UMI Rome

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UMI phones were un­til re­cently avail­able only from third-party Chi­nese dis­trib­u­tors such as Cooli­cool.com, which sup­plied our UMI Rome for re­view. It of­fers the phone from its EU ware­house with free ship­ping at £113.59, or you can take a gam­ble and buy the Rome from the Chi­nese ware­house for £85.19. Be aware that you may have to pay im­port duty when ship­ping the UMI Rome from China, how­ever.

UMI phones are also now avail­able in the UK via Ama­zon. They usu­ally cost a lit­tle more from Ama­zon, but at the time of writ­ing the Rome was on of­fer at £112.55 with free UK de­liv­ery.

De­sign

Out of the box we had an in­ter­est­ing first im­pres­sion of the UMI Rome. It was ab­so­lutely freez­ing cold – ice-cold to the touch. We ac­tu­ally felt a bit sorry for the post­man, be­cause it must have been near­ing arc­tic con­di­tions out­side for the pretty well-wrapped Rome to cause our fin­gers go numb.

The rea­son for it feel­ing so cold is the metal frame, which is some­thing that even now we can’t say is a given for most bud­get- or even mid-range smart­phones. This is one ad­van­tage of buy­ing a

Chi­nese phone – you get to ditch the pla­sticky builds we see in most cheap UK phones for some­thing a lot tougher that at least looks pre­mium.

As we’ll dis­cover later in this re­view, the UMI Rome is very much a mid-range phone sold at a bud­get price. As such there are both highs and lows, the most ob­vi­ous of which are found in its de­sign.

Our re­view sam­ple came in a shiny Cham­pagne Gold, but the Rome is also avail­able in black. The golden metal frame is com­ple­mented with a glossy gold plas­tic rear, but on closer in­spec­tion the bands scat­tered around the frame to im­prove sig­nal pre­vent it from sit­ting en­tirely flush. It spoils what would oth­er­wise been an ap­peal­ing and pre­mium de­sign, al­though we do ap­pre­ci­ate the abil­ity to re­move this cover and ac­cess the re­mov­able 2500mAh bat­tery and dual-SIM- and mi­croSD slots.

Some­thing else that spoils the de­sign is the bizarrely placed mi­cro­phone below the screen, ran­domly si­t­u­ated to the bot­tom right of the Home but­ton. It’s not even cen­tral, which hurts our OCD – but more im­por­tantly, why on earth is it there?

It’s worth point­ing out that the Home but­ton is a touch but­ton and does not fea­ture a built-in fin­ger­print scan­ner. If we were re­view­ing a UK phone at this price the omis­sion of a fin­ger­print scan­ner would be ex­pected, but we’ve been spoiled by a run of cheap Chi­nese phones with fin­ger­print scan­ners, and usu­ally lo­cated in a more con­ve­nient rear po­si­tion. That the UMI Rome doesn’t have one at all seems odd.

It’s most cer­tainly not all bad, though. Out of the box we thought the UMI to be a good-look­ing

phone and, de­spite be­ing a rather large ph­ablet at 153.8x77mm and 177g, the 2.5D curved glass, rounded cor­ners and tapered rear edges al­low the UMI to feel man­age­able even in a sin­gle hand.

The Rome is just 7.9mm thick, which is thin for a ph­ablet and su­per-skinny for a £100 phone. The cam­era juts out a lit­tle at the rear, but at least is po­si­tioned top-middle to make it less likely to rock on a flat sur­face.

Some­thing that’s rare among smart­phones is the front-fac­ing flash (there’s also a dual-LED flash at the back). Tak­ing self­ies, con­duct­ing video chats and even just check­ing your ap­pear­ance can there­fore be more ef­fec­tive in low light, al­though it’s a shame the selfie cam­era is rated at only 2Mp. Again, even at this price we’re be­com­ing ac­cus­tomed to 5or even 8Mp cam­eras.

An­other plus point is that the speaker grilles face out from the bot­tom rather than the rear of the phone. The UMI also fea­tures a 3.5mm head­phone jack and sup­ports FM ra­dio with a pair of ear­phones plugged in.

AMOLED is an un­usual screen tech­nol­ogy to find in the UMI Rome, with the ma­jor­ity of phones us­ing IPS or, if they’re re­ally cheap, ba­sic TFT LCDs. AMOLED is seen on Sam­sung phones in the form of Su­perAMOLED, and is con­sid­ered to be more en­ergy ef­fi­cient with no re­quire­ment for a back­light. Con­trast is un­beat­able, view­ing an­gles are ex­cel­lent, and colours are vivid.

The 5.5in dis­play on the UMI Rome is a great choice, with a thin black bor­der edg­ing the screen. Al­though it’s ‘only’ HD in res­o­lu­tion, with 1280x720 pix­els, we found it to be plenty clear. One com­plaint

of AMOLED is that it can be less vis­i­ble in bright sun­light, and the UMI Rome’s dis­play could be a lit­tle bit brighter.

Per­for­mance

In gen­eral pro­cess­ing per­for­mance, the UMI Rome is faster than some of the UK bud­get phones you could also be con­sid­er­ing, such as Voda­fone’s Smart range or the Moto E or G. With gen­eral per­for­mance on par with the two-year-old HTC One M8, we’d say this is a bud­get phone with mid-range per­for­mance.

In real-world use the UMI Rome is nei­ther fast nor slow; it is quite ca­pa­ble for ev­ery­day tasks. We found most apps launched quickly, and the con­tin­u­ous con­trol­ling home screens and app tray gave the per­cep­tion that nav­i­ga­tion was per­haps faster than it was.

We ran the UMI Rome through our usual bench­marks to find out ex­actly what its 1.3GHz

Me­di­aTek MTK6753 octa-core 64-bit pro­ces­sor, ARM Mali-T720 GPU and 3GB of RAM was ca­pa­ble of.

We use Geek­bench 3 and AnTuTu to mea­sure over­all per­for­mance, and here the Rome recorded 2805 and 35,921 points re­spec­tively, mak­ing it a close match for the sim­i­larly priced Blu­boo X9 (see page 36). We also ran GFXBench graph­ics tests, with the Rome scor­ing 4fps in Man­hat­tan and 9fps in T-Rex; and the Jet­Stream web-brows­ing test, where it man­aged 19.904 points.

In terms of stor­age you get 16GB on­board, which is more than the 8GB you might ex­pect at this price. There’s also a mi­croSD card slot that will ac­cept up to 64GB of ad­di­tional stor­age.

UMI has fit­ted the Rome with a 2500mAh re­mov­able bat­tery that, for most users, should be good for a full day’s use (UMI claims you’ll get 12.5 hours of ‘on-screen’ time, or 8.8 hours of 4G web brows­ing). How­ever, if you need to eke out ev­ery last bit of juice there’s also an ul­tra power sav­ing mode. There’s no sup­port for fast- or wire­less charg­ing, as you would ex­pect.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

We men­tioned ear­lier that a clear ad­van­tage of buy­ing a Chi­nese phone is the build qual­ity in re­la­tion to the price. The other ad­van­tage is that the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese phones are dual-SIM. The UMI Rome is a dual-standby model that ac­cepts two Mi­cro-SIM cards, al­low­ing you to more eas­ily man­age sep­a­rate tar­iffs for work and play, or for what­ever rea­son you like.

The UMI Rome is also a 4G phone, and im­por­tantly it sup­ports all three 4G bands

used by the UK’s mo­bile oper­a­tors. Also on the con­nec­tiv­ity specs sheet are dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.1 and GPS; miss­ing are NFC, OTG and an IR blaster.

Cam­eras

The UMI Rome is billed as fea­tur­ing a 13Mp Sony IMX179 rear cam­era with dual-LED flash, and a su­per-selfie cam­era with its own flash. The lat­ter should be ideal for tak­ing self­ies or con­duct­ing video chat in low light, but un­for­tu­nately the cam­era is rated at only 2Mp and the flash it­self doesn’t make a huge dif­fer­ence to per­for­mance.

The front cam­era is ac­tu­ally an 8Mp model, which uses soft­ware to boost to 13Mp. There is a dual-LED flash here, which works bet­ter than the one at the front. All the usual modes and op­tions are present, in­clud­ing real-time fil­ters.

You can see one of our test shots of the St Pan­cras Re­nais­sance Ho­tel (on page 44), with HDR

switched on. It was an ad­mit­tedly dull day, but we weren’t overly en­thused by the Rome’s pho­tog­ra­phy ca­pa­bil­i­ties. It’ll do fine for the odd snap when you don’t have a cam­era to hand, but the im­age is very soft in ar­eas with a lot of de­tail miss­ing.

Soft­ware

The ma­jor­ity of UMI phones we re­view are ad­ver­tised with sup­port for Rootjoy, which lets you hook it up to a PC to quickly back up con­tents and in­stall cus­tom ROMs. The UMI Rome doesn’t fea­ture the Rootjoy brand­ing, al­though it is ev­i­dently from the pre­in­stalled SuperSU app a rooted phone.

Out of the box there are very few pre­in­stalled apps, al­though full Google Play ac­cess means you can in­stall what you wish. We like the con­tin­u­ously

scrolling home- and app tray screens, and the cus­tomis­able Smart Wake ges­tures are a neat ad­di­tion, but this is oth­er­wise a stock im­ple­men­ta­tion of An­droid 5.1 Lol­lipop.

Ver­dict

You can hardly fault the UMI Rome at this price, but while it of­fers mid-range per­for­mance at a bud­get price, you can still get more for your money else­where. It has a mostly pleas­ing de­sign but, up close, shows some signs of cost-cut­ting. Marie Brewis

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5.5in HD (1280x720) AMOLED screen with 2.5D curved glass An­droid Lol­lipop 5.1 with Rootjoy 1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MTK6753 64-bit octa-core chip ARM Mali-T720 GPU 3GB RAM 16GB stor­age Mi­croSD sup­port up to 64GB 8Mp (in­ter­po­lated to 13Mp) Sony IMX179 rear cam­era with dual-LED flash 2Mp front cam­era with LED flash Sup­ports UK 4G bands 3, 7 and 20 (800/1800/2600MHz); Dual-SIM, dual-standby (both Mi­cro-SIM); Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 4.1 GPS 2500mAh bat­tery 153.8x77x7.9mm 177g

HDR on

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