Leather and metal is a design trend we obviously don’t see enough of in modern technology, and UHANS is here to remedy that. Their U300 model has a huge battery, but is otherwise unremarkable in specs. However, it breaks free from conventional design choices to make something… different. We applaud them for being unique in a marketplace of literally hundreds of identically specced and priced Android handsets. Available for $180 at AliExpress, read on to find out what we thought of the device.
Specifications and Design
- Octa-core MTK6750 CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 5.5″ Full HD display
- 32GB storage
- 13MP rear-facing camera; 3MP front-facing
- 4750mAh battery
- Android 6.0 with custom skin
- IP65 dust and splash proof
- LTE/4G bands not suitable for USA
- Dual-sim slot shared with micro-SD expansion (SDXC supported)
At 155 x 80 x 12mm, this is by no means a thin device. It’s about the same size as my iPhone 6 Plus with the thickest case I could find. A thick metal bevel runs around the edge, with rubber inserts blocking the ports.
This results in an IP65 rating, which means completely protected against dust and sand ingress, as well as water resistant to low pressure streams (like a shower, or pool-side splashes). However the one defining characteristic of this phone is the real leather backing, which is both pleasant to hold and something to really show off around the conference table.
Of particular note is that like most Chinese imports, the LTE bands aren’t suitable for the US, so you won’t be able to connect at 4G speeds. Outside of the US you’ll be fine, and 3G will work anywhere. This will be a deal breaker for some in populated cities, but not for those in a rural area. Where I live in the UK, we still don’t have much 4G coverage (nor fiber broadband) anyway.
Storage is expandable, but the microSD slot is shared with the second SIM slot in the side-loading tray, so you’ll need to choose one or the other.
Interface and Usability
UHANS opts for a custom skin that closley resembles iOS, with an app drawer and icons splurging out across multiple screens, rather than tucked away in an Apps folder. You can tweak the theme design, rearrange icons and add widgets though, so it’s not a huge departure from stock. Everything else is familiar – the notification shade, and capacitive buttons for back, home, and app switching. Long pressing on the home button will bring up Google search, and you can enable “Ok Google” voice search from any screen, which was responsive and worked well.
The fingerprint sensor proved to be reliable, too, unlocking the device quickly and only failing to recognise my print maybe 1 in 20 times. Overall, it’s a user friendly experience that won’t feel at all unfamiliar for stock Android users.
Performance and Battery Life
There’s no surprises in performance. In days gone by, low end Android handsets could struggle with even basic interface performance, but nowadays the hardware has caught up and the software has optimized. The U300 scores around 43,000 in Antutu, so it’s obviously lacking in raw power, but in terms of normal UI usage and low end gaming , I had no issues at all.
One of the great things about not caring how thick your phone is, is that the battery can be significantly larger. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to trade a couple of millimeters for another day of power. The 4750mAh battery is huge in comparison (the iPhone 6 Plus has just under 3000mAh; the Zenfone Max 4000mAh), and should last around 10 full hours of screen-on time. In practice that means it’ll last a good 2-3 days under light usage. The battery is non-removable, and charging occurs over a standard micro-USB port. There’s no USB-C and no wireless Qi, but those are certainly technologies I can live without at this point in time.
While 13 megapixels sounds impressive, pixel count is ultimately meaningless. A good quality but low resolution sensor can easily give you better pictures than a high resolution bad sensor. In the case of the U300, it’s not bad, but it’s obviously no match for high-end handsets either.
Here’s some comparisons with the iPhone 6 Plus – obviously, not fair comparisons since the iPhone costs 3 times as much – but it does make the differences more obvious. Images are all straight off the camera with no adjustment – just the default camera settings, merged together in photoshop for a side by side comparison shot and optimized for web display.
The lens on the U300 is slightly wider angle – so more of the surroundings are taken into the photo. Images from the U300 are also larger and higher resolution than those of the iPhone 6 Plus (4608 x 3456 @4.7mb on the U300 vs 4032 x 3024 @2mb on the iPhone).
On a reasonably well lit photo in the kitchen, the U300 actually seems to outperform the iPhone 6 Plus, giving what appears to be a more accurate color balance.
Outdoors however, foliage appeared to be quite oversaturated. This could be due to wrong automatic scene detection, but I’ve left both devices at their defaults since that’s what most people are going to do.
Another outdoor shot shows that the white balance is in fact wrong. HDR was disabled on both devices, but you can see that the iPhone captures more of the detail and dynamic range between the sky and the walls, while the U300 overexposes both so they’re far whiter than they should be. On this miserably overcast British day, the iPhone definitely shows a more accurate representation of the color.
The image sensor on the U300 is smaller, resulting in a higher ISO for all shots. But in low light particularly, the U300 ramps up the ISO and introduces terrible noise in the process. Noise reduction is turned on by default. This shot has been zoomed to highlight the issue.
Still, it’s an impressive camera given the price point, and you can certainly take some good shots with it.
Should You Buy a UHANS U300?
The lack of US LTE band support will be a deal breaker from some, but if you don’t have 4G coverage anyway or live outside of the US, the U300 is a solid performer with reasonable camera. In a sea of budget Android devices, the U300 maintains some unique and divisive design features that absolutely won’t appeal to all – but if you’re into leather and chunky metal – and want a monstrously big battery – then this is the phone for you.
Buy yours from AliExpress for $180.
Leather: love it or loathe it, we admire UHANS for actually doing something unique with their device. Specs are unremarkable, but a big battery and 5.5″ full HD screen make this a solid budget choice.