Vodafone Smart Ultra 7
A year after Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 6 stormed our ‘Best budget smartphones’ chart, the network has released its predecessor – the Smart Ultra 7. A lot, however, has changed since then and there’s now a lot of competition at the budget end of the market.
The Smart Ultra 7 can be considered a visual upgrade over its predecessor if nothing more. It has the same brushed metal body with a removable plastic rear, though with a few added details. The previously plain-looking back cover, for example, has been upgraded and now has an intricate design. While this isn’t ground-breaking, it does make a slightly bland-looking phone a little bit more appealing.
While it doesn’t have the build quality of high-end smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7, it could definitely compete with midrange handsets in terms of design. For example, it’s lightweight for a large budget phone, weighing in at 150g. At 152.2x78.1x8.7mm it’s slightly thicker than its predecessor, but is still thinner than the similarly priced EE Harrier (8.9mm) and EE Harrier Mini (9.5mm). The Smart Ultra 7’s curved edges are dual purpose, too. As well as improving the aesthetics of the handset they also provide users with a smartphone that’s comfortable to use for long periods – an important aspect to consider when buying a smartphone with a large display.
The Smart Ultra 7 is available in silver and the slightly darker dark grey – both have black bezels around the edges of the display. Build quality is good, although we noticed that the plastic rear case doesn’t sit completely flush with the camera, and while this isn’t a huge deal, it’s worth pointing out.
The first thing you’ll notice about this phone is the beautiful 5.5in Full-HD (1920x1080) IPS screen, with a pixel density of 401ppi. Although unchanged from the Ultra 6, it’s still impressive for a smartphone costing £135, especially when you consider that similarly priced budget smartphones feature a 720p display. It’s crisp and vibrant, and we don’t have any complaints about it.
On the inside, the Smart Ultra 7 has an octa-core MediaTek MT6755M processor, comprised of one quad-core 1.8GHz A53 and one 1GHz A53 core. It also has 2GB of RAM and a Mali-T860 GPU.
When we compared the Smart Ultra 7’s benchmark results to those of its predecessor, we were surprised. As you can see from the charts opposite, the new phone came out worse in both GFXBench tests, although it bested the year-old Ultra 6 in the Geekbench 3 results.
The phone comes with 16GB of internal storage, while a microSD slot offers up to 128GB of extra space. The non-removable 2960mAh battery should last the whole day.
This handset has a 5Mp frontfacing camera and a rear-facing 13Mp snapper with autofocus and flash. Images are detailed and crisp, though the colour reproduction is terrible and the photos are washed out in direct sunlight, no matter how much we tried to combat it – even in HDR, the photos were unbalanced.
The 5Mp front-facing selfie camera is okay, though the lack of autofocus technology means there’s not much to write home about – it’ll suffice for the likes of Skype and the odd selfie, but not much else. Vodafone chose to add a frontfacing flash to the Smart Ultra 7, and while we’ve found it does indeed brighten up dark selfies, harsh flashes aren’t the most flattering, though maybe that’s just us.
In terms of video, you can expect 1080p HD at 30fps from the Smart Ultra 7, and like its predecessor, it doesn’t feature digital or optical image stabilisation. This means that even with the sturdiest of hands, you’re likely to see a bit of shakiness from videos.
One of the biggest draws of the Ultra 7 is that it offers 4G on a budget. We tested the phone using Vodafone’s 4G network and recorded average speeds of 3.63MB download, a whopping 14.42MB upload and 24 ping, which measures the quality of
The first thing you’ll notice about this phone is the beautiful 5.5in Full-HD (1920x1080) IPS screen, with a pixel density of 401ppi
your internet connection. The lower the score, the more responsive a connection, and Vodafone’s score is good for a low-cost phone.
Along with 4G connectivity, the Smart Ultra 7 offers Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-band, providing users with the option to connect to newer, faster 5GHz Wi-Fi connections when not roaming around on Vodafone’s 4G. Along with Wi-Fi, the phone has Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS and a number of sensors, including an accelerometer and a compass.
The Smart Ultra 7 comes with Android Marshmallow 6.0, and has almost no bloatware. Yes, the company’s branding is prominent, but the number of preinstalled Vodafone apps is surprisingly low. Okay, it still comes with Messages+ and Call+ and these can’t be deleted as they replace the stock message and phone apps, but the updates app gives you the option of what bloatware to install when you first run the software.
It’s a nice relaxed approach to bloatware and we hope that other manufacturers will follow suit at some point in the future.
Apart from that, it’s a standard Marshmallow experience featuring improvements over Android 5.0 Lollipop, including visual changes to the lock screen, drop-down notification centre, volume controls and more, along with Google Now on Tap, a contextual version of Google Now.
In our opinion, the Smart Ultra 7 isn’t really an upgrade over the Smart Ultra 6. It’s £10 more expensive than and doesn’t perform as well – the Smart 7 had worse benchmark results than its predecessor in some of our tests. The camera, though the same on paper, seems to have had a slight downgrade too, producing rather washed out photos during testing. On the other hand, the 5.5in 1080p HD display is vibrant and crisp, and one must remember that the smartphone costs only £135, so if you are on a budget, it’s still a solid option. Lewis Painter