Coolpad Note 3 Lite Review
Coolpad is a company with a rich background in manufacturing, which was renamed from China Wireless Technologies in 2013. It was not middle of the last year that the company entered into India with their three handsets, Dazen 1, Dazen X7 and the most recent Note 3. But today company has launched a new variant of its wildly popular mid-ranger, Note 3. The new version is dubbed as Coolpad Note 3 Lite, a toned-down version of the original handset, which was considered as the most affordable phablet. Now with the Lite version company is hoped to achieve more success in the affordable smartphones range.
Priced at Rs 6,999 , the new handset can be a game changer as there aren’t any device with 3GB of RAM in the price range this handset is available for. So, it doesn’t have a real competitor in terms of RAM availability. But is that it to the smartphone, a large amount of RAM? Well, of course not. We had the chance to use the handset for a couple of days, before the today’s official launch and find out what is good and what is bad about the new Coolpad smartphone. You get a full advantage of knowing early whether to go with this device or not. Read on.
First thing, first, it is not the entirely different handset, but it is rather a smaller sibling of the original handset. So, sporting the similar design language, the plastic body build, and the bezel-less look (it is not exactly bezeless), it is still quite an astonishing and clean design. With a metal finish on the edges, it gives the device an attractive look. It could be the aluminum inner frame for stability, just like on the bigger sibling. It is quite remarkable that company is focused on offering just precision quality at this price level.
What was considered as a flaw, an oversize real estate by some users, the Lite version could be a real answer to that since it has a smaller 5-inch display? Yes, I think it’s true; it couldn’t be more comfortable and compact than this, despite the 8.9mm thickness of the body. The backside of the phone has a soft matte texture finish to it, which helps in maintaining grip. But I’m afraid it picks up the smudges easily.
Talking about the front part first, it has a capacitive button and no on-screen buttons, such as I prefer. There is an earpiece present on the top front part, which is accompanied by the set of sensors and a camera module. At first look, it would seem like the device has no bezels, but I assure you there are, and it’s quite noticeable when you light up the device under bright light. It just conceals the bezels with black layer outside the all four display corners.
Moving on to the back side, it has a microphone just above the camera module, which is also accompanied by LED Flash. Just below that is the fingerprint sensor similar to the original handset. It has been praised a lot by many experts, and I had the same response when I used it for a couple of days as my daily driver. Hopefully, the biometric sensor on this is as great as it was on a bigger sibling. More on that later. On the bottom part of the back side, you see the logo of the company and speaker grill. It’s not an ideal place to put loud speakers. I always like them on the bottom edge, by that it does filter out the sound when it’s kept on a desk. The loudness of the speaker is fine, but when kept on desk, lot of it gets muffled out due to no vacuum between them. Now you know when there is no vacuum, no sound, basic stuff.
Coming to the edges, there are not many complications on this part; you can find the audio jack on the top edge while the bottom edge houses a microUSB port. The power button is placed on the right edge while the volume key is on the left edge. The keys seemed to be of solid quality; thus, you don’t have to worry about pressing it too hard, although, they respond quickly. Although, it’s not my preferred setup, I have always liked both buttons on the right edge, but then again it’s a personal choice, mostly because I’m right handed, or maybe it’s just that both functions on one side make sense.
Overall, the device offers a sturdy build quality, and I couldn’t have asked much better quality of design and materials used for the pricing it is available for purchase. I mean it’s a remarkable job by the company. The back cover is removable, but the battery pack isn’t while you get dual SIM slot, in which you can put two micro SIMs, as well as the microSD card slot.
The Note 3 Lite comes with a 5-inch 720p display, which isn’t the best in resolution, but it is what you can ask for the price. The pixel density of the screen is 294 PPI (Pixel Per Inch), which can be considered decent enough to offer good visual experience. Now if you are looking for a stunning graphical experience with incredible color output and all, then this isn’t the right kind of device for you. Sure, also remember that you won’t find a full HD display device in the price range, so you have to tread lightly here. A little compromise has to be made if you’re on a tight budget.
There is a scratch resistant glass layer that covers the display, but it isn’t either Corning Gorilla Glass, OGS, or Dragontrail, as the company didn’t specify it. What we got from the company is that it doesn’t leave display unprotected, and that’s good point. Although, we didn’t do any rigorous testing’s, but can certainly say that it can resist small scratch and tear, as far as protection for the screen is concerned. The display is not a fingerprint magnet, not at least like the back side leave smudges.
Talking about the viewing angles, it does have good viewing angles, even in the sunlight, of course only when the brightness levels are at full. So, you can consider this display good for sunlight legibility. But there is a concern; its color balance is quite off, as it has an odd warm tinge to it. You can control the color saturation manual from the settings area, where you can switch to vivid option for better color outputs, but still there would be something missing. And doesn’t quite satisfy the viewing taste, which is why I don’t recommend this handset for consumers who want a good HD display.
You’ll find everything is cool here in the interface, as the custom launcher is dubbed as the Cool UI. It’s not every day you get to hear such ridiculously plain and interesting name of the ROM. The interface on the Coolpad Note 3 Lite is running on the Android Lollipop 5.1 version, which isn’t the latest Android operating system, but it’s not of the dark ages. So, you can expect good features out of it. Moreover, it is a customized interface, so expect a lot of smart features as well. These days companies tend to offer the smart gesture operations on their handset and Coolpad is one of them.
Just like the enterprise’s name, the “Cool” is present everywhere inside the interface, many system apps pre-installed have the prefix Cool despite their functionality. There is a CoolShow themes app that lets you change the look of the UI in one tap; you can change fonts, ringtones, wallpaper and lock screen wallpaper at all once. Although, there is also a separate wallpaper app named Rock Wallpaper (it was the only system app that was not prefixed with Cool), which offers offline and online wallpaper accessibility. There is a Cool store, where you can access apps recommended by the company, and then there is a Cool Service app, which is dedicated to feedback services or any instant help regarding the device.
Other interesting sets of pre-installed apps includes FP Lock, which lets you manage the fingerprint sensor. Photos is a gallery app; there are a dedicated video and music players as well. The brand also pre-install apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, WPS Office and Xploree. These are some of the resourceful and much-needed apps, which don’t take much storage space. But then again you don’t have to worry about the internal storage, as there are not many pre-install apps on his handset other than we mention, and, of course, the Google Apps. The internal storage available for the user was about 9.82GB out of the 16GB storage on the device. The device support microSD card slot up to 32GB and OTG support, which we tested by attaching an OTG drive, it detected quickly. So, you shouldn’t be worried about the storage space on this handset.
Talking about the multi-tasking operations on the Cool UI, it isn’t the issue here as it is on many custom interfaces. With the help of 3GB of RAM, the device can manage a smooth multi-tasking operation without sweating. Even while running quite the number of apps, the free RAM count in the app management section was staggeringly high at 1.8GB. Draining the free RAM would take a lot of time as you would have to open many apps that practically you shouldn’t even need. Although, it wouldn’t hurt to test the limitation of the interface, we tried too, but it just won’t break. Overall, it has one of the most comfortable interfaces that even the new Android users could get use to easily. There’s not much hate that I can express because the experience was almost flawless.
Hardware & Performance
The Coolpad Note 3 Lite is what exactly a budget friendly smartphone should be, with a massive 3GB of RAM and satisfying 16GB of internal storage, alongside options to expand storage via microSD card slot and USB-OTG, it is kind of an ideal handset. Maybe I should just declare it a benchmark handset in the affordable range of smartphone? Or let’s test the performance first then decide. Yeah, of course, why not.
Under the hood, this handset packs a MediaTek processor, which is Quad-core in nature. Clocking at 1.3GHz, the MT6735 is the 64-bit chipset that is considered to beat Snapdragon 410, it’s a great competition many times. But I would have to admit; I haven’t seen SD 410 sweat a lot in comparison to the MT6735 powered handset. So, it’s quite unreal for me. I sure so hope this time it was the case, but it isn’t. I mean the overall performance of the Coolpad handset is quite good, but it isn’t what I expected with the hefty RAM input.
The phone handled daily tasks quite well, and it was on par with performance when compared with other devices in this range. Despite opening up a lot of apps, the performance was slick and responsive. But the real hiccups started to rise when we played games. Beginning with basic games, Riptide GP2 and Dead Trigger 2, the gaming was peppy, but it wasn’t a good experience while playing the heavy graphical games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Kombat. While the Snapdragon 410 powered smartphones have handled pretty well, so you see why it isn’t the highest performing handset. But do make a note that it kept cool even playing games for quite a time.
Talking about the benchmark, we did benchmarking tests using a variety of popular apps and wasn’t much surprised with the results. The Antutu benchmark scored a 27107, where the app tests, 3D, UX, CPU and RAM. Coming to the Vellamo scores, it has three different aspects to cover; metal, browser and multi-core. For metal, the device scored 950, for multi-core the score was at 1352 while the browsing test revealed a score of 1912, which isn’t quite good. Apart from Antutu score, all the score for Vellamo wasn’t quite good, despite the claims that it is quite powerful than Snapdragon 410.
We did the browsing demo to see how the performance of browser was in real usage. It wasn’t the best experience we had testing the browser on this range of handset, but it was satisfying up to a limit. The Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations were pretty easy, we didn’t have to struggle for that, and moreover, the touch responsiveness was good. And that’s the reason we rate the experience more than average.
The fingerprint sensor on this handset is FPC 1021, which is the highly rated Fingerprint Card (FPC) sensor for identifying fingerprints. The module has been used by top Chinese mobile giants in their flagship devices, so Coolpad using this on their affordable handset says a lot about their intentions. And we appreciate that. As for the performance, if you’re familiar (or not) with a sensor on Note 3, then you would know the responsiveness. It’s quite fast, quicker than many pricier handsets than this.
There are 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel image sensors involved as the camera package on this handset. It’s pretty much the similar camera modules that were used in the original Coolpad Note 3. The rear camera can be said best in this range, on paper, though. When we took it for the spin, we weren’t quite happy with it. And it isn’t like there are no good cameras phones in this range, there are so, the handset definitely not a winner here. We had played with many affordable smartphones with a slow as 8MP cameras, and they seemed to be offering better quality output despite the lower resolution. What does that say about the camera quality of a smartphone? It’s quite straightforward; the camera is average at its best.
Coming to the talk about camera app, it’s quite impressive and neat, although we did have some issue with focusing. The camera app was able to get us the clear shot of close-up object while it wasn’t as quick or good for the distanced shots. The interface is quite easy to use, you have a photo, video, and pro mode on the home, just swiping up and down would change the modes. While the extra modes are hidden away in the menu button placed alongside the shutter button. You can use the HDR mode as well.
The video recording allow on the rear camera is up to 1080p resolution, but I wasn’t had high hopes after seeing the photo captures. But fortunately, it was good, better than affordable handset in the same price range. Moving on to the front facing camera, it is of 5-megapixel resolution and what was expect out of it was delivered up to a mark. We took some good selfie out of this camera, with an aperture of f/2.2 and no wide angle lens, it doesn’t give you much to play around with, but it does the job of taking a selfie at the dinner table, fitting almost every member in your family.
The battery capacity on this handset isn’t quite huge, its 2500mAh while the bigger sibling had a 3000mAh capacity. I’m not complaining about capacity, though. If the original handset can manage a good Screen-on-Time (SOT) and standby time as well, then this should have good battery life as well, right? Well, I asked the same question, but the answer wasn’t good. Despite the lower display and low power chipset, it wasn’t able to give a good battery life.
The more annoying was that it took around 3 hours for the device to get charged from zero to hundred, which is not a good charging time for such small capacity battery. What was good on the bigger sibling is quite below than average. And that is one of the reasons why I can’t recommend this handset for consumers with battery conscious mind. Moreover, if you’re looking to use it more than average, then using it for the day without power socket or power bank nearby would be a gruesome task. The standby time isn’t good either, a drop of 8% within an hour of charging it to hundred percent doesn’t really say that it has a good battery life.
Regarding the connectivity options, the device has a good set of features for a handset in this range. One of them interesting is the support of 4G LTE connection, and meanwhile, the processor is also capable of offering CDMA support, although, it is unknown whether this handset would support CDMA SIM or not. Most likely it won’t just like it was with the Gionee F103, as mention in our detailed review of the mid-ranger from Gionee. The handset is capable of supporting dual SIM on the dual standby mode so that you can use one handset if you have two SIM connections, as most people in the country have these days. Another usual set of features includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and microUSB 2.0 port.
The answer to the question that whether the hefty RAM means that a device would be a good performer is that it would be not. Having a good amount of RAM just means it can play around with a lot of apps, but if the processor isn’t a powerful lad, then it won’t necessarily live to the expectations of performance. And that’s what happens apparently with the Coolpad Note 3 Lite. It has a commendable amount of performance, but with the lack of good camera package, poor battery life, one would really have to think it through before buying it. If you fancy a fingerprint sensor on a phone and have a tight budget, then you could go with this handset, but otherwise, it is not a recommended handset. The best handset one could go within this price range is Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime and Lenovo Vibe P1m if you could spend a little more. Or maybe go with the bigger sibling, the original Coolpad Note 3.