If you haven’t heard of the Doogee X5, it held the record for the cheapest 5″ smartphone on the market. The X5 Max sticks to the same price point, but adds 67% more battery capacity, a metal outer rim, and a fingerprint sensor. All for just $65. No – that isn’t a typo.
Specifications and Design
- MTK6580 Quad Core CPU
- 1GB Ram, MALI-4oo GPU
- 8GB onboard storage
- Fast fingerprint reader
- 2MP, f/2.0 front camera
- 5MP, f/1.8 rear camera
- Dual SIM card slots; one micro, one nano
- MicroSD expansion slot
- Replaceable battery
- Runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow
The X5 Max makes no attempt to fit in with the latest trend of absurdly thin devices: it’s a smidgen under 10mm thick, with a plastic rear panel and metal rim around the edge. A fingerprint sensor also sits on the underside, where your index finger would naturally rest.
The rear panel pulls easily off to reveal the dual-SIM slots and MicroSD expansion, as well as a replaceable 4000mAh battery.
Despite this, it doesn’t feel “cheap” at all. Slightly rugged, well built, and comfortable in the hand in how I would best describe it. I don’t feel like it’s going to drop out of my sweaty hands – unlike the smooth, super thin brushed metal and rounded corners of any recent iPhone.
This is functional, and that’s how smartphones should be. There’ll be no bendgate here.
The screen is incredible for the price – 5 inches of IPS display at 1280 x 720px, or roughly 294 pixels-per-inch. At that density, it’s equivalent to a Retina iPhone model, and I certainly haven’t been able to discern any pixels. If you’re upgrading from another budget model, you’re really going to appreciate the added screen real estate.
Running only a slightly modified Android Marshmallow out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised by the new features offered, like smart gestures to directly access the camera and Google Now “on tap”. Unfortunately, these were a little unreliable in practice. Double tap to wake and “draw a C shape to open the camera” sometimes didn’t work at all – as if the phone had decided now was a good time to run other background tasks that were clearly more important, and was ignoring anything but a physical button push.
The trouble with these kind of small, time-saving gestures is that they either have to be completely reliable, or they may as well not exist at all. The same was true of the fingerprint sensor – while it read my print very quickly, more often than not it simply rejected it as an invalid print.
Inside of the UI, everything runs pleasantly smooth. Menus are quick to open and there’s little stutter when scrolling through apps. Antutu scores it at just less than 24,000 – roughly equivalent to a Galaxy S4 or Nexus 5 – so while this is obviously a low end smartphone, it’s certainly not a terrible, laggy, experience.
Although the device struggles with intensive 3D rendering, the average lightweight casual game runs well, and I had no issues running something like Crossy Road.
There’s a few curious apps which ship with the device, most notably a custom browser with a suspiciously Internet Explorer-like icon, which just wouldn’t launch unless I gave it permission to access my contacts, camera, and microphone (which I refused). A quick visit to the Google Play store to grab Chrome sorted that out, and none of my regular apps had issues launching.
Otherwise, you’ve basically got a native Android 6.0 implementation, albeit with some minor UI tweaks.
The whopping 4000mAh really shines here, and in testing against the iPhone 6, Doogee claims it can outlast the competitor while playing a movie full screen.
Without a SIM inserted, but running on home Wi-Fi to check emails and other notifications, the phone lasted well over a week on standby. With average daily use, 1.5-2 days was normal.
There are obviously compromises that need to be made in order to produce a smartphone that costs just $65 including shipping across the world from China – so what are they?
Apart from the lacklustre internal specs, the Wi-Fi is limited to B/G/N speeds (no AC). There’s no NFC (or Android Pay), no OTG USB port, nor is there LTE/4G network access. On paper, it sounds a little “last generation” on the connectivity front. In practice though, it was fast enough on my home Wi-Fi for everything I needed, and I’ve never had 4G reception out here in rural Cornwall anyway, so I wouldn’t have noticed a difference there. “Fast enough” is the best descriptor here.
The cameras are also quite … unremarkable. They’re fine for video chat, and you could get away with posting the results to Instagram, but if you’ve been looking to replace a digital camera, this isn’t going to cut it. They’re not terrible by any means – at the maximum width I can embed here, this sample looks fine.
But after zooming in a couple of times (to the native resolution that photos are saved at), you can really start to see the software interpolation.
Should You Buy a Doogee X5 Max?
I want to preface my conclusion by saying that I’m normally an iPhone 6S Plus user. Don’t hold that against me, but still – I’m genuinely impressed by the quality of components and stock experience offered by the Doogee X5 Max. I’d get frustrated if I was forced to use this as my main smartphone all the time, but it’s a competent device that’ll serve you well as a budget smartphone. This isn’t a device for anyone that’s used to a $600 handset. It is however a low-end device with a lovely big screen and long battery life.
As an upgrade from an existing budget device, perhaps something smaller – it’s a huge step up. As a first smartphone, it’s a low cost entry point that won’t result in a horrible first time user experience. And frankly, at just $65, it’s cheap enough to just keep around as a backup, or take on camping trips when you want something a little more rugged that’s not going to stress you out if it gets a scratch on the back cover. It’s been genuinely refreshing to use a device that I haven’t felt the immediate need to cover with bubble-wrap.
The Doogee X5 Max competent device with nice, big screen and long battery life – perfect as a first smartphone or budget upgrade. At $65, it’s a steal.