Coolpad has managed to establish itself in the Indian market with interesting value for money offerings in the budget segment. Of course, considering the stiff competition, it doesn’t have a prominent market share, but I'll be honest, their products in the past have been pretty good if not benchmark setters.
Their latest offering is the Coolpad Note 5 which comes right after Chinese tech giant LeEco announced its official partnership with the company. While I am quite overwhelmed with the smartphones in the sub Rs 15,000 I gave this neat looking phone a shot.
Build and Design: 7.5 / 10
One can easily get a smartphone with a metal build in this budget, and even cheaper. The whole design language doesn’t look very distant from the number of smartphones in the same price bracket. Take a look at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, Lenovo K5 Note and you will see a resemblance.
However it is nice to see the company growing up in terms of design. Coolpad entered the Indian market with smartphones that had flimsy plastic backs. The Note 5 is way better.
The back is curved, making it fit well in the hand. The edges have nice looking metallic finish rim that adds aesthetic value. Another interesting addition is the protective scratch-resistant glass over the 5.5-inch display. It is a 2.5D glass which means it is ever-so-slightly curved at the edges.
Digging into the main elements, the power button is on the right edge along with the slot for the hybrid SIM card tray, while the volume control buttons are on the other side. Smart thinking there as one does not end up locking the device while trying to increase the volume in the dark.
You get capacitive buttons below the display, which sadly do not light up. Above the display is the earpiece, the front camera, a bunch of sensors as well as a front facing LED flash.
The top has the headphone jack and while the bottom has the microUSB 2.0 port. There are also two very prominent looking screws on either sides of the USB port. Moving to the back, there is the camera which also gets a shiny metallic ring, a single LED flash right next to it, the fingerprint scanner below that and there's a speaker grill towards the base.
It’s a very well rounded off design, but like I said before, traditional and nothing new. Coolpad has played safe with the design, and while it isn’t all that bad, I wasn’t highly moved by it.
Features: 8 / 10
The Coolpad Note 5 sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920×1080 pixels) IPS display with 2.5D curved glass, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage which can be further expanded using a microSD card. There is a 13MP rear camera with an LED flash unit as well as an 8MP front facing camera along with an LED flash to fill in light for your selfies.
Other features include a fingerprint scanner at the back, a 4,010mAh battery with Quick Charge support, dual nanoSIM card slots, 4G with VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and OTG support. The smartphone will come Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box with CoolUI on top.
Display: 8 / 10
The display is an IPS LCD panel measuring 5.5-inches. This means a pixel density of 401ppi, which is pretty good. As I mentioned before, the protective glass over the display is scratch resistant. It isn’t Gorilla Glass but the company confirmed that it is strengthened glass.
The quality of the display is great. The touch response is quite excellent. Colours look accurate, viewing angles are also spot on with zero colour shift. In terms of brightness I was quite happy with the performance, even outdoors. Of course, if you use it under the bright sun there will be slight loss of visibility but nothing that should be of concern.
Software: 8 / 10
Here is something that the company has worked on quite a bit. Their custom skin called Cool UI (No points for the name) is quite interesting. It is loaded with a lot of useful features. It also comes with a lot of bloatware but a bunch of it can be removed thankfully. Based on Android 6.0.1, it is the eighth version of the ROM.
It’s a very traditional ‘Chinese UI’ that tries to imitate iOS. You get a wallpaper and a themes app if you like personalisation. A nice addition is on the lockscreen. When you have a security password enabled, the pattern grid/keypad appears on the side on which you swipe up from. With phones getting bigger, this is a well needed feature.
The apps are laid out on the homescreen where you can add widgets as well. The notifications shade doesn’t have the quick setting toggles, for which you need to swipe up from the bottom. The homescreens can be customised with a 4x4 or 4x5 grid, scrolling effects and more.
One thing that I liked was how the company has added features to utilise the fingerprint scanner. I mean it's a piece of hardware, it is touch sensitive so why not add some more functionality than just unlocking your device? Apart from unlocking, one can enable extra features such as double tap to lock, or a long press to take pictures or video when in the camera app, answer calls, record a call and shut your alarm.
In terms of usage, it was buttery smooth. No glitches, no hang ups at all. With so much heavy skinning, I was impressed how Coolpad pulled it off.
Performance: 7 / 10
The smartphone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC with a 1.5GHz octa-core processor along with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 405 GPU. The combination is quite good and very well optimised. I expected the performance to be just average but was impressed by the capability while using the phone. I hardly noticed heating issues. Although it does go warm when playing games or when the CPU is under load.
There are better and more powerful smartphones in the similar range like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 which has a Snapdragon 650 and then the LeEco Le2 which sets the bar even higher with the Snapdragon 652. This was quite evident when I ran synthetic benchmarks on the device as the results were lower than it’s competition.
Moving to the audio performance, call quality was perfectly good on the receiving as well as the caller’s end. The loudspeaker at the back is definitely loud but doesn’t offer very good quality when turned all the way up. It felt as if the speaker is going give up. I listen to a variety of genre and most of them felt bad as there was too much treble.
Camera: 6.5 / 10
The smartphone features a 13MP primary camera with an f/2.2 aperture and an LED flash. On the front there is an 8MP snapper with a similar f/2.2 aperture size and aided with an LED flash. Both the cameras can shoot up to 1080p video resolution.
The camera app is simple and easy to use, especially if you have used the camera app on the iPhone. You get a pro mode which is essentially manual mode, a beauty mode, night mode and some filters along with HDR, panorama, long exposure, GIF and a special watermark mode to add stickers. Focusing is fairly quick and there isn’t much of a shutter lag. The app is overall snappy and responsive.
The quality of pictures however is just average. Colours come out flat and there isn’t enough detailing even when you shoot outdoors. Indoor photographs are unimpressive as you get a lot of noise. Same was the case when making videos. I was surprised to see the camera struggling in the evening right around sunset when there was still pretty decent light around.
Battery: 8.5 / 10
I was very satisfied with the battery life. The Coolpad Note 5 comes equipped with a 4,010mAh non-removable battery. I managed to push the smartphone for one and a half day straight with my Wi-Fi hotspot on all the time. Charging takes about 2 hours with the bundled charger. The PC Mark battery benchmark gave 7 hours and 47 minutes, which is at par with most of the smartphones having a similar sized battery.
Verdict and Price in India
The smartphone gets a lot right and some wrong. I was happy with the performance even though it wasn't as good in the benchmark result. Battery life, the build quality and even the display has been done right. The UI was a bit of an overload, but it still runs smooth. The camera was probably a big disappointment as the quality did not match my expectations.
This brings me to the biggest problem with this phone. The brand name. A bunch of people asked me what phone is there on your desk? When I told them the brand they were puzzled. Moreover confused. While Chinese vendors like Xioami, OnePlus, and even LeEco now have a presence, Coolpad is still name that people don’t associate with great budget devices.