Smartisan is not an old company. Founded in May 2012, they’ve released less than 10 phones to date mostly in the Chinese market. The phone in question is the Smartisan Nut Pro 2, a very promising smartphone with a promising price tag. In addition audiophiles, this is most likely the best phone loudspeaker you can buy on the market today, more details in the audio section below.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Review
Personally, the Snapdragon 660 processor is the perfect mix of power and battery efficiency for me, and I’ve used three of them to date, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3, the Elephone U Pro, and the Smartisan Nut Pro 2. I’ve praised the Mi Note 3 as a great but overpriced device (but is frequently on sale), and its objectively the best phone out of these three. That being said, the Smartisan Nut Pro 2 comes close, very close, and here’s why.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Specifications
|Processor||Snapdragon 660 Octacore Processor|
|Display||5.99” 2160×1080 IPS LCD|
|Operating System||Android 7.1 Nougat|
|Cameras||12MP IMX386 with OIS, 20MP Front|
|Physical Dimensions||15.44 x 7.34 x 0.74 cm, 156g|
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Hardware
I’ve never been a fan of glass phones, but lately my daily drivers have all been glass, and the Smartisan Nut Pro 2 is my latest daily driver with a glass back. That being said, the phone is very well made and unbelievably light. Combine the featherweight 156g and perfect weight distribution and the Nut Pro 2 feels like slippery, light Styrofoam in your hand.This thing is solid, a metal band keeping the guts of the phone firmly in place, and dropping this on a wooden floor yielded absolutely no scratches, just my heart hitting the floor in fear. While I like the design of the phone, fairly boxy, and a dual tone black/bronze colour scheme, the boxiness does make the phone feel larger than say the curved Mi Note 3 or stunning Elephone U Pro, but it does have fairly minimal bezels.A lack of a headphone jack could be a dealbreaker for some.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Display
I’m probably going to get a bunch of crap for saying this, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. The Smartisan Nut Pro 2’s LCD display is THE best LCD display I’ve ever seen. The primary driver for my love of the display is the insanely high contrast, higher than any LCD display I’ve ever seen (that includes the majors like Samsung, Apple, LG, Sony). In fact its good enough that moving from an AMOLED display to this LCD isn’t a major transition in terms of colour saturation (I like oversaturated colours if you noticed).
Max brightness tops out around 550 nits which allows for easy sunlight legibility, and touch sensitivity is excellent, easily useable with cloth gloves.I do have one complaint, and the auto brightness is very aggressive. In pretty much 98% of situations, the brightness could be lowered by a good 20% and still be more than bright enough for use. That’s a lot of battery needlessly wasted.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Audio
I’ll get less crap for saying this than my adulation of the display, but the speakers here are the best phone speakers I’ve never heard by far.
While the Galaxy S9 might have the best speakers yet in a Samsung phone, the Smartisan Nut Pro 2 still surpasses the S9 and every other phone I’ve heard comfortably.
Where the Nut Pro 2 excels is audio quality. No matter what kind of audio you’re playing, an action movie like the Avengers, a conversation filled TV show, or any kind of music, the Smartisan has a rich, vibrant body that not only provides copious amounts of bass but is clear and undistorted at the same time. While other phones might deliver similar volumes and clarity, they lack the rich, vibrant body the Smartisan has. Even youtube videos without bass heavy tracks give comfortable amounts of low frequencies that emulate the real sound a lot better than toher devices.
Where the audio diverges a little bit is the bass output. It’s a lot more punchy and deep than any other smartphone I’ve used (except the Razer phone), however the Smartisan outputs more of a natural, non-fatiguing bass without being muddy. Its not as deep or rich as the Google Home or Apple Homepod, but it’s a cell phone for crying out loud.
One area where the Smartisan might not match up to the Galaxy S9 or the iPhone X would be volume, but even within this supposed downside is a ray of sunshine. Sure, the S9 or the X are louder, but at the very top end of the S9/iPhone X’s speaker volumes, you can hear the speakers are slightly unbalanced, with mids and highs slightly overpowering the bass which results in slightly harsher sound quality. The Smartisan at its maximum volume sounds just as natural as it would at low volume, no change in the balance or power of each set of frequencies.
Quick edit to discuss the ZTE Axon 7, I have used it and while the ZTE is able to output much heavier bass and has incredible stereo separation compared to the Smartisan Nut Pro 2, the bass on the Axon 7 is muddier than the Smartisan and the audio output on the Axon 7 is generally less crystal clear or natural than the Smartisan, hard to believe, I know.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Battery
I’ve seen slightly better battery life out of other Snapdragon 660 phones than the Smartisan Nut Pro 2, specifically the Xiaomi Mi Note 3. I can still get 10 hours of screen on time easily on the Smartisan, but the standby battery drain is higher than I’ve seen on other devices and I hope Smartisan fixes it as soon as possible, because battery drain during smartphone use is actually fairly reasonable, even doing things like Youtube, gaming, or taking photos.Don’t forget the auto brightness is fairly aggressive, so you’re losing a good 5-10% (estimate) off the top of the battery life also.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Software & Performance
The phone I obtained came with a reseller custom ROM with Google Services stuffed into the ROM, resulting in frequent freezing, copious amounts of lag, and the inability to update. I had to perform a deepflash operation to get the stock ROM back onto the phone but once it was on, I was quite satisfied.The Smartisan comes with Android 7.1 Nougat with no promises from Smartisan updating to Android 8.0 Oreo.
Smartisan’s UI is a direct skin of the skeumorphic design language of the iPhone 4 era, with the settings menu a direct copy of iOS. Whether you like it or not is personal opinion, but I suspect many people reading this would probably dislike it.Smartisan has added three major features to Android, namely Big Bang, One Touch, and Idea Pills. Big Bang is basically Google Translate baked into the phone that allows you to translate almost anything including photos, while Idea Pills is in essence a quick note taking app that allows one to quickly take text notes or voice messages to capture “fleeting inspiration”. There is a dedicated Idea Pills hardware button that allows one to access the function easily, and unfortunately this button cannot be remapped to something else.
One Touch is the only function that I personally find the most useful and fairly innovative. Activating “One Touch” (by hardware combo or swiping from a phone corner) shrinks to screen down to allow for very quick and intuitive “copy and pasting” between apps, something I do use occasionally.
Gizchina News of the week
The Smartisan UI is very polished and fast and while I do find launching apps on this phone a smidge slower than the Mi Note 3’s MIUI9, its still very well polished and bug free.
Multitasking on my 6GB unit was flawless, and gaming on the phone was perfect also, the phone got warm after about 30 minutes of gaming.The fingerprint sensor is fast and very accurate even with ripped or wet fingers, and face unlock is slightly slower than other phones but is good enough to use on a daily basis, even at night with minimal lighting.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Connectivity
The Smartisan Nut Pro 2 supports a rather unorthodox assortment of LTE bands, namely 1,2,3,4,5,7,8.
Users in Canada will be pleased as the Nut Pro 2 is fully supported on Rogers, Bell and any subsidiaries that use these two networks, but Telus users will have to pass.
It’s a little more complicated in the USA, but suffice it to say that you will get 3G connecitivity on all the carriers (that are not CDMA) but 4G doesn’t work on all of them.
Sprint is completely incompatible with the Smartisan while AT&T and Verizon do use bands 2,4,5, however these 3 bands are not the carriers main bands and thus you won’t get 4G connectivity in large swathes of the states.
The only carrier which is compatible with the Smartisan is T-Mobile. T-Mo uses band 4 and 12 as their main network bands with band 4 being more widespread than band 12. This means that the Smartisan will work on T-Mobile in certain cities.
This phone will also work for any European users, but in a rather unconventional move this phone does not support LTE Band 20, just bands 3 and 7. It will still work, but do be careful.
WiFi reception, Bluetooth reception, and GPS performance are all excellent. The 256GB version of this phone supports NFC while the phones with smaller storage capacities don’t. I installed Android Pay on this phone to check if it worked, and it looks like it does.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Camera
The Smartisan Nut Pro 2 utilizes the IMX386 sensor with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) which results in very good photos in daylight. Detail in these photos is excellent, and in all actuality I believe the sharpening algorithm used by Smartisan is slightly better than Xiaomi’s Mi Note 3, zooming into each photo as far as you can yields fairly aliased edges, something that the Mi Note 3 can’t quite match.
However, where the Smartisan does fall behind is colour reproduction. While the colours in photos are generally pretty accurate, they aren’t as pretty or deeply saturated the same way the Mi Note 3 does. Colours do look a little drab unless you’re taking a photo of something exceptionally colourful. This seems to me to be a software decision as opposed to a lack of optimization, as the colours are generally fairly true to life without being oversaturated.HDR mode works very well in high dynamic range environments but washes the photos out in photos where HDR is not needed.The bokeh mode here is quite stellar. While there is no option to adjust bokeh while you’re taking the photo, you can adjust it after the fact which in my opinion is a better option. The foreground/background separation is quite good and the edges are fairly separated, however the camera does make mistakes sometimes and will occasionally put a small part of the foreground into the background.Low light performance is decent also as the OIS helps keep the phone steady to avoid introducing blur into the photo and to keep the shutter open longer. While you do get some noise and grain in each low light photo, its not a horrible amount.The front facing camera is surprisingly good quality. With a high 20MP count, photos taken with this front camera are actually a lot better than rear cameras on many phones below $150. Great detail, decent colour reproduction, and fairly good dynamic range. It is capable of taking decent 1080p video as well.The rear facing camera is capable of filming 4K video at a 4:3 aspect ratio without stabilization, and a cropped 16:9 aspect ratio with stabilization on.
The stabilization on the phone is unreal. Filming my dog while walking produced a video that looked like it was filmed using a gimbal, and even a full tilt sprint yielded very useable footage. The video is cropped somewhat (by 10-15%) so you do lose out on some pixels with stabilization on, and for the vast majority of people, its worth it.
The video quality is very sharp brimming with detail as long as there is not a lot of movement in the video. Once you do introduce movement, you get a lot of ugly artifacting which looks to me to be a software issue and the 4K video looks a lot more like noisy 1080p.
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Camera Gallery
Smartisan Nut Pro 2 Verdict
The Nut Pro 2 is a stellar phone by almost all measures of the word. It hits all the important checkboxes, a well built body, incredible display and speakers, good battery life and performance, and a great camera. However, there are a couple of items that could be dealbreakers depending on your preferences.First of all, its glass, and glass phone haters need not apply (ironically its my daily driver). The software is a direct copy of 2014 iOS and is locked down in strange places, and finally the video camera starts artifacting if too much motion is introduced.
While these issues can be deal breakers, they are a small price to pay for such a great device. I recommend purchasing the 32/64GB version of this phone as that seems to be the best bang for your buck, starting at just $315USD at various retailers, you’re not going to find a much better phone than this.
Hits all the High Notes
I knew this phone will prove to be one of the best. I love the wine Red color, amazing.
Me too, just too bad its not available widely yet
Just to get it costed me alot of time and trials in buying while sellers refunds my payments due to failure to get the product and ship……seems their production is too low!
Smartisan has no plans to release their phones outside of China, which is really a shame. Maybe they just want to play it safe (I still feel sad for poor LeEco for trying too hard to expand to other countries) or maybe they’re thinking of an expansion strategy as we speak? 🙂
Smartisan seems to be the same breed of company as 360, with no intentions of expanding outside China.
I think they already have their hands full fighting with other companies inside China to be able to focus energy, money, and resources towards market research to launch outside China.
Smartisan is also not Google certified so that will be a major issue for them.
Pup, pup, pup, crap. OK you frequently asked for it so I hope you are satisfied now. All in all rewiev whose good. However problem is that Mi Note 3 6/64 can be found at the moment as low as 293$ (even with shipping from EU) but I expect that nut 2 pricing will get more nuts in time & lower than Mi N3.
What do you mean by the first sentence? I don’t understand lol.
However, I actually like this Smartisan better than the Mi Note 3 because its a lot lighter and looks decent. No NFC could be a dealbreaker though
My fault entirely I ment pou & it whose a joke as you twice stated you will get a lot of crap in comments because of your actual objectivity.
Well nut is lighter because it uses aluminium frame while N3 uses stainless steel. For me neither is actually good enough as battery is to small for my taste in both case’s. N3 wins because at least MiUI support (not that I would stay on MiUI & not developed better costume solution) & because I really dislike 18:9 displays. But that is personal.
Oh lolol haha yup.
Hi, I agree with everything you wrote in your message. I finally got the Mi Note 3 for 235€ shipped from a EU warehouse of Gearbest. I am going to request the unlock of the booloader in order to install the
ROM. That being siad, MIUI is proposing me an update. Should I update the phone? How long it takes for the unlock of the bootloader? Thanks for your help.
It takes 3 to 7 days. When they send you code wait for a day or two before unlocking. Unlocking is still messy be certain to follow official fresh gide (from one of MIUI community) on how to do it. 9.5.x should be shipping around for more & more models main highlight is finally more up to date notification shades appearance & finally notifications work as supposed (most of the time). In some regions they disabled costume theme’s on 9.5 no one exactly explained why but it can be bypassed by changing the region. In my opinion I don’t see why wouldn’t you update.
I unlocked my bootloader but for some reason it only took 4-5 hours to receive the code. Flashing the
ROM was easy though
Oreo is over a year old yet this is still running Android 7? Seems a poor brand for updates.
They stated they won’t be updating to Oreo
Great Review, to me its my daily Driver and havent got any interest to look elsewhere! Perfect phone.
Cant find price in that range listed in the review above on the links of where to buy provided
Do you have it as your daily driver now? Wondering if you had to deepflash to get rid of the custom ROM?
Yes, I deep flashed it by following your Youtube Guide
Nice glad it worked!
This phone is my daily driver too, I use the 128GB version.
I do like it, it’s very stable on software and so far it gets updated every few weeks.
I can confirm your verdict for most of it, there are a few things that I don’t like so much.
The rear camera is not always accurate on color. In some cases yellow is oversaturated, green colors are on the edge too. It depends though, in some circumstances it’s OK’ish in others not so much.
The sound from the speakers is good but my previous Vivo I think was better.
Like you say, video stabilisation is jaw dropping good. Me thinks it’s digitally stabilized given the artifacts that might occur when moving the phone.
For me, battery life is very good, always more than enough for a day of very very heavy use (no games)
Other points you describe I can confirm so all in all I am very happy with the price/performance of this Smartisan and I will continue using it.
Mine came with original Chinese software so it did OTA updates from the beginning.
Which vivo do you have? The Smartisan isn’t the best speaker in all aspects, e.g. bass is not as heavy as others, no stereo separation, not super loud, but I’m certain the clarity and naturalness of the sound is second to none.
Also I turned off video stabilization and still getting artifacting, so it looks like the software is compressing like crazy if you move too much.
I had both Vivo Xshot and Vivo Xplay3s which sound amazing still.
I do agree Smartisan is good but for listening music I rate Xplay3s as the best.
I didn’t know Smartisan has optical image stabilisation too, I thought it was a digital version only. Where can you switch it off?
You can only turn it off for video, and that is in the settings of the Smartisan app
Great review, Zi! It’s a well balanced phone for the price (That happens rarely these days, IMO) and I’ve considered buying it at one point (Mainly, due to the camera, the M1L convinced me that Smartisan, among the Chinese phone manufacturers, really know how to get the best out of your smartphone’s camera) but I was sure that with me being clumsy, I’d break it very soon and it would be troublesome to repair. Their Smartisan OS, despite being an iOS clone in terms of design is actually getting a lot of good reviews for overall stability and features offered, but the fact that no custom roms will ever be available for this phone is sad.
And don’t forget you will never get Oreo if that’s something you worried about. But yes, the camera is frankly amazing.
I wouldn’t be worried about it if LineageOS or Mokee were available as alternative options (Smartisan is among the companies that don’t provide links to OTA updates or full images on their site, even going as far as deleting files from their servers). I’m pretty sure that with all the attention this phone’s been getting, someone will try to boot these roms on it eventually (I’ve seen Smartisan release kernel sources for some devices on GitHub after some time so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this)
Yup fingers crossed, however I do think they have started leaving links up to certain OTAs after this whole thing.
how much did u get paid to review this phone?
$6 million dollars
I would have held out for $6.5 million.
Good review though, I’ve always been curious about their phones.
You drive a hard bargain. I was always curious also, and originally wasn’t going to review this until it was recommended to me by a friend from Shanghai.
I have a few friends in China that love Smartisan. One of them is actually an engineer for Huawei, which always makes me laugh.
Haha lol, Smartisan should poach him! You know pet peeve of mine, but the Huawei logo is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
I don’t think Smartisan could afford him lol.
I work in the Chinese phone industry so I have a lot of friends that work for the major companies. Its kind of funny how many work for one company, get free phones from that company, but still use phones from other companies instead.
maybe I should apply to Huawei 🙂
Too bad mech engs are not in demand anymore
It all depends on your specialty. I have friends that make 6 figures (in USD) working for Chinese tech firms and I have friends that make significantly less.
Sounds good but is there an official global ROM for it, as opposed to a retailer added one that blocks OTA updates?