Internationally known for the European EISA Awards, EISA (Expert Imaging and Sound Association) started in 1982 when the editors-in-chief from five European photo magazines came together to select “The Camera of the Year” for the first time. The Association has members in 30 countries located in Europe, Australia, United States, and recently new members from Canada, Japan, India and Hong Kong/China. For over 35 years this organization has chosen the best consumer electronics every year. Over 50 special interest magazines, covering aspects such as audio, video, home cinemas, auto, photo and mobile technologies decide which devices will be the recipients of EISA awards.
The award carry a lot of prestige especially to the European market and are much sought from the major electronics companies. Last September EISA presented the awards for 2018-2019 in Berlin. Best smartphone was awarded to Huawei P20 Pro, Nokia 7 Plus took the Consumer smartphone award, Honor 10 took the Lifestyle smartphones award and NOA N10 took the Best Buy smartphone award. “NOA who?” is a thought coming to many as the much coveted Best Buy (or in market lingo Best VFM) was awarded to an unknown company and not to Xiaomi, Honor or Nokia, globally known for their VFM smartphones.
NOA line is created from Hangar18, a Croatian smartphone manufacturer with a strong presence in the SE European region, and a tendency of growth and expansion into the rest of Europe. NOA strives to be the leader in the B smartphone market segment following affordable premium philosophy, and has made great inroads in this field during the last five years.
NOA N10 has reached Gizchina HQ and we are curious to see how this outsider managed to win, the most likely to succeed, Far East models on this smartphone category.
It has a full notched display, 4GB of RAM, stock Android Oreo, a large 3600mAh battery, three 16MP cameras, 4G LTE, DTS sound and a ceramic back! Face Unlock and a shiny gradient back with a fingerprint sensor, complete this more that good, set of characteristics. The company provides warranty for 2 years.
NOA N10 Characteristics
- OS: Android 8.1 Oreo
- SoC: MediaTek Helio P23 (MT6763V/WT),
- CPU: 4x 2.5 GHz ARM Cortex-A53, 4x 2.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A53, Cores: 8
- GPU: ARM Mali-G71 MP2, 700 MHz, Cores: 2
- ROM: 64GB ROM, TF card up to 128GB
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4x RAM, 1600 MH
- Display: 6.18 in, IPS, 1080 x 2246 pixels
- Front Camera: 16.0MP camera
- Back Camera: 16.0MP + 16.0MP Sony IMX499 Exmor RS, dual back camera
- Network: GSM:850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, UMTS: 850, 900, 2100 MHz, LTE (FDD): Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, LTE (TDD): Bands 38, 39, 40, 41
- Bands: 5GHz 802.11 b, g, n, Dual band, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct
- SIM: 2 Nano SIM Cards, Dual standby
- Bluetooth: 4.0 A2DP
- Battery: 3600 mAh, Li-Polymer
- Extras: Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Gyroscope, Proximity Sensor, GPS
- Dimensions: 75.6 x 155 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 168 g
The smartphone arrives in a white hard paper box. The brand name is written with shiny grey details on top. The bottom of the box has a grey sticker with black letters describing the characteristics and various other information. Inside you will find:
- 1 X NOA N10 smartphone
- 1 X Power adapter
- 1 X USB cable
- 1 X USB-C headphones
- 1 X SIM card eject tool
- 1 X Screen protector
- 1 X Silicone Case
- 1 X Manual and 1 easy to setup guide
The retail box is excellent and full. I like the tempered glass and the headphones, both seen rarely in a smartphone’s packaging nowadays. N10 arrives protected in sticker, plastic film on the display and plastic film on the back with IMEI / Serial Number details. The packaging is a good proof of what I am about to see later on.
The mobile comes only in Grey. The colour looks like light silver with a distinct metallic mottled finish that reminds me of last year’s Honor smartphones. It is very masculine and modern. It is clearly one of the best greys you can see in smartphones. It looks astonishingly good in the sun. Very elegant design!
In the front we can see a huge 6.18 inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio. The notch in the top resembles Huawei P20 – it is smaller that my daily driver, Xiaomi Mi 8. There is no protection here that i know of – this is the reason probably the company provides a tempered glass in the retail box.
The notch is the place where you can find the microphone, the frontal single selfie camera and the usual pack of sensors. There is no LED flash here so your selfies will suffer in low light conditions. Unfortunately there is no notification light either. The microphone is wide so you won’t have to align the smartphone to your ear for a clear sound, an issue found in many smartphones like OnePlus 6.
There are very small bezels on the side of the display and a bigger one on the bottom. This is a full view display with excellent ratio to the body. There are no physical keys on the lower bezel.
The frame is metallic (aluminum) with matte grey colour. In the right side it has three metallic buttons, two for the volume control and one for the power/lock button. There is a small rattling noise and partial movement when you move your fingers on them but nothing serious to complain about. On the top there is a noise cancellation microphone. In the left you can see a double SIM tray. On the lower part you will find the USB type C port, another noise cancellation microphone on the left of it and a speaker tray on the right of it. As you understood from the retail box content there is no 3.5 mm audio jack. You can use the included headphones, another set of USB-C type headphones or bluetooth ones. In the sides, near the top and on the bottom you can see the four antenna band. They are distinct due to a near black tone of gray.
The back panel is made from ceramic material, with curves very similar to those of the Xiaomi Mi 8. Ceramic is much stronger than glass, very sturdy and allows no scratches after lengthy usage.
The way the back panel and the side panel join together is perfect. The shiny gradient coloring is just amazing as I have already told you. The glass is a fingerprint magnet as it is usual to the material. The transparent silicone case that comes along in the retail box is perfect, as you could see the glass panel in all of its glory. In the top center of the panel you can find the double camera. On its right there is a double LED flash and on the bottom the fingertip sensor. Under the sensor you can see the brand. The whole vertical area (camera, sensor, logo) are included in a matte grey colored vertical box, that makes a nice antithesis with the rest of the shiny colour.
NOA N10 has a small bulge in the camera setup. I use my smartphone a lot on the office desk and I simply hate bulges. Whenever I try to write something most of the smartphones slide like a boat. At least the case, when on, stops any movement.
Near the bottom of the panel we can see the “dts” logo, a “designed in EU by NOA” and CE branding. The phone has no waterproof protection. In general this is a wonderful exterior, similar to Xiaomi Mi 8 in all but the camera setup, the smaller notch and the width. N10 is a bit wider. The quality is equal to Xiaomi’s flagship in any aspect and that is an amazing accomplishment for the small Croatian company.
Not surprised NOA got the EISA award, at least from this aspect.
The screen is the main selling point with a 6.18 inch, 19:9, IPS INCELL display. It has a FHD+ resolution (1080 x 2246) that covers almost 90% of the front with 403 ppi. The display is bright and vivid and has good contrast. It is visible under the midday sun but not as much as I wanted. Viewing angles are excellent. The display is made from AU Optronics Corp., a Taiwanese company, reputed for its quality products.
This smartphone comes with the MT6763V/WT SoC known also as Helio P23. It is an 8-core processor with 8 Cortex-A53 cores working at a frequency of 2.5GHz. It is accompanied by a ARM Mali-G71 MP2 GPU working to help with the graphics. Helio P23 and Snapdragon 625 have stellar performance in stability and power usage – they are used today by many companies. There are 4GB of LPDDR4x RAM to assist and G71 is a good GPU. My opinion is that a more modern SoC could be used here. N10 could do much more with a Snapdragon 600 series SoC, and that could attract more people to the brand and the model.
The daily usage should not suffer, I had no issues in any task. Of course heavy gaming or multitasking stress the SoC. Benchmark results are better that any other Helio P23 driven smartphone since N10 has a working speed of 2.5 GHz and not the usual 2.0GHz.
There are 64GB of ROM in the phone. The internal storage can expand to 128GB with an external SDcard placed in the SIM tray. It supports dual SIM functionality with two nano-SIMs or a nano-SIM and the aforementioned microSD card.
Connectivity is great. GSM:850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, UMTS: 850, 900, 2100 MHz, LTE (FDD): Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, LTE (TDD): Bands 38, 39, 40, 41. The phone is an excellent companion for your travels. The only caveat here is the lack of NFC. The smartphone has a good sensor pack having GPS (A-GPS, Beidou, GLONASS, GPS), Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Gyroscope, Proximity Sensor and FM Radio. Bluetooth has the 4.0 Specification.
Navigation works fine with satellites being found fast and having a good precision. Audio is more than good, it is excellent!!! It supports DTS. That a comprehensive audio solution which offers an improved stereo sound image, internal speaker optimization and a panoramic experience over headphones. There is only a single external speaker at the bottom.
Xiaomi Mi 8 sounds like a entry phone next to N10! I really like the execution of the audio department on this smartphone. Wifi is able to connect to 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4G/5GHz Dual-band.
Call quality is excellent and video calls are good without any issues. Selfie cam has no LED, so keep in mind to have a light source near, when you want to make a video call.
The operating system found in the smartphone is stock Android 8.1. I don’t know whether N10 will be updated to Android 9 Pie. Last security patch is from October 2018. I had no OTA update and I have no idea whether this smartphone is to be updated constantly or at all.
In the settings NOA has added a few touches here and there. In the notification area, we can see NOA care. This is a paid service that covers damages to the phone not included in the warranty. A manual in Serbo-Croatian is included as an application.
Intelligent assist has options to use the fingerprint sensor to answer a call, take a photo etc. You can hide the navigation bar from here or alter the position of the buttons. There is the typical three-pointer gesture to take a screenshot that I use a lot, a flip phone to silent option, and some information on Split Screen usage.
You can find also a DuraSpeed setting that allows fine-tuned control over foreground and background apps on a toggle based system. If you want more performance you can toggle your prefered application and it will stop running in the background – there will be no updates or notifications on it.
Face Unlock worked properly, it is fast and works even in low light environment!!! Is there an IR camera hidden somewhere? Face Unlock is not a 100% safe method to use and I prefer the fast and reliable fingerprint sensor. I can not tell that I am happy with the speed of both the biometric sensors. Multitasking works as long you won’t open 100 apps – the software tends to kill them, so the SoC can handle the latest processes.
Gaming considering the SoC is doable with low graphic settings. Due to the high clocking speed and ARM Mali-G71 MP2 GPU this smartphone is better at gaming than any other Helio P23 or Snapdragon 625 handsets. NOA could add more than 4GB of RAM to keep the smartphone run smoothly for a couple more years.
PUBG is playable at medium graphic settings. I did not see the usual lagging typical to P23 SoCs, possibly due to the SoC having a working speed of 2.5GHz and not 2.0GHz. Sound is good and loud. There is a single speaker. This is not a phone for audiophiles, but for daily usage I was more than satisfied with the work done from DTA.
N10 has a set of Sony IMX 499 sensors in the back. These Sony’s sensors are not known to me and I had to check what NOA is claiming with my own eyes. N10 uses the couple of 16 MP cameras to create an image with a resolution of 96 full MPs using photo oversampling technology. A third 16MP camera exists in the front that works without the assistance of another flash. As mentioned facial recognition is possible from the selfie-cam.
The camera application has all the basic stuff you expect these days. The Settings menu allows a lot of configuration – i like a lot the option for noise reduction in video recording.
There are six modes to utilise: HD – a mode where the user is asked to keep N10 stable. A picture is taken with a lot of processing, with a square format and a lot of details. Video recording with flash support. Photo with flash, HDR and filter support. Beauty mode has a lot of configurations and a gradient scale for adding them to our subject face. SLR mode is the specialized bokeh mode. Finally there is Panorama.
Selfies are supported by Video, Photo, Beauty and SLR. N10 is a good camera phone.Taking pictures with the main camera is an enjoyable experience. As you can see from the samples the results are more than good outside, even in Athen’s cloudy sky. Zooming is good, without excelling in the area since it is based solely in software.
Nightly or low light shots have a lot of noise and details are blurry but not bad. HDR worked properly without losing details or sharpness.
SLR was not of my liking, even with the two Sony lenses. I think NOA needs to update their software in this area. SLR in selfies the single camera uses software to blur the background – the results are bad. This is a disadvantage of all single front camera phones and N10 specific.
While the front lense is not mentioned the pictures are great with excellent color and details. Even with the laptop monitor light the results were perfect, more natural than my Mi 8 20MP front lense.
Video recording is up to 1080p. The results are ok, mediocre in bright light, extra noisy in low light. The smartphone has no OIS or EIS and the image is shaking so you need to keep your hand steady, which is not always possible. The noise recording is clear and loud.
NOA N10 has a Li-Pol, non removable, 3600 mAh battery. With medium usage the battery is more than capable to keep the phone on all day, as with continuous video playback I got 6 hours of screen-on-time.
Sadly there is no fast charging, and the 5V charger takes more than one and half hour to fully charge the battery.
N10 provides excellent sound and a full clear screen for browsing and media consuming. Camera is quite good in selfies, very good during the day. Night shots depend on the light source. Bokeh and zoom are not to be used in my opinion. Video again is dependant from the light. N10 has no EIS and the results are depending this time from how stable are your hands. With this hardware NOA could do much more. I take comfort that only big companies with big price tags have great results, and that is not always the rule.
SoC and RAM specs, come directly from 2017, there is no fast charging and there is a possibility that we might never see an OTA update. So take into account that this is not a device for exsessive gaming or multitasking.
NOA N10 is one surely impressive device, packed with an elegant ceramic body and in my humble opinion it comes out as a semi-luxury phone, one with a price you cannot unsee. If you spend your day with calls, texting, facebook, instagram, and you like having an… affordable jewel in your hands, then you should really add NOA N10 as an option!