Vernee Mars Review: Big Little


Vernee is a new smartphone brand that has made a name for itself fairly quickly in the ultra competitive mobile scene. Their first phone, the Vernee Thor, was and is still one of my favourite phones to hold in the hand and was priced extremely competitively. The Vernee Apollo Lite was the first device to use the Helio X20 processor and even then was priced fiercely as well.

The Vernee Mars is this fledging company’s third phone, and this midrange phone is priced a lot less aggressively than the first two phones.

Vernee Mars Full Review

Starting at $200 during the presale period and rising to $250 after, this 5.5″ phone combines the midrange Helio P10 chip with 4GB of RAM for a respectable spec sheet. However, in a pure specs to price battle, it’s bigger brother (the Apollo Lite) handily beats the Mars and is trounced soundly by the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.

However, it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. First of all, it has incredibly small bezels, fitting a 5.5″ phone in the footprint of a 5″ one… almost. This has the added benefit of making the phone look very sleek. It also has a side mounted fingerprint scanner that we are very interested to see how well it works.

But are these tricks enough to make this a must buy? Continue reading to find out.

“this phone faces stiff competition”

 Vernee Mars Specifications

Processor Helio P10 MTK6755 Octacore
Display 5.5″ 1920 x 1080 px, IPS LCD
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB SSD
Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Cameras 13MP Rear, 5MP Front Camera
Battery 3000mAh with PumpExpress
Physical Properties 149g, 73 x 151.6 x 7.6 mm

Big thanks to Gearbest for providing this review unit. I used the Vernee Mars on Rogers in Toronto.

Vernee Mars Hardware

vernee-mars-review-2

Vernee has some pretty good industrial designers, or so it appears. The phone manages to catch the eye without the need for flashy design cues like a curved display. Made out of a single piece of aircraft grade aluminum, the Mars definitely looks and feels like a premium device, no question about it.

It’s extremely compact for a 5.5″ phone, squeezing itself into the footprint of a large 5″ device. Bezels are such a thing of the past, and I applaud Vernee for shrinking them as much as possible.

vernee-mars-review-4

This stands in stark contrast to the new iPhones and the recently released Pixel devices, and they all have one thing in common — large bezels. The 1mm wide bezels flanking the left and right of the screen are almost invisible to the naked eye and completely invisible when the screen is off. You find the side mounted fingerprint sensor on the right edge.

vernee-mars-review-3

The back of the phone contains the camera, flash and the Vernee logo. The antenna bands look the exact same as the iPhone 7’s bands, but I really don’t think they copied the iPhone itself since both the Mars and the iPhone were released within days of each other. Even though the metal used is durable, it is very scratchable… so do be careful with it.

“big phone in a small footprint”

I’m quite pleased with the design, quality and size of this phone. If I were to ever move to a phone with a 5.5″ screen, one with minimal bezels is a must. The only downside to the build quality here is how easily scratches can be seen.

Vernee Mars Display

vernee-mars-review-10

Screen display technology has advanced to a point where most phone displays — regardless of pricing — all present more or less the same quality with slight variations in maximum brightness, contrast, and colour.

Unless you pay outrageous amounts for a top end AMOLED display, the difference between LCD displays are within a few percentage points of each other.

vernee-mars-review-9

Here we see Vernee installing a 5.5″ Full HD display in the phone and the screen itself is great. It presents rather saturated colours (for an LCD) and crisp text and pictures, making it a pleasure to look at. Max brightness tops out around 500 nits, it’s easy to see in direct sunlight. It’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3 so you don’t have to worry about scratches.

I do recommend a case as the body design of the phone does not allow for protection for the front glass from drops at all.

vernee-mars-review-11

Vernee Mars Audio

“decent volume, crisp quality”

Speaker technology in smartphones is even more stagnated than smartphone displays. Even low quality speakers that lack clarity aren’t all that bad; and in my time as a device reviewer, I’ve only encountered two truly terrible speakers. Thankfully, the Vernee Mars is not one of them.

Speaker volume is quite good, it isn’t as loud as the HTC 10, but it’s loud enough for most situations. Now what really surprised me was the speaker quality. It’s actually one of the better ones I’ve heard. There is very decent detail in the sound and audio is crisp even at maximum volume. Have a listen for yourself.

Vernee Mars Battery

With a standard 3000mAh battery, the Vernee Mars should post some decent results, but anyone hoping for something spectacular like Redmi devices should temper their expectations. I was able to get through a 16 hour day of medium use, meaning 4 hours of screen on time consisting of web browsing, Reddit, and news. I plugged it back in at 10pm with just 2% left, so there really is no buffer there.

Try anything more and the phone most likely won’t be able to get you throughout a day. In the web browsing test, the Mars died after 7 hours of web browsing and got 8 hours of video playback. Decent results, but not up there with the best of the best.

“decent but not great”

You also get Mediatek’s PumpExpress which can charge the phone up to about 60% in an hour, quite useful for a phone without great battery life. This phone will be enough for light and medium users. Heavy users will need to charge at least once a day, but with PumpExpress, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Vernee Mars Software

Vernee is one of the few manufacturers that keeps the ROM as stock as possible, and I appreciate that. To those moving from MIUI or EMUI, you could make the argument that this phone is completely feature bare, which wouldn’t be a false statement.

However, Vernee did add a few extra customization option,s such as display customizations and screen gestures. The latter somewhat rendered moot by an always on fingerprint sensor.

There are also some customization options regarding notifications as well as quick settings. A side mounted fingerprint sensor is something that’s only been done a few times, with a few notable examples being Sony’s Xperia Z5 line and the Ulefone Future. The fingerprint sensor is incredibly accurate, but that is becoming less of a luxury and more of a basic feature of fingerprint sensors.

“one of the fastest fingerprint sensors”

The speed of the sensor is what has me puzzled, as it is the fastest fingerprint sensor I’ve seen, and at the same time pretty slow. To expand on that, when the phone is already turned on and you touch the sensor, it unlocks faster than any device I’ve seen so far, except maybe the Pixel. However, if you use the sensor to wake and unlock the device at the same time, it’s slower than regular sensors on flagships like the S7.

It is my opinion that the sensor itself is incredibly fast, but the process of waking up the phone needs to be trimmed down to provide the same speedy response the sensor is capable of delivering.

Another piece of advice when setting up the fingerprint scanner — make sure you scan the tip of your thumb or finger thoroughly, as unlocking the device while it is on a table will pretty much force you to use your fingertips exclusively.

Yes, there’s only a Helio P10 MTK6755 processor in here, and no, you can’t tell the difference. This phone feels just as fast as my Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Lenovo Z2 Plus. This can largely be attributed to Vernee’s software optimization, as the Vernee Mars is the fastest Helio P10 device I’ve tested to date.

vernee-mars-review-13

vernee-mars-review-12

With 4GB of RAM, it is capable of some fairly intense multitasking, being almost impossible to slow down during normal use. It can play almost any game on the play store very smoothly, there are some where you have to lower the graphical settings to play at a full framerate. The Antutu benchmark also yielded a very good score of 47,971.

Vernee Mars Connectivity

One of the downsides of the Vernee Mars is the lack of supported bands. There are only two WCDMA bands and four FDD-LTE bands, and those pretty much prevent this device from working in U.S. Altogether. However, if you are located somewhere else like Europe or Asia, you should be OK. Do check whether it works on your carrier though. I was able to get some very good 4G LTE speeds as well. The rest of the connectivity options all work very well, WiFi, bluetooth, GPS, no complaints here.

Vernee Mars Camera

If I had to choose between a camera with good detail and bad colour or a camera with bad detail and good colour, I would rather go for the former, as would pretty much anyone. Colour can be fixed in post quite easily while refining detail is going to be much more difficult. The Vernee Mars fortunately has good detail but lacks colour.

vernee-mars-review-16

vernee-mars-review-17 In other words, it takes pictures with some good detail, but the pictures tend to be washed out. You can fix that pretty easily in post, but a trick I learnt to fix this is to focus on something dark, so for example focusing on my dog’s black fur instead of the white, and the colours mostly come out saturated properly. Of course, you might not always be able to do that in every situation, so this is definitely a downside you have to be aware of.

The front camera is only 5MP and so pictures do not contain as much detail as I would like but it is still passable for a low cost device. One pretty significant upside is the speed of the shutter, it is for all intents and purposes, instantaneous. Tapping the button to capture a shot results in a photo being taken of almost that exact moment.

Video capture from the rear camera results in video with surprising detail and decent colours, the rear camera’s video quality is definitely a surprise. The front camera takes 720p video, so it’s nothing to write home about.

Vernee Mars Verdict

As with almost all chinese phones, the weakest link is usually the camera, and the Vernee Mars is not an exception to this anecdotal rule. However, apart from the camera, Vernee has created an extremely compelling phone in the Vernee Mars, but they made one mistake; they priced it too high.

To be honest, the price tag is not too far off compared to other Helio P10 phones from UMi and Ulefone, but with the release of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, a phone like the Vernee Mars (e.g. a helio P10 phone) suddenly became a lot less attractive.

I find that this Vernee Mars is overall a very well made phone and apart from the camera, without any significant weakesses. Whether you like the side mounted fingerprint sensor is based on personal preference and the phone’s small footprint is just icing on the cake.

“good but overpriced”

The biggest issue I have with this phoine is the price, starting at $250, you’re paying a $70 premium (compared to the Redmi Note 4) for a slower processor and 2GB more RAM. Should you buy this? Probably not. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is still a much better option. But if you’re bent on getting a phone from Vernee, the Apollo Lite is also a good choice. But if you do get the Vernee Mars, at least you can know that the rest of the phone is decent.

I would like to thank Gearbest for sending out this review unit, and if you would like to buy one, you can do so here.

Vernee Mars Video Review

Vernee Mars Gallery

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72 Comments

  1. MattD
    November 10, 2016

    As alternative, you forgot to mention what we learnt recently: mars (or perhaps every other phone ever) is topped by nomu s20 in the -totally legit and not paid- review published the other day by markus… ?

    Nice review man, I’m glad someone here still publish something real!

    As for the phone, it look ot me like one for whoever wants a good phone rather than a benchmark champion, but it’s priced too damn high… And even when it’ll drop to 200$ will still be too expensive: for the same price or lower you could get phones from xiaomi or leeco which are good AND better in benchmark too, so not much of a compromise like this one…

    It would have needed a feature to stand out from the crowd, now it’s just a better option over *insert umi or elephone model here*, but still something someone would buy just out of curiosity “because I want to try something else other than bigger brands”… Just don’t get why they released something so similar to apollo lite…

    • November 10, 2016

      Thank you. In the Chinese phone market, price is the biggest deciding factor. Gimmicks do move a few units, but the vast majority are looking at the specs to price ratio. User experience is important as well, and Vernee does excel in that (as does Cubot, but they also price their devices slightly higher).

      • sidney
        November 13, 2017

        please how good is the camera of this phone, both front and back is it better compared with the cubot cheetah 2?

  2. Simion Florin
    November 10, 2016

    Good job man, nice review! I totally agree with you, decent phone but overpriced.

    • November 10, 2016

      My favourite part was how small it was for a 5.5″ phone.

  3. mf1gt3r
    November 10, 2016

    Vernees Achilles heel = camera performance. That’s true with all their products.

    • November 10, 2016

      While that’s true, its the Achilles heel of all chinese phones, and those that do not have subpar cameras are exceptions.

      • mf1gt3r
        November 10, 2016

        I think that used to be case. Currently Nubias and Vivos are excellent camera phones. Meizu, Lenovo, Hauwei, Xiaomi and at times even Zopo does well in the camera section. Especially considering the price of the devices on offer against oversees products.

        • November 10, 2016

          That’s fair, but to clarify I meant “subpar to the iPhone, the S7, or the Pixel”. In that case Huawei would be the only one in the same league. But if you take my meaning of subpar as in not an acceptable camera, then yes, what you said above is correct.

  4. Ibrahim Bahakim
    November 10, 2016

    Man I love your reviews. Very detailed and clear. And you actually answer people’s questions…
    Even in YouTube you are very helpful and over great reviews.
    Well done :3

    • November 10, 2016

      Haha thanks. No questions? 🙂

      • Ibrahim Bahakim
        November 10, 2016

        Thanks to you and hey if I may ask and it is out of this mobile’s topic at all!
        I bought the Mi Note 2 and it is on the way. Your thoughts about it “if you have had your hands on it” :3

        • November 11, 2016

          Nope, hard to get my hands on it, hope you enjoy it!

          • Ibrahim Bahakim
            November 11, 2016

            I sure hope so.. Thanks regardless keep up the good work <3

            • Alek
              January 5, 2017

              just to also add my thanks for the great review and follow-up in the comments 🙂

  5. Yeti hand
    November 10, 2016

    Come one vernee drop the price to 160 you know you can do it

    • November 11, 2016

      Hopefully. But compared to the Redmi Note 4, they would have to drop it to $150 at least

      • Yeti hand
        November 11, 2016

        Come on for 4gb of ram you can add 10 bucks no??
        😛

        • November 13, 2016

          But then you subtract the Helio X20 processor.

          • Yeti hand
            November 15, 2016

            LOL thank you ZI

      • lildwell
        November 12, 2016

        You are the only person to mention that outside of a few outliers, this is a pretty average price of a P10. It appears as though mediatek believes the p10 is valued more than the X20. Thinking this way makes the price of this phone u understandable. Despite being completely wrong. Your thoughts?

        • November 13, 2016

          While I agree with you, I do not agree that Mediatek values the P10 more than the X20. I believe this is due to certain manufacturers (UMi, Vernee, Ulefone for example) who use the P10 in their “flagship” devices and thus price it at “chinese flagship” prices bumping the price up for all P10 phones in general.

          And to be honest the Redmi Note 4 once released is usually the best price/specs ratio device until the Redmi NOte 5 comes along.

          • lildwell
            November 13, 2016

            The reason I believe its on mediateks end is because of Vernee. They have a known partnership with mediatek. The Vernee Apollo lite uses the x20 and is cheaper. What other reason would this be the case?

            • November 13, 2016

              To be honest I’m not sure. However I would find it strange of Mediatek cannibalized the sales of their top end chip, the X20 with the P10 just to gain market share.

            • Bility
              November 14, 2016

              Hi Zi,
              This is on a different subject. I received my vernee Mars 3 days ago and so far I have found three things very annoying
              1- There is no AppLock in security settings
              2- You can not block someone’s number.
              3- No double tap to wake screen

              These are things that I have grown accustomed to with my Oppo Find 7 and I cannot live with a phone without those features. Any comments?

            • November 14, 2016

              Ironically those are all things that I do not use at all, but I double checked and those options are indeed not present. The third one, dt2w would have been a huge turnoff but now with always on fingerprint sensors, its not much of an issue for me. However, I do understand the frustration you are feeling.

            • Bility
              November 14, 2016

              Pls enlighten me a bit. How does the always on fingerprint sensor work?

            • November 15, 2016

              It works fine, why?

            • Bility
              November 15, 2016

              I meant what is “always on fingerprint sensor”?

            • November 16, 2016

              You can touch it even when the screen is off and it works. You don’t have to wake the phone up first.

            • Bility
              November 23, 2016

              Thanks

            • lildwell
              November 14, 2016

              They did it once already with the 6752 and 6753. The 6752 performed much better than 6753 yet mediatek made manufacturers move to the 6753.

            • November 15, 2016

              Oh I remember that, maybe you’re right.

  6. MattD
    November 10, 2016

    As alternative, you forgot to mention what we learnt recently: mars (or perhaps every other phone ever) is topped by nomu s20 in the -totally legit and not paid- review published the other day by markus… 😂

    Nice review man, I’m glad someone here still publish something real!

    As for the phone, it look ot me like one for whoever wants a good phone rather than a benchmark champion, but it’s priced too damn high… And even when it’ll drop to 200$ will still be too expensive: for the same price or lower you could get phones from xiaomi or leeco which are good AND better in benchmark too, so not much of a compromise like this one…

    It would have needed a feature to stand out from the crowd, now it’s just a better option over *insert umi or elephone model here*, but still something someone would buy just out of curiosity “because I want to try something else other than bigger brands”… Just don’t get why they released something so similar to apollo lite…

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 10, 2016

      Thank you. In the Chinese phone market, price is the biggest deciding factor. Gimmicks do move a few units, but the vast majority are looking at the specs to price ratio. User experience is important as well, and Vernee does excel in that (as does Cubot, but they also price their devices slightly higher).

    • Guest
      November 13, 2017

      please how good is the camera of this phone, both front and back is it better compared with the cubot cheetah 2?

  7. Simion Florin
    November 10, 2016

    Good job man, nice review! I totally agree with you, decent phone but overpriced.

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 10, 2016

      My favourite part was how small it was for a 5.5″ phone.

  8. mf1gt3r
    November 10, 2016

    Vernees Achilles heel = camera performance. That’s true with all their products.

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 10, 2016

      While that’s true, its the Achilles heel of all chinese phones, and those that do not have subpar cameras are exceptions.

    • mf1gt3r
      November 10, 2016

      I think that used to be case. Currently Nubias and Vivos are excellent camera phones. Meizu, Lenovo, Hauwei, Xiaomi and at times even Zopo does well in the camera section. Especially considering the price of the devices on offer against oversees products.

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 10, 2016

      That’s fair, but to clarify I meant “subpar to the iPhone, the S7, or the Pixel”. In that case Huawei would be the only one in the same league. But if you take my meaning of subpar as in not an acceptable camera, then yes, what you said above is correct.

  9. Ibrahim Bahakim
    November 10, 2016

    Man I love your reviews. Very detailed and clear. And you actually answer people’s questions…
    Even in YouTube you are very helpful and over great reviews.
    Well done :3

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 10, 2016

      Haha thanks. No questions? 🙂

    • Ibrahim Bahakim
      November 11, 2016

      Thanks to you and hey if I may ask and it is out of this mobile’s topic at all!
      I bought the Mi Note 2 and it is on the way. Your thoughts about it “if you have had your hands on it” :3

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 11, 2016

      Nope, hard to get my hands on it, hope you enjoy it!

    • Ibrahim Bahakim
      November 11, 2016

      I sure hope so.. Thanks regardless keep up the good work <3

    • Alek
      January 6, 2017

      just to also add my thanks for the great review and follow-up in the comments 🙂

  10. Yeti hand
    November 10, 2016

    Come one vernee drop the price to 160 you know you can do it

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 11, 2016

      Hopefully. But compared to the Redmi Note 4, they would have to drop it to $150 at least

    • Yeti hand
      November 11, 2016

      Come on for 4gb of ram you can add 10 bucks no??
      😛

    • lildwell
      November 13, 2016

      You are the only person to mention that outside of a few outliers, this is a pretty average price of a P10. It appears as though mediatek believes the p10 is valued more than the X20. Thinking this way makes the price of this phone u understandable. Despite being completely wrong. Your thoughts?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 13, 2016

      While I agree with you, I do not agree that Mediatek values the P10 more than the X20. I believe this is due to certain manufacturers (UMi, Vernee, Ulefone for example) who use the P10 in their “flagship” devices and thus price it at “chinese flagship” prices bumping the price up for all P10 phones in general.

      And to be honest the Redmi Note 4 once released is usually the best price/specs ratio device until the Redmi NOte 5 comes along.

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 13, 2016

      But then you subtract the Helio X20 processor.

    • lildwell
      November 14, 2016

      The reason I believe its on mediateks end is because of Vernee. They have a known partnership with mediatek. The Vernee Apollo lite uses the x20 and is cheaper. What other reason would this be the case?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 14, 2016

      To be honest I’m not sure. However I would find it strange of Mediatek cannibalized the sales of their top end chip, the X20 with the P10 just to gain market share.

    • Bility
      November 14, 2016

      Hi Zi,
      This is on a different subject. I received my vernee Mars 3 days ago and so far I have found three things very annoying
      1- There is no AppLock in security settings
      2- You can not block someone’s number.
      3- No double tap to wake screen

      These are things that I have grown accustomed to with my Oppo Find 7 and I cannot live with a phone without those features. Any comments?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 14, 2016

      Ironically those are all things that I do not use at all, but I double checked and those options are indeed not present. The third one, dt2w would have been a huge turnoff but now with always on fingerprint sensors, its not much of an issue for me. However, I do understand the frustration you are feeling.

    • lildwell
      November 14, 2016

      They did it once already with the 6752 and 6753. The 6752 performed much better than 6753 yet mediatek made manufacturers move to the 6753.

    • Bility
      November 14, 2016

      Pls enlighten me a bit. How does the always on fingerprint sensor work?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 15, 2016

      It works fine, why?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 15, 2016

      Oh I remember that, maybe you’re right.

    • Yeti hand
      November 15, 2016

      LOL thank you ZI

    • Bility
      November 15, 2016

      I meant what is “always on fingerprint sensor”?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 16, 2016

      You can touch it even when the screen is off and it works. You don’t have to wake the phone up first.

    • Bility
      November 23, 2016

      Thanks

  11. Floans
    November 11, 2016

    didn’t Vernee release the first OTA to optimize the performance of camera? how is it ?

  12. Liisess
    November 11, 2016

    didn’t Vernee release the first OTA to optimize the performance of camera? how is it ?

    • Zi Jin Cheng
      November 11, 2016

      This is with the first OTA

  13. Daria Munik
    March 10, 2017

    Ok: its not BAD. Simply: its not for me. I strongly prefer to invest a little more in more compact phones ( i like them durable); so in that line… Agm got it best this time at 160 euros, sorry Vernee ….

  14. Daria Munik
    March 10, 2017

    Ok: its not BAD. Simply: its not for me. I strongly prefer to invest a little more in more compact phones ( i like them durable); so in that line… Agm got it best this time at 160 euros, sorry Vernee ….