Neffos N1, entry-level smartphone from TP-Link, is well designed and punches above its weight
Network specialist has released a smartphone that, while not cutting edge, offers a package of tried and tested hardware, including dual cameras and a waterproof fingerprint sensor, all at a very reasonable price
The Neffos N1 is the latest handset from Chinese manufacturer TP-Link, which sells smartphones through the Neffos brand. While you won’t find bleeding-edge specifications here, it is a relatively modern smartphone at an entry-level price.
Design and hardware
The Neffos N1 has a sleek metallic chassis with a 5.5-inch full-HD IPS display. It is TP-Link’s first dual camera smartphone. The design is unremarkable, though a sharp-eyed observer may note that the cameras are positioned in a style mirroring 2016’s Huawei P9.
The power button is located along the right side, the volume buttons are on the left, under an Apple-style mute switch.
Under the bonnet, the N1 has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which should be ample for general usage scenarios. It supports two SIM cards with 4G dual standby, and you can sacrifice one of the slots for a micro SD-card to increase storage by another 128GB.
The device is powered by a MediaTek P25 octa-core processor that holds its own against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625.
Wireless support comes in the form of Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11n dual-band Wi-fi.
The design team has taken care to create a polished design using tried-and-tested features, such as curved edges on the Gorilla Glass and unobtrusive antenna lines along the back.
This isn’t a borderless device, which means that the N1 is the size of a 6-inch flagship device from competing brands. Still, the curves along the side means that it nestles well against your palm, while its matt black finishing does a reasonable job of hiding the inevitable fingerprints.
Software and features
The N1 is powered by NFUI 7.0 on Android 7.1.1, with a clean and simplified design. The user interface is neat and well organised, though configurable options may pale somewhat compared to other brands.
Still, there is more than enough to get by. For instance, a Theme app lets you toggle between a handful of well-designed looks. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an option to download more.
Building on TP-Link’s experience of Wi-fi, the N1 also comes with a “Smart WLAN” app to help users connect to Wi-fi networks or share passphrases of existing networks with other devices.
One particularly intriguing feature was the N1’s ability to serve as a Wi-fi extender. Enabling “WLAN Extender” will essentially create a new Wi-fi hotspot on the N1 without disconnecting its own Wi-fi connection. Devices connected to the N1 can access the internet through the N1’s connection to your router.
Another feature that stood out was the water- and oil-resistant fingerprint reader. After dipping my finger in water I could unlock the N1 successfully most of the time – something I couldn’t repeat on other phones. TP-Link pegs the unlock speed of the fingerprint sensor at 0.2 seconds; I’ll say that it unlocks no slower than other flagship devices that I tested.
Performance and battery life
Overall, the N1 delivered a fluid usage experience and worked well. The dual camera has a fast focus time and delivered decent shots; you can also record full-HD video at 30fps.
To enhance battery performance, NFUI incorporates aggressive battery management that will see it close background apps three minutes after the screen is turned off unless added to a list. The impact of this was quickly seen on productivity apps such as BlackBerry Hub, which require some tweaking of settings to even launch.
The N1 charges quickly through “Fast Charging”. There isn’t a lot of information about the technology behind it, but it can deliver up to 18 watts of power through the N1’s USB-C port.
On the downside, the phone doesn’t show if fast charging is enabled or if it is charging at a slower rate – clear indication would be useful, especially if you mix up chargers, though it does show the expected time before it is fully charged.
While you won’t find the latest capabilities on the N1, there is no question that it is a well-designed device that punches above its price. In a world increasingly crowded with slim-bezel smartphones equipped with top-of-the-line hardware, the N1 won’t turn many heads. But if all you want is an affordable, robust smartphone with reasonable performance and capabilities, then the N1 may have your name on it.
Dimensions: 154.4mm x 76.1mm x 7.5mm
OS version reviewed: NFUI v7.0 based on Android 7.1.1
Processor: MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core SoC (Mali-T880 MP2 GPU)
Cameras: back: 12MP + 12MP (f/2.0), front: 8MP
Memory: 64GB storage, 4GB RAM
Colours: Space Black
Price: HK$2,165 (US$276)