Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 review – how much bang for your buck?

smart ultra 6 welcomeSmartphones continue to be supersized and Vodafone has been listening to what its customers are looking for – more screen real estate for apps and improved image quality for multimedia use but they’re also wanting bargain prices. Vodafone’s answer? The Smart Ultra 6.

Most of the big phone cobblers are offering large smartphones, whether that be the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S6 Edge+ or HTC One Max but not everyone is prepared to dig that deep in to their pockets.

If you’re looking for a phone that’s large on screen but small on price tag then perhaps the Smart ultra 6 from Vodafone will tick the boxes? For a start, it costs just £125 on pay-as-you-go but how does it stack up everywhere else?S

Smart Ultra 6 design

Upon opening the clean-designed eco-friendly recycled cardboard box you are presented with the Smart Ultra 6 phone, a USB charger cable and mains adaptor and a set of white earphones. It is nice to get the mains plug as some companies have stopped doing this unless you specifically ask for one – same for USB cables for that matter.

smart ultra 6 packagingI like the minimalist approach to the packaging and this stripped back approach applies to software too thankfully. Even though this is a carrier-branded phone it isn’t overloaded with pre-installed bloatware apps.

Although it carries the Vodafone brand name the Smart Ultra 6 is made by Chinese manufacturer ZTE and looks to basically be the ZTE Blade S6 Plus.

Smart Ultra 6 HTC One M9This is not a small phone as it measures 154mm long and 77mm wide (about six inches by three), but it is nice to hold as it it under 9mm thick and 159 grammes.

It is still pocketable, depending on how tight you wear your trousers or how big your jacket pockets are.

SmartUltra 6 PressThe Smart Ultra 6 is of a plastic construction, a major saving in the costs department, and the back cover is a nice semi-matt grey finish with the face finished in white. It actually doesn’t feel as cheap as I was honestly expecting it would. It’s not the sensation you get from holding a glass and metal phone but you’ve held a pre-M7 HTC phone or a Samsung before the latest Galaxy line then I’d say it feels like that. A bit. Maybe.

smart ultra 6 sideThe right-side of the device houses the volume controls, power and the SIM-tray, which pops out should you need to add a new one. Along the top edge you’ll find the 3.5mm audio port, whilst down the left-side there’s the microSD card slot which again needs a pin to pop out. On the bottom edge sits the microUSB port and a microphone hole.

HTC One M9 and Smart Ultra 6 bottomI dig the blue capacitive buttons with the central one taking on the roll of notifier, softly glowing to let you know when emails and texts have landed in your in box.

From a distance, and if you squint slightly, you could mistake the SU6 for an iPhone 6Plus.

Smart Ultra 6 specifications

Vodafone/ZTE may have skimped a little on the exterior materials but things get a lot more impressive in the engine-room.

smart ultra 6 backUnder the hood of this 4G phone lives an Octo-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (four running at 1.5GHz and four at 1GHz), 2GB of RAM, plus a generous 16GB of storage that can be further expanded via a microSD card. These specs are definitely not to be sniffed at.

The Smart Ultra runs the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop and it’s 4G capable. There’s a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front, with 4x digital zoom and an LED flash.

smart ultra 6 displayIt’s the screen that’s the star of the show here though: it’s a 5.5- inch number that’s packing a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution and 480 dpi, and it is impressive.

The display is bright with strong vivid colours and there’s no hint of fuzziness around the icons or text; video playback is smooth too. The built-in speaker is no match for my One (M9) but it is loud enough to be annoying on buses and the tube. Sound through my headphones though is pretty good.

Smart Ultra 6 performance

This, to my mind, is the important bit. I mean, what’s the point of buying a smartphone if it isn’t actually that smart? Also, it’s all well and good having access to videos but if the phone drags its feet when streaming leaving you with the spinny, then you might as well not have bothered.

I am happy to report that the Smart Ultra 6 performs pretty smoothly with no noticeable lag when loading apps or tapping out emails or social updates.

smart ultra 6 cameraThe camera is pretty good too and the high dynamic range (HDR) option is there along with some artistic filters. Granted, you’re unlikely to win any competitions with your snaps as some can look a little washed out in bright conditions but, for capturing that incident in the pub or an amusing street sign, then all is good.

Smart Ultra 6 photoThe 7-step zoom function on the camera shows you just how far you’ve zoomed-in via an on-screen display which is a nice touch (the picture above has been resized to fit on the page). There’s even a ‘Manual Mode’ for those of you who know what you’re doing. This lets you tweak all manner of bits such as exposure, ISO, White Balance and there was even a level guide too. You could also alter the storage location (microSD or on-board storage), plus you can choose whether to have the review image option after you’ve snapped something.

smart ultra 6 angle bottomThe SU6 comes with some basic apps pre-installed. There’s the standard Android stuff such as Gmail, Play Store, YouTube, et al but, additionally, there’s Vodafone’s own Smart Tips software. This is great if you’ve gifted the phone to a young ‘un as their first smartphone and similarly should the SU6 land in a silver surfer’s hands. The Smart Tips leads you though some of the phone’s features and can be called upon when things get confusing. There are a few other Vodafone apps too but I didn’t find these irritating nor obtrusive.

Smart Ultra 6 gadgetynewsImpressively the Smart Ultra 6 charges up from flat in a couple of hours and that full battery will give you around 240 hours of standby and 15 hours of talk on 3G. You are unable to swap out the battery à la Samsung’s latest but at least you get an SD card slot 😉

Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 review conclusion

There have been many moments when living with the Smart Ultra 6 that I have had to remind myself of how much this smartphone actually costs. It has been met with accepting nods from friends and my girlfriend was hoping that I’d be able to keep it and pass it on to her.

The camera is pretty decent as is the audio but that screen is the star here.

Performance from the SU6 has been smooth a brisk and playing back videos a joy. All of this from a phone that costs £125!

If you’re not swayed by big-name phone brands, or looking for all the bells-and-whistles, then I suggest you nip down to Vodafone and ask to take the Smart Ultra 6 for a spin. I reckon you’ll be as impressed as I have been by it.