Voda­fone Smart Ultra 7

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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.

De­sign

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.

Per­for­mance

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.

Cam­eras

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.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

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.

Soft­ware

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.

Ver­dict

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

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