iNew U9 Plus Review

4 August, 2016, 10:59:11

iNew may probably not be the first name of a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that comes to your mind when thinking about China-based OEMs, but the company has managed to stay alive in a highly competitive market since its inception in 2012 by creating entry-level and mid-range smartphones, which are reasonably priced. The latest model from iNew's portfolio is the U9 Plus - the successor of iNew U9, which is only a month older. The Plus stands for twice the RAM and storage compared to the original version of the model. The most interesting feature of this device is the fact that it has a 6-inch display and let's be honest, there are no 6-inch smartphones that you can buy for $100-110. However, the rest of the specifications are entry-level and it is interesting to see whether the large screen compensates for that.
The review unit has been provided by iNewPhone.com

Specifications

iNew U9 Plus features a 6-inch IPS display with a GFF lamination and a 2.5D curved top glass layer. It has an HD resolution (720 x 1280 pixels) and graces a plastic body with a removable back lid and battery. The latter has a capacity of 3000 mAh. Next to it, under the back case are placed three slots - one for a micro-SIM, one for a mini-SIM and one for a microSD card. The model's hardware is based on a 64-bit MediaTek MT6735A chipset that includes a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU and a 450MHz dual-core Mali-T720 MP2. Their performance is aided by 2GB of single-channel LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 533MHz. The on-board storage measures 16GB, which are expandable with up to 64GB. There are a proximity and light sensor along with an accelerometer. The smartphone supports quad-band 2G GSM, dual-band 3G WCDMA, and penta-band 4G LDD-LTE Cat. 4 networks along with Wi-Fi 802.11b b/g/n, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS/A-GPS, USB OTG, and gesture recognition. The camera department includes a GalaxyCore sensor for both shooters. The rear one has a 13-megapixel GC13003 coupled with a 5-element lens, single LED flash and an f/2.8 aperture. The front-facing snapper packs a 5-megapixel GC5005 sensor. The smartphone runs the now dated Android 5.1 Lollipop with in-house designed UI theme. For complete iNew U9 Plus specifications you can check here.

What's in the box

iNew U9 Plus is packaged in a colorful box with the company's logo on it and some details about the model on the back. Inside there's a generous set of accessories, including in-ear headphones, a 5V/1.5A charger, USB cable, silicone case for the back, a screen protector, user manual with warranty card, and a SIM tray pin.

Design, build and controls

iNew U9 Plus has a plastic body. The front area is taken up mainly by the display and is covered with a 2.5D top glass layer. It connects seamlessly with the chamfered and glossy front edges of the frame, which then blends into the matte back cover. The latter has a grainy surface and slightly curved sides as to provide protection against slipping from your hands and a more comfortable grip. The build is standard as you would expect from a plastic device. All parts fit well together, the physical buttons have a good travel and are responsive. The only two elements that some of you might find annoying is the awkward placement of the light/proximity sensor right next to the earpiece and the LED flash, which is right below the camera module on the back of the device. The model is available in black, white, rose gold and gold colors. We are reviewing a rose-gold unit. This is not the fine and real rose-gold color found on premium devices, but looks more like coming out from a spray bottle. Probably a black unit would look better. The smartphone is 83.2 mm wide, 162 mm high, 8.7 mm thin and weighs 202 grams with the battery. These measurements point to a compact body in the context of 6-inch smartphones and indeed, the smartphone feels nice, despite its large display and reasonably-sized battery. The controls layout is standard with the volume and power buttons placed on the right hand side and the hybrid, dual-SIM card tray positioned on the left hand side of the device. The top frame is where the 3.5 mm jack and USB port are located. On the back of the device at the top central area is the camera module with the LED flash right below it, while at the bottom end you'll find the speaker grill. Actually, only the right side of the area has real holes and this is where the speaker is positioned. On the front above the display you will see the front camera, light/proximity sensor and the earpiece. The Navigation bar is a hardware one, comprising of three capacitive buttons without backlight - recents, home and back. There are no options for its customization, though.

Display

iNew U9 Plus boasts a 6-inch screen with an IPS panel and a GFF full lamination. Its resolution is rather low having in mind the diagonal size. You have to look specifically for the grainy pixel structure, but it's there. The top glass layer is 2.5D curved and feels nice to the touch. No mention of any special type of protection, though. The screen is rather standard and works fine. Being an IPS display, it provides relatively good viewing angles, text and visuals are crisp, colors are almost correct with slight deviations in the green and red pixel components, while the blue is spot-on right. The bezels are very thick. The 6-inch display of iNew U9 Plus has very good white values with the peak brightness being 468 nits. It proportionally decreases with the decrease of the brightness levels from 100% to 0%. However, the black values are not very good, with the top one being 0.610 nits, so the contrast ratio is rather low and measures 767:1. This ratio is maintained at all levels of brightness. As long as it concerns the color temperature, the screen is very "cold" with the temperature of the white point exceeding 10000 K at all brightness levels.
Brightness White luminance Black luminance Contrast Color temperature
100 % 468.017 cd/m2 0.610 cd/m2 767 : 1 10239 K
75 % 363.489 cd/m2 0.477 cd/m2 762 : 1 10233 K
50 % 253.886 cd/m2 0.332 cd/m2 765 : 1 10318 K
25 % 140.225 cd/m2 0.184 cd/m2 762 : 1 10387 K
0 % 19.312 cd/m2 0.025 cd/m2 772 : 1 10702 K

OS, UI and software

iNew U9 Plus runs the now dated Android 5.1 Lollipop. It has all the main features of the OS coupled with a customized by iNew theme. Actually, you get only one theme available on the device and you can download more from the internet. The Widgets menu opens up the Themes and Wallpapers menu. It is accessed by a long press on an empty space on the home screen and also contains a list of Widgets and Special effects of opening and closing up screens. There's also an option to add shortcuts to apps that appear as additional screens after those listing the apps. The Notifications and Quick Settings screens are typical for Lollipop and are brought up by a single and double swipe from the top of the display, respectively. The same is with the Volume and Power off menus. When you access the home screen for the first time you'll see a desktop widget that serves as a web search. You can disable and enable it when you wish so.
The Settings menu is actually very standard. Starting with the Wireless & networks set of options, it continues with the Device management, Personal preferences and System management. The first set of options lacks any special features and lets you manage your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, SIM cards and Data storage. The Display settings include the usual Miravision, Adaptive brightness and Daydream features. So does the Sound and notifications menu, which has four pre-set audio profiles, Sound enhancement features and Interruptions - the latter has functions similar to those of the Do Not Disturb mode. The Storage, Battery and Apps management offers nothing new. Under the Personal set of options you can setup your Location, Accounts, Language & input preferences as well as Backup & reset the device. This section also includes the Security menu, which is very extensive and includes features such as choosing the type of phone locking, SIM card locking, phone encryption, and so on. Screen pinning appears as part of the Security menu for the first time in Android 5.0 Lollipop. It allows you to pin selected apps, when you want to give your child the phone to play a game or give it to a friend to make a phone call. They can access only the pinned apps, while the rest of the phone's apps and information remain protected.
The System menu is the final one from the Settings. It contains the standard Scheduled power on & off, Accessibility, Date & time, Printing and About Phone. Android L is the first to introduce several Accessibility features such as High contrast text and Color inversion. This section also contains a feature that does not appear in every smartphone - the Gesture Somatosensory. It allows you to make screenshots by swiping with three fingers on the screen from the top to bottom. Various combinations of tapping and swiping can be chosen to unlock/lock the screen. You can also launch the Camera and Flash Light and control the Music app with gestures. There are four additional gestures (E, M, O, W), to which you can assign opening specific apps.
There is no app drawer. All apps are listed in successive screens, which are swiped to the left and right from the home screen. iNew has also added an option to place shortcuts to apps in the form of screens, which appear after those listing the apps. These shortcuts can be managed from the Widgets set of options. You get the standard Dialer, Contacts, Clock, Calendar, Camera, Gallery, File Manager, FM Radio, Email, Sound Recorder, and Downloads. Among the Google services are Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Search, Chrome, and Gmail. The app clutter is not excessive, still some of you might not like the non-stock Android appearance. There is a Theme app, currently containing only one theme, YaYaBiscuit, Malaysia News, DCShare, iNew app, Multiple Access, Privacy Lock, Weather, UC Mini, WhatsApp, Camera360, Facebook, Line, Solat, WeChat with a multiple accounts option, Play Movies.

Networks, calls and connectivity

A convenient feature of the iNew U9 Plus is that it has three separate slots directly accessed after removing the back lid. The latter opens and closes pretty easily, so you'll have no issues doing that. The first slot is for a micro-SIM card, the second - for a mini-SIM one, and the third is for a microSD card. In this way you don't have to sacrifice the convenience of using two SIM cards when needed, while enjoying the extra storage. Both SIM cards support 4G networks and work on a dual standby principle. According to the specifications, the smartphone supports quad-band 2G GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), dual-band 3G WCDMA (900 and 2000 MHz), and penta-band 4G LDD-LTE Cat. 4 (800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600 MHz) networks. However, MTKEngineering showed that our review unit supports two additional WCDMA bands - 850 and 1900 MHz. As long as it concerns the rest of the connectivity options, the model supports Wi-Fi 802.11b b/g/n, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi signal has been strong and steady at all times, Bluetooth functions properly, and so does the GPS and Glonass reception. The device managed to located many satellites fairly quickly and with a very good accuracy.

Performance

iNew U9 Plus is equipped with a 64-bit MediaTek MT6735A chipset. This is an entry-level system-on-chip that provides satisfactory performance and good power efficiency. It includes a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU (Cortex A53 cores) and a 450MHz dual-core Mali-T720 MP2. They are combined with 2GB of single-channel LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 533MHz. The built-in memory measures 16GB and can be expanded with up to 64GB via the dedicated microSD card slot. Compared to other devices with the slower MediaTek MT6735P chipset (1GHz), U9 Plus outperforms them with an AnTuTu result of 30477, however, if compared to Cubot Dinosaur's result, it is down by more than 4000 points. Don't expect that you can play graphics-demanding games well. On several occasions we have also noticed that the UI stutters slightly at times, but this is a Lollipop thing - the OS does no good to budget devices. The Geekbench results of both devices are very close, so are most of the other tests we have run on the handset. The RAM is of an older generation, but does its job. Of the 16GB of on-board storage only 10.49G are available to the user. The smartphone also packs a proximity and light sensor as well as an accelerometer.

Cameras

For both cameras of the U9 Plus iNew has chosen GalaxyCore sensors. In the rear unit is placed a 13-megapixel GC13003 one coupled with a 5-element lens, an f/2.8 aperture and an LED flash. The front-facing unit has a 5-megapixel GC5005 sensor with a 1/5" size, a 1.12μm pixel and image resolution of 2608 x 1960. The primary camera is not very bad for a device of this class, however we have encountered an issue. When there are overexposed areas in the photo, there's a noise consisting of pink-purple lines (check the sample photos below). This most probably is a software issue that could be fixed with an update, but we don't know how swift in releasing updates iNew are. The Camera app provides various options for managing your photos and videos prior to making them, so you can get the best possible result.

Primary camera

Secondary camera

Audio

We perform our audio tests using the RightMark Audio Analyzer software and the TASCAM US-2x2 audio interface. iNew U9 Plus has an overall score of Very Good, but a closer look at the separate results reveal that it barely hits the average audio performance. The device excels in frequency response, but scores only Good in THD + Noise and Aerage in stereo crosstalk.
Test Value RMAA rating
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB +0.04, -0.18 Excellent
Noise level, dB (A) -90.3 Very good
Dynamic range, dB (A) 90.5 Very good
THD, % 0.0070 Very good
THD + Noise, dB (A) -80.3 Good
IMD + Noise, % 0.0013 Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB -62.1 Average
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0.016 Very good
General performance   Very good
Frequency response
Noise level
Dynamic range
THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)
Intermodulation distortion
Stereo crosstalk

Battery

iNew U9 Plus is equipped with a 3000 mAh battery that arrives with a 5V/1.5A charger. According to the specifications, it should provide up to 8 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours of standby time. The PCMark work battery life test showed 5 hours and 35 minutes, which is a relatively normal result for a 6-inch device. The test has been performed after the display brightness has been calibrated to 200 nits as per Futuremark's recommendations. During our test period the battery needed 3 hours and 21 minutes to charge full from 0% to 100%. The first 70% needed 1 hour and 46 minutes, the remaining capacity to 100% needed almost the same time as after 70% the output power drops significantly. It drops even further after reaching 90% of the charge. For example, the last 5% needed 21 minutes.

Final thoughts

iNew U9 Plus is a good device for its money. If a large display is your top priority, you might consider buying this model as the device does not exceed the $100-110 price mark. The smartphone does not have a "wow" effect, but all of its features function properly and it is well-made.