UMi is a company that is otherwise unknown for being a top contender in the budget smartphone market. Their latest offering, the UMi Super, aims to take on a higher end of the flagship market, while still keeping an affordable price point. Can it compete? Let’s take a look and find out.
UMi Super Specs
150.8 x 75 x 8.5 mm
Screen Type & Resolution
IPS LCD, 1080 x 1920 Pixels
MediaTek Helio P10 MT6755
CPU & GPU
2.0 GHz Cortex-A53, x8; Mali-T860
32GB Internal; expandable upto 256GB
Dual, Micro SIM
Quick Charging as per PE+
LTE FFD: 1,3,7,20
Design and Build Quality
The unboxing experience was indicative of the experience you would be receiving from using this phone. The box wasn’t made of cardboard like with most devices, rather the Super came in a tin case that complimented the build of the product. The box’s contents were basic, holding only a quick start guide, a sim removal tool, a charging cable, European charging brick, and the phone itself.
The build of the phone consists of a two part glass and metal construction. The rear has two plastic faux metal bands which cover what I presume are the connectivity antennae. The camera is rear center, just above the dual tone flash and fingerprint scanner. The front is very minimalistic, with only the earpiece and front camera being immediately present.
The front chin of the phone houses a single circle notification LED. The LED is bright enough that you won’t have a hard time noticing it, but it’s not too bright as to become overbearing. It is multi-colored, to show which apps have notifications awaiting. You can change which color shows for which type of notification, but the options are still rather limited. You can also choose to have it constantly pulsing if you want.
On the top of the phone we find the 3.5 mm headphone jack, and at the bottom is the USB C connection port and dual bottom-firing speakers. More on those speakers later.
On the right side of the phone is the standard volume and power button, with the SIM Card/SD Card slot on the left side with a ridged special function button. The buttons are very tactile, and respond well, giving a firm click when pressed. Something I noticed on my unit was that the power button looked like it was not centered on the chassis properly, giving the appearance of it being slanted.
One thing that stands out about this phone’s build is just how thick it is. The Super packs a large battery, and does not mind giving up a little girth to accommodate it. This made holding the phone slightly easier, as it provided a solid edge to grip onto.
Performance on the UMi Super is one of the phone’s strong suits. Throughout my day to day usage, which includes plenty of redditing, watching YouTube, chatting on hangouts, and light gaming, the phone hardly ever stalled. The 4GB of RAM compliments the Super’s performance nicely. The only time the phone ever got warm was when I was setting it up for the first time, installing all of my apps.
During the AnTuTu benchmark testing, the phone did stutter quite a bit on the 3D portions of the test,which isn’t a surprise given MediaTek’s sub-par GPU offerings. The test score does seem to stand up well. It was able to outscore the Elephone P9000, which has a similar Mediatek SOC and Octa-Core Cortex-A53 chip. It wasn’t able to stand up to the top tier phones, but that’s expected out of such a package.
Galaxy Note 5
CPU and System
The Super is powered by a Mediatek Helio P10 chipset. A MT6755 with Eight Cortex-A53 cores clocked in at around 2.0 GHz.
As is typical with most devices, subsequent runs of AnTuTu show a slight reduction in scores. Interestingly, the scores do not continuously drop. In normal day-to-day usage, this is unlikely to be problematic.
The Super seems to level out around the 50,400 range and we’ve had a hard time trying to heat up the device further with just AnTuTu. This phone has powersaving-oriented cores, which ultimately sacrifice speed for stability and longevity.
GPU and Gaming
The Mediatek comes equipped with a Mali-T860 GPU. During the BaseMark X testing, it was very easy to tell that the Super would drop a frame or two every once in awhile. Looking at other device’s scores, it’s easy to see that the Super might not stack up among the rest.
Galaxy Note 5
During intense gaming, the Super can indeed generate a bit of heat. The metal body will dissipate the heat relatively quickly and effectively. The Super never became too warm to be used or held.
Storage and Memory
The UMi Super comes with 32GB of internal memory, but that’s not all you get. There is a microSD slot that can hold up to 256GB. This is a good thing, seeing as how there are still phone makers around that seem content selling phones that are much more expensive than the Super, that only come with 16GB storage and no MicroSD card slot.
The flash storage provided is fair, with sequential read speeds of 250.75 MB/s and random read speeds of 28.54 MB/s. For comparison’s sake, here’s how the Super stacks up to the Note 5.
Galaxy Note 5
As shown earlier, the 4GB of RAM serves the multi tasking experience well. On average, I was able to have 20 apps open at any given point before any of them would have to reload when being opened from the Recent Apps menu. A major pain point with many budget phones is launcher redraws, something I haven’t seen much of on the Super.
It’s been a trend recently for smartphone displays to pack as many pixels as possible, with 2k resolution becoming the standard. The Super doesn’t conform to this trend though, choosing to use a 1080p resolution panel. It does fit in with a sea of 5.5 inch LCD displays, however. The display is plenty bright, making sunlight viewing easy. Because it’s so bright, you will need a screen dimming app at night time to keep your eyesight.
The display didn’t seem too warm or cold to me, but there is a hefty amount of settings to let you adjust it to suit your personal needs.
Something to note about the panel is that there is light bleed present on my unit, and I was able to spot it within my first few hours of use. The display does seem to fade out on the edges when viewing at steep angles, but isn’t really a problem when looking at the panel straight on.
Something else I noticed on the display panel is that it developed a spot after a few days. It’s most noticeable on white screens, and when I press around the spot on the display it will accent where the spot is. We reported this spot to UMi. They said that we are the first to report such a flaw, which leads us to believe that there was a problem with our particular unit and that it’s not a widespread problem.
One of the weaker points of the Super is its speakers. They are bottom-firing, with the standard motif of having one real one and one fake one. The speakers are particularly quiet, and I found myself having to turn the volume up all the way constantly. To put it into perspective, my old Moto X 2014 was louder at half volume than the Super was at full volume.
Headphone performance was better, being able to get as loud as most of the other phones I’ve used. The quality wasn’t the best, and definitely left something to be desired.
Smartphone cameras now a days have gotten drastically good. The 13 MP sensor on the Super, is not all that special however. Below are a few sample shots taken outdoors and indoors.
The front 5 MP sensor is the same story as the back. It can capture some clear details and it’s good enough for getting a funny snapchat in here or there, but ultimately not the best for super high quality captures.
Since cameras on smartphones are becoming so quality-packed, the Super has a hard time keeping up. If you decided that you wanted to use a third party camera app, such as the Google Camera app, it should be noted that pictures taken on other apps come out much dimmer than those taken on the main app. If you want a great camera on your phone, then you might want to look at other options.
UMi states that they are working on improvements to the camera which will come in a future OTA software update.
Battery Life and Charging
The most impressive part about the Super is the phone’s battery. It packs a 4,000mAh battery, and I honestly had a hard time killing this thing. I received the phone on a Wednesday, and for the rest of the week I only had to charge it twice.
My first Run from 100% to 5% lasted me from 7am Thursday morning until 6pm Friday evening, getting about 8.5 hours of screen-on time. My second run from 100% to 5% lasted me from around 4am Saturday morning until 4:30 Sunday evening, coming in with 9 hours of screen-on time. These usages are as close to real as I could get, trying to make up for a lack of cell reception. Because of incompatibility with the US networks and the bands in the UMi, I was left without signal for a long time in my rural Tennessean home.
During my usage, my unit of the Super had a particular problem. When the screen state was off, the phone would only check for notifications for system apps. I had initially assumed this was a measure taken to extend battery life, but soon noticed that I was the only one having these problems. After a factory reset, and whitelisting all the apps I needed on the background tasks cleaner menu, I was able to see notifications come regularly. UMi was made aware of my notification issue, and assured us that this is not normal behavior that might be caused by our unit being pre-production.
When we did a Geekbench battery test, running the battery from 100% to 0% at max brightness, the phone was able to last up to 6 hours and 9 minutes. That time beat the Nexus 6P by ten minutes, and was ten minutes shy of the Galaxy Note 5’s time. Considering the processor employed, that is not a bad result.
Software and UX
The UMi Super is advertised as coming with Stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow. That claim is correct, as it ships with a rather stock build of Marshmallow with very few additions here and there. Something to note about the software, some built-in apps such as the web browser will not run unless all permissions are granted, meaning it needs access to your camera, microphone, location, etc. at all times to function.
The Super lets you choose between on-screen software buttons, or off-screen capacitive buttons. The on-screen buttons behave very much like you would expect, with the option included to swap the back and recents keys, as well as a hide button to hide them if you are going to be in one app for a while. The capacitive buttons are fairly responsive. The LED notification light acts as the home button, with a back and menu key flanking it on either side. You can change the order of the back and menu key, but you cannot change their pressing functions. To access the recents on the capacitive keys, you have to hold the home button, meaning the Google Now On Tap functionality available in the soft keys is not present on the hardware keys. The capacitive keys do not have any LEDs to tell you where they are, so you are left just guessing where they might be at first use.
There are small bits of theming and additions throughout the OS. The notification shade and quick settings panel both sport a transparent black overlay, as opposed to the regular material theme. This change is not thorough, with quick settings sub menus still retaining their material color. the only other place the system has a dark theme is in the calculator, which is themed black, for whatever reason, since the display is an LCD panel and will still have to light up every pixel anyway.
There are some custom quick settings available, such as a toggle between different sound modes that will adjust your ringer/vibration accordingly, a Battery saver, and a HotKnot toggle. Adding and removing these custom toggles in the System UI tuner menu will cause a system UI crash, interestingly enough.
There are a few pre-installed applications, such as a flashlight app, a backup and restore app, FM radio app, SIM toolkit, and a sound recorder. These are all utility additions, and don’t affect performance at all. None of the pre-installed apps can be disabled, however, besides the Messaging and Phone apps, so it’s ultimately an annoying bloat practice.
The Super will let you set the Special Use Button to open any app you want, however it will not let you activate it while the screen is off, or set it to change any settings, just open apps (with activity-trigger apps, though, that can be worked around). Another addition is a Turbo Download option, that will let you use a mix of WiFi and Cellular Data to get the fastest download possible. Because of band incompatibility in the US, we were unable to test the speeds.
If you’ve ever used the software on the Elephone P9000, you’ve used the software on the UMi Super. With the exception of the half-finished dark theme, the Super is running the a similar software set, with the same feature brandings.
The fingerprint scanner on the Super is rear-mounted, and sits in a nice dimple, reminiscent the finger holding dimples on the Moto line of phones. It is a capacitive reader, meaning you will not need to power on the display for it to read. The scanner is fast, given that it can read the finger the first time: more often than not, I had to recenter my finger for it to read.
While a solid and well thought-out device, some aspects of the phone felt heavily derived from other offerings on the market, and it brings most of the flaws you’d expect out of a phone in this price-range. When I read a few past reviews on the XDA site, I had noticed that there were a few phones that the Super took a fair bit of inspiration from.
Many users on Reddit have called out the UMi website for looking a bit “too good to be true”, starting that one should not trust the company to deliver a quality product. While I initially agreed with those sentiments, actually using the device changed my mind. If you head over to UMi’s community forums, you can see just how other users of this phone feel.
But overall, the UMi Super is a pretty sturdy Android device for the price. I mostly enjoy using it and the way it feels in the hand. The software is close to stock in functionality, and the phone itself is well made with a decent display (if your unit doesn’t have lightbleed) for its cheap price point. The only glaring issues that really bothered me with the phone have to be the connectivity issues and lack of cell service I faced. That aside, the feature that is the most attractive is the Super’s battery, which at times seems like it will just never die. If you can live with a budget device and need insane battery life, you should consider the phone — but first, you must make sure you can live with the downsides and consequences.
*This review was sponsored by UMi; however, 100% of the opinions expressed above are those of Jake Westall and this article has been unaltered by UMi.