Yu Yureka Review: Pushing mid-range ahead


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The Indian market has, of late, been the center of attraction for manufacturers new and established. This also includes some of top-discussed OEMs on GizChina such as Xiaomi, OPPO and even Gionee. While Xiaomi’s been very successful in selling and marketing its phones in the Indian market so far, the same cannot be said for OPPO. Gionee, on the other hand, is betting on a completely different section of the audience — offline, and rather entry-level. It does have a few mid-range and high-end phones in its kitty, but it’s the more entry-level devices that have made the most noise in the market.

Micromax, on the other hand, is an established player in the Indian market with an enviable market share. The company has been rolling out some decently spec’d devices, and has been fairly successful with them. However, what the home-grown Micromax did with the Yureka — through sub-brand Yu — is something completely new not only for the market, but also for the maker. Sure, there’s the OnePlus One that already sells in India, but something like the Yureka from a domestic maker was something new altogether.

The Yureka is essentially a phone that shares its design and specifications with the Chinese Coolpad F2 4G. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 64-bit octa-core processor, which naturally happens to be the feature most talked about on the phone. Besides the rather impressive processor offering (of course, considering the US$150 price), the Yureka also features 2GB of RAM which is yet to be a standard on phones that sell for 9,000 INR/US$150 in India.

We took the phone for an in-depth test drive, and here’s what we have to say about it… in the Yu Yureka review!

Yu Yureka Review: Unboxing

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOUA-i7e2bo]

Yu Yureka Review: Design and Build

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Nothing really to write home about, as far the design and build of the Yu Yureka are concerned. The phone is basically a thin slab with a metal lip running around the screen. Bezels also aren’t the thinnest, which means that the Yureka isn’t the best looking phone you’ll have come across in your life. This doesn’t just apply to the left and right edges of the phone, but also the top and bottom; the bottom ‘chin’ especially is quite a chunk. Quite clearly, the makers and designers have worked on making the specs to price ratio look better than the phone itself.

Just like the Cyanogen OS powered OnePlus One, you can switch between on-screen capacitive keys and off-screen buttons. If the Nexus series is anything to go by, Google recommends the former, i.e., on-screen buttons; but that really makes the chin look even chunkier with the button backlights off, thus making a strong case for putting off design lovers and OCD folk.

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The power and volume buttons sit on the right and the left edge respectively. Both bottons are not only tactile enough with a good amount of feedback, they’re also textured ever so slightly, to have a pleasing effect on the user. The power button is well positioned and within reach for average users, but the volume buttons on the other side are sort of tough to get to. We’d have preferred the volume keys more towards the bottom, but Yu (Coolpad?) have done the exact opposite. Not all’s lost though, it’s far from a deal breaker.

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And then there’s the rear of the Yureka… where it gets interesting. Co-incidence or not, the OnePlus One and the Yu Yureka both run the Cyanogen OS (CyanogenMod’s commercial flavour), and have textured rear covers, named after elements in space. The 64GB OnePlus One ships with a Sandstone Black rear cover, while the Yu Yureka does with a Moonstone/Moondust Grey case… which although looks to have the same grainy texture as the OnePlus One, is completely different when in the hand. Durability wise, the Moonstone Grey of the Yureka looks like the better bet than the Sandstone Black of the OnePlus One. Users of the phone have reported about the rear foil coming off with just a few weeks usage, which is a bit of a shame.

Yu Yureka Review: Components and Performance

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The Yureka isn’t the most powerful phone out there, but for the money, it is perhaps the best that you can get…. performance wise. The device has an octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 SoC, with four 1.7GHz cores, and another four @1.0GHz. Something like this chipset would’ve only featured on a US$400 phone a couple of years back, and its only the super-fast technological advancements that allow for a Snapdragon 615 phone like this one to be priced low enough to sit in the mid-range market, but with a very entry-level price. We haven’t gotten a confirmation from either Micromax/Yu or Coolpad, but the Yureka matches 1:1 with the Coolpad F2 4G; you could probably attribute the entry-level price of the Yureka to Chinese manufacture, and the rich user experience of the Cyanogen OS to Indian entrepreneurship.

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The phone also happens to be the first from Yu, which is a Micromax sub-brand. It has a 5.5-inch 1280 x 720 pixel display, the Snapdragon 615 as mentioned before, 2GB of RAM (which is one of the highlights of the phone), 16GB of on-board storage, expandable by another 32GB via microSD, a 13 mega-pixel main camera, 5 mega-pixel front camera and a 2500mAh removable battery. The phone also has support for 4G LTE networks, and is among the most inexpensive devices in its market to offer the feature.

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Benchmarks, tests, and all things apart; on a very qualitative level, the Snapdragon 615 is a great SoC, and it seems to be on par with the MT6732 (as seen on the Elephone P6000)… for the most part. There are a few issues, however. If I was asked to make a choice between the two, I’d somehow go for the MT6732.

The couple most major issues that were faced on the Yureka –

(i) App compatibility: Not exactly compatibility, because all apps that we installed worked on the Yureka. However, a few of them faced crashes every now and then. One app that crashed most frequently was QuizUp, which isn’t the highest optimized app, but then the crashes started becoming a routine. So much so that they made the app unusable.

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(ii) Heating up: The Yureka starts heating up on the top rear region after a few good minutes of non-stop usage. Now, that isn’t a very good sign, especially for a phone that is targeted at the power user than the everyday consumer. So, Yu and Yu’s OEM partners have plenty to think about for their future releases.

Other than that, the phone is pretty much error-free. Heck, even with all those shortcomings, the phone is one of the best (if not the best) US$150 phones around. Cyanogen OS has a major role to play in this; a better chipset alone wouldn’t make one leave the Yureka and go for another phone. And that applies to the whole MT6732 vs. Snapdragon 615 thing also.

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Battery life wise, the phone isn’t the best, but also not the worst. In other words, battery life isn’t the phone’s strongest suite. It has a 2500mAh removable battery as mentioned earlier, which might or might not take you through one day. What you also have to keep in mind is the fact that the Yureka is a dual SIM phone and also supports 4G LTE, so if you are going to use all of that, a full day of battery might be a distant dream. In my usage (I’m typical, non gaming user; top five apps: Facebook, feedly, Chrome, WhatsApp, Gmail), the phone did last an entire day on most days, but also gave up a couple of hours before the end of my day a few times.

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Something I found to be extremely impressive on the Yureka was its WiFi performance. In places where my Mi 4 doesn’t even catch a signal, the Yureka was able to pick a strong connection. It would be fair to say that the Yureka has the best WiFi performance among the devices that I have ever used!

However, not all’s roses and sunshine with the Yureka. The phone suffers from extremely poor audio output from the external speaker. Having said that, is isn’t the quality that suffers particularly; the loudness is what leaves you wanting big time on the phone.

Yu Yureka Review: ROM

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The ROM on the Yureka is as important a component as any other. After all, never have we seen a phone running official Cyanogen OS right out of the box for just US$150! If you’ve used the OnePlus One (which runs a special ‘11S’ version of the ROM), you’ll know pretty much how the Yureka performs. Given that this phone is half the price of the OnePlus One (which is already pretty cheap, given its specifications), it is plain surprise to see the phone run the OS butter smooth, without any errors whatsoever.

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There are tonnes of features on the ROM which are beyond the scope of this review. Very much like the 11S version of CyanogenMod, the Cyanogen OS on the Yureka allows you to tweak the theme component by component; i.e., you can change the entire theme, or just the boot animation, etc. However there’s no support for full sound packs, even though you can change notifications, alarms and the like bit by bit.

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The ROM also has support for heads up notifications (from Lollipop), and a lot more features, which as mentioned earlier are tough to cover in the scope of this review.

Yu Yureka Review: Camera

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The camera on the Yureka is pretty good. Especially if you give it a good amount of light, you probably won’t need a better camera on the go. It is a 13 mega-pixel sensor, same in resolution as the OnePlus One. Again, without sounding repetitive, I’d like to express my astonishment on how much phones have changed in the span of less than one year! It was just a few months back that I was testing the OnePlus One and found it to be a device which is hard to beat. A few months on, at half the price, I would recommend the Yureka over it!

Take a look at some camera samples to see just how the Yureka performs in real life situations.

 

As you can see from the photos, the phone does take some lovely photos in daylight. What is also impressive is the shallow depth of field, aka bokeh effect that many photos with subject in close proximity seem to have.

In all, I’d give the camera a 9/10. If it were a US$150 Chinese phone that I would’ve had to import, the score would have likely been 8/10, but the sheer fact that this is a phone that you can buy (well, pretty much, if you’re in India) without having to worry about shipping and taxes (factors that add to the total cost) gives it an extra point in my book.

Yu Yureka Review: Conclusion

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The Yureka is a device truly worthy of the asking price and perhaps even more. Of course, it’s not here to challenge the flagships; instead, the Yureka is more of a jack of all trades, master of some. It’s a shame the phone is only available in India at the moment, for I’m sure not just readers of GizChina, but a lot others would be interested in having this phone delivered to them. The Coolpad F2 is an option, but I’m not really sure if the Cyanogen OS is ported to the device (nor can I vouch for its stability on a non-supported phone). All in all, though, the Yureka is a winner despite the couple of glitches that is has.

That was for my thoughts on the Yu Yureka. Let us know what you think about the phone, and if you’d go for it if it were available in your country. Perhaps against a phone like the JiaYu S3.

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