Homtom strikes again and advertises a new star in the low price segment. You should not pay too much attention to the name. The numbers after the S seem to be arbitrary. Maybe someone in Shenzhen thought: “Hey, 99 sounds cool”. Anyway, Homtom advertises the S99 with a large battery, a dual camera (fake, of course) and neat software features like Face Unlock. Whether Homtom manages to get us enthusiastic again with the S99 (after a few rivets), you will find out in the test.
Design / Build quality / Scope of delivery
The S99 is quite discreet in appearance. At the front, however, next to the 5.5″ display, there is a notification LED in the upper area, which can light up red, blue and green. That’s a good start. In the middle you find of course the earpiece. A selfie camera as well as a proximity and light sensor are also available.
The cover is a little more exciting. Although it is only made of plastic, it has a typical Homtom pattern consisting of hexagons on the rear. There is no frame of its own. Everything consists of one large piece. The Homtom S99 therefore does not need a metal frame. A bit too bad, because the use of such a system had already arrived in even lower price segments. On the left side you can only find the SIM card tray, which supports the use of two Nano SIM cards or a micro-SD card and a Nano SIM.
On the right you can see the volume control and the power button. The plastic is ribbed on the sides to provide a better grip. At the upper edge there is a good old 3.5 mm jack connection. The lower edge accommodates a meanwhile aging micro-USB connection, but for the price segment it is still OK. Next to it you find the microphone. The speaker output is located in a nice pattern on the rear at the bottom. Of course, the Homtom logo is also included. In the upper half, the S99 provides a vertically aligned dual camera. As mentioned in the introduction, only the upper of the two sensors works here. The lower one’s fake. Discussing this matter is unnecessary, I think. The camera is supported by a double but not two-color LED flash. Directly below, there is a fingerprint sensor, which however works only partially well. In fact, unlocking is done very quickly if detected. Unfortunately, the recognition rate is not the best one. In somewhat more stressful situations especially, you tend not to put the finger on perfectly. The sensor then apparently has some problems in detection and even slight contamination, e.g. by sweaty hands, prevents the unblocking.
Basically the S99 has a good build quality. It measures 151 mm in length, 70 mm in width and 12 mm in thickness. The 210-gram smartphone was comfortable to carry, but the weight was clearly noticeable. Due to the slightly smaller dimensions, it still feels good while holding it in the hand. The keys sit neatly at their places and because the rear is made of one large piece, there are also no additional transitions or gaps. However, the occasional creaking when you press into the center of the rear is a bit unpleasant. There seems to be a small space between the underlying battery and the cover, causing a noise under pressure. A bit unfortunate, but otherwise, the phone offers a good design.
HomTom S99 scope of delivery
The S99 is delivered in a rather unadorned white box. The phone is embedded in foam. The following contents are also included:
• screen protector
• rubber cover (bumper)
• user guide (English)
• Micro-USB to USB-A charging cable
• power supply (EU, 2A)
• SIM ejection tool
The 5.5-inch IPS display provides a resolution of HD, i.e. 720p. This corresponds to a pixel density of 292 pixels per inch. Theoretically, it would be possible to recognize pixels with the eye, but you don’t. The value is already close to the limit of 300ppi, above which this is no longer possible (at least if you believe Apple). The bezels reach decent values. Upwards you have 12 mm, to the sides 4 mm and downwards you have 13 mm space left. Since there are no hardware buttons for navigation, you have to use on-screen buttons, which have become quite common in the meantime. This results in a screen-to-body-ratio of approx. 74 %, according to the manufacturer. The display itself has a slight blue cast, but it is still tolerable. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to adjust the color temperature. The black level is definitely good, which cannot necessarily be said of the brightness. In the lowest setting it was often still too bright for me, especially in dark rooms or at night, but in direct sunlight it was difficult to read from the display. The viewing angle stability, on the other hand, is pleasing. The color deviation when holding the phone at ana angle was very small and even at very steep angles the contents could still be easily read or recognized. A low loss of brightness on inclination occurs very early, but does not increase further.
The touch screen recognizes 5 fingers at the same time. The accuracy of the input was good, as was the response time. The display is properly designed for the price class.
You could still complain a little about the colors, which are not very strong. In comparison with the competition in the form of a Meizu M6T especially, the display cannot keep up.
There is no doubt that smartphones in the low budget range will not be performance monsters in mid-2018 either. However, some manufacturers are approaching the mark, where normal users hardly have to accept any restrictions due to the weaker processor. The S99 Homtom uses an older MT6750 by Mediatek. The processor has 8 Cortex-A53 cores. Four of them run in the performance cluster to 1.5 GHz, while the energy-saving cluster tries to keep the energy balance together at 1 GHz. However, great efficiency can no longer be expected from a chip from 2016. It was produced in the 28 nm process and is therefore more power-hungry than a modern 10 or 14 nm chip. Doogee made a similar mistake with the BL12000: the huge battery is partly used to power the power-hungry old chip. Ulefone showed us how to do better with the Power 5.
The benchmark values of the MT6750T are quite well-known. 51,000 points in the Antutu 7.1 test are not bad in general. In the price range under 115$ most smartphones only reach the 40,000 mark. However, there are exceptions that are ground-braking in this price range. For the same price, there is also a LeEco LeRee Le 3 which scores 94,000 points, even in the old Antutu 6.
Simple games can be managed with the provided performance. For more complex 3D games like Asphalt 8, however, you have to choose lower graphics settings. On average, a game like Asphalt 8 can be played quite well, but FPS dropping often occurs. Choosing the lowest setting is therefore the better choice. You also notice that the processor has to work quite hard in such games, because the temperature rises noticeably; in summer this is especially somewhat unpleasant, but bearable. A Mali-T860 MP2 GPU with 520 MHz ensures that games get going. For multitasking 4 GB LPDDR3 RAM are available. However, it is not the fastest with 3600 MB/s. Nevertheless, the equipment is good and sufficient to have some apps opened in the background without additional loading time. There’s plenty of room for apps, videos, music and photos, since the S99 offers 64 GB (150r/117w MB/s). If you like, you can increase the memory up to 256 GB with a micro-SD card.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
System – Android 8.0 Oreo
The S99 is equipped with the almost latest Android version 8.0 alias Oreo. Meanwhile, there is already 8.1, and 9.0 will be available soon, but choosing the current Google-OS is definitely the right step. The system is accompanied by a fairly recent security patch from May 2018. So far so good.
Typical for Homtom is also a quite raw Android without great treats installed. For example, the app drawer can be opened using the familiar button on the start page or by swiping upwards. The button could also be omitted and offer space for another app, for example. Navigation through the system is done by on-screen buttons, the position of which can also be changed and hidden. The operation is easy and the navigation through the menus is quite fluid. Some apps need a certain loading time, but messengers for instance open almost instantly.
In terms of security, Homtom advertises with Face Unlock and fingerprint sensor. As described, the sensor for the finger is good, but with some precision difficulties, depending on the situation. The Face Unlock is usually quite reliable, but even in slightly worse light conditions it gets more problems, which is mainly due to the moderate cameras. In addition, the unlocking process takes considerably longer than with the finger. After all, a test with an image and a smartphone could not outwit the camera. The device did not unlock. Great.
In addition to the security functions, a number of extensions are available for gesture control. Features such as the 3-finger screenshot or double-tapping the home button to deactivate the display, can be adjusted.
Personally, however, I miss the option of skipping songs in the music player with a swipe or an arrow when the display is deactivated. Double-tap-to-wake is also missing.
There is little to criticize in the system. There are no duplicate apps and an investigation with Malwarebytes also found no inconsistencies. The additional available options for gesture control are tidied up and not distributed via menu items. Here, the Homtom S99 can definitely make up a few points again.
Custom Rome is unlikely to exist. An OEM unlock of the bootloader is possible in the developer options, but the fan communities for a low-budget smartphone with Mediatek processor are small.
After a relatively good area, we now come to a rather bad one. The cameras in the low price segment are often rather bad, mostly just about useful. With the S99, “just about useful” gets a new definition. The working sensor, a 21 MP model without a name and with an alleged f/2.0 aperture, produces the above-mentioned reasonably useful photos in very good lighting conditions. But only if you have calm surgical hands. None of the photos in the gallery were taken on the first attempt. Snapshots are virtually impossible, whether with the main sensor or the selfie camera. Many of the low-budget smartphones have only moderate EIS (electronic image stabilization), but in case of the Homtom S99, the software seems to make no effort at all to compensate for even the smallest movements. When lighting conditions are no longer optimal, this effect becomes increasingly visible. If you have proved a calm hand after a few attempts, you have to resign yourself to the fact that large parts of the marginal parts of the photo are blurred. Videos are recorded at maximum in Full HD and with 30 FPS. The HDR mode as well as the image stabilization has hardly any reason to exist. The effect of these modes is virtually non-existent. From time to time a slight image brightening can be seen.
The selfie camera with 13 MP no-name sensor does not perform better either. The photos are hardly usable and have a certain image noise even in good light. Night shots are indeed sometimes possible with flash. However, this only works for shots from very close objects, which in spite of everything are still mostly blurred. If the subject is not directly and frontally illuminated by the flash, the image can be deleted right away.
In addition to all the negative aspects, there is the unnecessary fake dual camera setup, where nobody knows why it is used at all. I personally am beginning to suspect that there are remnants of the dual glass that are very cheap to buy, but who knows. For me, the camera of the S99 simply fails.
It gets better with connectivity. The Homtom S99 supports the following common frequencies:
LTE Bands: B1, B3, B7, B8, B20
WiFi is supported in the 802.11n standard, which also includes a 5 GHz band. The WiFi hotspot also works properly. Connected devices achieved good
transfer rates. Furthermore, Bluetooth version 4.0 is supported, but they slowly could consider to make some upgrades here. The Bluetooth connection was largely stable as long as there were no walls in the way. Then the range decreased drastically.
The GPS was always detected at 2-4 meters. A-GPS and GLONASS were used. Navigation took a few seconds of calculation time and then led to the destination without complications.
In terms of sensors, the smartphone mostly provides the standard ones. Thus, there are sensors for brightness and fingerprint, approximation and acceleration, as well as a compass.
At the request of some users, the review of the audio department should be somewhat more extensive, especially with regard to sound via Bluetooth.
But let’s begin with the built-in media speaker: it’s crap. Highs are no better represented than depths. The mid-range is still quite useful. You can listen to voice messages without damaging your ears, but musical enjoyment does not come up. Judging the volume only based on loudness, it is okay and even reaches quite good levels. Unfortunately, the speaker distorts quite early. Already at 60 % of the volume frequent crackling occurs. If you turn up, it really sounds tinny. So, the speaker is loud, but not nice. The output via the earpiece is a bit more successful. Voices are clearly represented and musical sounds are also reproduced quite passably, even if that is not the claim here. The S99 has a 3.5 mm jack connection. The headphones used were 1More Quad In-Ears and Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohm. The jack connection was more convincing. The audio codec supports FLAC files, allowing uncompressed playback. The volume was definitely convincing, but the treble was a bit weak. The bass was reproduced cleanly, but sometimes a little too imprecisely. There should have been a little more punch here and there. Basically, a few details were also missing, but the overall sound was completely okay. In noisy environments especially, the S99 scores with high performance.
A Philips OST690/10 was used as Bluetooth device. It is not a high-end device and not even comparable with the previous test objects. However, due to the lack of another Bluetooth loudspeaker, it had to be used. The achieved volume was also quite good here. The mid-range was a little dull. Basses were quite pronounced. The highs fell off a bit, if too many other tones were present. After initial disillusionment, the remedy was to use the equalizer. At least with a radio it was possible to connect and get started, but it was far behind a good sound experience. After reducing the bass and putting a little more emphasis on treble and mid-range, the sound improved tremendously. So you could say that the Bluetooth sound settings are rather neglected.
Homtoms S99 doesn’t make big mistakes when it comes to connectivity, especially for this price range. The audio output is mostly fine, only with Bluetooth you may have to make some adjustments.
Once again the last point in our review, the battery performance. Here, Homtom wants to beat the competition. For this purpose a 6200 mAh battery was used. The battery actually achieves good performance. In the benchmark it reached 12 hours at half brightness. A YouTube video, also at half brightness, consumed 6% in 30 minutes. During charging, the S99 gets quite warm, but still remains within an acceptable range. Charging 35 % took about one hour. After another 2 hours, the S99 was fully charged again. A quick charge power supply only moderately pushes the total charging time by about 15 minutes, but quick charge is not officially supported either. But how did the S99 perform in everyday life? Pretty good. Three days of run time were usually possible. With a lot of use, especially through games, this time drops to two days. If you use your smartphone wisely, you can reach four days, but you won’t get over the fourth day.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours