UMI Zero Review: A whole new mid-range experience


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We review the UMi Zero, a mid-range phone dressed as a flagship with a wallet friendly price tag!

FYI This is a review of a pre-production version of the UMi Zero. Since writing this review we have also been sent a final production model and will post a separate review of it in the coming days.

The UMI Zero caught the attention of phone users all over the world with a radical new design, and use of premium materials. When the UMi Zero was in the planning stages, UMi went for a new approach from the phone itself, to even the packaging and accessories. The result is a truly unique handset, a mid-range phone with high-end features and looks!

UMI Zero Review: Packaging

Having received hundreds of Chinese phones for review, I was quite surprised when the UMi Zero arrived in it’s large packaging. The box is much more luxurious than most Chinese phones at this price, and really set you in a quality frame of mind. The packaging contains the 5-inch UMi Zero, screen protector, screen cleaner, USB, Texas instruments fast charger and ‘Z’ shaped protective bumper! A good haul in a great looking box.

UMI Zero Review: Design

The UMI Zero is a 5-incher boasting a beautifully crafted, black “stealth-design”. The metal body looks and feels outstanding, and the Gorilla Glass 3 panels on both sides deliver that little extra everyone is looking for in a mobile device. The build quality is outstanding at any price but considering the Zero costs only $200 it is even more impressive.

Everything fits together nicely, there are no loose parts, no large gaps, not a single flaw. From the design and construction of the phone alone you would easily think that the Zero could be sold for double the asking price if it came from another manufacturer. UMI didn’t lie when calling this a “super body”. The slim metal chassis measures only 6.4mm and weighs a feathery 145g. All very impressive!

UMI Zero Review: Super AMOLED Display

Another killer feature of the UMi Zero is its display. Yes, it is a 5-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 panel, but the real stand out feature is the fact it is a SUPER AMOLED panel! This is the same screen technology used on high-end Samsung phones, and certainly not what we expected from a $200 Chinese device.

An OLED panel consists of many small LEDs. Every sub-pixel represents an LED, which means there is no need for back illumination. The result: Intense and crisp colors, a very high contrast only few LCD panels can reach, and a true black, which sometimes makes it impossible to distinguish the screen from the phones black frame in the dark.

Sure AMOLED display’s are not everyone’s cup of tea, but at this price the screen is an amazing addition to a superb looking phone.

UMI Zero Review: Performance & System

As mentioned at the start of the review, this version of the phone is a pre-production sample with pre-production firmware. This might be the reason for the lower than expected benchmarks. The Zero uses an octacore MT6592T chipset, the ‘T’ meaning it is the faster 2.0Ghz option, but even still this is a little behind the times considering more modern phones are getting newer 64bit processors. Oddly even the faster clock speed, gaming performance was lower than expected and certain games (Dead Trigger 2 for example) were a little laggy at times. Sure this could be the pre-production hardware and optimisation, but for your reference here are the benchmarks I managed:

Benchmark Result
Antutu 30.515
3D Mark Icestorm Unlimited 7.291
3D Mark Icestorm Extrem 4.999
3D Mark Icestorm 7.215
Anomaly 2 142.960
Vellamo Browser Test 2.073
Vellamo Metal Test 1.370
Vellamo Multicore Test 888

What we also noticed about the Android 4.4 KitKat ROM is, that it’s mostly a vanilla ROM. But we were missing a few features during the test, the most important one being off-screen gestures. KitKat does support these out of the box, but the UMI Zero doesn’t have them. This really is a pity which will hopefully be fixed with the final firmware. UMI promised a lot of features, including the possibility of installing various custom ROMs like MIUI with just a single tap, which we haven’t seen yet on the device.

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UMI Zero Review: Multimedia

There’s no need telling you about how amazing 1080p movies look on the gorgeous Super AMOLED panel, right? So how about audio? Well this isn’t quite up to the same standard as the high-end build and looks. It would haven been great to see UMi pack some nice audio equipment in the Zero’s chassis, but I guess there wasn’t much room in the budget for that. Sound quality is nothing to write home about on the built-in speaker, while it is better through headphones, but lacks some serious bass.

UMI Zero Review: Reception Quality

The UMi Zero represents the first time the company have made an all metal body, and as we all know, metal isn’t all that great when it comes to signal strength. Don’t get us wrong the reception of calls is pretty good, but 3G signals and WIFI is much weaker than on a similar plastic bodied phone. There were times during the review that we had no 3G signal at all which could become annoying.

GPS was working surprisingly well with our review unit. We’ve got a first fix within seconds, and that’s even possible inside the building at the window. The sat-count was at 9 most of the time, the accuracy reaching up to 2m.

UMI Zero Review: Camera

UMI advertised the Zero to feature a 13 mega pixel rear shooter coming from Sony and 8 mega pixels for the phones front. Pre-production versions of the phone came with an F2.2 aperture, but what is odd is that a firmware updated changed that number to F1.8. This is rather odd behaviour, and after reaching out to UMi they guarantee that production version will have a genuine aperture size of F1.8. Let’s hope that this is the case.

As far as the quality goes we’ve not been disappointed considering the price the Zero is sold for. It’s by far not anything you would call high-end, but it’s pretty usable. Besides a high noise production the camera produces quite sharp shots with nice colors. The dual-LED flash is usable, but nothing for those big rooms.

UMI Zero Review: Battery

The UMI Zero allegedly boasts a 2,780mAh battery. It’s hard to say if this is true or not, as the battery life isn’t significantly longer than with other phone. You’ll get over a day, but don’t expect any wonders. This might be up to the bad optimization though, so please wait for feedback of users who got the final product.

One outstanding feature of the UMI Zero is it’s capability of using fast charging. The technology comes from Texas Instruments and uses a special 2.4A charger with a special Micro USB cable. It is able to charge the battery by 1% / minute. This means you’ll be ready to go after just a little over one hour, if you acquired the habit of re-charging your phones at 20%. But please, be careful and don’t touch the plug attached to the charger when charging the phone while actually using it. The metal on there acts as a type of heat-sink and reaches up to 108°C – we’re not exaggerating! This doesn’t do any harm to the material, but would to your finger so be careful.

UMI Zero Review: Conclusion

If you are looking for a flagship phone with Snapdragon beating performance then this is not the phone for you. If however you are in the market for a mid-range phone and performance with the build quality and looks of a high-end phone then the UMi Zero is a great device. For the quality the Zero is simply outstanding and, at this time, extremely hard to beat!

There are issues but many should be fixed with the final firmware on production models, and it is a shame the phone uses and older CPU which cannot support LTE, but I suppose we can’t get it all at such a great price.

Thanks to efox-shop.com for providing us with a pre-production sample of the UMI Zero, and keep posted for the full review of the final production version of the UMi Zero coming soon!

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