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Cubot X17 smartphone review

Cubot X17

£125
8.3

Build quality

8.5/10

Design

8.5/10

Sound quality

7.0/10

Looks

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Decent screen
  • Responsive software
  • Looks nice enough
  • Doesn't feel cheap
  • Bonkers low price

Cons

  • Average camera
  • Poor speaker for music

Cubot X17 reviewThe Cubot X17 is the Chinese made selfie-loving smartphone that is now available in the UK through Amazon.

Chinese manufacturer Cubot Mobile has been working on expanding their empire and, to this end, they have been making their devices available around the world via their website plus other distributors such as the ubiquitous Amazon.

The X17 is very much a mid-range smartphone with an eclectic mix of features and specification all offered for a low end price tag.

Let’s have a look-see and see if Cubot have given the X17 all the must haves and most of the nice to haves that you’d expect from a mid-range blower.

Cubot X17 design

Although the Cubot X17 is not an ugly phone from any angle it isn’t what I’d call stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous either. That said, most phones these days (yes there are a few exceptions), upon first glance at least, follow the same skinny slab aesthetic so it’s really no biggy.

What does matter, however, is the quality of the materials it’s made up of. My initial thoughts were promising as the X17 has a reassuring weight to it. On closer inspection Cubot have utilised metal, glass and a decent plastic which leaves the impression of a beautifully thin and sturdy smartphone.

Talking about the plastic bits, the phone was already wearing a thin and flexible plastic case protecting its rear. Not only that, a matte screen protector was also fitted.

The protective case is not a hardcore, ‘drop me as much as you want’ kind of deal, but it should stop the back of the X17 from scratches and some minor klutziness.  It is nice to see Cubot including this and the screen protector in the bundle from the off though.

Cubot X17 topAlong the top of the phone you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone port.

Cubot X17 right sideThe lock and volume keys are along the right hand edge.

Cubot X17 left sideOn the left side there is a single tray which will take a pair of SIM cards (Micro and Nano) or a SIM and microSD card.

On the back of the X17 there’s a camera at the top left corner complete with a dual colour flash module while, at the opposite end, is a single speaker grille.

Cubot X17 rear cameraThe 13MP rear camera module protrudes a little when the device is out of the case, but sits flush when in it, just like the sticky-out camera on the Nexus 6P. This is a good reason to keep the handset in the case provided. There’s a 5MP selfie cam up front.

Cubot X17 bottomFinally, there’s a USB port on the bottom edge for charging and hooking up to a computer.

Cubot X17 android buttonsThe Cubot X17 uses capacitive buttons at the bottom of the screen, these don’t light up which can be a bit tricksy to find in the dark.

Cubot X17 performance

X17 specifications

Cubot have made a number of compromises with the X17’s specification in order to offer it at such an attractive price point. Some of these are where you’d expect corners being cut, some are not.

Under the hood you’ll find a MediaTek MT6735 System-on-Chip, 64-bit, 1.3 GHz, quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor built on a 28nm processor size. This is partnered with 3 GB of RAM and ARM’s Mali-T720 GPU. Not sparkling but capable.

The phone lands with 16 GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot, shared with a SIM slot, that will play nicely with up to a 32 GB card.

The Cubot X17 is rocking a 5-inch, 1080 by 1920 resolution LCD display that packs in for 441 pixels per inch (iPhone 6 has 401ppi) and so gives lovely sharp images.

The 2,500 mAh battery has a claimed battery life of two to three days on standby which seems feasible from my findings.

All good thus far really, and the good stuff continues with the dual SIM standby which offers one NanoSIM and one MicroSIM slot. Connectivity comes by way of 4G Cat. 4 LTE with support for Bands 1, 3, 7 and 20, 3G HSPA, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, GPS, FM Radio. Again, a great list for the money.

X17 display

The Cubot X17 has a pretty standard screen and res on paper. The 1080p, 5-inch display gives it the respectable 441ppi score which should make a sharp and clear screen. The thing is, that’s only part of what makes a display good. There’s also the matters of colour accuracy and saturation, brightness levels, how the screen copes in direct sunlight with reflections and glare, and we shouldn’t forget that, as this is a touchscreen device, its sensitivity should also be taken in to consideration.

The 441ppi does indeed give a nice sharp image for pictures as well as text. In the default screen setting, the X17’s LCD colours weren’t as ‘POW!’ as I was hoping for.

Cubot X17 miravisionThankfully, Cubot has added a MiraVision option in Settings –> Display menu of the handset. Don’t be expecting AMOLED levels from this magic setting but, to my eyes, the colouration does seem to be more vibrant when compared to the stock scheme.

That’s not the only screen setting either. The X17 comes with three modes: Standard, Vivid and User, that latter of which is fully customisable to your liking through adjusting brightness, colour saturation, sharpness and colour.

Cubot X17 videoI had no issue with the screen’s sensitivity, even under the provided screen protector. Typing, sweeping and flicking through apps were all done without issue. The screen protector’s slight matte texture and appearance actually makes using the device a nicely tactile experience.

X17 in use

The Cubot X17’s quad core, 64-bit MediaTek MT6735 processor has a maximum clock speed of 1.3 GHz and is mated with the ARM Mali-T720 GPU. For those who look at things like this, you will most likely agree that these aren’t particularly pant-wettingly exciting specs.

I could go off on one and start breaking down the respective performance and abilities of each element and go in to how they work together but, for most people, all you really want to know is how does it feel and how it is to use.

Moving around typical Android applications such as the Chrome browser, Gmail, email (for Hotmail, etc), Calendar, Contacts, Hangouts, the X17 is smooth and rarely trips up or feels laggy.

If you have cleared RAM of running applications (long press on the Home button and then swipe them away), bringing up a really chunky application could take a couple of seconds, but recently used applications are quick to access. Long pressing the Home button also shows the neat read out below for Battery, Volume, Memory and Temperature.

Cubot X17 readingsMuch of the reason for the Cubot’s fluid performance is down to that 3GB memory, which minimises how frequently Android needs to swap applications in and out of its memory. Having plentiful RAM means that the device doesn’t run into the usual low-end model performance hiccups. The Cubot is set up the way Android performs strongest: the relatively weak processor is kept sprinting through typical applications thanks to there being plenty of memory.

X17 sound

Cubot has chosen to give the X17 a single rear mounted speaker which is generally a sticking point with me. Either your hand is going to cover it or, when you put your phone down, it’s just going to loose any definition as the sound hits the surface the phone’s on.

There is a tiny little bump next to the speaker, which I assume is to mitigate the latter point by giving the sound somewhere to escape, but I found that when the X17 was out of the case and put on a table the speaker was still very easily muffled.

Cubot X17 speakerIn the case, it’s a different story with alarms and ringtones being easily heard. I still don’t think that the rear of the phone is the best place to shove a speaker and, with all that real estate up front being taken up by those capacitive buttons, it makes me wonder why Cubot didn’t opt to stick with the stock Android on-screen buttons and use the room saved for one or two speakers front firing speakers.

Despite the speaker pointing away from the screen, it sounded better than I was expecting and would suffice if you planned to annoy people on the bus – as long as you were careful where you put your hand.

Sound isn’t particularly awesome through headphones either (tested with Oppo PM-3, Onkyo H500M, Skullcandy Hesh 2) but if you just want music to drown out the commute, then the Cubot X17 will do the trick. It’s not going to get audiophiles going weak at the knees though.

X17 cameras

The X17 uses a 13MP rear camera which, through clever interpolation trickery, can take pictures at a synthetic 16MP resolution. Cubot uses a similar trick for the front facing camera too, bringing the 5MP pixel unit to an 8MP synthetic image.

Cubot X17 rear camera detailThe stock camera application has the usual range of automatic and manual features, including setting the exposure, resolution, colour balance and saturation.

There’s an object focus lock and gesture control (pull a V for victory sign and it’ll set off the countdown timer) for taking those selfies, plus a range of live filters that may be applied to pictures. The photos above are straightforward snaps, as the kids would say #NoFilter.

Most of you are more likely, however, to use the main rear camera to snap friends and views. Here the camera tended to struggle with overexposure under certain lighting conditions. On the flip side though, the Cubot X17 is pretty quick at focusing on objects in the foreground.

Cubot X17 front cameraThe front facing camera performs well enough and will happily do the job for selfies and vidchat.

X17 software features

I’ve mentioned that the handset has touch-sensitive buttons rather than the on-screen ones offered by stock Android. These are arranged in menu, home and back from left to right, which is another difference. It doesn’t take much getting used to but I am more used to the virtual buttons now and I did find myself missing the on-screen multi-tasking button until I discovered that I just needed to long hold the home key.

Cubot has given the stock Android interface moderate tweakage. The drop down menu, for example, enables one tap control over the data connection whereas stock Android requires two taps. As the X17 comes with MediaTek’s HotKnot short range data transfer radio, there is also a shortcut for this in the drop down menu.

You do get a few extras in Cubot’s user interface which includes the aforementioned gesture control as well as double tapping the screen in order to wake the device, or double tap the home button to lock the screen.

Some of the X17’s stock applications (the gallery, camera and FM Radio) support the ability to use Air Gesture and, to be honest, I found it to be a mixed bag unless I was doing my ‘Force Wave’ close to the screen.

The most important thing about the software was the distinct lack of bloat. Cubot have rightly trimmed the fat where ever they could which has resulted in quick and perky performer.

Cubot X17 review conclusion

The Cubot X17 is a very capable mid-range device.

Cubot has obviously taken care in choosing which individual features were to be kept and which should be dropped in order to bring the price down and improve the phone’s performance.

Yes, the audio on the X17 could be better as could the rear camera but they do work and perform well enough for casual users.

On the upside, the screen is good and the device performs strongly and has plenty of nice additional software features.

Now, take in to consideration the £125 price tag for a SIM free smartphone which this build quality and I think you’ve got yourself a bargain.

Cubot X17 smartphone review

by Jay Garrett time to read: 8 min
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