In Madrid, we saw live how Elephone U Pro was born. I tested the smartphone for 2 weeks, during which the phone partly disappointed and partly filled me with enthusiasm. Well, every smartphone has its weak spots. In the end, Elephone U Pro has to compete with devices like Xiaomi Mi Note 3, Nubia Z17 and Meizu Pro 7. In order to keep up with these phones, the smaller manufacturer equips the smartphone with almost everything that is currently possible: an insanely fast Snapdragon 660 processor, Android 8 Oreo, USB Type-C, Quick charge 3.0, Qi wireless charging, Gorilla Glass 5, AMOLED display, face recognition, Bluetooth 5.0 and even NFC.
However, the specs, as often, are only half the truth. Find out in our review if Elephone is actually ready for the 300-400€ smartphone price range.
Design and build quality
Elephone U Pro has a curved display design in a glass “sandwich” body. The dimensions are 154 x 72.55 x 8.7 mm and the phone has a weight of 170g. Clearly, the design resembles Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9. The smartphone seems to be made of one piece, partly because of the metal frame in a piano lacquer look, as you don’t feel barely a transition between glass and frame. Despite the strongly rounded 3D glass, you can see small bezels (1.5mm). The bezels above and below the display are 7mm wide. Build quality is simply excellent and Elephone presents a premium smartphone in every particular. The logo on the rear shines when somebody is calling, which looks very nice and is a good addition to the notification LED. We really liked our blue version and the color adaptations when the rear side reflects in the sunlight are beautiful. The U Pro does not provide a perfect grip, but it is less slippery than Xiaomi Mix 2 or Galaxy S8.
The build quality leaves nothing to be desired. The dual-LED flash is protected beneath the glass rear and the camera module is integrated slightly deeper in the rear as well. The fingerprint scanner is located below the camera and well reachable. It works in 8/10 attempts, but it is rather slow, as unlocking takes about 1 second, which is not flagship-worthy. The power button and the volume control are made of metal and are well attached to the casing. Elephone U Pro is operated via on-screen buttons, which can be customized. Of course, there is also an RGB LED as well.
The Elephone device features a modern USB Type-C port, however, a headphone connection is unfortunately missing. We would have been happier with a dual-speaker, but instead, Elephone surprised with a decent sound at high volume and even rudimentary bass. The SIM tray is located at the top, next to a second microphone. The latter is however covered by the provided protective cover. You can insert either 2 Nano SIMs or 1 Nano SIM and 1 Micro-SD card for storage expansion.
For a price higher than 300€, you expect a premium design and flawless build quality. Elephone U Pro can provide these demands and surprises with nice and appealing details. Those looking for a smartphone with a high-end design are no longer compelled to choose smartphones by the big manufacturers. We were already positively surprised at the launch event and after 2 weeks of use, this impression did not change. Elephone stands out from the other smaller manufacturers.
Elephone U Pro scope of delivery
Besides the Elephone device, you get a quick-charge 3.0 charging adapter with a matching USB Type-C cable. In addition, the scope of delivery contains a USB Type-C to headphone jack adapter, a silicone protective cover, a SIM pin, a screen protector and a quick reference guide.
Elephone U Pro’s display offers a lot of special characteristics. The 6-inch display with 18:9 ration is a perfect Curved AMOLED panel. The bulge to the left and right looks pretty cool, but the smartphone is not completely bezel-less like Nubia Z17 or Galaxy S8. The FHD resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels results in pin-sharp 403 pixels per inch. As typical for AMOLED, color representation is unrealistic and in the standard setting too cold in my opinion. In the options menu, you can solve this small problem. Contrast is awesome and brightness is good, also for sunny days. The viewing angles on the other could be more stable, white areas look greenish when looking at them from the side.
The 10-point touch screen works really well. Even when typing fast there are never any errors and every input is instantly put into practice. The smartphone offers a coating at the front and rear side that should keep fingerprints away and it works quite well in daily life. Gorilla Glass 5 protects the display glass from scratches, which we confirm after our test: 2 weeks of careless use did not leave any mark on the device.
Elephone U Pro convinces with a (for the price appropriate) AMOLED display with great touch qualities. On top, you get a scratch-resistant glass and an anti-fingerprint coating. If you like unrealistic color representations, you certainly will be happy with Elephone U Pro.
In terms of performance, Elephone goes to any lengths. To get a powerful performance, the manufacturer uses a Snapdragon 660 by market leader Qualcomm, the same processor that is used in Xiaomi Mi Note 3. The processor is manufactured in the up-to-date 14nm process and consists of 2 clusters (4×1.8GHz and 4×2.2GHz) with Kyro cores. The processor is supported by either 4 or 6GB of RAM and a strong Adreno 512 GPU. The speed of the DDR4-RAM is on a high level with 6.3 GB/s, and the performance in daily use is just great. We have the version with 6GB of RAM, of which 4GB are available. Even if you opened 20 apps, all of them are loaded quickly from the intermediate storage. The 4GB of RAM version will get similar results, 6GB of RAM are almost over the top.
The internal storage varies according to the RAM version, so you have either 64 or 128GB at your disposal. It’s a pity that Elephone saves here and does not provide the fast UFS 2 storage. This saving can be noticed when installing apps and the reading/writing speed of 270/190 MB/s is not on a top level, but still quite good. The storage can be expanded via a Micro-SD card.
Matching Micro-SD cards
Elephone U Pro can score in the benchmarks and mostly even surpasses Xiaomi Mi Note 3.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result 3D Mark Result
Regardless the numbers, the performance with Android 8 Oreo is simply awesome. Apps open fast and you cannot find a single game in the Play Store that couldn’t be played without problems. Compared to MIUI V9 apps open even slightly faster, if you believe the numerous Youtube videos. When the phone is charged via quick-charge 3.0, Elephone U Pro gets quite warm, but therefore stays cool when playing games (38° at the hottest spot).
Even regarding the performance, there is not much to complain about. Everything is appropriate to the price. Speed and performance can keep up with Mi Note 3; the Elephone device is even a bit faster. On the other hand, Mi Note 3 also costs only 250€.
ELE-UI with Android 8 Oreo basis
After the low-budget device Cubot X18, Elephone is the second manufacturer that provides an Android 8 Oreo system ex-works. The Google security patch is up-to-date and the device gets updates directly via OTA. The smartphone has a firmware from February 11, 2018 and Elephone will probably further modify the smartphone, which would be adequate for the price. The icons do not look like Stock Android, as ELE-UI has its own design for the icons. They look quite stylish and in the design app you can choose between 4 styles. Alternatively, you can also install a launcher from the Google Play Store. The phone offers all Google apps, but it is free from spam apps or bloatware. A test for viruses did not report any threats.
Elephone integrates some additional functions in the system, but without burdening the Android system too much in the settings or in the quick launch toolbar. You can adjust the navigation bar, customize the notification LED and even edge-gestures are planned, but up to now, they are not really put into practice yet. Since the latest update using the face-unlock is possible, but it can easily be tricked with a simple picture. In addition, you have to first turn on the device and swipe upward before the face-unlock can be used. The fingerprint scanner stays the better alternative for unlocking the smartphone.
ELE-UI combines visually appealing adjustments with useful additional function without burdening the system too much. Elephone U Pro runs fast and without considerable bugs.
I could hardly believe it at the launch event, but Elephone was the first of the small Chinese manufacturers to install a real dual camera. That is, a dual camera that delivers real added value with Bokeh shots. The set-up consists of two 13 megapixel sensors with an f/2.2 aperture. First, the positive points: The autofocus is lightning-fast and the shutter release time is virtually non-existent. In 90% of cases, sharp and sufficiently detailed shots with good colors are possible in good lighting conditions. Fuzzy outliers are rare in good lighting conditions. The 8 megapixel front camera also delivers beautiful results in good lighting conditions. Even decent video recordings with up to 4K resolution are no problem for the U Pro. However, the EIS only works up to FHD (1080p) resolution. The images are correspondingly blurred. For clarification: The results here are definitely good and the pictures and videos are also quite OK for the price. Xiaomi Mi Note 3 takes more and more beautiful photos!
Problem: bokeh shots. Yes, the Elephone U Pro can really do bokeh shots, but not always. Usually, it takes 2-4 attempts until the picture is shot correctly. Also the edges to the head are not always hit quite cleanly. However, manufacturers such as MEIZU or NUBIA are also struggling with this. Only Xiaomi, Oneplus and Apple have the knack.
For the price range simply not appropriate is the bad camera quality as soon as less light is available. Already with indoor shots or artificial light, the pictures begin to hiss and become clearly too grainy. Elephone still has to optimize to justify the price of the smartphone of over 300€.
Connectivity and communication
To compare Elephone U Pro with Xiaomi Mi Note 3 is obvious. With LTE Band 20, however, the Elephone device is ahead when it comes to network reception and this will influence many people’s decision to buy an Elephone smartphone. In terms of reception, there is nothing to complain about and the connection was stable and without interruption on the following frequencies:
GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8 (1900/1800/850/900)
WCDMA: B1/B8 (2100/900)
TD-SCDMA: B34/B39 (2100/1900)
CDMA: BC0 (800)
FDD-LTE: B1/B3/B7/B20 (2100/1800/2600/800)
The voice quality on the phone is also convincing and even the speakerphone can be used. Only the proximity sensor is a little weakly calibrated, so that I activated “Mute” twice by mistake and the person I was talking to no longer heard me. The USB-Type-C to jack adapter provides excellent music quality.
WLAN naturally has a dual band with ac standard. The data throughput of my 50 mBit line is maximized and the range is also one of the strengths of Elephone U Pro. The Bluetooth 5.0 module connects reliably to our 4.2 devices and there were no connection problems in the car (tested by Audi and Mercedes).
Elephone doesn’t fail when it comes to navigation either. Navigation in the car and as a pedestrian simply works perfectly. I navigated continuously with the device from Würzburg to the Zillertal (skiing area in Austria), without even a deviation from the course. As a pedestrian in Würzburg, the compass supported the navigation without any problems. The accuracy was always 3-4m. Besides the 3 standard sensors (acceleration, proximity and brightness sensor), a gyroscope (for VR glasses) and the compass mentioned above are also on board. NFC and OTG are also supported by Elephone U Pro.
Elephone U Pro has a 3550 mAh battery, but still achieves a solid battery life of 8 hours in the PCMark battery test. There are also no restrictions in practice, although a Mi Note 3 with a similar battery size performs significantly better. With intensive use, you can still make it through the day. Our test device was plugged in every other day with 6-7 hours of DOT (time with display switched on). Thanks to Quick-Charge 3.0, charging from 0 to 100% takes only 1 hour and 40 minutes. Those who like to recharge between 20 and 80%, receives 12% of the capacity in 10 minutes. Overnight (8 hours), the phone loses 10% of the battery, which is a bit much – here Elephone still has to improve.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Qi Wireless Charging is also available and works well. It was tested with a standard car charger in the Audi A4 and as soon as our Quick-Charge Pad arrives, I will test it there again. In summary, Elephone U Pro also performs quite well in the important category “battery life”. The battery life is good and the equipment with Quick-Charge and Wireless-Charging definitely succeeded.