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A budget Android Lollipop smartphone from a relatively unknown brand probably isn’t your usual first choice for an upgrade. Indeed, it might – superficially at least – seem like a downgrade. But are you ignoring some decent hardware with this type of thinking?

We’ve taken a look at an Android device that has been generating some good reviews – is it really as strong as these reviews suggest? Or is this affordable handset merely a challenger to the midrange efforts of large manufacturers like Sony and Samsung?

UMI eMAX mini 4G Unlocked Cell Phone 5.0 inch FHD IPS Screen Android 5.0 Smart Phone, MSM8939 Octa Core 1.5GHz, ROM 16GB+RAM 2GB, 8.0MP+13MP (Black) UMI eMAX mini 4G Unlocked Cell Phone 5.0 inch FHD IPS Screen Android 5.0 Smart Phone, MSM8939 Octa Core 1.5GHz, ROM 16GB+RAM 2GB, 8.0MP+13MP (Black) Buy Now At Amazon

The Umi eMax Mini is lightweight and delivers the Android 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More experience with the usual iOS-inspired UI design found on Chinese smartphones. But is it worth your while? At the end of this review, we’ll be giving our test unit away to one lucky reader!

Unboxing the eMax Mini

We’ve seen some ostentatious smartphone packaging lately, most notably the Huawei P8 with its retro disc drive-style plastic box Huawei P8 Review and Giveaway Huawei P8 Review and Giveaway Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has release a 64-bit variant of the Huawei P8, available unlocked for just under $600. But why would you choose this over, say, a Samsung Galaxy S6? Read More . But as you would expect from a budget Chinese smartphone, little expense has been made on the initial presentation.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-unbox-ext

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Inside the 1990s-style, silver-grey, 6-by-6 sleeve, is a slightly smaller black box, within which you’ll find the Umi eMax Mini. Hard foam packaging separates the phone, charger and USB cable, while a brief leaflet highlights the camera, flashlight, sensors, camera, and so on.

This is not to say that the unboxing is disappointing; rather, it is brief and lets you get to grips with the phone straightaway.

What’s Inside the Umi EMax Mini?

An octa-core Snapdragon 615 CPU sits at the heart of the 139.8 x 69.6 x 8.9mm Android Lollipop-powered eMax Mini, bringing 64-bit architecture What Is 64-bit Computing? What Is 64-bit Computing? The packaging of a computer or computer hardware is crowded with technical terms and badges. One of the more prominent ones is 64-bit. Read More into the sub $200 bracket. In tandem is the once-ubiquitous Adreno 405 GPU, 16 GB ROM and 2 GB RAM. Output is via a 5.0 inch FHD IPS OGS display – more on that below.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-backoff

We’re giving away the dual SIM option; old style SIM cards are required for this device, so if you’re buying or are lucky enough to win, you’ll need adaptors or new SIMs from your providers. Where 4G LTE is available, this phone is capable of high speed mobile Internet.

The cameras on the eMax Mini are 13 MP main and 8 MP secondary. Neither is outstanding, but at the same time, they don’t disappoint either.

The eMax Mini is listed as having Eyerprint scanner technology for retinal unlocking, however we were unable to find the means of activating and using this; certainly there was no obvious app or setting, so it seems likely that this feature was dropped, or it remains purely for the larger Umi eMax.

Unusually for smartphones in 2015, the eMax Mini has a removable back plate, which is how the dual SIM What Are Dual SIM Phones, And Do You Need One? What Are Dual SIM Phones, And Do You Need One? Ever heard of dual SIM phones? My guess is you probably have. I can also guess you know what dual SIM phones are; after all, it’s not very hard to understand that a dual SIM... Read More slots and microSD slot are accessed. The 3,050mAh battery is also revealed, however this is non-removable, and as such not replaceable.

Performance and Battery Life

The low hardware requirements of the phone have a good impact on battery life. After the initial charge, the handset sat for three days on standby, without losing more than 30% of battery life.

An unusual quirk with this phone is that that wireless – supposedly 802.11 b/g/n (as noted above) –slower than you would expect. Compared to my Nexus 5 (2013) Google Nexus 5 Review and Giveaway Google Nexus 5 Review and Giveaway Approximately a year after Google released the Nexus 4, the company behind Android has come out with its successor -- the Nexus 5. Read More I would estimate the Umi eMax Mini’s wireless speed is about 60%.

This brings us to benchmarking. Antutu Benchmark presents a very low result, around half that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Don’t plan on doing anything much more extreme than making calls, social networking and web browsing!

Daily Use: Does the Umi EMax Mini Feel Like a Phone?

Chinese smartphone manufacturers seem obsessed by Apple. This is wholly obvious in the Umi eMax Mini, with the default UI presenting a collection of iOS-style icons. Beyond this, the UI seems to be very close to stock Android 5.0 Lollipop.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-lock

One thing that stands out about this phone is the display. Often unresponsive with a cheap, plasticy feel, it harks back to the cheaper resistive touchscreen phones and tablets rather than the slick usability of the modern capacitive touchscreens (what’s the difference? What Are the Differences Between Capacitive & Resistive Touchscreens? What Are the Differences Between Capacitive & Resistive Touchscreens? Modern touchscreen devices come in two forms: the capacitative touchscreen and the resistive touchscreen. Here are the pros and cons of each kind. Read More ).

OGS (One Glass Solution) technology is employed here, a technique which aims to cut the cost of capacitive displays by removing one of the layers of glass and replacing it with a thin insulating material. However the IPS OGS Full lamination technology just doesn’t deliver.

This is clearly a disadvantage.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-home

I suspect we all encounter a couple of responsiveness issues each day using smartphones, regardless of their model or manufacturer. Here, though, the problem is utterly frustrating. Like going back in time and finding that the world is a nicer place except for the lack of microwave meals, the mock-resistive touch screen is a poor choice that could send the user scurrying back to whatever smartphone they migrated from.

Another UI related problem is in the phone hardware. Unlike most Android 5.0 Lollipop devices, the Umi eMax Mini doesn’t offer software buttons. Instead, the Back/Home/Recents buttons are hardware, and while this isn’t a problem, the way they are implemented is troublesome.

Instead of baring button icons or being permanently illuminated, the buttons are largely anonymous, the LEDs only lighting up if you manage to precisely tap the button you’re aiming for. In daylight this isn’t too great a problem; in the dark, however, it makes using the phone quite difficult, as your eyesight is overwhelmed by the display brightness.

Apps and Gaming Experience

It’s always worth testing out a new phone with your favorite apps to make sure that it makes the grade. I’ve installed Twitter, Feedly Feedly: The Fast and Easy Way to Read RSS Feeds on Android Feedly: The Fast and Easy Way to Read RSS Feeds on Android What was once just a mediocre RSS app for Android has become one of the fastest, sleekest, and outright best on the Play Store. Read More and Temple Run on this device to get an idea of the level of performance I can expect. This isn’t to gauge any form of official benchmarking, merely to get an idea of how I would feel about this phone with daily use.

First up, I tried Temple Run. It plays quite well, and although the issues with the display affect the gaming experience, I lasted far longer than I expected.

Next, I moved onto Feedly. Syncing was as quick as you might expect, and sharing was also quick. Indeed, I shared directly into Twitter, which handled the data without any problems. Running Twitter independently, the expected performance was also present.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-settings

Now, often I have more extreme requirements from a smartphone; at the very least, rooting. Sadly, it seems as though there is a big question mark over whether this is possible, and how reliable it is to unlock the bootloader, root, and install a custom ROM with this device.

Overall, performance seems to be more than adequate for standard email, browsing, social networking and light gaming use.

Using the Camera

The 13 MP main and 8 MP secondary cameras are adequate, and although the MP rating is high for a budget camera, there is nothing in the software that supports or builds on this. All we get is a variation on the stock camera app, but this does include an automatic mode switching between HDR, panorama, time-lapse photography, barcode/QR code scanning and software for making faces beautiful.

In its favor, however, the software switches quickly between front and back cameras, should you fancy a fast selfie.

muo-reviews-umiemaxmini-photocomparison

The shots here demonstrate the differences between the 2013 Nexus 5 camera, and the UMI eMax Mini. There’s a wintry dullness to the image on the right, as well as a flatter focus. However, the photographic hardware is clearly there, and with a camera-focused firmware update and a more sophisticated app, the photo on the left could end up being a lot closer to the one on the right.

Should You Buy the Umi EMax Mini?

High end, “flagship” Android smartphones have struggled of late not to disappear into their own self-importance. Having a great camera is a bonus; being able to watch streaming video and videogames is also a massive advantage, and if that’s all you’re looking for, plus a build quality to make your friends and colleagues drool, then opting for a Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung sells more Android devices than any other manufacturer, and thanks to some aggressive marketing, the Galaxy brand is almost synonymous with Android. Read More or Xperia Z5 is probably your best option.

UMI eMAX mini 4G Unlocked Cell Phone 5.0 inch FHD IPS Screen Android 5.0 Smart Phone, MSM8939 Octa Core 1.5GHz, ROM 16GB+RAM 2GB, 8.0MP+13MP (Black) UMI eMAX mini 4G Unlocked Cell Phone 5.0 inch FHD IPS Screen Android 5.0 Smart Phone, MSM8939 Octa Core 1.5GHz, ROM 16GB+RAM 2GB, 8.0MP+13MP (Black) Buy Now At Amazon

Of course, it might not be what you’re looking for. You might have budgetary issues; endless mobile games might be utterly irrelevant to you; your DSLR takes great photos 10 Great Ways to Save Time & Money And Get Great Results From Your DSLR 10 Great Ways to Save Time & Money And Get Great Results From Your DSLR Photography is an expensive hobby, and it doesn’t get easier as you graduate upwards. Don't worry, beginners can take a lot away from the many photography tips and tricks on the Web. Read More already.

You might be a contrarian, never daring to bare your rebellious streak. And in all honesty, most people won’t even care that it’s not a Samsung or a Sony or a HTC.

Our verdict of the Umi eMax Mini:
The fact is, this is a perfectly good smartphone. Its build quality might not be hugely impressive and it might benchmark lower than you care to mention. But if you’re looking for a functional phone with an element of the “smart” about it, and don’t want to spend a small fortune (after all, you can buy a laptop PC for less than a flagship smartphone), and the quality of the build and the responsiveness of the touchscreen are not priorities, then the Umi eMax Mini might be exactly what you’re looking for.
510

UMI eMAX Mini Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Aiken
    July 3, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Bullshit review. The screen is actually better that that of high end phones. The unboxing is not dissapointing, just not as exiting as that from phones that cost 3 times the price. The touchscreen is not resistive. there is litterally nothing wrong with the hardware buttons.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 3, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      The review does not state a resistive touchscreen, it specifically outlines OGS and how it reacts.

      You disagree? Great, you got a better built device.

      Congratulations.

  2. Ricardo Nunez
    December 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Resistive Touchscreen on this phone. For me one reason for not buying. I hope this review is true!!!

  3. cristopher
    December 4, 2015 at 5:34 am

    This is a nice giveaway for a christmas

  4. Greg Peterson
    November 28, 2015 at 6:40 am

    I wonder what phones will look like in 20 years - brain implants - till then I would love to have this phone

  5. Edmond
    November 26, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Wow, prize phone is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :)

  6. Maria
    November 23, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks a lot for the review! i love the phone for the price

  7. Maria Cristina Cellerino
    November 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    great phone n contest

  8. Ib
    November 20, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    This looks like a KISS-phone - I'm hooked.....

  9. thrtk3
    November 20, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I do not care about brand names,this would be great for me.

  10. Alexandru
    November 20, 2015 at 10:39 am

    good phone

  11. john
    November 20, 2015 at 2:21 am

    The days of the £600 smartphone are surely numbered. You don't even have to go for raw Chinese makes either, my Asus Zenphone 6 was £150 and more than adequate.

  12. Pradip Shah
    November 20, 2015 at 1:42 am

    I must say we in India are a whole lot luckier. I can buy an unlocked 2 GB + 16 GB Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime for just about $100/- .

    • Maria
      November 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      aaah give me one plz

      • Pradip Shah
        November 27, 2015 at 2:28 am

        If you are NOT in the US you can order it on line from Amazon.in or Flipkart.com. It is apparently banned and won't work in the US.

        A couple of months ago my sister-in-law was visiting her daughter in Boston. She carried one of these with her to keep track of her email and WhatsApp over wifi. This of course worked. However when my grand-nephew - if that is the right terminology - my niece's son tried his unlocked Boston area sim in my sister-in-law's phone . No joy.

  13. Yann
    November 20, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Still Lolipop? Android 6 is out now. It's a very old version indeed. A good phone, no doubt but there's a reason it's not considered a 'flagship'.

    • Christian Cawley
      November 20, 2015 at 8:50 am

      "a very old version indeed"?

      It's the last version, and two years old. Hardly "a very old version" - such a description would suit Gingerbread (2010)...

  14. Kerri Lynn
    November 19, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    This looks like a decent phone. In the market for a new one and this one looks like a winner. Would love to own this.

  15. Gayle Deciar
    November 19, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Nice is a nice phone! People get so fascinated with known brands like Apple when in fact they're not getting the price they paid. This is one amazing phone! It is a true value for money!

  16. Jens Ken Lundstrom
    November 18, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Amazing giveaway!
    Would love to win.
    Fingers crossed!

  17. Dexter Cruz
    November 18, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Nice giveaway. Try my luck.

  18. Shivon Davis
    November 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks so much for the chance x

  19. Frank J
    November 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    There are countless options to roll the dice on when on a budget. One site is 'everbuy' with hundreds of phones Asian made. Competition is good.

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