NUU Mobile may not be a household name, but the Singapore-based company has been released a number of solid affordable smartphones that make for a great entry point into the world of Android. Of course, the competition in the sub-$200 category is more intense than ever, with more and more OEMs fighting it out in this price range with some pretty high quality offerings that don’t break the bank. Does the latest affordable device from NUU Mobile manage to stand out from the crowd? We find out, in this comprehensive NUU Mobile X4 review!
Right off the bat, it has to be mentioned that the inspiration for the design language of the NUU Mobile X4 is obvious, with the device sharing a fair number of design elements with the far more high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Everything from the metal band, to the placement of the buttons and antennas, to the appearance of the speaker grill, as well as the curves along the sides of the back cover are seen here, and the only thing missing is a tactile home button up front. Nuu Mobile has taken quite a lot of inspiration from Samsung, but with the Galaxy Note 5 being one of the best looking smartphones in 2015, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Of course, the premium build quality of the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t make its way over, which is understandable, given the significant difference in price points between these two smartphones. What you get instead is a plastic rear cover, which is removable, and allows for access to the dual SIM card slots, the microSD card slot, and the user replaceable battery. The backing is easier to remove this time around, compared to other smartphones from NUU Mobile, but it was disappointing to see some gaps around the corners where the cover is supposed to meet the body.
Taking a look around the device, the power button is on the right side, while the volume rocker can be found to the left. The buttons do seem to exhibit a bit of a rattle, but otherwise offer a comfortable amount of tactile feedback. The single speaker unit is placed at the bottom, and the headphone jack and microUSB port are both up top. Up front are the three capacitive navigation keys below the display, in a standard layout, and there is also a black border around the display that can be quite distracting, particularly on this white model, but is something that you will get used to eventually.
Featuring a 5-inch display, the handling experience of this phone is very good. Not only does the device feel solid and substantial in the hand, but its relatively compact size puts it well within the realm of comfortable one-handed use, which is quite refreshing to see, given the general trend that skewers towards larger displays. The phone feels better built than the majority of the devices that fall in the sub-$200 category, and is definitely one of the better aspects of this device.
The NUU Mobile X4 comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. Unfortunately, this display is of a rather poor quality, and doesn’t offer what you’d generally expect from an IPS LCD panel. The color reproduction is inaccurate, the viewing angles are quite bad, and the brightness range falls between being two high in dark environments, and too low when in broad daylight. There were also noticeable bright spots on the display after just a couple of weeks of use, but that might only be in the case of this particular review unit. The only positive here is the very accurate color temperature, but the overall display quality is certainly disappointing.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the X4 comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. While this processing package has been seen with other similarly-priced smartphones, and proved to be a decent performer, the performance in the case of the X4 is actually quite disappointing. Applications can be painfully slow to load, and the device occasionally locks up entirely when more than a couple of apps are running. The amount of lag seen throughout is reminiscent of a low-cost smartphone from several years ago, and is likely a result of the availability of just 1 GB of RAM. Graphically-intensive gaming is almost out of the question as well, with disconcertingly low frame rates and frame drops to be seen.
`16 GB of on-board storage is the only option available here, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to an additional 32 GB. The X4 comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, with the exception of NFC, but while the GPS performance has seen an improvement from previous NUU Mobile devices, the Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities continue to be quite weak. Where other phones received five full bars of service, the X4 managed only three, and Wi-Fi speeds and range were also less than anticipated.
Call quality on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks was also disappointing, with the audio through the earpiece sounding both quiet and distorted. However, what is impressive is the availability of full 4G LTE support on both these networks, which is nice to see on an unlocked budget smartphone. The single speaker unit of the device is also of a poor quality, and apart from not being loud enough, the audio quality is also very tinny and heavily distorted.
The X4 comes with a 2,250 mAh battery that is user replaceable, and allows for a battery life that can be quite hit or miss. On some days, the battery lasted for up to 18 hours with around 4 hours of screen-on time, and on others, that would drastically drop to 13 hours of use with just 2.5 hours of screen-on time, despite no change in the usage. The good news here is that users do have to option to carry around spares to alleviate any battery life concerns.
The X4 comes with a 13 MP rear camera and 5 MP front-facing unit. As has been the theme throughout this review, the primary camera unfortunately produces below average images, even when making considerations with regards to the price point. Images were noisy and grainy, lacked sharpness, and the camera often had trouble exposing the shot correctly. HDR does help with the latter issue, but colors still appear quite dull, and in general, the images are of a poorer quality.
As far as the camera application is concerned, it is the standard open source MediaTek camera app, which is easy enough to use. There is some level of granular control available here, but any photography enthusiast is better off staying away from this camera anyway.
The NUU Mobile X4 comes with with a nearly stock build of Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, but there are few useful additions that have been made, including a Clear All button in the Recent Apps screen, along with support for air gestures and smart gestures. The former is a bit gimmicky, but the smart gestures can be very useful. Also, unlike many other smartphones that we’ve seen in the sub-$200 price category, the NUU Mobile X4 is completely free of any bloatware.
However, there was a noticeable bug that proved to be very frustrating, where the Recent Apps screen would only display a few of the open apps. Considering that the user will be responsible for a considerable amount of the memory management with only 1 GB on-board, not being able to close the apps from the multi-tasking screen is certainly annoying. Hopefully, a future software update will address this issue.
Display5-inch IPS LCD display
720p resolution, 294 ppi
Processor1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753
expandable via microSD up to 32 GB
Camera13 MP rear camera
5 MP front-facing unit
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
Dimensions142.2 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The NUU Mobile is currently priced at $169.99, with black and white being the available color options, and you also get some nice additions, including a two year warranty, a screen protector in the box, as well as a pair of earphones.
So there you have it for this closer look at the NUU Mobile X4. We did have high hopes for this latest affordable smartphone from NUU Mobile, considering how good some of their previous releases were, but the X4 ultimately ended up being a let down in almost every aspect. While the decent build quality, full 4G LTE support, and a stock Android experience are positives, these factors certainly aren’t enough to overshadow the glaring negatives, that include a poor display and camera experience, and disappointing performance, which are all essential parts of the smartphone experience. Even with its low price point, there are actually cheaper and better options out there as well, making the X4 somehow actually feel overpriced for what it offers.