Cubot P12

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Cubot isn’t a brand we’ve come across be­fore, but its P12 is a well-de­signed bud­get An­droid smart­phone that costs just £75. At this price there are both hits and misses, as we see here.

Price

At just £74.99 from Ama­zon with free UK de­liv­ery, the Cubot P12 is cheaper than all but one of the devices in our best bud­get phones round-up, and yet it looks more ex­pen­sive than many of them.

There are some draw­backs as­so­ci­ated with buy­ing a phone this cheap, for ex­am­ple 4G con­nec­tiv­ity is not sup­ported, but on the whole the Cubot P12 ap­pears at first glance to be a real bar­gain.

In the UK, the Cubot’s most fear­some ri­val is the £79 Voda­fone Smart Prime 6. The Voda­fone is a 4G phone while the Cubot is not, but in other re­spects the P12 has the up­per hand, both net­work-un­locked and with a bet­ter over­all spec­i­fi­ca­tion. How­ever, given the fact that Cubot is a rel­a­tively un­known brand in the UK, es­pe­cially when com­pared to Voda­fone which has nu­mer­ous stores across the coun­try, it wouldn’t sur­prise us to see many read­ers plump for the Smart Prime 6 in­stead.

De­sign

Upon re­mov­ing the P12 from its box, we were im­me­di­ately im­pressed by its de­sign. You don’t get phones this cheap that look this good. (Un­til now.)

The P12 has an alu­minium-mag­ne­sium metal frame that makes it ap­pear much more ex­pen­sive than many of its bud­get plas­tic ri­vals, and adds dura­bil­ity to its de­sign. Sure, there’s still some plas­tic to be found with a re­mov­able rear cover, but this is held tight to the phone with­out feel­ing flimsy, and gives wel­come ac­cess to the also-re­mov­able 2200mAh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery, and dual-SIM and mi­croSD card slots.

The rel­a­tively thin 8.1mm frame adds weight to the il­lu­sion that this is a pre­mium phone. Per­haps weight is the wrong word, how­ever, since the Cubot P12 is just 165g. That’s an ideal weight for it to feel sub­stan­tial in the hand and yet not overly heavy. With a 5in screen, the Cubot is sim­ple to

op­er­ate in a sin­gle hand. The screen is an IPS panel, which of­fers re­al­is­tic colours and good view­ing an­gles, with a 1300:1 con­trast ra­tio and 450 nits bright­ness; it’s also fully lam­i­nated, and we like the ef­fect this creates.

The HD res­o­lu­tion of 720x1280 pix­els means it of­fers a pixel den­sity of 294ppi, which is re­ally not bad at all for a bud­get phone. Not only does it match the Voda­fone Smart Prime 6, but it’s not far off the iPhone’s 326ppi. Text is suf­fi­ciently clear, and videos and im­ages look good.

The screen isn’t edge-to-edge, but the bezels are rea­son­ably slim. Below this you’ll find touch but­tons for An­droid’s usual op­tions, al­though the Cubot is only a toucher taller than the Voda­fone at 143.9mm; the only phys­i­cal but­tons are a vol­ume rocker and power switch on the P12’s right edge.

At the phone’s bot­tom is a Mi­cro-USB port for charg­ing, and at the top a 3.5mm head­phone jack that you’ll likely be more in­clined to use than the phone’s rear-mounted speaker – de­spite a small nip­ple that in­tends to raise the phone’s speaker from a sur­face, we found sound some­what muted and slightly muf­fled even when the speaker wasn’t ob­scured by a palm or a desk. The P12 is avail­able in black or white and is sup­plied with a free screen pro­tec­tor and clear case in the box.

Per­for­mance

The Cubot isn’t as im­pres­sive on the in­side as it ap­pears from the out­side, but at £75 you can’t ar­gue with the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and, for many peo­ple, it will prove quite ca­pa­ble of the day-to-day tasks they wish to achieve. We found it fast enough to

nav­i­gate and use, and in many re­spects its spec sheet of­fers more en­joy­able read­ing than that of the Voda­fone Smart Prime 6.

Both the Cubot and Voda­fone have rel­a­tively low-power pro­ces­sors, with the Cubot fit­ted with a 1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MT6580 quad-core pro­ces­sor and the Voda­fone with an also quad-core 1.2GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 410 CPU, and each have 1GB of RAM.

There wasn’t a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the two in our bench­marks, with the Voda­fone tak­ing the up­per hand in Geek­bench 3 (1401 against the P12’s 1186), but the Cubot mas­ter­ing AnTuTu with 24,807 points against the Smart Prime’s 21,842.

In our graph­ics tests, the Voda­fone took back the lead, scor­ing 13fps in GFXBench 3’s T-Rex com­po­nent and 6fps in Man­hat­tan. Mean­while, the

Cubot wouldn’t run Man­hat­tan and mus­tered only 4fps in T-Rex. That’s not to say you can’t play ca­sual games on this phone, just don’t ex­pect it to han­dle any­thing too in­ten­sive.

We now use Jet­Stream rather than SunSpi­der to judge brows­ing per­for­mance, since the lat­ter is no longer ac­tively sup­ported. How­ever, we did run SunSpi­der on the P12 so we could more ac­cu­rately com­pare it to the Voda­fone, since we don’t have Jet­Stream scores for the Smart Prime 6. In SunSpi­der, in which a lower score is bet­ter, the Voda­fone scored 1301ms, and the Cubot 1726ms. In Jet­Stream, where a higher score is bet­ter, the P12 recorded 13.605.

In terms of other core hard­ware, the Cubot wins on stor­age, with dou­ble the Voda­fone’s 8GB al­lo­ca­tion (of which around 5GB is avail­able to the user) with 16GB (of which around 11GB is avail­able).

Both ac­cept stor­age ex­pan­sion through mi­croSD, the Smart Prime 6 by up to 64GB and the P12 by up to 32GB.

The Cubot’s bat­tery is lower in ca­pac­ity than the Voda­fone’s, at 2200mAh against 2500mAh, but it is re­mov­able, al­low­ing you to swap in a spare (or you could use a power bank). With very sim­i­lar hard­ware on­board, bat­tery per­for­mance should be just a lit­tle lower than that of the Voda­fone, which claims to of­fer 18 hours of talk time – you might just about get two days from it with mod­er­ate us­age.

As you would ex­pect at this price, there is no sup­port for wire­less- or quick charg­ing.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

Con­nec­tiv­ity is the one area where the Cubot P12 both shines and dis­ap­points. It lacks 4G, which is in essence mo­bile data at Wi-Fi-like speeds. The Voda­fone does sup­port 4G, and for only £5 more. If your con­tract doesn’t in­clude 4G or you can’t ac­cess it in your lo­cal area in any case then this might not bother you as much as it does us.

On the up side, though, un­like the Smart Prime 6 the Cubot P12 doesn’t force you to use the Voda­fone net­work (nei­ther must you buy a topup at the point of pur­chase, in­creas­ing the over­all cost). You can use any net­work that sup­ports its fre­quen­cies (850/900/1800/1900MHz 2G GSM, 900/1900/2100MHz 3G WCDMA); in fact you can use two, since this is a dual-SIM dual-standby phone (both Mi­cro-SIM).

The Cubot P12 is also lack­ing an IR blaster and NFC (you do get the HotKnot equiv­a­lent, al­though it plays with only other Me­di­aTek-pow­ered phones).

It sup­ports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.0, USB OTG and GPS.

Cam­eras

On pa­per the Cubot of­fers a bet­ter cam­era setup than does the Voda­fone, which to be fair wouldn’t be too dif­fi­cult to beat with its 2Mp front cam­era and 5Mp rear cam­era with LED flash. By com­par­i­son, Cubot claims to of­fer 8Mp at the front and 13Mp at the rear, with a 0.5A LED flash. Ac­tu­ally, this is us­ing soft­ware in­ter­po­la­tion; what you re­ally get is 5- and 8Mp cam­eras, al­though this is still bet­ter than those of the Voda­fone.

With ei­ther phone you’ll find sup­port for full-HD video record­ing and all the usual cam­era modes and fea­tures. For ex­am­ple, the P12 sup­ports re­al­time colour fil­ters, a 20-shot burst mode, smile

shot, face de­tec­tion, HDR and more. Our test shots were ac­cept­able for a bud­get phone, up to the job for the odd snap but not about to re­place a proper cam­era. We found colours to be fine but de­tail is fuzzy when you zoom in.

Soft­ware

In com­mon with the Smart Prime 6 the Cubot runs An­droid Lol­lipop; it’s not the lat­est An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem, but Marsh­mal­low is not yet widely avail­able to devices other than Google’s own Nexus line-up. We pre­fer the soft­ware setup of the P12, how­ever, which has none of the pre­in­stalled bloat the Voda­fone does (mostly Voda­fone apps, to be fair).

You’ll find an FM Ra­dio (also avail­able with the Voda­fone), a file man­ager, an email client, browser and mu­sic app, plus full ac­cess to the Google Play store and sev­eral key Google apps pre­in­stalled.

The Cubot P12 also sup­ports air ges­tures for mak­ing phone calls, tak­ing pho­tos, mov­ing be­tween home screens and more, plus smart wake ges­tures such as a dou­ble-tap to wake the screen or the draw­ing of a char­ac­ter on­screen in standby mode to launch an app.

Ver­dict

We can’t ar­gue with the im­mense value for money of­fered by the Cubot P12. The lack of 4G sup­port is dis­ap­point­ing, but the spec sheet oth­er­wise of­fers im­pres­sive read­ing at this price. Marie Brewis

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5in HD (720x1280, 294ppi) IPS dis­play An­droid 5.1 Lol­lipop

1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MT6580 quad-core 32-bit pro­ces­sor Mali 400mp GPU 1GB RAM 16GB stor­age Mi­croSD slot sup­ports up to 32GB Dual-SIM dual-standby (both Mi­croSIM), 850/900/1800/1900MHz 2G GSM, 900/1900/2100MHz 3G WCDMA GPS, A-GPS Blue­tooth 4.0 OTG 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi HotKnot 8Mp (in­ter­po­lated to 13Mp) rear cam­era with f/2.0 aper­ture, LED flash 5Mp (in­ter­po­lated to 8Mp) front cam­era 2200mAh re­mov­able lithium-poly­mer bat­tery 71.5x8.1x143.9mm 165g

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