We live in a great time when even the most affordable smartphones may look quite stylish, and some – even premium. And today we will look at just such a case. Elephone S1 – this good looking smartphone from China cost only $85, but it is made of glass and metal and has a fingerprint scanner. At the first examination, this sleek and slim device is a sincere admiration. But what lies behind the beautiful appearance? How does smartphone show itself in actual operation? This is what we will try to find out in this review.

Elephone S1 – first impressions

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If this smartphone was shown me 2-3 years ago with the logo disguised behind, I would easily believe that this flagship or image-line device from a famous brand. In fact, here it is the second case. As far as I understand, the index “S” precisely means the relation of the smartphone to image lineup. But the company in this case is not famous, only the Chinese B-brand Elephone – promising, but still little-known in our area.

Elephone S1

However, the first time I get the smartphone out of the box, I was fascinated by it. Elephone S1 – small, thin, pleasant to the touch piece of glass and metal. And seems like it assembled perfectly. The smartphone fits nicely in the hand. Let’s see, was the first impression deceptive and whether the form corresponds to the content in this case.

Elephone S1

Main carachteristics of Elephone S1

If you look at the numbers with experienced eye, it becomes clear that this is a typical low-cost phone. Characteristics of the smartphone, frankly, are not impressive. Although, what did you expect from the device for $85?

  • CPU: MTK6580, 1,3 GHz, 4 cores
  • GPU: Mali-400 MP
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • State memory: 8 GB
  • Memory card supporting: up to 64 GB (microSD)
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g/n
  • Mobile networks: GSM+WCDMA – 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3G: WCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz
  • Display: 5″, IPS, 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Main camera: 8 MP (Interpolation up to 13 MP), autofocus, light
  • Front camera: 2 MP
  • Battery: 1800 mAh
  • Dimensions: 138,9 x 69,7 x 6,9 mm
  • Weight: 145 g

Elephone S1 package

In the white box of thick cardboard we find the smartphone itself securely packed in a protective frame made of solid foam, a small 1A power adapter, USB/microUSB cable, clip for SIM/microSD tray, a small booklet with instructions and bonuses – a film on the screen and a simple transparent silicone bumper-case.

Elephone S1

By the way, one film is already affixed on the glass from the factory, so the bundle includes a replacement. And the presence of the cover is especially nice – you are unlikely to be pleased with the process of finding a protective accessory for an exotic smartphone in local retail. And while you are waiting for cover from China, you can inadvertently damage the smartphone. He’s a glass on the front and rear, but more about that below. In general, equipment is good, thank you. Although the headset could be also put.

Elephone S1

Design, matherials, assembly

Massive metal frame silver color on the perimeter and two glass front and back. Somewhere we have already seen this, but I can not remember, write own versions in the comments. Nevertheless, I suggest to reject all the associations come to mind, because on the market today there are very few completely original smartphones recognizable appearance. Therefore, I do not see anything unusual in Elephone S1 design. At the same time I find smartphone quite beautiful. He is thin and classically proportional.

I got the white version of the smartphone, and when the display is turned off, it seems that the screen is placed from the one side of the metal frame to the other, and the fields above and below the screen (by the way, they are the same height, which also gives the design integrity) not high. But when you turn on the screen, you know that you cheated a little – around the display is a fairly wide black field. Actually, I’m not surprised – almost all Chinese (and not only) are doing it.

To assemble Elephone S1 I have no complaints – it is excellent. Details fitted precisely, no gaps, no creaks and crunches. Only the buttons are hanging slightly and this can be heard when shaking the device. Actually, it looks smart phone very accurate, there is in the hand of a monolithic device, almost nothing to complain about.

Now, about the location of components. It’s a classic. The screen on the front side. Above him, the front camera, earpiece with a grid, light and proximity sensors. LED for notifications is missing. There is nothing under the screen, no physical navigation buttons.

Right – sufficiently massive oval power/unlock button coated with embossed radial pattern and coupled volume button.

Elephone S1

On the left is a two-sided tray – one side for the micro-SIM, and the second side is combined, a seat for nano-SIM or microSD card.

Elephone S1

Below we see the plastic inserts for antenna, microphone (the only one, by the way), microUSB port with plastic edging and 6 cutouts of the lattice of the main speaker.

On the top – again two plastic inserts and a 3.5 mm audio jack, which is also framed by plastic.

On the back side Elephone S1 the housing is a one-piece glass panel on which are located: a small round camera lens in a metal frame, slightly protruding above the plane of the glass, fingerprint scanner in the middle, and neat, but too big (in my opinion) the manufacturer’s logo. Good that it is not on the front side.

Elephone S1

Ergonomics of Elephone S1

Smartphone lies well in the hand due to the relatively small size. It is easy to control the device with one hand.

The buttons are also positioned almost perfectly (little high, but not critical). They are equally well fall under the finger when using both right and left hand. The power button has the relief and it is easy to distinguish it from a smooth volume keys.

Although the glass back (or maybe because of it) Elephone S1l sticks wel to the hand, but the metal side faces are quite slippery. But when the smartphone is on some flat, then it can easily slip from it, if there is a slight tilt. It is good that the manufacturer put the case in the package. In addition to protecting the body it also helps to quickly find the fingerprint scanner, and protects the camera from scratches.

Display

Then I was surprised once again. Where Chinese manufacturers manage to find such screens for low-cost devices? Elephone S1 display with a resolution of 720×1280 pixels made on IPS technology with all its consequences. The screen is bright and contrast, brightness setting range is high. Colour reproduction is natural, which is typical for IPS-matrix, although the temperature is a little cold, but it is not critical. Viewing angles are wide, the colors are not distorted with linear deviations, but the contrast drops slightly. But with diagonal deviations glares on a dark background and color distortion of dark shades are visible. But this can even be found in the flagship devices. In general, the screen is above average, and considering cost of the smartphone it could be called excellent.

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But not everything is perfect as it seems at first glance. Upon further inspection of the screen, I noticed the first problem. Even with a light touch, there are barely noticeable vertical white stripes appear on display. Stripes are arranged with the same pitch and visible on a dark background (for example, in the curtain notifications, where I noticed this effect). Stripes disappear after a few seconds if you do not touch the screen. To see firsthand what was going on is possible in this video:

I had to carefully examine this issue. I searched the internet reviews of Elephone S1 buyers to see whether there were similar cases, and as a result I have to admit that the problem probably not a mass. I guess I was “lucky” – got a defective copy. However, I must warn about such a phenomenon.

The second unpleasant moment was found on the protective glass. At the bottom I found a small area, which is not coated with an oleophobic coating. This area is visually different from the rest of the screen when viewed from a certain angle. With the screen turned on, the defect is absolutely impossible to notice. I must admit that maybe it’s my fault – immediately after unpacking the device, I tore off the protective film, which goes from the factory. Perhaps oleophobic coating has been damaged at this moment. So – it’s difficult for me to have a comment on this issue. Here’s the video:

In any case, the film affixed on the screen from the factory, also one more is attached. If you use the smart phone with a protective film on the glass, the problem described above does not apply to you.

Hardware and capabilities

We’ve already figured out that Elephone S1 – a low-cost smartphone, so hardware is typical for inexpensive devices. MTK6580 Quad processor clocked at 1.3 GHz and Mali 400-MP GPU provide the basic performance required for the functioning of the smartphone on Android 6.0, sufficient for undemanding users. Synthetic test results can be seen in the screenshots below:

1 GB of memory allows you to work with applications to multitask, but with some restrictions. If you run the game, you are likely to have to close background applications.

Generally, Elephone S1 seemed to me surprisingly fast. The interface is almost does not slow down, animations work quickly and smoothly, like flipping screens, scrolling menus and applications. Rather, it is an achievement of almost pure Android 6.0 on board, but later about it. The smartphone may lag slightly during installation and updating apps from Google Play. In general – the device fast enough, if it is not loaded with heavy resource-intensive tasks. For mail, chats, social networks, and calls it will be enough, as for not very active browsing or viewing videos online. But I would not count on more with this smartphone.

For example, it would be foolish to purchase Elephone S1 for extreme gaming. Of course, simple arcades run without problems, but many serious games can slow down or even shut down from time to time because of lack of memory. Nevertheless, well-optimized for weak devices Asphalt 8 was launched on average settings as default. I tried to switch to a high-quality graphics – quite playable, no problems noted.

Camera

Suddenly it turned out that in Elephone S1 has a good module of main camera from Sony. If we consider the cost of the device, it is probably one of the best cameras in the smartphone up to $100 that I saw. The camera produces images in 13 megapixel resolution, though many sources say that the module is 8 megapixels. Consequently, software interpolation photos is used. It seems to be true. On the smartphone screen shots look great, but when enlarged or viewed on a big screen detail as digital noise visible defects. In any case – the result is very decent, especially when there are a lot of light. In low light photos come out dark, but again the same – a smartphone for the price shoots well.

  • All examples of photo made with Elephone S1 in full resolution in flickr album 

About the work of the main module. Shutter is quite fast, if there is a lot of light, but the shutter speed falls with decreasing of light level. Save the situation a little turning on the ZSD (Zero Shutter Delay) function in which the picture is taken when pressing the shutter button, but there is a high probability that the camera will not have time to focus on an object, since the focus here is not very fast. The camera has HDR mode, and it works, and it is very nice. The examples below. The speed of the camera when the HDR drops significantly.

  • All examples of photo made with Elephone S1 in full resolution in flickr album

As for the front camera – nothing special, photo quality is mediocre. The same can be said about video recording (720p).

The camera software in Elephone S1 – Mediatek standard application. It is quite comfortable and functional, there is a bunch of parameter settings of photos and videos, panoramic shooting mode, and the improvement of face for selfie.

Battery life

What can you expect from the 1800 mAh battery in the modern smartphone? Surely, nothing outstanding. So it is, but I will not say that everything is really sad. Now will be hackneyed phrase. Smartphone lives from morning to evening. This is when operating activity is average (3 hours of screen without games).

If you use Elephone S1 mainly for calls and rarely check email and notifications from social networks, it will work 1-1.5 day. In fact, the target audience of these smartphones – undemanding users, and for them this level of autonomy is likely to be enough.

Sound

The earpiece in Elephone S1 – not very good. Firstly, it is not loud enough and too noisy environment you have to push the smartphone to your ear to hear the interlocutor. Second – poor sound quality due to the small frequency range. High and low frequencies are almost absent.

elephone s1

Much the same can be said about the basic dynamics. Its functions it performs at C grade – you will hear a notification, do not miss an incoming call, but you will not enjoy the sound when watching videos or listening to music in the game.

Elephone S1

But the sound in the headphones pleasantly surprised. But not initially. With the default factory settings of the music it sounds like from the barrel. I suggest that first of all turn off the built-in “make-it-better” for sound – it just spoils everything (Settings/Sounds & Notifications /Sound improvement). And BesSurround in the same menu is also better not to touch. But EQ settings that are launched through the music player, we strongly recommend to twist and adjust the sound for yourself. Then you can listen to music on your phone through headphones – quality is quite decent.

Communications

Elephone S1 is operating normally with the mobile network – I did not notice any problems. Bluetooth also works perfectly. Wi-Fi-module is rather weak. He did not pass the test on my far balcony (2 concrete walls and glazing), the connection is almost always lost. But near the router everything is fine – there is no tripping. GPS starts fairly quickly – within 5 seconds, and the positioning is exact.

Fingerprint scanner

This module works mediocre. I’ve used that in all the Chinese flagmans and low-cost devices scanner is triggered almost immediately and almost without errors. But this is not the case. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the scanner pad is difficult to find by touch, since it is almost flush with the glass and has poorly tangible border. Case, which comes bundled, fixes this drawback, making the scanner is recessed and it becomes easier to find by touch. ВAnyway it is necessary to very accurately put in Elephone S1 finger on the scanner and still in 50% of cases sensor reading produces an error in the form of a short vibration. To improve the accuracy of the scanner it is advisable to register one finger in the system two or three times. This trick reduces the number of false readings to a satisfactory minimum. Fingerprint scanner is omni-directional, you can put your finger from the top or side.

Firmware and software

The smartphone runs on almost pure Android 6.0.1. The manufacturer did not make any modifications to the interface, and it pleases. Perhaps this is why Elephone S1 seems fast during use.

Right after turning on and connecting to the networ, update has come on a smartphone. This indicates that the manufacturer is doing something in the firmware, closes security holes and fixes bugs – quite rare in the world of low-cost Android.

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As for the embedded software, here we see a standard set of AOSP version of Android 6.0.1. Of course, Google services are present out of the box, but the other software must be installed from the App Store. Standard default search application opens Yahoo, but it can be easily changed to any other. More from applications, that have been added by the manufacturer, it is possible to note some makeshift “File Manager”, standard AOSP music-player with equalizer and FM-radio with broadcasts recording.

Of the features of the smartphone control with gestures can be noted. Turning on/off the device by double-tap, drawing symbols on the turned off screen to run any application that you can specify in the settings of this function.

And also worth mentioning the panel with navigation buttons, the order of which can be adjusted in the menu, and the ability to hide the panel with a special arrow on the left. Buttons can be called back by swipe from the bottom edge of the display.

I can not but to note the firmware problem. Smartphone spontaneously rebooted several times for almost 3 weeks of operation. The first time was during the initial setup of Elephone S1 while mass installation of apps from Google Play. The second and third cases – he was just lying on the table with the screen off. And for the first time smart phone just rebooted. And the next two times it did not turn on to the end – was stuck on boot animation (called bootloop). Long holding of the power button helped, then the device turned on. By the way, a small observation on this issue. All cases occurred when microSD card was installed in the smartphone. After extraction, the sudden reboot didn’t occur. I do not know, maybe just a coincidence, but maybe it will help someone in case of such problems.

And from time to time YouTube app refuses to play the video. Just freezes on the load and the video does not show. This problem is solved by rebooting.

Conclusions

Elephone S1 proves that even the most budget smartphones can be made attractive through the use of quality materials and excellent build. But still, Chinese from Elephone can not yet provide full control of components and the rejection of products on the output. I received a defective smartphone, which is especially disappointing, since the device gives the impression of a great balanced solution for undemanding and thrifty buyers. But if we ignore the problem of the device I have received and take an objective look at the model in general, I can say that I rather liked the smartphone and take the following outcome:

Pros of Elephone S1:

  • Design, matherials, assembly, ergonomics
  • Case and protective films in kit
  • Good IPS-display
  • Light level and proximity detectors
  • Fingerprint scanner presence in a smartphone for $85
  • Satisfying sound in a headset
  • Good main camera module
  • Pure Android 6.0.1 with manufacturer’s updates
  • Fast OS work and smooth interface

Cons:

  • The probability of getting a smartphone with factory defects
  • Poor sound from either conversational and main speakers
  • Instability of firmware and software, in some situations

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