Elephone P8000 Review

Elephone, you may not have heard of them but they are one of the names coming out of China that I predict will be big someday.   Not to give the review away but its a brand that specialises in the cut throat value ranges in the Chinese market that are trying to make inroads into the West.  Offering on paper a lot of phone for not a lot of money, but the question is how does it actually fare in use?  Read on to find out.

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First Impressions

Hmmm well having waited so long for the thing to come I am rather eager to get it open.  There was some issue with the first manufacturing batch and so the first run came without a notification LED inside apparently.  Elelphone seemed to think that then offering some discount voucher or something was suitable recompense. I therefore am not going to complain that the retailer I bought it from opted to wait till the net batch was available.  If I’d gotten no LED I’d have been sending it back as defective.   Anyway, weird box.  Some kinda beige pattern.  Opening it up there is the usual layout.  Phone facing you, bits underneath off to the side.  You got a couple of plastic screen protectors in there, which I guess is nice, though it is a reminder no “Gorilla Glass 3”   here.  Oh and the accessories, a charger and a charging cable.  Both of which are white and is my phone white???  No it bloody well is not, I hate, HATE, that.  I know it’s not a big deal as I’ve got a million micro USB cables and USB charging sockets but it’s beside the point.

Picking it up and holy crap, the thing is huge and weighs a ton.  Woah, my god it’s a beastly beast of a thing.  God it’s so big!!!  Peeling off the back though just look at that massive battery.  Shame it’s not a removable one which seems a stupid move on Elephones part.  I mean it’s right there but nope, no carrying any spares.  Still it’s so big no one should need to.

 

Powering it on the first thin your notice as that it has weirdly big black boarders round the screen.  Hmm, why?  Why not just make them the same colour as the rest of the front, is it really to make the screen look bigger?  That just seems idiotic.

Hardware

The thing is a beast.  Well it’s a beast for a phone anyway but it’s still very easily pocketable.  I’m still not sure I love its size, it’s just that bit too big for fitting my hand and touching the screen with my thumb.  In fairness that’s what happens with big screens.  I rather like its weight though, makes it feel solid.  The screen it good, not awesome but for the pennies it’s a pretty decent screen, 1080p so as many pixels as my TV has so its pin sharp.  Colours are fairly neutral and “realistic” meh, I say washed out but then I love colour saturated AMOLED screens.  I just dunno it’s not wowing me, certainly nothing on the P8 one which is lush.  This is not wrong in anyway but it’s boring.  It may not help that it’s got a screen protector on which I don’t normally love.  I did buy a glass one too which I’ve yet to try to put on with breaking. 

 Onwards to the internal bits, well it’s a weird thing.  It’s got a 64bit MTK6753 octa core CPU and Mali-T720 GPU. That’s paired up to 3GB of RAM.  A 13MP rear camera (which is some Samsung sensor) and a 5MP front camera.  So you’re thinking it’s all pretty high spec right?  Well yes those things are pretty high spec, most impressively so for the price.  Then when you look closer it’s not quite all that.  The CPU, its only clocked at 1.3 GHz so it’s not the worlds fasted.  The place where it really cuts back though is in the sensors.  Now you probably never think about the sensors in a phone right?  I know I don’t and I review the things!  Firing up CPU-Z and sliding over to “Sensors” we see just 3 things listed.  An accelerometer, proximity sensor and a light sensor.  If I go to my 1st gen Moto G 4G it has 11 sensors and my Nexus 5 lists 19 different sensors.  So you get the idea, the P8000 really has cut back on them.

My concern over the lack of sensors focused on the relative lack of navigation potential.  I don’t often use google maps for navigation but as we all know, it can be unspeakably handy.  A recent trip to Ikea gave ample opportunity to fire up directions.  The maps worked perfectly, the voice commands bellowed forth perfectly accurately.  So it would seem any fears I had were unfounded though it does make me wonder why other devices have so many then? 

 

Where things were absent and I did miss, was in the lack of 5GHz Wi-Fi.  I also bemoaned the lack of NFC even if it’s something I hardly ever use.  The Wi-Fi though, that I do use, I use it lots and while 2.4 works and it works fine…… I’d really prefer if all my devices used 5.  I know that it doesn’t really, really matter, I know that, but it bothers me nevertheless.

 

One last thing, it has capacitive buttons at the bottom.  By default they are the Samsung way round, i.e. the wrong way but…… as they only have dots rather than images you can with the help of an app remap them the right way round and use them that way.  This is what I did, it’s really a very, very customer friendly device in terms of tweak and customisability.

Audio Software

I spot that there is an FM radio app, so the thing has a radio in it.  Errm does anyone use the radio on their phones?  There is also the stock google “Music” app that will play back any on-board music you have stored.  Which is something you could do as the phone has a micro SD card slot soooooo you could fill it and play whatever.  However the key attribute to this being an Android phone is that you can install any of about 4 hundred million audio playback apps.  That doesn’t even take into account the myriad of streaming music services, Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music, etc etc etc.  My own preferences are to use Deezer for random music exposure but to use Play Music for reviewing, where it only plays back my own music I’ve uploaded to Google.

 

Audio Hardware

I want to note firstly that I have read reports of there being issues with the hp out on the P8000.  People claiming that audio cuts out and that on inspection there would appear to be a soldering issue.  I have not had any of that but just throwing it out there.

What is most immediately noticeable is their power output.  While it rather needed the volume cranked to near max they did then start to roar.  They felt like they had masses of power behind them, this was most noticeable when using big cans, in the bass especially they wanted to start pounding.  A fun and energetic sound that worked great right up until you put on something sedate like Nora.  She was clearly bored and just phoning it in so to speak.  Curious.

Lows

They were pretty good, pretty well powered when you cranked the volume dial.  Otherwise they didn’t ever seem very lively.  More than adequately capable for a phone but just not enthusiastic about anything.  Always rather pleasant to listen to, always pretty capable.  I just couldn’t seem to find any particular caring one way or the other about them.  They were good, fine, they ran everything fine.  They had pretty good oomph behind them at volume to drive things deeply.  Just I dunno when listening nothing ever leapt out at me.  Everything was so middlingly balanced and behaved.  It’s all really quite grown up for a phone.  There is a little boosting in the bass output when you crank the volume but otherwise nicely polite.

Mids

They do a little get pushed back from being centre stage and upfront.  They don’t rise to the occasion as you crank the volume which serves to relatively push them back a touch.  Still they are nicely middling in tonality.  They aren’t the most resolving mids but they are very pleasingly melodic. A nicely pleasant layering as vocals overlay and mix together.  It’s all really very pleasant.  Clarity wise they are nice too, a little obsfucative as there is a certain something from the dry breathy upper vocals that is missing.  In my head I know that’s a detractor but from a phone and a really cheap phone at that, I can’t bring myself to bash them.  Clearly the quality of even ell cheapo DAC’s and amp hardware out there is at all levels getting pretty good.

They may lack a touch in life, a little bit creamy but they are highly listenable, I’d just like a little more of them.

Highs

Good, they continue the faintly creamy style and the highs then don’t have the bight or crisp edge that some like, they may not strike listeners as instantly revealing as others might.  This is deceiving as they really are pretty decent.  Again even the cheapest of DAC’s tend to put out a detail level that until you start to get to the higher end ear / headphones you just can’t notice.  Leaving the big Momentums behind and putting on the Oppo’s, it becomes apparent that the DAC and amp combo can’t spit out every last nuance.  No surprises there but they are more than adequate.  Swapping to something considerably cheaper like the XF-200 then you realise that lack of resolution doesn’t matter anyway.

 

Still there is a bit of a lack of crispness and relative lack of treble abundance for some.  I’m fine with its level as there’s nothing worse than harsh, edgy treble so much better to gently round it off.

Soundstage

Weirdly good.  Maybe it’s some disturbing coincidence of the things I picked up to try with the P8000 but they always sounded grandly scaled and with a good distance to them.  Mids are central but not too close by, they’re up on that stage out in front.  The treble is close by the mids and the bass too feels somewhat distant.  Instrument separation is fine but placement is pretty vague.  Still they are nicely distanced and scaled.

 

Battery Life

Woo Hoo!!!!  The battery in there is a big 4165mAh and whatever they have done with their battery conserve whatever, the battery would last days.  I mean just now its showing at 83% and in the Android battery thingy, it estimates it has got 3 days battery life left.  Though one thing to note, that while it supposedly has quick charging it would regularly seem to take an age to charge up.  Not that it was an issue, I mean you can survive a day easily so just charge it at night and you’ll be fine.  Seriously though the battery life was fantastic, it’s been easily and buy a considerable margin, been the best battery life I’ve had out of a phone in forever.

Now you do pay for that battery in that the P8000 is a bit heavier and a bit bigger than some other phones but while on paper 203g seems huge next to some other device, really, you can’t put an extra 50 grams in your pocket?

Build Quality

From as best as I can tell, it’s all quite nicely put together.  It’s a bit of a beast actually it’s all metal heft make it feel really, really solid.  I’m not super sure about the screen though as it’s not coated in any name brand glass but as it came with a screen protector…… well I haven’t been able to bring myself to pull it off.  Otherwise there is nothing to potentially complain about, it’s nice.

UI

Like so many Far East makes they slap on their own custom skin and they remove the app drawer.  I hate that so almost instantly I got Nova installed and then it was back to the same old Android I find all-over the place.  Otherwise the overlay is practically non-existent.  The menus seem unaffected so yey for leaving things be.  I did however have some lock screen issues.  So I quick smart installed ACdisplay which put me back to something normal and all was good once again.  Yey for Android customisability!

In The Hand

It is a bit of a big old beast.  It may only be 40gramms more than other phones but it feels heavy and it feels evenly weighted so the weight isn’t all nicely at the bottom where your hand is.  It can make it essentially impossible to reach the top with one hand.  As with big phones these days you have to use the things with two hands.  You know that going in though, it’s just a factor of a big screen.  The P8000 is slightly bigger than others, it’s got some pretty big black bezels on it but they never bothered mu in use.  Truth be told in use I never really noticed them. Still it does make the thing that bit bigger than other 5.5 inch screen devices.

Format Support

It’s Android so everything.

 

Volume

The output while it often felt like it had good power reserves behind it, I was almost always near the top of the volume dial.  On the Oppo’s (which granted are one ears and planers) I had the volume at max and it was fine but I could have put louder.  On earphones this was considerably less of an issue but as outputs go the P8000 was one of the slightly quitter ones.  I can see it not quite being enough for everyone.

Accessories

You get the phone, with a screen protector on it, a spare one in the box, a USB charger plug (euro plug) and a USB cable.  They are both white which I personally hate but hey, I’ve got a million micro USB cables and I use USB desktop chargers anyway so they both got left in the box.  As for buying things yourself, eBay and the like do have a selection but it’s not a vast selection.  However Elephone does offer an official windowed front covered case.  Though it took months to get here (first one got lost and sender was arsey about waiting 3 months before declaring it lost.)  It was exceedingly cheap at just a few £.  It works pretty nicely too, you close the case and you get a little preview window.  You can make and take calls that way too as the mic is on the bottom and thus not obscured by the cover.  I wish it had a magnet to keep it closed but otherwise I’m enormously pleased with it as a case.

Speakers

Like all phone speakers, it should never ever be used for music, anyone who does should be shot for crimes against hearing.  However if you want to fire up Netflix to hand over to the small human relative you want to shut up and go away, that’s a different story.  It’s not a speaker of stupendous quality like any phone speaker but its output is goodly sufficient.  It’s adequately loud.  If you use it for on-board video and use MXplayers over driving ability you can output a quite reasonable level.  For a phone it’s pretty fair.  Please note, the speaker is rear facing so if you may want to use your hand to cup and redirect the sound output towards you rather than the wall.

Camera

Spec wise it’s some Samsung 3L2 sensor.  So, err, erm yeah I have no clue about camera sensors but from what I gather, the Samsung ones are alright, pretty reasonable but not as good as Sony ones.  Given the photo taking wiz that I am, taking a couple of shots I can testify that they are fine.  They are good enough for me anyway and personally I think if you really care about photography anyway then go buy a real camera.  Again I’m perfectly pleased with its abilities for the price of the device.

Reception

In use I found it had no issues but I did note that having the P8000 and N5 both on the same network, the signal measured in dB was consistently lower on the P8000.  The difference was only about 4dB so the difference was hardly earth shattering but it was there.  Additionally I never exactly felt the N5 had the best signal in the world to begin with.  The sim in use was in the sim 2 slot.  Swapping the sim over to the sim 1 slot, I honestly expected no difference and it seems that was about right.  There still seems to be about 4dB difference between the N5 and P8000.  However, the very same app, inside the app rather than its widget, reports that the signal on the N5 is actually rather lower than the signal on the P8000.  About 5dB in the P8000’s favour.  I have no idea why the N5 has this discrepancy, not a clue.  If we just go by anecdotal evidence, the P800 hold a signal very well and only once do I recall it dropping a call.

The Good

The P8000 is not a super flagship device with every bell and whistle you can think of.  It is a midrange to lower midrange handset by stint of its price and for that price it’s really a very nice object.  The screen is a good, it’s big and its bezel is a bit big but its viewing angles are wide and its colour presentation is nice, fairly balanced.  Blacks are reasonably black and when you crank the brightness it goes pretty bright too.  Everything is pretty good.  That really sums up the device, every aspect of it is pretty good.  Nothing exceptional nor bad.  That it’s able to hold its own despite its price tag.  As is put by Elephone in their rather amusing chinglish, the P8000 is “The most worth buying phone.”  Its value for money is pretty awesome.  Oh and this phone has 2 sim card sockets and a micro SD card slot.  What’s more they are separate, so you can actually use both sim slots and the storage all at once!!!!

 

Then there is for me the big positive about the P8000.  The battery.  Of all the android devices I have and have used it is without question, far and away the best battery life of them. 

 

On more “good” as far as I am concerned is Elephone’s highly pro modding behaviour.  They seem keen to allow users to root their device if they wish, they give out the kernel source info and, and…… they host custom ROM’s on their own forums.  They seem to be actively encouraging developers to mod and tweak things.  I mean seriously, they even have their own tutorial on rooting the thing.  Sigh if only all phone makers were so dev friendly, because dev friendly is ultimately customer friendly.  Additionally they have promised Marshmallow will come, at some point.

The Bad

Well there is the afore mentioned hp out issue I’ve seen others report. There was also a bizarre episode when it launched where the first several thousand devices shipped went out without an LED in the capacitive “home” button.  There is also the most peculiar placement of the micro USB socket.  You see it looks in the middle right, but then look where the home button circle is.  The socket is ever so slightly off centre, it’s not important at all but it’s curiously weird.  Then we have the bezels, which are rather big and serves to make a big device even bigger.  They don’t bother me but some people get really upset by bezels.  That’s about it, there really isn’t anything that’s actually bad about the device.  There are areas where it maybe doesn’t quite come up to the big name flagship standards but it is comfortably good enough.

Value

I may have ordered mine from Gearbest and while they price things in US dollars and just convert on the fly to whatever currency you want, even with the pound as it is the phones still is a steal.  At circa £130 it’s a steal, simple as that. 

Conclusion

The P8000 is a curious device, it’s got 3GB of ram (yey) but then its CPU is only clocked at 1.3GHz.  So it’s not by any real reckoning a “flagship” device but I’m not sure I can really think of it as a mid-range device either, that 3 GB of ram, that really propels it above and beyond what you’d expect.  Then it’s a got a pretty reasonable 1080p screen, rather than a 720.  Everything about it just feels that bit better than what you expect from something mid-range.  Even little details such as if you get your hands on one of the official cases with the flappy cover.  It has a little magnet to trip the screen window view thing.  It’s a little thing but I find I rather like it.

The down side of the P8000 I think more than anything inherent to the device is the fact that you can’t walk into a Carphone warehouse or anywhere else and actually see one.  As a tech nerd yeah I’ve heard of Elephone and I may be willing to buy a phone from the Far East but the reality is that, in the UK at least, most people buy their phones from the mobile network.  If the network doesn’t either have it as a PAYG or “free” on contract then most people will never even know the phone exists.  Which would be a shame but that’s just how it is and why phone makers care so much about ass kissing network operators.

Should you buy one?  Well yes and no.  No question that the P8000 is a steal compared to big brand name devices, the spec is good and the battery is great, then things like the 2 sim and a separate micro SD card slot are just icing.  However what if something broke?  How long might that take?  I’d wager any local repair shops likely won’t have seen one before.  While I, touch wood, rarely break things these things are not issues for me nor is its lack of high street availability.  The trade off is that you get a lot of phone for the money, a hell of a lot of phone.

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