There is no shortage of cheap smartphones that offer users a premium smartphone experience. This year alone we’ve seen the Redmi 3, the Hisense KO and the Redmi Note 2 all offering users great performance with a very low price of admission.
The release of the Hisense Infinity Elegance heralds yet another manufacturer vying for a place in the mid-range smartphone market. This smartphone running Android 6.0 is currently on sale for R3 999 and while its name suggests users will find opulence within the black box with gold accents, it’s certainly not what’s suggested by the price. So which is right? Economics or branding? Is it Elegant or Elephant? Let’s find out…
This isn’t R4 000, surely
One of my favourite things to do when I get a new review unit is to put it down on the coffee table and wait for my housemate to comment. “That looks fancy,” were his words to me when I showed him the Elegance.
He isn’t wrong. The handset is decked out in a gold paint job and the finishes are pristine. It reminds me of the Huawei Mate S in that it wouldn’t look out of place on the oak desk of a CEO.
On the left you have your unlock button and volume rocker and to the right is the dual SIM cover. You can also put a microSD card slot in one of the trays but you lose a SIM card slot.
At the back of the handset is a 13MP snapper and a fingerprint scanner and the USB slot for the charge is nestled between the speakers at the bottom of the handset. And other that that the design is pretty minimal.
It just all looks so damned fancy I can’t help but fiddle with it during meetings so people can see this gorgeous phone. Really nice work on that Hisense, top job.
But what about performance?
At the R4 000 price point I don’t expect to have my hair-blown back by the sheer power of a phone’s processing capabilities. The Elegance as it turns out is far better when it comes to performance than many of its competitors.
Underneath its swish exterior is a Qualcomm 430 processor, which uses an ARM Cortex-A53 octa-core processor running at a peak of 1.4GHz. Graphics are supplied by an Adreno 505 GPU (216MHz-450MHz), and together work well for playing games, browsing through your social feeds and even typing up notes when your notebook battery runs dry.
How does that compare? Xiaomi’s Redmi 3’s chipset, the Qualcomm 616, supports 1080p video playback at up to 60fps. The Elegance only supports that resolution at a 30fps frame rate. It’s not all that much of a deal breaker for us but its worth pointing out if you plan to make the Elegance your first port of call for video watching.
For everything else, though, the 430 is a newer chip that is more energy efficient, and can call on all eight cores for multithreading performance (many octa-core chips have four performance cores and four for background apps). As a result, the phone flies through tests, as shown in the benchmarks below.
For wireless connectivity, the Elegance is capable of download speeds of up to 150Mbps over LTE and uploads at a rate of 75Mbps, the Redmi 3 can only hit 50Mbps while uploading. While we would have liked to see 802.11ac WiFi support we do understand that features like that would require a different chipset and likely increase the price and looking at its performance compared to other phones in this price range. We’re quite pleased with Hisense’s choice of internals and it’s clear that the handset is very much focused on performing well. Even while using apps that demand large portions of the Elegance’s resources we never found the handset to be sluggish or underpowered, it just works and continues to work well.
The Elegance has 32GB of onboard storage though you can increase that with a microSD card slot supporting up to an additional 128GB.
As to the software, Hisense’s Vision 3 UI is really quite nice and while the inclusion of Facebook and Twitter out of the box is nice, we would prefer if TouchPal and Mobile Manager weren’t.
Given that the handset only houses a 3 000mAh battery, I was not expecting much in terms of battery life. The Elegance lasts for around eight hours of continuous screen on use with WiFi on, Bluetooth on, display brightness at 100% and mobile data and app synchronisation on. It’s not the most hardy battery around given that many people use all of those functions without turning them off but it’s enough to get you through a busy work day.
If you use the phone sparingly, and by this we mean using it to respond to the odd text, browsing through your social feeds at lunch and watching two or three videos at night you could get through a full day of use and then only need your phone at lunchtime the next day.
Charging the handset back up to 100% will take you a little under three hours.
The 13MP rear snapper in the Elegance does overexpose shots in low lighting and images appear very noisy. In fact if you browse through the images below you can see just how much the image quality changes in well lit scenes compared to darker ones.
You can adjust the capture settings by launching the Pro mode. This allows you to change the saturation, the exposure, the ISO and a number of other options.
The snapper allows you to take some really nice shots with a bokeh effect which is nice but as you can see from our gallery if your foreground is darker than the background you get that overexposure.
Yes, you can change this but if you need to snap a photo in a hurry and the scene is darker than direct sunlight, your image might not turn out as crisp and noiseless as you might like.
The 5MP selfie camera is fine, it too suffers in low light but if all you want to do is show your friends what a good time you’re having it serves that purpose.
Perhaps I am being overly critical of the cameras here but with so much choice in the sub-R4 000 smartphone market manufacturers need to take extra care when it comes to features like this. And that segues nicely into my experience with the biometric access in the Elegance.
An exposed rear
Despite all the good the Elegance does, it does have one more niggle: the fingerprint sensor.
I’ve tried to unlock the phone in a multitude of ways but I keep having to try multiple times to unlock the handset with a digit. Cleaning the sensor before touching it seems to help but it’s far from ideal given that you may not always be carrying a wet-wipe with you to clean it.
I’ve inducted and re-inducted my fingerprint numerous times and successfully unlocking the handset on the first attempt is a rarity rather than the norm.
There have also been instances where the scanner doesn’t even detect that I have placed a finger on it.
You can bypass this by using a keycode but it’s not ideal especially since there is a scanner at the back and it should work.
There is very little not to like when you consider the performance and its great appearance. However, the dodgy fingerprint scanner and the image quality from the camera can’t be overlooked especially when you’re looking at handsets like the Redmi 3 and Hisense’s own Infinity KO. Both of these handsets – while not as powerful – are cheaper than the Elegance and do what they say they’ll do on the box, rather well.
The same can be said for the battery, while it isn’t terrible it isn’t as great as we saw in the KO or indeed other smartphones that have been released this year which manage to push out 10 hours – and sometimes more – of screen-on time. We suspect that had Hisense opted for a lower resolution in the display battery life could have been improved somewhat.
As with many phones at this price point you need to make a choice: do you want performance, a huge battery or do you want cool features like a fingerprint scanner to work every time without fail.
If you’re obsessed with taking the perfect Instagram photo this handset isn’t for you but if you need a handset that can run even the most demanding apps with ease, the Elegance is a great choice and well worth a look.