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Smartphones

Ulefone Power 5 review: rugged phone with four-day battery life and running Android 8.1, it doubles as a power pack

Budget handset won’t win admirers for its looks but has a battery powerful enough to charge a drone, buttons with a satisfyingly tactile click, an adequate camera and the most up-to-date OS. It could be a choice for outdoorsy types

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 7:02pm

Flagship smartphones from big brands increasingly look and feel more and more similar, so leave it to Shenzhen start-ups to experiment with quirky ideas.

Two-year-old Ulefone’s latest release Power 5 comes with a 13,000 mAh battery packed inside. This is almost five times the capacity of the iPhone X’s battery, and more than three times that of the 4,000 mAh battery in the Huawei P20 Pro.

In fact, with the ability to charge other devices via the cable that comes with the phone, the Power 5 can double as a portable battery pack. But how does it perform as a smartphone?

Design and hardware

Considering the battery packed inside, it’s no surprise that the Power 5 is built like a brick. It weighs 330g, is twice as thick as an iPhone X, and has aluminium rails on both sides with visible screws for a bolted-on look.

On the back is a thin layer of faux leather that adds much needed grip, and around the dual camera is another aluminium plate. Though the bezels around the 6-inch LCD display aren’t large, there is an additional bumper above and below the forehead and chin which add to the phone’s overall height.

For a budget smartphone that costs around HK$2,000, the Power 5 is very solidly built. Buttons have a satisfying tactile click, and the fake leather blends into the plastic bumpers and aluminium sides seamlessly.

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Ulefone went with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that is, unfortunately, a bit hard to reach given the girth of the device. In addition to the standard power button on the side, there’s an extra key on the lower right side dedicated to launching the camera and snapping photos. It may come in handy to some, but I kept accidentally pressing it, triggering the camera app when I’m in the middle of using the phone. There is no option to turn that off.

Like other phones of this type, the Power 5 uses a mid-tier chip set from MediaTek that is solid but can’t compare to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line in terms of graphic processing. There is 6GB of RAM inside to help keep things running relatively smoothly.

Software and features

The Power 5 surprisingly runs Android 8.1. Typically, tiny Shenzhen brands such as Ulefone source their Android ROM from third-party companies instead of from Google (to save on costs), and while these third-party builds are legitimate Android software, they are often older builds. Almost all budget Shenzhen phones I’ve tested this year run on Android 7.1; the Power 5 is the first to get the latest version of Android.

Considering that most Samsung phones on the street don’t have Android 8.1 yet, this is a big win for Ulefone. It’s a clean, stock Android 8.1 too, so there are no unnecessary apps pre-installed. But conversely, this phone has minimal additional features other than facial unlock.

Performance and battery life

As a basic smartphone the Power 5 handles everything without problems. Apps load fine and when not in use stay in the background behaving normally – meaning they don’t get prematurely killed or take up too much RAM. The Power 5 struggled with frame rate when running graphic-intensive games such as Tekken due to the MediaTek chip set, but lighter games ran fine.

The Power 5’s camera system is serviceable during the day, producing detailed shots that are a bit oversaturated. At night or in dimly lit interiors, however, the camera is borderline useless.

The real issue with this phone is battery life, and it more than delivers in both real-world and benchmark tests.

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I charged the phone fully before I began this review on a Tuesday evening, and the phone lasted until Sunday lunchtime, when it succumbed after about 112 hours of being unplugged. I then topped up the phone again and ran PC Mark’s work battery test 2.0, which tracks how long it takes a phone battery to drain from 80 to 20 per cent when doing intensive tasks non-stop, and the Power 5 scored 32 hours and 19 minutes – by far the best score I’ve ever seen.

For comparison, a Samsung Galaxy S9+ lasts about six and a half hours on the same test.

As mentioned, the Power 5 comes with a USB-C to USB adaptor that allows the phone to charge just about every type of gadget, from iPhones to toy drones.

Conclusion

Considering how unlikely it is for the average city person to go more than a day without access to a smartphone charger, the Power 5’s endurance is ultimately a niche feature that isn’t needed on a daily basis. But the Power 5 could prove useful for outdoorsy types who go on multi-day camping and backpacking trips.

Dimensions: 169.4mm X 80.2mm X 15.8mm

Weight: 330g

Display: 6-inch 1080p LCD panel

Battery: 13,000mAh

OS version reviewed: Android 8.1

Processor: MediaTek MTK 6763

Cameras: 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 5-megapixel secondary camera; 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

Memory: 6GB/64GB

Colours: Black

Price: HK$2,000