Vernee Apollo

Tech Advisor - - Contents - Marie Brewis

We’ve been say­ing that virtual re­al­ity is the next big thing for over a year now, but 2017 re­ally will be the year VR comes to phones. Sam­sung’s up­com­ing Galaxy S8 and LG’s G6 are among those ex­pected to come with large, high-res­o­lu­tion screens and meaty pro­ces­sors and GPUs to en­able the best mo­bile VR. Those are Snap­dragon phones, so what of Me­di­aTek?

The cur­rent best (avail­able) Me­di­aTek pro­ces­sor is the He­lio X25, which is a deca-core chip that com­bines two clus­ters of four low-power, ef­fi­cient Cor­tex-A53 cores with a high-per­for­mance Cor­tex-A72 duo, and in­te­grates the 850MHz Mali-T880 MP4 GPU. Don’t as­sume the He­lio X25 is on par with – or with 10 cores even bet­ter than – the quad-core Snap­dragon 820/821, which is paired with the Adreno 530 GPU and comes in many of to­day’s flag­ships; in our bench­marks the Qual­comm chip out­does it every time. We ex­pect to see a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion with the up­com­ing He­lio X30 and Snap­dragon 835 – Me­di­aTek X25 pro­ces­sors are ideal for the very best mid-range phones, but not re­ally what we’d class as flag­ship-level.

The Vernee Apollo is not the first phone to fea­ture the He­lio X25 pro­ces­sor (you’ll also find hand­sets from Xiaomi, Meizu, Ele­phone and LeEco), but it is the first to com­bine that pro­ces­sor with a 5.5in 2K screen (a high-res­o­lu­tion dis­play is im­por­tant for VR as the res­o­lu­tion is halved for each eye) and a VR head­set in the box.

We say VR head­set – it’s re­ally just a plas­tic, but­ton­less, NFC-less ver­sion of the Google Card­board viewer with a rub­ber in­sert that is in­tended to seal around your face (it was too large to fit our face). It’s not Day­dream-ready (nei­ther is the Apollo), and the viewer is not es­pe­cially com­fort­able in use, though we un­der­stand its in­clu­sion given the mar­ket­ing.

The 2K screen makes the Vernee Apollo a bet­ter phone for VR than many oth­ers, es­pe­cially Me­di­aTek phones, though call­ing it the first Me­di­aTek VR phone is pos­si­bly a bit of a stretch. No mat­ter, the Apollo has lots more to of­fer un­der £250.


The Apollo is avail­able from a num­ber of Chi­nese out­lets, in­clud­ing Cooli­cool, TomTop and AliEx­press, though the one we rec­om­mend is GearBest since you can ship the Apollo from its EU ware­house and there­fore avoid any nasty sur­prises in the form of im­port duty.

Buy­ing the Apollo from the EU ware­house (£240) is a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive than buy­ing it from China (£208), but if you opt for the lat­ter choice you should bear in mind that im­port duty is cal­cu­lated at 20 per­cent of what­ever value is writ­ten on the ship­ping pa­per­work, plus there’s an ad­min fee (in our ex­pe­ri­ence this is £11 through DHL). Po­ten­tially, if you buy from China you could get an ad­di­tional fee of up to £52, and in which case the £240 EU op­tion will cost you less over­all and come with­out the added has­sle of pay­ing fees.

The Vernee Apollo is sold on a SIM-free ba­sis, which means you can use it with any UK-based mo­bile op­er­a­tor and on any tar­iff you like. It’s a dual-SIM phone that can ac­cept a Nano- or Mi­cro-SIM, and sup­ports all three UK 4G bands.


The Apollo is a nicely de­signed phone with a 6000-se­ries alu­minium body and, as we’ve al­ready men­tioned, a 2K (or QuadHD) screen. We tested the grey ver­sion, which from the rear has nice clean lines with sim­plis­tic an­tenna bands and a slightly pro­trud­ing cam­era with a Smart Touch finger­print scan­ner be­low and dual-LED flash to the side.

The sides are slightly curved and with cham­fered edges top and bot­tom, mak­ing this 5.5in­screen ph­ablet eas­ier to hold and man­age­able in a sin­gle hand, es­pe­cially given its weighty 188g body. This also makes it seem thin­ner than it is, since at 9.3mm it’s pretty chunky for a flag­ship phone with only a 3180mAh bat­tery in­side.

At the front you find 2.5D curved glass, which would flow smoothly into the metal frame were it not for the black plas­tic bezel that is very ob­vi­ous as you run a fin­ger across the sur­face. We pre­sume this will add strength to the edges of the screen as you rou­tinely take it in and out the VR viewer, though it does noth­ing for the aes­thet­ics.

The screen it­self is de­cent, and with a 2560x1440-pixel res­o­lu­tion the sharpest of any Chi­nese phone we’ve reviewed. The re­sult­ing pixel den­sity of 541ppi is very high, well above that of Retina qual­ity, so you’ll find no fuzzy text or graph­ics here. Of course, the pri­mary rea­son for the high res­o­lu­tion is VR, since it is halved for each eye. Used with a VR viewer each eye will see a still-sharp 1080p res­o­lu­tion.

This is an LTPS dis­play, which is easy on power con­sump­tion with de­cent bright­ness. Vernee quotes stats such as 500 nits bright­ness, 1500:1 con­trast and 95 per­cent NTSC gamut. We found no rea­son to com­plain about the screen, which can be bright enough to use in di­rect sun­light and dim enough for night-time use. It’s also pro­tected with Go­rilla Glass 3.

The Vernee Apollo has a USB-C port at the bot­tom, which can be used for charg­ing, data trans­fer and au­dio. Pleas­ingly there’s also a head­phone jack at the top, so along with the built-in speaker you have plenty of au­dio op­tions.

A vol­ume rocker and power but­ton are found on the right edge, but rather than a sin­gle pin-op­er­ated SIM tray on the left there are two. One ac­cepts a sin­gle Nano-SIM and the other a Mi­cro-SIM, or you can swap out the Nano-SIM for a mi­croSD card up to 128GB in ca­pac­ity.

De­spite a lot of space above and be­low the screen, which makes the Apollo a rather tall 152mm, the nav­i­ga­tion bar is dis­played on­screen. You can fid­dle around with its lay­out in the Set­tings menu.

There prob­a­bly would have been space un­der the screen to fit the finger­print scan­ner, but we like the rear po­si­tion­ing as it falls nat­u­rally un­der the fore­fin­ger as you use the phone, and can be used to both wake and un­lock the screen at once. It’s a de­cent scan­ner, recog­nis­ing your finger­print in 0.1s and al­legedly be­com­ing more ac­cu­rate over time.


As we noted in the in­tro­duc­tion to this re­view, the Vernee Apollo is one of few phones to run Me­di­aTek’s cur­rent best He­lio X25 pro­ces­sor, a deca-core chip with eight Cor­tex-A53 cores and two Cor­tex-A72 cores, plus an in­te­grated 850MHz Mali-T880 MP4 GPU. The He­lio chip can run at clock speeds of up to 2.5GHz, which is the main dif­fer­ence be­tween it and the slightly slower-clocked He­lio X20. Vernee pairs this pro­ces­sor with 4GB of RAM and a gen­er­ous 64GB of stor­age.

On its site Vernee com­pares the core spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the Apollo with the Xiaomi Mi5s Plus and OnePlus 3T. On paper it sounds im­pres­sive: a deca-core pro­ces­sor against their quad-core chips, a higher-res­o­lu­tion screen, a match­ing amount of mem­ory and stor­age, and a higher me­gapixel rat­ing on the pri­mary cam­era. In fact the deca-core He­lio X25 is not a match for the quad-core Snap­dragon 821, and the 4GB of RAM is of the slower LPDDR3 rather than LPDDR4 va­ri­ety (plus the OnePlus 3T has 6GB). Its higher-res­o­lu­tion screen is no doubt a good thing, but ac­tu­ally held it back in our graph­ics tests. And, as we well know, pil­ing on the megapix­els doesn’t al­ways make for a bet­ter cam­era. On the plus side, it is cheaper than those phones.

In real-world use the Apollo feels fast, with mul­ti­task­ing, gam­ing and mul­ti­me­dia no is­sue for it. In our syn­thetic bench­marks it couldn’t com­pete with the OnePlus 3T, and is in fact a bet­ter match or He­lio X20/X25 phones such as the Ele­phone S7, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Meizu MX6 and Vernee Apollo Lite.

The bat­tery is on the small side for a 5.5in 2K-screen ph­ablet, rated at just 3180mAh, so you’ll need to charge it every day. It doesn’t sup­port wire­less charg­ing or, hav­ing a Me­di­aTek chip, Qual­comm Quick Charge, but with a com­pat­i­ble adap­tor Vcharge al­lows it to get a 50 per­cent charge in 30 min­utes.


Usu­ally with Chi­nese phones you must be care­ful to en­sure they are sup­ported on your home network. For­tu­nately the Apollo works with all UK 4G bands, so it’s just as good on O2, Gif­f­Gaff or Sky Mo­bile as it is Voda­fone, Three and EE. How­ever, if you are buy­ing out­side the UK you should check the spec­i­fi­ca­tions and our guide on how to tell whether a phone is sup­ported by your network.

The Apollo is a dual-SIM du­al­standby phone, which means it can send and re­ceive calls on two sep­a­rate SIMs (al­though ob­vi­ously not at ex­actly the same time). For data you must se­lect one of the two SIMs, al­though you can change be­tween them in the Set­tings.

The only thing that’s re­ally miss­ing in terms of con­nec­tiv­ity is NFC, which is nec­es­sary for mak­ing mo­bile pay­ments and can be use­ful with some VR head­sets. You do get dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.0, GPS and A-GPS (GLONASS is not spec­i­fied) and OTG.


In a nice change from the count­less Chi­nese phones with 13Mp cam­eras

that pass through PC Ad­vi­sor’s doors, the Vernee Apollo is fit­ted with a 21Mp, 1/2.4in Sony IMX230. Specs include a dual-tone LED flash, 0.1s phase-de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, f/2.2 aper­ture and 4K video record­ing with videos saved in H.265 for­mat.

We were im­pressed with the qual­ity of our test photos, shot by de­fault in a 21Mp widescreen for­mat. Al­though viewed at full-size they show some soft­ness at the ex­treme edges and are a bit grainy, over­all they are amaz­ingly sharp. And the HDR mode is the best we’ve seen on a phone at this price. It’s in­cred­i­ble to think the two im­ages were shot at the same time, the first in Auto and the sec­ond HDR.

The cam­era app it­self of­fers a num­ber of real-time fil­ters, but shoot­ing modes are limited to Auto, Panorama, HDR and a 40-shot burst mode. You can al­ter the ISO, white bal­ance, ex­po­sure and image prop­er­ties in the set­tings.

At the front is an 8Mp selfie cam­era, which in­cludes the same real-time fil­ters, HDR mode and a Beauty mode.


The Apollo runs a vanilla ver­sion of An­droid Marsh­mal­low, and the com­pany con­firms that it will be up­dated to Nougat, the lat­est ver­sion of the OS. There’s a Turbo Down­load mode (which com­bines 4G and Wi-Fi for faster down­loads), but very lit­tle in the way of pre­in­stalled apps. There’s a GoVR Player, for ex­am­ple, but no Google apps other than the Google Play store. This means you’ll need to down­load the likes of Gmail, Maps and YouTube your­self if you wish to use them, and a ben­e­fit of this is stor­age isn’t wasted if you don’t. You can wake the screen with the finger­print scan­ner and al­ter the lay­out of the nav­i­ga­tion bar, but that’s re­ally it. And that’s not a bad thing.


The Vernee Apollo is a Me­di­aTek flag­ship, which isn’t what we ex­pect from Qual­comm Snap­dragon flag­ships, but a very de­cent phone none­the­less. It’s pretty pow­er­ful, with a nice screen, a great cam­era and a rel­a­tively un­touched An­droid OS. At less than £250, you can’t ar­gue with its value.

Geek­bench 4.0

GFXBench Man­hat­tan


Auto set­tings

HDR on

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.