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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Color:||Black or White|
|Chipset||CPU: Snapdragon 615 1.5Ghz
|Android Version||Android 5.0|
|Screen||Display Size: 5-inch FHD
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
|Network and Wireless Connectivity||FDD-LTE: B1, B3, B7
WCDMA: B1, B2, B5, B8
|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.