android 4.2 OS, and finally there is a 13 mega-pixel front facing camera to the top.
Looking down from the front of the phone shows you just how sharp the corners are on the T100 when compared to the more rounded Samsung designs of previous THL phones. Those corners don’t translate to well in the comfort department , which brings us on to the sides of the phone.
Taking a look from the base of the phone shows that the T100S doesn’t have the traditional profile of phones seen in the past. Rather than having flat edges the sides of the THL jut out slightly to a point before curving around the back of the phone. The design is a unique one but again doesn’t feel all that great in the hand, and actually makes the phone feel a lot thicker than 8.4mm.
On to the back we have a Xiaomi Mi3 look. A simple rubberised black rear for added grip, THL logo external rear speaker at the bottom and 13 mega-pixel main camera on in the top left hand corner.
Up to the top of the phone we have a micro USB, plus a 3.5mm head phone jack.
Along the right there is a power button in a good position for use with your thumb (if you are right handed) and there is a volume rocker on the left. The physical buttons on the phone feel better than most Chinese phones we have tested, they aren’t loose at all and they feel solid in use.
For a 5-inch phone the dimensions 144.3 x 70.4 x 8.4mm aren’t the most svelte of phones, it is a little wider than most but our big concern is the length. The THL T100S is a much longer phone than other 5-inch models we have tested.
The last flagship THL phone had a built in battery, but THL have changed this for the T100S which features a removable rear panel allowing you to get at the replaceable 2300mAh battery, dual-SIM compartments and micro SD card reader.
The rear panel also holds the NFC antenna which can be used for file transfer, syncing with other hardware etc.
Build-quality is good, but nothing to shout about. The rear case flexes a little if squeezed the phone does bend under pressure, and the very lightweight doesn’t really give a premium feel, but the overall fit of the parts is good, and there are no creaks or rattles when in use.
THL T100S Display
Going to the 5-inch display of the THL T100S after using larger screen device seems very odd for me. Over the past month I have been using a 5.9-inch Oppo N1 and the 5.5-inch Zopo ZP998 and now the 5-inch panel on the T100S feels a little cramped in comparison.
But that is just personal preference and as far as 5-inch panels go the THL T100S has a very nice unit! As mentioned in the specifications the display is a 5-inch 1920 x 1080 FHD, IPS multitouch unit offering great all round visibility.
Most of the time I ran the display at around 1/4 of full brightness which was enough for indoor use, but outdoors on a sunny day might require you to boost it up to it’s full brightness.
Colours are bright and blacks are nice and black (as they should be). It’s a great display is what I’m saying, it’s not mind blowing (I suppose we will have to wait for 2K for that) but compated to other phones the THL certainly holds it’s own in the screen department.
THL T100S Performance
One of the main selling points of the T100S is it’s 8-core MT6592 processor from Mediatek. The chipset is a 1.7Ghz Cortex A7 set up with 8 x A7 cores running simultaneously. In comparison, the octa-core Exynos chip from Samsung uses big.LITTLE to run different processes depending on what you require the phone to do resulting in only a few of the cores running at the same time.
Although the Cortex A7 architecture is quite old compared to what other chipsets are now offering, the CPU still performance amazingly well and is capable of reaching benchmarks which would have only been possible on high-end Qualcomm phones just a few months ago!
As usual we ran Antutu, Nenamark 2, Quadrant and 3D Mark for review purposes on the THL T100S. Screen shots can be seen below, but the results are as follows:
- Antutu: 26,664
- Quadrant: 13,430
- Nenamark: 50.4fps
- 3D Mark Ice storm: 5013
- 3D Mark Ice storm Extreme: 3512
Impressive benchmarks for a phone costing just $310!
As we all know though benchmarks don’t necessarily mean great real life user experience so how does the THL T100S perform in real world situations? Well moving from screen to screen is fast and fluid, and launching apps is responsive enough but it never feels ‘fast’.
Areas which really disappoint are opening the camera or gallery app. Rather than a fluid animation the app stutters open. I’m sure this is more to do with optimisation of the OS, however it makes the phone feel slow and laggy.
In all honesty I feel that there is very little difference in speed when compared to a good quality quad-core phone. Switching from the THL T100S to the JiaYu G5 with a 1.5Ghz Quad-core processor I notice very little difference in performance, and in reality the JiaYu feels more polished and nice to use. My quad-core Snapdragon S4 Xiaomi Mi2 still blows the THL away in terms of real life performance as does the Snapdragon 600 Oppo N1.
These criticisms aren’t to say the phone is slow, as it isn’t. but it isn’t as fast, fluid and responsive as I hoped an 8-core (octa-core) phone would be!
THL T100S Camera
Both camera’s on the THL T100S are 13 mega-pixel units. The main camera offers a 13 mega-pixel sensor with F2.0 aperture and LED flash, while the front ‘selfie’ camera has a similar 13 mega-pixel sensor also with an f2.0 aperture.
Starting at the front, any fan of ‘selfie’ photos is going to enjoy the quality of photos the THL T100S takes! For a front camera the images are great quality and capture enough light even during low-light indoor photo shoots.
The rear camera has the same specs as the front, but as a main camera it does’t impress quite as much! Photos taken with the rear camera in well lit conditions are good quality with nice colour replication and plenty of detail.
Indoor photos in lower light conditions look good on the surface but zooming a little shows too much noise.
Personally the idea of a good quality camera on a smartphone is for capturing photos at a moments notice. In my case this usually means a photo of my kids as they ride BMX at the local skatepark or of friends while mountain biking. In these situations the T100S fails to impress. The slow speed of the camera app to open, and slow image capture results in a missed photo of just a screen full of blurs. Even with the handy image tracking feature, photos of moving objects are still hit and miss.
If you are more likely to take photos of the scenery, statues and stationary group photos then the T100S will fit the bill quite well, but it isn’t as good as other phones on the market especially the more camera-centric options available.
THL T100S Battery
With a 5-inch FHD display, and 8-core processor you would have hoped that THL had been more generous in the battery department, but unfortunately we only get a single 2300mAh battery with the phone.
Thankfully the battery is removable so you can carry a spare with you if needed, but it would still have been better to see a 3000mAh unit (or larger) on a phone of this calibre. As it stands though we were able to get about 11 hours of use from the T100S on a single charge, about a work days’ worth under “ideal” conditions. Ideal being switching 3G on and off as needed, calls over 2G general web browsing, gaming during breaks and reading emails.
In reality though I rarely switch 3G off, I use GPS alot, take up to 100 photos a day, have emails on push (from 3 accounts) and browse the web frequently. Under these conditions the T100s struggled to last a full work day and need a top up by lunch time!
THL T100s Connectivity
The THL T100S has multiple connection options and we had no problems using any of the options throughout our test.
GSM 2G, WCDMA 3G worked fine with our China Unicom SIM card (it should also be ok in Europe but 3G won’t work in the U.S). Dual SIM means I can run 2 sims at once, a feature I never personally use, but a popular one with other users.
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) worked flawlessly throughout the review and offered a good strong signal, ad did Bluetooth, and the NFC feature meant transferring photos between devices is fast and painless. GPS is better on the THL T100S than it is on most Mediatek powered phones. As usual the GPS was slow to get locked on at first but after that found a fix after a minute or so in previous tests.
THL T100S Conclusion and Cost
To some it up the THL T100S is a good phone with great benchmarks and good cameras, but that’s not what I was hoping for with the first octa-core THL phone! I wanted to test this phone and be blown away by it’s speed, I wanted the f2.0 rear camera to step things up a notch and in general hoped that this would truly be the phone to usher in the octa-core generation!
In reality there is little difference in general performance (CPU, usage, and camera) from the octa-core THL T100S than there is compared to a good quality quad-core Chinese Android smartphone which would cost less and will probably be much easier to buy.
I admire THL for their new deign philosophy, build-quality and for building a phone with so many features at such a low-price, but I believe a better phone could have been built if a little more development time had been taken.
If you compare the THL T100S with phones with similar levels of hardware this octa-core phone appears to be a bargain and if you are upgrading from an early quad-core phone then it could be worth considering. If however you have one of the more polished MT6589T phones launched later in 2013, I would recommend waiting to see what other 8-core phones launch before taking the plunge.
Thanks to Antelife who sent us this review THL T100S phone. Anteilfe currently have the THL T100S in stock and priced at $309.99, and are offering the phone with shipping from their Spanish warehouse to European customers.