Low-end phones were traditionally what the name described: low-end. This included low RAM, a poor CPU, and various other low-end specs -- as you would naturally expect. But as technology gets better and cheaper, we're starting to see low-end smartphones becoming extremely capable devices, like the Moto G I reviewed last year. But when you couple that with China's extremely low prices, you end up with a smartphone like the one I'm reviewing today: the Elephone P6000.

If you haven't already, check out my first impressions and unboxing here for my initial thoughts and for an image gallery of the phone.

Design

Unlike most other low-end smartphones, the Elephone P6000 actually has a unique design

The device measures in at 71.6mm x 143.5mm x 8.9mm. It has a 5-inch display with 2mm bezels on the left and right side of the display. The screen itself has its own bezel: an aluminum lining that wraps around the whole device. Unlike most other low-end smartphones, the Elephone P6000 actually has a unique design.

On the front of the screen, besides the display, you find three capacitive buttons at the bottom. Only the center button, which is a round halo, has backlighting: Elephone would expect the user to use the center button to find the two light blue buttons flanking it. The center button also doubles as a notification light, slowly fading in and out when there is a notification to check, and flashing if the battery is at a critical level. At the top of the screen we find the camera, ear speaker and proximity sensor.

Moving to the right of the phone there are two buttons: the "on" button (used to turn the display or the phone itself on and off) and a volume rocker. Both buttons were firm to the press and not flimsy at all. At the top of the phone we find the 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the bottom we find a micro-USB port aligned to the left. There is also a small hole in the aluminium bezel for the microphone at the bottom, and a small gap at the top to be able to remove the rear cover.

Moving to the rear of the phone, we find the camera followed by a single-LED flash. Elephone's logo is also there in what appears to be metal (or chrome-plated plastic). There is a large wide loud-speaker grill towards the bottom but the device only has a single speaker, which makes the large wide grill seem a little misleading.

The rear cover does not sit flush with the aluminum bezel, instead it slightly sticks out around the sides and is generally about 0.5mm thicker than the screen. This gives it a unique and attractive design, and it was so well done that, initially, I actually thought it was a non-removable back. Removing the rear cover you find the battery, the two SIM-card slots, and a micro-SD card slot.

The phone is heavy, but the heft it has makes it feel like it has great build quality

It's difficult to compare the Elephone P6000 to another phone: it doesn't exactly have a previous generation and there are some unique elements to the phone's design. It's not as minimalist as I'm used to or as minimalist as I'd like; the chrome-on-white rear cover is flashier than I prefer. Still, the phone is comfortable to hold. Initially I was concerned about the weight, seeing it as both a blessing and a curse, but the more I got used to it, the better it felt. The phone is heavy, but the heft it has makes it feel like it has great build quality. It also feels less likely to slip out of the hand or anything like that -- it just feels very solid. It's largely plastic, but it has a premium heft. If that makes any sense.

Display

The Elephone P6000 has a five-inch IPS display at 720p, which places it around 294 ppi. Placing the P6000 next to a 1080p phone I found it extremely difficult to see any major (or even minor) difference between the two, meaning that the panel used on the P6000 is pretty good. It's crisp and the colors (as well as viewing angles) all looked great. The sensitivity of the screen was well calibrated and Android Lollipop's material design on the phone's display looked really good.

It's just not as good in direct sunlight as the newer phones that have been coming out.

One major issue with the display seems to be the brightness, where the screen's full brightness setting makes the phone as bright as the Jiayu S3 at 40% brightness, or somewhat similar to that of the Nexus 5. The natural test for whether or not this is enough is outside in bright sunlight, and I'm sad to say that the Elephone P6000 doesn't pass the test in this regard. The phone is still capable, it's just not as good in direct sunlight as the newer phones that have been coming out.

The Elephone P6000 has the same MiraVision capability as the Jiayu S3 which is probably why the panel generally looks good. The contrast, shading and other things in this regard are all fine, with the smartphone offering dynamic adjustments based on the content being displayed on the screen. This is an extremely unappreciated element of Mediatek phones which I feel deserves more attention -- the technology turns dull and poorly calibrated panels into displays that look phenomenal.

There is no suggestion that the screen has any type of fancy glass like Corning's Gorilla Glass, but the handset does come with two screen protectors (one is already installed) and there is an official aftermarket tempered glass screen protector that can be purchased for around $5.

Performance

Specs

The Elephone P6000 has 2 GB of RAM and the 64-bit quad-core Mediatek MT6732 clocked at 1.5 ghz. The MT6732 is made up of four Cortex-A53 cores which are among the most energy efficient ARM cores out there. Coupled with the 720p screen and 2,700 mAh battery, you end up getting some pretty decent battery life out of the phone.

A full list of specifications is available below:

  • Dimensions: 144.5 x 71.6 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 165g (with battery)
  • SoC: MTK6732
  • GPU: ARM MALI-T760MP2
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Display: 5.0" IPS, 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Battery: 2700 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.4, 5.0, Flyme OS, Cyanogenmod 12.1 (currently in second public beta)
  • Camera: Rear-13MP, front-2.0MP
  • SIM card: Dual Micro SIM card,dual standby
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11n wireless
  • USB: 2.0 Micro USB
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Positioning: GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS

The Elephone P6000 lacks some more premium features like a second noise-canceling microphone and NFC, but otherwise it has all the basics one would expect.

Benchmarks

The device did surprisingly poor in some tests.

Having the same GPU as the Jiayu S3, I expected some similar results. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and the device did surprisingly poor in some tests, but did surprisingly better in others. Overall the results are pretty mixed.

The benchmark scores are as follows:

  • AnTuTu: 34,170
  • Geekbench 3: 734 single-core score, 2127 multi-core score
  • Quadrant Standard: 11324
  • Epic Citadel: 46.8 FPS at 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited: 7965

Gaming

I experienced what felt like a drop in frame rates on Asphalt 8.

I played a few games on the phone, and games like Asphalt 8 played pretty well. I experienced what felt like a drop in frame rates on Asphalt 8 so it's probably worth dropping it down from the highest setting. But other games, including 2D games like Angry Birds Rio, played fine. The Asphalt 8 issue was a bit strange because it shares the same GPU as the Jiayu S3, and runs on the lower 1280 x 720 resolution, so it should have been smooth. It's very possible that this was just me not adjusting well to the lower resolution five-inch display compared to my standard 1080p 5.5" phone, but a friend of mine made a similar remark.

Android OS

The Elephone P6000 runs what is basically a stock version of Lollipop. It has no additional features or settings that you wouldn't get in the standard OS, and in turn it means there is essentially no bloatware at all besides an Elephone app.

It includes the standard spread of apps, including Android's default camera, gallery, email and messaging apps. The only non-stock app on there appeared to be Google Hangouts, but even that might be coming stock on Lollipop now (I'm not too sure as I've never owned a stock Lollipop phone).

It comes with the Google Play Store installed by default and Google Play Services and the apps that depend on it (such as Gmail) work fine. I personally went and installed a few extra things like 500 Firepaper, the Google Now Launcher and Soundcloud and didn't run into issues at any point. Like most Chinese smartphones, the Elephone P6000 doesn't purposely lock the user out of using the FM radio either.

Outside of the above, the Elephone P6000 will (be one of the first to?) receive the first complete CyanogenMod 12.1 build on any Mediatek phone. The build is almost complete and, reading from the Elephone forums and from my sources at Elephone, it appears that it is in final beta and just a week or two away from a stable full release. The CyanogenMod 12.1 build will come with everything you find in other CyanogenMod 12.1 builds -- including the standard settings, apps, and various other elements of the phone. Below is a video which demonstrates various different operating systems on the phone, but it's worth mentioning that the CyanogenMod in the video below is an outdated version.

Battery

The battery life was pretty good on the phone; I was getting at least four hours of on-screen time. The battery is 2700 mAh which isn't the best out there, but coupled with the energy efficient Cortex-A53 cores of the MT6732 and the 720p screen, naturally a user should expect some decent battery life.

It performed pretty well with games and didn't take any significant hit; I found that the phone idling was when it was consuming the most power. It has a battery-saving feature which can automatically enable when you hit 15%, and I'm sure that CyanogenMod 12.1 would go a long way as to getting a few more hours out of the phone.

Camera

The camera is really what makes this device low-end. Simply put: the camera is pretty bad. Taking photos that don't "glow" is a challenge and the white balance is horrible. It's about as much as you would expect from a low-end phone, which is a shame because it's the only real let-down of the device that I came across.

I found the camera to share the same attributes when video recording as well: things were glowing more than they needed to.

Final thoughts

I spent a couple of weeks with the Elephone P6000 and I didn't really miss my high-end phone. Everything was more or less the same and just as responsive. The only real area where this phone takes a hit is the camera. Everything else is extremely responsive, fluid and if you weren't told it's a $115 phone I doubt you'd realize. Compared to other low-end phones like the Moto G you end up with double the RAM, a much more capable SoC, and a significantly lower price tag.

The phone is basically the 2013 flagship, sans a quality camera.

After spending time with a phone with a pricetag of just over $100, I've found that I personally don't really need more than that; the phone was surprisingly more capable than I expected. I can easily recommend the Elephone P6000 for anyone who isn't very concerned about photo quality. It has two SIM-card slots, a micro-SD card slot, a decent display, decent battery life, etc. It doesn't have the bleeding edge specs you'd expect from a 2015 flagship, but that's because it's not a flagship -- it's an extremely cheap budget phone, and in that regard it goes above and beyond what anyone would ever expect.

The only other point of contention for this phone, like the Jiayu S3 and a number of other Chinese phones, is lack of American LTE band support. I'm sure by this time next year this won't be an issue with Chinese smartphones, but it is today.

A big thank you to our friends at Gearbest and Elephone who supplied the device for this review. If you are interested in picking up one of these phones, Gearbest has the device available for sale at $115 with free shipping if you use the coupon "GBEHP6000". Gearbest informed me that this coupon will be active until some time in June 2015.

You can check out Elephone's official website for the P6000 here.

 

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