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Cubot X9 Review: $130 5" MTK6592 Octacore Processor with full Metal Body

Cubot X9 Review: $130 5" MTK6592 Octacore Processor with full Metal Body

  1. zijin_cheng
    Cubot X9 Review

    I apologize for this english review instead of a German one, enjoy!

    The Cubot X9 is a very good looking smartphone, and the hardware bears an uncanny resemblance to the iPhone 6. It also has very respectable specifications and retails for just $130 at Gearbest with the coupon code "CubotX9TH". I got dinged $28 customs from DHL
    though, just to let you know.

    Key Specifications:
    5.0 inch screen, 1280x720 pixel display
    GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz WCDMA 850/2100MHz
    MTK6592, Cortex-A7 Octa core, 1.4GHz
    8MP back camera + 5MP front camera
    2GB RAM + 16GB ROM
    Bluetooth, NFC
    Dual SIM Standby (nanoSIM, MicroSIM)
    MicroSD Card Slot
    Android 4.4.4
    Dimensions: 143.5 x 72.5 x 6.9mm
    Battery Size: 2200mAh
    Weight: 124g

    Unboxing the Cubot X9
    The Cubot X9 came from GearBest in a plain brown box. Inside the box was the a very stylish black box bearing the Cubot logo as well as some protective bubble wrapping. It had the usual contents, earphones, a microUSB cable and a charger.
    Note: Instead of giving me a North American charger, they gave me a European charger instead with an adapter.

    The Cubot X9 has a respectably sized body, its dimensions being 143.5 x 72.5 x 6.9mm. In comparison, the iPhone 6's dimensions are 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm. This phone is as thin as the iPhone 6, and just a little wider and taller than its Apple namesake!
    Clocking in at 124g, its a few grams lighter than the iPhone 6, which features a smaller screen. However, weight isn't everything. Weight distribution can make a heavier device feel lighter than it really is. Fortunately, the Cubot X9 has excellent weight distribution, making the device feel extremely light as well.
    The design of the Cubot X9 clearly takes "inspiration" from the iPhone 6. The edges of the Cubot look the exact same as the iPhone 6, in addition to the placement of the power button and volume rocker. The bezel size is almost the exact same as the iPhone 6. However, it has a non removable back cover that features a smooth brushed metal finish that is very pleasant to the touch and makes the Cubot feel very premium.
    Similar to the iPhone, the two SIM card slots are situated on the right side of the smartphone below the volume and power buttons. One SIM slot can take a MicroSIM card while the other can hold a nanoSIM card. However, the nanoSIM card doubles as a MicroSD card holder, which means that if you would like to use a MicroSD card in this phone, you will have to forego having a nanoSIM. If you shake the device very vigourously, you can hear the SIM card trays rattling. The SIM card trays haven't fallen out and are firmly ensconced in the phone, but rattling trays do annoy me sometimes.
    The back of the phone houses the 8MP camera and LED flash, as well as a very small pinhole situated below the camera whose function I have not identified yet.

    The front of the phone holds the front facing camera as well as 3 capacitive buttons that do not light up, which is something that I feel is an oversight. It also includes a notification light, which I was very pleased with. However, it is placed in the weirdest of places, in between the capacitive buttons! I'm not quite sure what to make of that, but at least it works well.
    Overall, I am very satisfied with the Cubot X9's build quality, and its build quality and material selection can be compared to other premium smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and HTC One M8.

    The Cubot X9 features a 5" IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1280x720. It is also features OGS (One Glass Solution) technology, that allows the thickness of the display to be reduced. I did some research on how bright the Cubot X9 screen could go and got 450 nits of brightness, which I feel is wrong. Placed side by side with a Nexus 4 and THL 5000, both of which have 466 nits and 500 nits respectively, the Cubot X9 absolutely demolishes both phones in terms of brightness (colour too), making me think that its either very close or the same brightness as the iPhone 6, at 606 nits of brightness. The screen is a pleasure to look at with deep and accurate colours. If you do not mind the lower resolution on the display, you will love the colour gamut provided by the Cubot X9.

    Speaker Quality
    The speaker quality is rather average. With its speaker grilles found at the bottom of the phone, the sound fires down in portrait mode and sideways in landscape mode. Sound quality is middling at normalized sound levels, but at the absolute highest volume (which is quite loud, and sometimes can be too loud) it sounds like a piece of paper has been placed on the speaker grille, causing popping and wobbling sounds, making it sound terrible. Lowering the volume causes more normal tones to emit from the speakers.
    Interestingly, there are two speaker grilles located at the bottom of the phone, very similar to the iPhone, but sound only fires out of one of them, with the other speaker grille as window dressing.

    With a 2200mAh battery, I was expecting horrendous battery life due to its power sucking display and MTK6592 processor. I will be comparing this phone's battery life to others such as the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z3. GSMArena does 3 key battery tests on its phones, namely calling, web browsing and video. As I do not have the resources to do all three tests, I only performed the web browsing test and the video test (who am I going to talk to for 47 hours anyway?).
    I set the screen brightness to the lowest possible (I think it was 250nits) and installed Web Reloader from the Google Play Store and used it to reload webpages over WiFi every few seconds. First, I reloaded the mobile version of the CNN home page every 10 seconds for 3 hours. Then I transitioned to www.focalprice.com and reloaded that every 30 seconds for 3 hours. Finally, I used www.gearbest.com and reloaded this page every 30 seconds for the rest of the time. The phone finally died after 4 hours 30 minutes of browsing. The Xperia Z3 manages 12:11 of browsing time with just 40% more battery capacity. The Galaxy S5 achieves 9:48 browsing time with 27% more battery capacity.
    In the video playback test, the screen brightness was 250nits and a standard definition video played. GSMArena also set this test up similarly, except they turned on airplane mode, I chose not to do this in order to better replicate real life, as videos are not usually watched while in airplane mode (unless in an actual airplane). The phone played back video for 5 hours 3 minutes before dying.
    On a more "normal" battery test, the phone was off the charger for a total of 12 hours 22 minutes. During that time, I racked up 3 hours 25 minutes of screen on time, which consisted of 1.5 hours of google maps navigation, about 1/2 hour of Clash of Clans/Boom Beach, 35 minutes of reading news using Feedly, and the rest was a mix of web browsing, browsing the Google Play Store, and taking a few pictures.
    Charging the phone from 0% to 100% took about 2 hours.
    The biggest battery draining culprits are the painfully bright LCD panel (even on lowest) and the MTK6592 processor. If you are a power user and use your phone for more than 4 hours every day, I wouldn't recommend you purchase this phone. However, if you are a moderate user and do not mind charging your phone every night, battery life should not be an issue.

    Software & Performance
    The Cubot X9 runs a stock version of Android 4.4.4. It is almost 100% stock, with just the settings menu overlaid with a white skin.
    It includes Hotknot, MediaTek's version of NFC. However, it only works with other phones that also support Hotknot, which means that it won't work with any other non MediaTek phone.
    It includes a version of Samsung's Air Gesture that uses the proximity sensor, that is surprisingly useful when you have dirty hands and are trying to cook and read recipes at the same time. It also supports "Glove Touch", which just adjusts the sensitivity of the screen so that it recognizes your fingers while fabric is covering it. In my review video, I used a metal padlock, a kitchen knife and a frying pan to use the phone, and it worked just like a dollar store stylus would, very impressive. However, enabling gloves touch mode causes the screen to jitter and jump around when you hold your finger down for more than a split second, this is probably due to the drastically increased sensitivity.
    For those of you who are paranoid, it also comes with a very handy app called app permissions. It allows you to block any app from doing anything on your phone. If your flashlight app is asking for access to your contacts, or access to remotely wipe your phone, a little popup will come up and let you choose to allow or deny that certain application.
    Cubot also included Smart Gestures in the ROM. This allows the user to draw certain gestures on the screen while it is off to launch certain applications, for example drawing an "M" on the screen would launch music. It also allows the user to wake the device by double tapping on the screen or swiping up on the screen. These smart gestures use up more battery life as it prevents the phone from entering deep sleep, so it is a trade off on features vs battery life.
    It also played intense games such as Real Racing without a hitch. Other popular games like Clash of Clans also ran perfectly well.
    I ran Antutu as well, and obtained a score of 27812. This is about average for an MTK6592 device with 2GB of RAM.

    Reception is as expected for a chinese phone with WCDMA 850/2100MHz. I get the exact same reception strength on my THL 5000. Again, it gets better reception than my older Nexus 4 here in Canada. In my basement, the Nexus 4 on Bell only gets about 2 bars of signal on 3G, while the Cubot X9 gets 3 bars consistently. but I consistently get HSPA+, with speeds around 36mbps. However, I recently made the switch from Bell to Rogers, and I'm getting spotty reception in the basement. My father's Rogers Blackberry Torch also does not get reception in the basement. I tested this out on all the phones I have, the Nexus 4, Moto G and the THL 5000, and all don't get reception in the basement, so it doesn't seem to be the problem with this particular handset.
    WiFi performance is also good, as I get reception anywhere in the house. My Wireless N router is in the basement, and I get reception anywhere in the house, even on the second floor and outside.
    The GPS always locked on properly, faster in fact than my THL 5000. It took about 6 seconds to lock on, which is almost as fast as the Nexus 4. I used it on a 1.5 hour trip, navigating to an interview, and the GPS lost its signal twice during the trip. The marker suddenly jumped about 10 feet to the right, going off the highway and instantly rerouting my route. After about 30 seconds, it came back to its original position. Other than those two incidents, GPS signals are OK.
    Bluetooth and NFC are also included in this phone, and both work as expected.
    Side Note: This will not work on Wind Mobile in Canada

    The Cubot X9 features an 8 MP back camera and 5MP front camera. The specifications state that the back camera is 13MP, but the camera hardware itself is an 8MP camera with some sort of interpolation software that blows it up to 13MP. Anyone purchasing this phone should not expect great things from this camera. It takes passable photos in ideal lighting, but anything less than that and camera quality immediately takes a nosedive.
    Colour reproduction is passable, with HDR mode on it gets a little better. In situations with less than ideal lighting, noise is immediately introduced to the final product.
    The front 5MPx camera is quite good for use in Skype, Hangouts and selfies.
    The camera can record 1080p video, and quality isn't as good as I would like. I can clearly tell the difference between a video from this phone and an iPhone 6, but then again, there is a huge difference in price, isn't there?

    Is this phone at $129.99 USD worth it? On one hand, its very cheap. On the other hand, one too many flaws could annoy users sufficiently to return this product.
    • Cheap
    • Extremely good build quality
    • Good specs
    • Good cell and data reception
    • Well optimized firmware, very fluid experience
    • Average battery life
    • Average camera performance in ideal settings
    • Terrible low light camera performance
    At the low price of $129, its hard to find fault with the Cubot X9. Extreme build quality, a blazingly bright screen, and a fast octacore processor make this phone a great buy. The software experience on this phone is also fluid, responsive, and a pleasure to use.
    In conclusion, I recommend this phone to anybody looking for a cheap device with great build quality and specifications, and who can live with an average camera and battery life.