Elephone isn’t exactly a brand that you’re going to come across on the high street, but savvy tech shoppers may have seen the brand crop up in online searches from time to time.
As you would expect from a brand named Elephone, this is a Chinese smartphone company, but they aren’t some unknown upstart and in fact, the mark has been producing phones for almost 10 years now.
Elephone’s USP is to create attractive smartphones at low prices. They manage this by working closely with Chinese supply chains, and selling directly through large online stores, although the company has recently invested in physical stores in Morocco with an aim to expand to Europe and the UK in the near future.
The Elephone A5 is one of the newest Android smartphones from this Chinese tech giant. It features an attractive if not unique design, boasts 5 cameras and runs Android 8.0, and all at a low retail price of less than £200, but is it any good?
Elephone A5 Specifications
- Display: 6.18in FHD+ incell
- Processor: Mediatek MTK P60
- RAM: 4GB
- Internal Storage: 64GB
- Rear Cameras: 12MP, 5MP, 0.3MP
- Front Cameras: 20MP, 2MP
- Security: Fingerprint scanner and Face ID
- Battery: 4000mAh
- Charging: Quick charge
- From: Elephone
Elephone A5 Design and Build
Anyone familiar with the current smartphone market will instantly recognise the Elephone A5, not because the A5 is a well-known phone but because it resembles other flagship devices. It’s clear that Elephone has been inspired by Huawei’s P20 Pro for the design of the A5, this isn’t necessarily an issue as the design is very attractive and more importantly the build quality is simply outstanding.
With so many budget phones on sale from Chinese brands, it’s quite easy to dismiss an affordable handset as being poorly made from cheap materials but the Elephone A5 is the exception to that rule.
It’s clear that Elephone has taken extra care and attention in building a smartphone that looks and feels like a much more expensive device.
The A5 uses glass, and CNC machined then polished aluminium for its main construction, to give a solid feel in the hand. It’s not especially lightweight, but that extra weight does add to the feeling of quality and is to be expected with a handset sporting a large 4000mAh battery and a total of 5 cameras.
In addition to being well made, the A5 is an attractive phone too. Elephone uses its own Sideline Security Fingerprint scanner on the A series of phones. This is basically a fingerprint scanner located in to frame on the side of the phone rather than below the screen or on the rear like other manufacturers. The reasons for this are to ensure ease of use either with your index finger or thumb and to give the phone a clean and uninterrupted finished.
With the fingerprint scanner out of the way, the front of the Elephone A5 is taken over by the large 6.18in Panoramic full display, while the tilt-shift nebula pattern of the rear is only broken by the placement of the 3 rear cameras.
The polished alloy chassis is curved and ensures the A5 sits comfortably in the hand and it also gives Elephone somewhere solid to attach the power, and volume buttons too.
There’s also a USB Type C port in the base with speakers on either side. A SIM tray on the left with room for 2 SIM cards and there’s even a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone, a feature that many other brands have started to remove from their phones.
If there’s one complaint then it’s the use of a notch design on the screen. This means that a small portion of the top of the screen has been cut away and repurposed for the position of the receiver and selfie camera, of which there are 2 on the A5. The notched design is one that creates a lot of criticism online, but it’s a neat solution to getting a large screen while retaining a front camera and works well on affordable smartphones.
Another point which might be of concern to some users is the fact the A5 has a very glossy finish. The good news is that Elephone ships each phone with a screen protector fitted and each A5 comes with a clear cover to keep it looking like new for longer.
Elephone A5 Camera
Behind the design and the price of the A5, the fact that this device gets 5 cameras and costs less than £200 is another reason why plenty of people are tempted to pick one up.
Built into the notch of the display are 2 cameras, the main one being a 20-megapixel sensor and the backup camera a 2-megapixel unit. When used in conjunction with one another the dual sensor set-up means the A5 should be able to soak up more light in dimmer conditions, plus it should be able to give you a Bokeh effect for portraits.
In use, the A5’s selfie camera is good, not exceptional, but it’s exactly what we expected from a handset that costs so little. We’re not entirely convinced that the dual sensor set-up is really worth all the fanfare, and believe that a single sensor plus front LED flash would have been more useful for low-light selfies, but in good light, the system performs pretty well.
We’re not big on taking photos of ourselves, so it’s really the rear triple cameras that excited us most. The 3 cameras are set up in a row each with sensors with different mega-pixel ratings.
The main camera is a 12-megapixel sensor, there are a secondary 5-megapixel sensor and a tertiary 0.3mp unit. Again these 3 sensors work together to improve low-light and night photos and can be used to add depth of field to images just like a DSLR.
In use, the rear cameras work much better than we expected they would. In well-lit conditions, the A5 actually shoots very good photos and picks out details and shadows very well.
Low-light and night photos are ok, not to the level of flagship phones but better than other similarly priced smartphones. One tip to get the best from the A5 at night or in low-light is to keep the device as still as possible due to the lack of optical image stabilisation.
One issue we did have with the camera was with the autofocus. AF was a little patchy when taking stills and didn’t work at all for video, neither did tapping the screen to focus on a certain area. We spoke to Elephone who tells us that these issues are well known on media samples and that they have been resolved for retail units.
Elephone A5 Performance
The Elephone A5 model we have on test features a Mediatek Helio P60 chipset, 4GB RAM and 64GB internal memory. Another model is also listed with a boost to 6GB RAM and 128GB internal memory with the same chipset.
Many phone makers in China tend to opt for Mediatek chipsets. They offer a good level of features for not much money and the P60 is no exception. This SOC gives the Elephone A5 Wifi, 3G and 4G LTE connectivity for all networks in the UK. The chipset is specifically geared towards use with multiple cameras and even has a dedicated Ai feature, although Elephone hasn’t done anything with Ai for the A5 likely due to cost restraints.
The P60 is an octa-core processor and uses an ARM Mali G72 MP3 GPU to ensure even graphic intensive games run smoothly. It also helps that 4GB RAM is the norm on the phone and in general, there’s enough memory on tap to run multiple apps at a time.
Internal memory is ample but should you need extra room for photos and video the dual SIM card tray is a hybrid design meaning that it can also be used as a single SIM tray with micro SD card. What’s really interesting is the A5 will accept cards of up to 512GB, so in theory, you should never run out of space.
Elephone’s devices run their own ROM based on Android, in this case, Android 8.0, however, an Android 9.0 update is in the works. Elephone has tweaked the UI of the OS a little and although it does look stock, it does have a theme just to differentiate it from other Android systems.
What’s nice though is that Elephone hasn’t played with Android too much. It’s nice clean and simple with everything where it should be and no junk or bloatware added to get in the way.
However, this phone being a media sample, our A5’s performance was a little hit and miss. Now and then the system slows down to a crawl seemingly without reason, while other times the phone is lightning fast. Again we reached out to Elephone and they say they’re aware of the issue on samples and that production phones are trouble-free.
Elephone A5 Battery Life
Elephone built the A5 with an internal 4000mAh battery, like the Huawei P20 Pro, but unlike the more costly Huawei, the battery in the A5 won’t last you 2 days on a single charge.
A full day of use, perhaps a little more is the best we could get from a full charge, but this was with heavy screen time and email usages, LTE and Wifi connected and frequent use of GPS and navigation.
Battery drain does seem to coincide with performance slow down and lag, and we believe that the issue is more of a software optimisation issue rather than hardware, so again production phones could be better.
Elephone A5 Review What we loved
- We loved the build quality, materials and the design of the Elephone A5. It really is amazing how good a phone can be for such an affordable price.
- The camera performance is better than expected for the price.
- The fact that Elephone has already committed to an Android 9.0 update.
Elephone A5 Review What we would change
- If you’re into selfies then we think a single 20mp sensor with LED flash would make more sense.
- We would have liked to test a phone with retail software to get a real user experience.
- The screen can sometimes be a little too sensitive.
Elephone A5 Review Conclusion
If you’re looking phone an attractive, well-built phone with a large screen and good camera performance there really is very little worth looking at for less than £200.
The Elephone A5 offers a great mix of design, camera performance and hardware for very little money. We like the clean design and the location of the fingerprint scanner, and the fact the phone gets a 3.5mm headphone jack still.
While we had a few performance issues with our test sample, if Elephone really has improved the OS for retail phones then the A5 could be a hidden gem
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