With Vernee Active, the increasingly competitive market for outdoor smartphones is becoming even more interesting. While many people still think of rugged phones as a rather unwieldy, thick smartphone with a weak processor and below-average display, more and more manufacturers are obviously making an effort to meet the increasing demands in terms of a design suitable for everyday use and high-end hardware. With the Vernee Active, the manufacturer has made a pretty good coup, especially when it comes to design. Also the hardware is absolutely respectable. The 6GB of RAM should meet all requirements and the gigantic 128GB internal memory is not yet standard even in the flagship class. With the Helio P25, the Chinese manufacturer has chosen a popular and moderately powerful processor. NFC is not missing either. We have found out for you whether the outdoor smartphone only performs well on paper or is also suitable for daily use.
Design and build quality
Vernee Active is the first outdoor smartphone that does not immediately identify itself externally as such. The front, in particular, has no striking “rugged” elements. Many other manufacturers put a lot of effort in producing an outdoor smartphone with a “normal” design, and Vernee finally did it. With a thickness of only 10.5mm Vernee sets a new record in the outdoor segment. In addition, the haptics is convincing due to the impressive “Double 2.5D curve design”. Despite the surface dimensions of 155 x 74mm, the device with a 5.5-inch display is absolutely safe in the hand. In practice, even one-handed operation worked well. The weight of 200g is absolutely fine.
Kevlar is used on the rear side. This is probably primarily intended to increase the resistance, but in the rarest cases it is the rear that breaks. Nevertheless, I see a big advantage in this choice of materials, because it simply feels great and looks very chic. The “military material” (as Vernee calls it) is interrupted by a plastic strip in the middle. Behind it you find the NFC module. The fingerprint sensor is also located under the camera. The lens of the camera itself does not protrude, but the whole module is protected by a slightly raised metal frame. The transition to the metal and hard rubber frame is made of stable plastic. On the side of the frame you find the buttons, which all have a pleasant feedback, but are somewhat wobbly when applying force. The 3.5mm headphone port is located at the top and is protected by a tight rubber cap, as is the USB Type-C port at the bottom of the phone. The card tray for SIM and Micro SD cards is protected by a cap and unfortunately lies a little deep, which requires some effort when opening.
The front is framed by plastic. This means that the device does not lie directly on the glass when you put it down. This greatly reduces the risk of scratches on the display. The protruding frame disturbs a little at the sides. The transition there should not have been that noticeable for my taste. Protruding slats on the upper and lower edge would have sufficed. On the other hand, hardware buttons with the usual Android functions are a positive thing. These are unfortunately not illuminated, but can also be found in the dark after a period of getting used to them. The assignment of each button can be changed in the settings. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has dispensed with a notification LED.
Vernee Active outdoor capability
On the outside, Vernee Active appears very robust and it also proved its resistance in the endurance test. Since it is IP68 certified, we have also experimented with water. Vernee Active defied a water bath without any problems. The operation is still possible even with a wet display. So it is guaranteed to be used even in the rain. However, it should be noted that the manufacturer promises water resistance only at depths of up to 1.5 meters. Vernee Active showed no weaknesses in the drop test. Falls from a height of about one meter were not a problem for the outdoor smartphone. Furthermore, the device even works after it has been exposed to sub-zero temperatures for a longer period of time. We just put it in the freezer for a while.
The outdoor properties of Vernee Active are unfortunately limited exclusively to the robust and waterproof housing of the smartphone. Unlike Ulefone Armor 2, for example, no additional sensors (e.g. air pressure sensor) are installed and the software also has no indication of outdoor capability. So it is not a full-blooded rugged phone as I would like to call it here. In my opinion, the outdoor character should be present throughout the entire product.
Vernee Active scope of delivery
The accessories supplied with Vernee Active are limited to the bare essentials. In addition to the device itself, a USB Type-C charging cable and a 9V/2A Quick-Charge adapter are included. Furthermore, you find a user manual and the SIM ejection tool in the box. You won’t find a screen protector.
With a Full-HD IPS display, the 5.5-inch smartphone should meet most people’s requirements. Thanks to approx. 401 pixels per inch (dpi), no individual pixels are visible. A higher resolution would have been too much at this point. Vernee advertises the display with the name “JDI incell”. JDI stands for Japan Display, which is a joint venture of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi. Incell stands for the technology that has existed since 2012 and makes it possible to make the phone flatter. The quality of the display is therefore at a high level. You can see the good quality above all in the nice sharpness, great-looking colors and beautiful contrasts. Only the brightness could be a little higher for my taste. With just under 380 lux, this could be better on an outdoor smartphone. After all, you want to be able to use it outside in the sunshine without restriction.
A Gorilla Glass protects the display from scratches and breakage. The surface seems to be coated, as it is pleasantly smooth. Inputs are implemented quickly and precisely. Vernee Active can bypass up to 5 points of contact at the same time.
The heart of Vernee Active is the energy-efficient Helio P25 processor by MediaTek. It is not a high-end hardware, but it should be able to meet most requirements. It houses 8 cores, of which 4 clocked at up to 2.4 GHz and the other 4 at 1.7 GHz in the test. This is more than sufficient for all everyday tasks. In practice, there were never any problems navigating. Everything runs smoothly and leaves nothing to be desired. Only in high-end 3D games Vernee Active shows performance weaknesses. It does not get unpleasantly hot. These impressions from the practical test are also reflected in the benchmark results. The 80,000 points at Antutu are already quite respectable, but still far from the values of the high-end devices.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result 3D Mark Result
Vernee Active easily takes on multitasking on a grand scale thanks to its big memory. Altogether 4 GB of the 6GB are available. The internal memory is a great 128 GB. This should be enough for some pictures, songs, videos and app data. The main memory had a good speed of almost 7 GB/s in various test runs. This is a top value in the Vernee Active price segment. Also the internal memory is not exactly slow in reading as well as in writing with approx. 200 MB/s. In practice, apps are actually opened in no time and long loading times are rare. In terms of performance, Vernee Active exceeds our expectations of an outdoor smartphone. The large and fast memories (RAM and internal) are especially convincing.
Regarding the system, Vernee Active chooses a Stock-Android in the version 7.0. The manufacturer hardly touched the surface. We welcome this decision. There’s not even a gallery app, instead, the app by Google is used. Pre-installed apps are limited to the standard Google applications and an alternative keyboard. I deactivated it after it showed me advertisements in the status bar. A special feature of the system is a round options menu, which is called up via the “smart button”. This is attached to the right side. In the options menu that appears, however, you will only find the quick settings that are created when you drag down the status bar. In my opinion, this is not a great added value. But one or the other may use it.
There is also an ultra-power-saving mode. If this is activated, only limited system functions are available and the display switches to black and white view. These measures are intended to multiply the battery life.
For me, the camera is an important criterion with outdoor smartphones. These devices are intended for outdoor use and especially there people like to use cameras to take great snapshots. Vernee Active houses a 16 MP camera. With this camera, it is possible to take useful pictures in good lighting conditions. The sharpness is great if you don’t have too shaky hands. The colors sometimes look a little pale, but occasionally strong. This seems to depend strongly on how you set the focus. The focus is usually found quickly. The saturation can be set to “high” in the settings. In my opinion, this makes the pictures much more beautiful. But that’s a matter of taste. Taking macro shots is difficult only when the lens is less than 5 cm away from the subject. The dynamic range is just fine. Unfortunately, the HDR mode does not have a particularly strong effect either. The trigger time is very fast.
Videos can be recorded in FullHD. They are recorded fairly fluidly. An electronic image stabilizer can be activated in the settings. Unfortunately, however, this is unusable, since the image automatically darkens considerably when it is activated. That seems to be a bug. Hopefully, it will be fixed by a future update.
The selfie camera has a 8MP resolution. Looking at the self-portraits, however, it’s hard to believe. They are blurred and pixelated. Probably an extreme interpolation takes place, which leads to blurredness. HDR can even be activated in selfie mode. In practice, however, this does not improve the result.
Connectivity and communication
FDD-LTE (4G)： 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/19/20/26
WCDMA/UMTS (3G) ： B1/2/4/5/8
GSM (2G) ： B2/3/5/8
In practice, the 4G reception was always stable. Although I was mainly in Berlin during the test period and therefore can’t say much about the reception in the countryside, there should be no problems on this point. The card slot accepts two SIM cards, or one SIM card + one Micro-SD card. The latter will probably not be needed by many due to the big 128 GB internal memory. Vernee Active performs well when it comes to WLAN. Both (2.4 and 5 GHz) frequencies are supported. When determining the location, the robust phone also runs on two tracks. Navigation is made possible by Glonass and GPS. During the test, problems occurred during standstill. When I was no moving with the car, Google Maps suddenly thought I had already turned or I was going in the opposite direction. So navigation with this device is not 100% reliable. Bluetooth version 4.0 is also supported. NFC is on board for short-distance data exchange. In the connectivity category, Vernee does not make a mistake and is very convincing.
The speaker could not convince in the test. The sound is very flat and at higher volumes the sound reproduction becomes very unpleasant. The microphone, on the other hand, does a good job. This also makes the hands-free function easy to use when making calls.
Ulefone Armor 2 has set the bar very high for the sensors. Vernee Active cannot quite keep up. Unlike the Ulefone device, no air pressure sensor is installed here, for example. However, the standard sensors are available. Light, acceleration and proximity sensors function reliably. Vernee also includes a gyroscope. The fingerprint sensor impressed in the test with its pleasantly fast unlocking and good recognition rate. The finger was always detected in at least 9 out of 10 attempts. However, the fingertip must not be greasy or wet.
Vernee provides the Active with a large battery (4200mAh). The device also knows how to use its energy resources economically. In the PCMark battery test, it lasted for 10.5 hours. In other reports, I also saw values of up to 12 hours. In practice, the device can even last up to 2.5 days. The consumption is extremely low especially in stand-by mode. Depending on the intensity of use, the battery lasts only 1.5 days. It is rather difficult to consume the battery completely (100% to 0%) in one day. Charging the battery takes less than 2 hours thanks to Quick-Charge. Up to 80% the battery charges about 1% per minute, then it slows down.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours