The promise of Elephone U is to finally bridge the gap between their top models and the flagship mainbrand phones. Elephone U represents the culmination of these efforts but ultimately falls short due to the main issue separating mainbrand flagships from China brand flagships — camera.
Elephone U review style
The Elephone U Pro looks very nice. Somehow we’ve come full circle, from shiny plastic to premium metal and glass, back to shiny plastic again. Still, it doesn’t look bad; it’s plastic but plastic which reflects light in a fancy fashion and is reflective to the point that it mimics some of the characteristics of glass. Note, this is the black version, the blue in the image below is from reflected blue future board on my wall.
It’s all about the front with this phone though isn’t it. Featuring a true curved AMOLED display taking up the same percentage of real estate as the $1000+ Samsung Galaxy S9. Indeed, from the front the Elephone U and Samsung Galaxy S8 look nearly identical.
Elephone U display
The display on the Elephone U looks great. Its AMOLED display, as is usual for OLED is not as smooth/retina as IPS LCD 1080P but features excellent viewing angles and color saturation.
The edges are truly curved just as with Samsung Galaxy S8 and it covers almost the entire front face.
Elephone U Antutu and Elephone U Pro GeekBench 4
Elephone U review components
- GPS — If there’s one thing Elephone got right with the Elephone U it’s GPS. GPS is great, locking onto 15+ satellites within seconds and maintaining high 30’s to low 40’s SNR on many of them at any given time.
- Compass — working without issue
- Gyroscope — working without issue
- Accelerometer — working without issue
- Linear acceleration — working without issue
- Accelerometer — working without issue
- NFC — working without issue (tested transfer of files between Oukitel K6 and Elephone U Pro)
- Gravity sensor — working without issue
- OTG — working without issue (tested USB TF-SD)
- Fingerprint sensor — working without issue. 0.5 to 1 second from the time finger is laid to screen on. Good sensitivity.
- External speaker — very good. Beyond adequate loudness. Decent depth
Elephone U OS
The OS on the Elephone U Pro is Android 8.0. Elephone U Standard gets Android 7.1.
On the Pro variant the OS is very smooth and fluid. The Snapdragon 660 SoC pushes Android butter without any hiccups. Startup is quick and apps from Play install very quickly.
The OS is mostly Vanilla Android. It received an OTA which downloaded and installed without issue.
Elephone U Pro camera
- Bokeh — Bokeh is hit or miss. When it hits it works respectably but U Pro will often show bokeh in the preview shot but not actually render the bokeh in the saved shot. I expect this to be improved upon in an upcoming OTA
- Outdoor — Outdoor shots are quite good colorwise but could be sharper. The good news is that nobody will see this unless pixel peeping very closely. Color and saturation are quite good
- HDR — HDR does a decent job; highlights are brought down appropriately and shadows lifted, though unless the scene is heavily shadowed it may be best to leave HDR off. There are times however where you want use HDR to fix blown out highlights regardless of shadows in a scene. If this is the case and if you find that that an HDR shot has lifted shadows too far, it can easily be fixed in post processing by adjusting shadows, contrast, and saturation
- Indoor — At this point shots indoors shots are no better, and often even worse, than your typical China phone. This may be something Elephone can improve in OTA updates
- Focus — Focus is very quick and accurate, and notably without focus hunting during video. Macro focus distance is not great but acceptable
- The Elephone U Pro can shoot 4K video and slow-mo
- Overall the Elephone U Pro is generally beyond adequate for digital sharing and up to 5×7 prints. You might get away with 8×10
Elephone U Pro review battery and charging
Elephone U Pro charges to full in about 2h. Maximum charge rate was 14.5W (6.4V*2.45A). I charged in 90f ambient tempertures; charging in cooler environments may improve the charging rate.
Battery life is excellent for a 3300mAh battery, giving us nearly 12 hours in our WiFi / 720P / YouTube test.
Elephone U Pro summary conclusion
The camera leaves a quite a bit to be desired but the GPS is excellent, the display looks great and it has very good battery life. It’s also got massive storage and the very powerful Snapdragon 660. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t live up the price point.
It comes down to this: If you want a Samsung Galaxy S8/S9 clone with a modern, beautiful 18:9 curved display, at half the price of the S9, the Elephone U Pro can be considered if you don’t need a camera for anything other than Instagram / Facebook or making small prints, which, I think covers just about everyone. Regardless, it still grates that Elephone hasn’t stepped up their camera game in a $400 phone.
There’s also the Elephone U non-pro which is $75 cheaper. It features the same display and style but with MTK’s most efficient SoC yet — Helio P23.