UMi eMax Mini Review


umi emax mini review

UMi have had a chequered past, so how does their Snapdragon 615 powered UMi eMax Mini shape up? Learn more in my full UMi eMax Mini review.

When we think of phone companies that launch a lot of phones, I bet most of you will think of Elephone, or perhaps even Meizu, but in reality UMi aren’t far behind either. In 2015 the phone maker has launched the UMi Hammer, Hammer S, UMi Iron, Iron Pro, UMi Fair, UMi eMax, UMi eMax mini and a handful of headphones.

This review is all about their latest UMi eMax Mini, one of the smallest phones from UMi this year, and the only UMi smartphone that boasts a Snapdragon 615 chipset.

UMi eMax Review – Design

umi emax mini review

UMi’s phones don’t tend to look like one another. This is quite common for Chinese brands as they tend to work with many different design firms and factories through the year. UMi claim that the eMax Mini is actually a rebranded TCL phone, if this is accurate then it would mean that the phone has better than average build quality, and there might be more of a chance the device receives frequent updates.

umi emax mini review

In my opinion the design of the UMi eMax Mini is very conservative. It’s not lavish standout device, nor is it an ugly phone, but it really doesn’t stand-out. On my desk full of review phones, the eMax Mini just blends in to the clutter refusing to make eye contact.

The bland body is entirely made of plastic, this means that UMi can make these phones faster and with less of a quality control issue, but also means it looks a feels a little dated. Even the budget $100 UMi Fair has a metal chassis and feels a little more upmarket in your hand.

umi emax mini review

On the front of the Umi eMax Mini we have the 5-inch display, the design doesn’t incorporate any hidden black borders so UMi are able to make the phone a little more compact than some other devices.

umi emax mini review

Beneath the display is a large circle that acts as the capacitive home button. This main button isn’t back lit but once pressed it does activate the back and menu button lights so you can see them at night.

umi emax mini review

The right side of the phone is where the plastic power and volume buttons are. Dual speakers and a micro USB plug are located in the base, and there is a headphone jack at the top.

umi emax mini review

There is no SIM tray because the rear battery cover comes away to reveal the built in 3050mAh battery, dual SIM areas and micro SD card slot. With the back panel in place we find 13 mega-pixel rear camera, LED flash, UMi logo and a circular pattern stamped in the rear.

umi emax mini review

Overall the design is really very uninspiring and quite bland, a few years ago it might have looked great but today in a sea of alloy the eMax Mini really doesn’t catch the eye.

UMi eMax Mini Review – Hardware

The bland design and plastic build of the eMax Mini has meant that hardware has been greatly improved from what we would normally see on a $139.99 phone.

umi emax mini review

The first thing you will notice about the UMi eMax Min is the 5-inch FHD display from Sharp. Turning the phone on and you will see just how bright and vivid the colours are, in fact it is almost like an AMOLED panel in colour intensity. The screen is really very nice with great viewing angles.

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Processing power comes from a Qualcomm MSM8939 chipset running at 1.5Ghz. That’s another name for the octacore Snapdragon 615. In the past I’ve found this processor to really suffer and cause heating and performance issues in phones, but so far the UMi eMax Mini handles everyday usage and gaming well. There is a little heat build-up during benchmarks, but nothing compared to other phones we have reviewed this year.

umi emax mini review

The SD615 has 2GB RAM at its disposal and 16GB internal memory. If internal storage isn’t enough then the micro SD card slot under the rear will take 64GB cards.

umi emax mini review

As we look through the rest of the specifications we see that UMi say that the front camera is an 8 mega-pixel shooter (we’re not sure if this is the actual camera specs or software enabled) while the rear camera is either a Sony or Samsung ISOCELL 13 mega-pixel rear camera. It sounds like Xiaomi, UMi are mixing suppliers and some eMax Mini will come with Sony cameras and others with Samsung.

umi emax mini review

Those of you who read the design section will have noticed that there are dual external speakers, and they sound pretty good. For the money the audio performance is fine, there are better phones but not at this price. With earphones plugged in audio performance remains more than adequate.

umi emax mini review

The original eMax was marketed by UMi has a large battery phone, so it is no surprise to see a large battery in the eMax Mini. Keep in mind that this is a 5-inch phone, then the 3050mAh battery is more than generous. Battery life is surprising too, I saw fast drain during benchmarks (more than other phones), but for normal usage the battery life is well up there, especially surprising considering the vibrant display. The only issue is that the battery is built-in which might put a few people off.

On screen time averaged around 4 hours for me under review conditions, your mileage is sure to vary a little.

UMi eMax Mini review – Performance

The octacore Snapdragon 615 isn’t known as a slow chipset, but compared to a Mediatek MT6752 it is a little underpowered. Benchmarks for the UMi eMax Mini are respectable for the hardware, and above the rest for the money.

More importantly every day performance of the phone is just fine. Even though it is a Snapdragon 615 I didn’t experience any of the lag or slow down of other similar phones (Xiaomi Mi4i for example). This better than expect usability and performance does have be believe TCL had a hand in this phone, there is no way UMi could have managed this on their own.

UMi eMax Mini Review – Camera

I’m not sure if my review phone has the Sony or Samsung sensor, but whatever 13 mega-pixel sensor is inside it is fast and takes some nice photos. Overall as a camera the UMi eMax Mini is a really effective point and shoot, but try and get too close to your subject and the focus really struggles.

The camera app in the custom ROM is completely different from a stock Android camera rom, and is actually really clean and simple to use. There are basic settings for switching the mode such as QR Scan, HDR etc, and then more advanced settings such as exposure, and image quality.

As you can see in the photos below, daylight images are really good, but night shots are really dark, so you are going to have to use the LED flash in low-light.

UMi eMax Mini Review – ROM

Another clue that the UMi eMax Mini isn’t made by the usual team behind UMi phones is the ROM and UI. Generally UMi’s own ROM feels and looks like a standard Android OS, but with slightly different Icons, but the ROM on the eMax Mini has had a lot of changes.

Based on Android 5.0.2, the ROM looks like a stock system when you are in the settings pages of the system with added menus for gestures (limited to just double tap to wake, turn to mute and turn to snooze). From the settings you also have the option for turning the LED notification light on or off but no option to switch colours.

From the main screens the icons and UI is all changed from stock, but the good news is there seems to be no ill effect on performance. The ROM does feature an app draw and Google Play support out of the box.

UMi eMax Mini Review – Gallery

UMi eMax Mini Review – Specifications

Model: UMi eMax Mini
Sim Card:
  • Dual micro sim
Color:  Black or White
Storage 16GB
Chipset CPU: Snapdragon 615 1.5Ghz

RAM: 2GB

Android Version Android 5.0
Screen Display Size: 5-inch FHD

Resolution: 1920 x 1080

Camera Rear Camera
13 megapixel

Front Camera
8 megapixel

Network and Wireless Connectivity FDD-LTE: B1, B3, B7

WCDMA: B1, B2, B5, B8

Bluetooth:4.0

Battery capacity  Removable 3050mAh
Size Dimensions: 139.8 x 69.6 x 8.9mmWeight: 130g

UMi eMax Mini Review – Conclusion

The UMi eMax Mini has a bland design, but in all honesty that’s my only complaint. The build quality is fine, not amazing but not bad either, but the level of hardware and the optimisation is impressive.

At $139.99 you would really struggle to find a Snapdragon 615 phone that runs as well as the UMi eMax Mini, and has a fast camera and good battery life.

My only concern is the availability in updates. Looking at the system the eMax Mini runs it is very different from what UMi offer with their Mediatek phones and what is offered in the Root Joy ROM and update tool. In my time with the phone I haven’t had an OTA for the phone and so far I haven’t come across an update for the phone on the UMi forums (only eMax owners asking the same).

In conclusion the UMi eMax Mini is well spec’d and has good battery life, but if design and updates are important to you then you might want to check elsewhere.

Thanks to Pandawill for supplying the UMi eMax Mini for review.

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62 Comments

  1. MattD
    November 12, 2015

    So “umi emax mini”, in the end, turns out to be an odd naming choise… “max” and “mini” are an oxymoron, and it’s not even a real umi device… So you can restrict the weirdly long name to just the “e”… 😀

    All in all, decent device at a nice price… Hope they’ve learned something, so we’ll got to see better *real* umi devices in the future, because i tend to really like their designing style

    • Steve B
      November 12, 2015

      As they seem to have forged some sort of marketing partnership, we’ll probably see more solid and reliable TCL produced phones but hopefully with some of UMI’s design flair.

      • Muhammad Yasir
        November 12, 2015

        i want to see more TCL phones in market , but they are hardly visible in chinese webshops :/

        • balcobomber25
          November 12, 2015

          Yea they aren’t that popular on the reseller market. But you can buy the Alcatel version in many countries in Asia, Europe and America as well as some online shops.

      • MattD
        November 12, 2015

        Yeah, that would be great! 😀

  2. Steve B
    November 12, 2015

    Cheap but good, Muhammad Yasir?

    • Muhammad Yasir
      November 12, 2015

      definitely a good offering…
      im a bit grumpy they didn’t completely scrutinize the night shots weakness of the camera( i still have no idea how bad are the night shots and also about the part where the focus is weak , when closing in on your photo target) but otherwise its very decent.

      my only qualms are personal in nature , as i prefer a 5.5 inch screen for games and im a mediatek fan.

      lets see if i can put together the necessary quid in time (before a better successor comes out) AND find a way to dodge customs !

      • balcobomber25
        November 12, 2015

        Just about every phone night shots are terrible to average. Very, very few take decent night shots. Even flagship like Galaxy S6 are crippled by darkness.

        • MaxPower
          November 12, 2015

          i was going to say that.
          most of the flagship can’t make good pics in the dark.
          Don’t expect miracles from this category.

          • balcobomber25
            November 12, 2015

            I’ve used probably close to 100 Chinese phones in the past few years. I can’t recall a single one that took very good night shots. A few took acceptable ones. Would be a waste of words to include it in a review unless it actually performed well.

        • Muhammad Yasir
          November 12, 2015

          hmm… seems like a v.technical and deep lying issue …

          and informative and tech-based input i can get on this , balco ?

          • balcobomber25
            November 12, 2015

            Get a DSLR lol. The sensors on smartphone cameras are so small they need a lot of light to produce good shots. Without a lot of light they are next to useless. LED flash can help at night but only so much, and many think photos with flash look artificial.

            • Muhammad Yasir
              November 13, 2015

              sooo… ur figuratively punching me in the gut by saying killer cam is NOT possible , at least in the present age ?

            • balcobomber25
              November 13, 2015

              Killer cam? Yes several phones do have them. Killer nightspots? Have another gut punch lol.

            • Muhammad Yasir
              November 13, 2015

              ouch !
              heyyy … cut that out 😛 !

            • balcobomber25
              November 13, 2015

              Lol. Even the mighty Vivo Xshot and Gionee E8, two of the best camera phones don’t take spectacular night shots.

            • Muhammad Yasir
              November 14, 2015

              K.O !

    • Muhammad Yasir
      November 12, 2015

      and i also read a review on gizmo china about a month ago … same views
      on the cam and general stuff. proves the phone is finally something good
      in an otherwise HORROR show year for umi

  3. balcobomber25
    November 12, 2015

    If you can get by the incredibly boring design it seems like a decent phone. Although every 615 I have tried was a train wreck when it came to performance, I wouldn’t trust it long term.

    • November 12, 2015

      Pretty shocked that this one isn’t as bad as the rest, but that said they haven’t all been bad, the ZTE S6 was ok too.

  4. MaxPower
    November 12, 2015

    I’ve just noticed that you always show the phone with that brick wall in the background.

    I’m picturing your wife’s friend asking her:
    “why is your husband standing in that corner? did you give him a time out?”

    “…nah, he’s still working!” 😀

    • November 12, 2015

      The neighbours do think I’m a little odd, especially when I’m taking photos of the same flower with 3 different phones at the same time :p

  5. Marco Lancaster
    November 12, 2015

    I’m impressed with the phone after your review, maybe cause I was skeptical due 615 and Umi recent stories… But this isn’t truly Umi phone, and if the performance is enough, and the heating behavior is not present here, 615 shouldn’t make we cry as it usually does. So far impressed by the camera pictures and the battery on that price point.

  6. MattD
    November 12, 2015

    So “umi emax mini”, in the end, turns out to be an odd naming choise… “max” and “mini” are an oxymoron, and it’s not even a real umi device… So you can restrict the weirdly long name to just the “e”… 😀

    All in all, decent device at a nice price… Hope they’ve learned something, so we’ll got to see better *real* umi devices in the future, because i tend to really like their designing style

    • Steve B
      November 12, 2015

      As they seem to have forged some sort of marketing partnership, we’ll probably see more solid and reliable TCL produced phones but hopefully with some of UMI’s design flair.

    • Guest
      November 12, 2015

      i want to see more TCL phones in market , but they are hardly visible in chinese webshops :/

    • balcobomber25
      November 12, 2015

      Yea they aren’t that popular on the reseller market. But you can buy the Alcatel version in many countries in Asia, Europe and America as well as some online shops.

    • MattD
      November 12, 2015

      Yeah, that would be great! 😀

  7. Steve B
    November 12, 2015

    Cheap but good, Muhammad Yasir?

    • Guest
      November 12, 2015

      definitely a good offering…
      im a bit grumpy they didn’t completely scrutinize the night shots weakness of the camera( i still have no idea how bad are the night shots and also about the part where the focus is weak , when closing in on your photo target) but otherwise its very decent.

      my only qualms are personal in nature , as i prefer a 5.5 inch screen for games and im a mediatek fan.

      lets see if i can put together the necessary quid in time (before a better successor comes out) AND find a way to dodge customs !

    • balcobomber25
      November 12, 2015

      Just about every phone night shots are terrible to average. Very, very few take decent night shots. Even flagship like Galaxy S6 are crippled by darkness.

    • MaxPower
      November 12, 2015

      i was going to say that.
      most of the flagship can’t make good pics in the dark.
      Don’t expect miracles from this category.

    • balcobomber25
      November 12, 2015

      I’ve used probably close to 100 Chinese phones in the past few years. I can’t recall a single one that took very good night shots. A few took acceptable ones. Would be a waste of words to include it in a review unless it actually performed well.

    • Guest
      November 12, 2015

      hmm… seems like a v.technical and deep lying issue …

      and informative and tech-based input i can get on this , balco ?

    • Guest
      November 12, 2015

      and i also read a review on gizmo china about a month ago … same views
      on the cam and general stuff. proves the phone is finally something good
      in an otherwise HORROR show year for umi

    • balcobomber25
      November 12, 2015

      Get a DSLR lol. The sensors on smartphone cameras are so small they need a lot of light to produce good shots. Without a lot of light they are next to useless. LED flash can help at night but only so much, and many think photos with flash look artificial.

    • Guest
      November 13, 2015

      sooo… ur figuratively punching me in the gut by saying killer cam is NOT possible , at least in the present age ?

    • balcobomber25
      November 13, 2015

      Killer cam? Yes several phones do have them. Killer nightspots? Have another gut punch lol.

    • Guest
      November 13, 2015

      ouch !
      heyyy … cut that out 😛 !

    • balcobomber25
      November 13, 2015

      Lol. Even the mighty Vivo Xshot and Gionee E8, two of the best camera phones don’t take spectacular night shots.

    • Guest
      November 14, 2015

      K.O !

  8. balcobomber25
    November 12, 2015

    If you can get by the incredibly boring design it seems like a decent phone. Although every 615 I have tried was a train wreck when it came to performance, I wouldn’t trust it long term.

    • Andi Sykes
      November 12, 2015

      Pretty shocked that this one isn’t as bad as the rest, but that said they haven’t all been bad, the ZTE S6 was ok too.

  9. Joel Adames
    November 12, 2015

    really nice little 5″er for those who are craving for it.

    i wonder something, as this is in usual Elephone price mid-range terrytory, what is elephone planing to do now that the vowney is becoming less relevant???
    I mean the LeTV Le 1s oviusly is going to get a part of that market Elephone was aiming and the P9000 is also just hotair until it comes to market, so what are elephone real intentions by pumping more phones, while having several anounced phones on hold and some on pre-sale and some just running around forsaken from updates???

  10. MaxPower
    November 12, 2015

    I’ve just noticed that you always show the phone with that brick wall in the background.

    I’m picturing your wife’s friend asking her:
    “why is your husband standing in that corner? did you give him a time out?”

    “…nah, he’s still working!” 😀

    • Andi Sykes
      November 12, 2015

      The neighbours do think I’m a little odd, especially when I’m taking photos of the same flower with 3 different phones at the same time :p

  11. Riccardo Benzoni
    November 12, 2015

    when in china land the main issue is the design of the phone, we can really say it’s some solid piece of hardware.
    And I don’t even find it ugly, I mean last year’s samsung flagship was much uglier than this, but didn’t cost 140$, and much loved m2 mini isn’t the most attractive phone either, as 3/4 of phones on this price range anyway.
    Nice to see some love for 5 inchers users as well.

  12. zg
    November 12, 2015

    In the review you’ve mentioned LED notification.
    Have you really tried, did LED notification work for you on miseed calls or unread SMS?

    On eMax Mini, LED lights up only while charging the phone and it has nothing with notfication for missed calls etc (you can find complaints from many unhapy users on RootJoy Forum).

    There are also other issues with the software. Press Factory Reset (in Settings) and for 100% you brick the phone, etc.

    Phone is almost three months on the market but there has not been a single firmware update yet.

    • November 13, 2015

      I’ve not tried to factory reset it, but I will now that you mentioned it and will update the review if I suffer the same. I mentioned the lack of firmware updates in the article. It is almost as if UMi bought up old TCL stock cheap, which is a worry.

      • November 13, 2015

        Just performed a factory reset on the UMi eMax Mini and it is still working fine. No issues with it.

  13. Marco Lancaster
    November 12, 2015

    I’m impressed with the phone after your review, maybe cause I was skeptical due 615 and Umi recent stories… But this isn’t truly Umi phone, and if the performance is enough, and the heating behavior is not present here, 615 shouldn’t make we cry as it usually does. So far impressed by the camera pictures and the battery on that price point.

  14. Joel Adames
    November 12, 2015

    really nice little 5″er for those who are craving for it.

    i wonder something, as this is in usual Elephone price mid-range terrytory, what is elephone planing to do now that the vowney is becoming less relevant???
    I mean the LeTV Le 1s oviusly is going to get a part of that market Elephone was aiming and the P9000 is also just hot air until it comes to market, so what are elephone real intentions by pumping more phones, while having several anounced phones on hold and some on pre-sale and some just running around forsaken from updates???

  15. Riccardo Benzoni
    November 12, 2015

    when in china land the main issue is the design of the phone, we can really say it’s some solid piece of hardware.
    And I don’t even find it ugly, I mean last year’s samsung flagship was much uglier than this, but didn’t cost 140$, and much loved m2 mini isn’t the most attractive phone either, as 3/4 of phones on this price range anyway.
    By the way, Nice to see some love for 5 inchers users.

  16. Guest
    November 12, 2015

    In the review you’ve mentioned LED notification.
    Have you really tried, did LED notification work for you on miseed calls or unread SMS?

    On eMax Mini, LED lights up only while charging the phone and it has nothing with notfication for missed calls etc (you can find complaints from many unhapy users on RootJoy Forum).

    There are also other issues with the software. Press Factory Reset (in Settings) and for 100% you brick the phone, etc.

    Phone is almost three months on the market but there has not been a single firmware update yet.

    • Andi Sykes
      November 13, 2015

      I’ve not tried to factory reset it, but I will now that you mentioned it and will update the review if I suffer the same. I mentioned the lack of firmware updates in the article. It is almost as if UMi bought up old TCL stock cheap, which is a worry.

    • Andi Sykes
      November 13, 2015

      Just performed a factory reset on the UMi eMax Mini and it is still working fine. No issues with it.

  17. Chickens
    November 13, 2015

    So they didn’t cheat on the battery? That’s wierd.

  18. Chickens
    November 13, 2015

    So they didn’t cheat on the battery? That’s wierd.

  19. Semi
    November 16, 2015

    redmi note 2 design = 8
    this one = 6

    sure man…

  20. Semi
    November 16, 2015

    redmi note 2 design = 8
    this one = 6

    sure man…

  21. Florin
    September 21, 2016

    Please,tell me if umi emax mini has 3G/4G on the both sims,of course not in the same time.

  22. Florin
    September 21, 2016

    Please,tell me if umi emax mini has 3G/4G on the both sims,of course not in the same time.