Ule­fone Ar­mor

£179 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/Ljk­b7yg

Tech Advisor - - Contentes - Marie Brewis

We all try to look af­ter our smart­phones and pro­tect them from dam­age, but for some users do­ing so is al­most im­pos­si­ble. If your job in­volves man­ual labour or you’re into extreme sports, your phone is more vul­ner­a­ble to the el­e­ments than most. For th­ese type of users a rugged phone such as this Ule­fone Ar­mor will make a great pur­chase.

De­sign

The de­sign of the Ar­mor is per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing thing about it. With a blend of TPU and poly­car­bon­ate plas­tic and rub­ber, noth­ing is get­ting in or out of this

case – wa­ter, dust or oth­er­wise. Ule­fone claims it uses wa­ter­proof gum to at­tach this case to the phone, and wa­ter­proof film to cover any in­evitable gaps. The touch­screen has also been op­ti­mized to work ef­fec­tively with wet fin­gers, and worked well in our tests.

The Ar­mor has an IP68 rat­ing, which means it can with­stand up to 1.2m of wa­ter for up to 30 min­utes, but in Ule­fone’s own test­ing it was able to with­stand up to 1.5m of wa­ter in that time.

The rugged case adds some thick­ness to the smart­phone, which mea­sures 12.5mm at its thick­est point. Thank­fully, though, the smaller-than-most 4.7in screen keeps down the over­all size of the hand­set. It’s still rea­son­ably weighty at 195g, but re­as­sur­ingly so.

This screen is sadly only an HD panel, with a res­o­lu­tion of 1280x720 pix­els. It’s been a while since we tested any­thing with a lower than full-HD res­o­lu­tion, even in the bud­get mar­ket, but be­cause the screen is ‘small’ ev­ery­thing still looks sharp. It has a pixel den­sity of 313ppi, which is only just short of the iPhone’s 326ppi.

You might find the screen a lit­tle dull for out­door use in the bright­est con­di­tions, and con­trast is also lack­ing, but on the whole it is a good per­former with re­al­is­tic colours and good clar­ity.

The Ule­fone Ar­mor has an in­ter­est­ing de­sign, and is in­stantly recog­nis­able as a rugged phone. Avail­able in black or or­ange and black (we re­viewed the lat­ter), it’s a bit like Mar­mite: you’ll love it or you’ll hate it.

On the or­ange and black model an or­ange plas­tic trim runs the cir­cum­fer­ence of the screen, which it­self has pretty large bezels. Though this is often some­thing

you find in cheap phones, here it is pur­posely cre­ated to pro­tect the screen from dam­age. The or­ange colour scheme is more ob­vi­ous at the rear, which com­prises six ver­ti­cal pan­els with a rough, tex­tured sur­face that helps you grip it with wet or cold hands. The second panel down fea­tures two screws, which you re­move in or­der to prise off the panel and ac­cess the dual Mi­cro-SIM slots and mi­croSD port.

Screws also hold in place the other rear pan­els, but th­ese re­quire a dif­fer­ent type of screw­driver to the one sup­plied in the box for get­ting to the SIM slots. We don’t think Ule­fone wants you to re­move th­ese.

At the top of the rear is a 13Mp cam­era with a wa­ter­proof hous­ing and a sin­gle LED flash, and to the right of this a mono speaker. The Ar­mor wasn’t built for au­dio qual­ity, and not only will it fire sound

into your palm or on to a ta­ble or flat sur­face, but the re­sults are rather tinny.

At the bot­tom of the Ule­fone is a large sil­ver, grooved piece, which we think is part of the an­tenna. As we men­tioned pre­vi­ously, Ule­fone claims ex­cel­lent sig­nal strength for the Ar­mor.

Be­cause the cas­ing is rather thick, also in the box you’ll find an ex­ten­der ca­ble for the 3.5mm head­phone jack, and a Mi­cro-USB charg­ing ca­ble with a slightly longer prong than most (you might find us­ing third­party USB ca­bles tricky).

Both th­ese ports are hid­den be­hind a rub­ber flap – we would pre­fer to see waterproofing on the ports them­selves, as is the case with the Sam­sung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7, but this phone costs nowhere near as much so we can hardly com­plain.

It’s a shame not to see USB-C here but, again, this is a bud­get phone, and the pro­ces­sor doesn’t sup­port any form of quick charg­ing in any case. Ule­fone sup­plies a 5W charger, but it’s a two-prong adap­tor, so we rec­om­mend us­ing your pre­vi­ous hand­set’s USB charger or buy­ing a third-party model.

Be­low the screen are three phys­i­cal but­tons for

home, back and multi-task­ing. Th­ese are wa­ter­proof and coated in rub­ber, and like the other but­tons on the phone re­quire ex­tra pres­sure to op­er­ate. Bizarrely, above the back but­ton is an onscreen back but­ton, but with no la­bel. Had we not no­ticed it men­tioned in the Quick Start Guide we would have thought the phone was play­ing up.

The Ule­fone Ar­mor also fea­tures some­thing that’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare th­ese days: a ded­i­cated cam­era but­ton. It’s lo­cated at the bot­tom of the phone’s right edge, as you’d ex­pect, but serves only as a shut­ter but­ton: it won’t launch the cam­era from standby.

Just up from this is an SOS but­ton. If you’re go­ing to be go­ing out and get­ting your­self lost then you may see the need for this. Provided you have con­fig­ured it be­fore­hand, press­ing this but­ton will au­to­mat­i­cally call and send a text mes­sage to a spec­i­fied con­tact in­form­ing them of your GPS co-or­di­nates and the fact you need help. This works only with the first SIM, and we didn’t like its po­si­tion where we’d usu­ally ex­pect to find the power but­ton. How­ever, it does use­fully serve to wake the screen when in­ad­ver­tently pressed.

Sep­a­rate vol­ume but­tons are found on the phone’s left edge, while the power but­ton is up top.

One is­sue we have with the Ule­fone Ar­mor is its lack of no­ti­fi­ca­tion LEDs, which means you’ve no way of know­ing you have a missed call, text, email or other with­out pick­ing it up and wak­ing the screen.

Per­for­mance

Bat­tery life from the Ar­mor should be good, which is im­por­tant if you’re away from civil­i­sa­tion and un­able

to fast-charge the bat­tery. Ule­fone quotes a full day’s heavy us­age, or two days with lighter use. It says it will en­dure 300 hours on standby, or six hours of con­stant talk time.

In other re­spects per­for­mance is noth­ing to shout about, but the Ar­mor is ca­pa­ble of most tasks. It’s only a lit­tle slower than the He­lio P10-pow­ered Nomu S30 in gen­eral pro­cess­ing speed tests, for ex­am­ple, but a lit­tle faster in graph­ics tests which is likely due to the lower-res­o­lu­tion screen.

The Ule­fone runs a 1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MTK6753 octa-core 64-bit pro­ces­sor with the in­te­grated ARM Mali-T720 GPU. This is paired with 3GB of RAM and a gen­er­ous 32GB of stor­age, plus you can add a fur­ther 64GB through mi­croSD.

The Ar­mor failed to run our JetStream JavaScript test, but we suc­cess­fully ran our pro­cess­ing and graph­ics per­for­mance bench­marks.

In Geek­bench 4 we recorded 603 points in the sin­gle-core com­po­nent and 2571 multi-core. AnTuTu 6 clocked the Ar­mor at 37,404, and in GFXBench it recorded on-screen fram­er­ates of 20fps in T-Rex, 9fps in Man­hat­tan and 7fps in Man­hat­tan 3.1.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

Fin­ger­print scan­ners are pretty stan­dard even in bud­get Chi­nese phones, but you won’t find one in the Ule­fone Ar­mor. That’s re­ally all you’re miss­ing, though, be­cause the phone sup­ports dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, Blue­tooth 4.0, OTG and NFC. The lat­ter could be use­ful for mo­bile pay­ments and cut down the amount of gear you have to take out and about with

you, but only provided a fin­ger­print is not re­quired for au­then­ti­ca­tion. As we touched upon ear­lier, the Ar­mor is a dual-SIM dual-standby phone, and al­lows you to in­sert two Mi­cro-SIM cards for two dif­fer­ent net­works. This can be use­ful for man­ag­ing sep­a­rate SIMs for home and work, or lo­cal and abroad. Only one can be spec­i­fied for data us­age, but both num­bers can make and re­ceive calls and texts.

A bonus: you’re not forced to choose be­tween mi­croSD and dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity as you are with phones that fea­ture hy­brid SIM slots. If you’ll be us­ing the Ar­mor in the UK, it’s good to know that all three of the UK’s 4G LTE fre­quency bands are cov­ered, mean­ing you should get the strong­est sig­nal your mo­bile net­work can of­fer wher­ever you may be.

Cam­eras

We weren’t ex­pect­ing mir­a­cles from the Ule­fone’s 13Mp, five-piece-lens cam­era with sin­gle-LED flash

– this phone sim­ply isn’t de­signed to be a premium cam­era phone. As such the cam­era app is very ba­sic, and chang­ing any of the op­tions (such as se­lect­ing HDR) will slow things down.

View­ing images at full-size noise is no­tice­able, though a fair amount of de­tail is cap­tured and colours are rea­son­ably nat­u­ral. The Ar­mor is cer­tainly up to the task of snap-shot­ting your lat­est ex­cur­sion or what­ever job you’re work­ing on, provided you’re not try­ing to take those shots in the dark.

You can view a cou­ple of our test shots with Auto and HDR set­tings above and op­po­site.

The Ule­fone Ar­mor also has a 5Mp selfie cam­era, which is fine for video chat and Snapchat.

Our re­view sam­ple showed a glitch where all the icons in the cam­era app would twitch af­ter we switched be­tween the main and selfie cam­eras. It was still

us­able, but off-putting, and a restart seemed to fix what­ever had gone wrong.

Soft­ware

The Ar­mor runs a stan­dard ver­sion of An­droid 6 Marsh­mal­low. We don’t know if or when the Ule­fone will be up­dated. You’ll find an en­try for the SOS but­ton in the set­tings menu, and Ule­fone has ap­plied its own theme to the UI which changes the look and feel of the short­cuts on the home screen, but aside from this ev­ery­thing should be as you’d ex­pect.

Ver­dict

A ca­pa­ble rugged phone at a very good price, the Ule­fone Ar­mor might not be the fastest hand­set out there or have the best screen but for many peo­ple it prove ideal.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

4.7in HD (1280x720, 313ppi) LTPS dis­play, Go­rilla Glass 3

An­droid 6.0 Marsh­mal­low

1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MTK6753 octa-core 64-bit chip

ARM Mali-T720 GPU

3GB RAM

32GB stor­age

Mi­croSD sup­port up to 64GB

Rugged de­sign: wa­ter­proof, shock­proof, dust-proof, scratch-re­sis­tant, tem­per­a­ture -40°C to 80°C

Dual-SIM dual-standby (2x Mi­cro, SOS func­tion works only with SIM 1)

4G FDD-LTE 800/1,700/1,800/2,100/2,600MHz

Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi

Blue­tooth 4.0

GPS, GLONASS

OTG

NFC

13Mp, 5P rear cam­era with sin­gle-LED flash

5Mp, 5P front cam­era

SOS but­ton

Ded­i­cated cam­era but­ton

3.5mm head­phone jack (with ex­ten­der)

3,500mAh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery

148.9x75.8x12.5mm

195g

Auto mode

HDR mode

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