[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]
We’ve actually enjoyed our time conducting the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review. The company has made quite a name for itself in the past by producing handsets at a bargain price which incorporate pretty impressive features. The Smart Ultra 6 made quite a splash in our office back in 2015 for throwing a Snapdragon 615 and 1080p panel into a phone which then cost just £125. With such an excellent critical reception, it was always going to be hard producing a follow-up. The mobile network has now released two new handsets, the Smart Platinum 7 and Smart Ultra 7, which represent value at two totally different price points.
Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 Review: Technical Details
OS Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
Resolution 1440 x 2560 pixels (534 pixels per inch)
Memory 3GB RAM
Micro SD compatible Yes, up to 256GB
Rear camera 16MP
Front camera 8MP
Connectivity WiFi, 4G, Bluetooth, NFC
Dimensions 154 x 75.7 x 7 mm
Battery 3,00 mAh
[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]
One area where Vodafone has really excelled is with the design of the Smart Platinum 7, as it looks like a premium device that could really go toe-to-toe with any flagship. You’d be forgiven for thinking this had a huge asking price, such is the quality of the aesthetic on this thing. Put it next to a Samsung Galaxy S7 and it manages to hold its own, with a full glass body, metal trim and diamond cut edges. There’s a subtle pattern underneath the glass that seems to imitate carbon fiber, giving a flashy little reflective sheen when the sun hits it in the right place.
Measuring 154 x 76, it’s slightly longer than other devices on the market but maintains a similar width. This is largely due to the two front-facing stereo speakers, which flank the device top and bottom. It’s something that we haven’t really seen properly on handsets since the HTC One series and honestly, it makes us realise just how much we miss decent audio. HTC implemented their own version of BoomSound on the HTC 10 which utilised a front-facing tweeter combined with a side-firing subwoofer, this worked pretty well and produced some solid audio. To our ears, the Smart Platinum 7 eclipses this, being both louder and more clear, with much more definition in the high frequencies. If you’re watching a film on the move, this may well be the best handset on the market for the job.
On the back you’ll also find the camera sensor and a fingerprint scanner underneath. We quite like the placement of the scanner and it feels pretty natural to use. We had very few issues with it recognising our print and it unlocked the screen pretty quick. Underneath you’ll find the Vodafone logo standing proud, though it’s subtle enough that you won’t feel put off by its placement.
Unfortunately, the dual glass design does create some problems of it’s own, notably the inability to grip it securely. During the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review, we noticed several occasions where the device could’ve quite easily slipped from our grasp due to simple perspiration. We can only imagine how bad it may get if you use the device with wet hands or in the rain.
Another thing we noticed during the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review was that the glass rear was prone to scratches, marks and fingerprints. Getting some nice snaps for our gallery took quite a bit of effort, as even a lone digit would leave a nasty splodge on the back that undermined the beauty of the entire handset.
That said, it’s still a beautiful handset to behold and we really dig the textured buttons on the side. With a metal build, they felt rock solid during operation and had a satisfying click during operation. It’s also one of the thinnest handsets out there at only 7mm thick, beating the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and matching the Huawei P9. Even with the slight camera bump on the back, it feels remarkably slim.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]
Smartphone cameras on cheaper handsets have improved greatly over the last few years and I’m pleased to report that the Smart Platinum 7 is one such device that seems to have a solid shooter. While the OnePlus 3 and other comparative devices are slightly better, the humble little Vodafone handset still manages to hold its own in all but the most difficult conditions. It’s not a great camera by any means but it’s also not terrible, as shown by the test shots below.
With a 16 megapixel rear shooter, we found daytime shots to be passable, though images felt a little soft and colours were often quite washed out. During the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review, we found macro shots to be especially mediocre, with difficulty getting focus and a lack of fine detail where it mattered most.
The camera dealt well with harshly exposed scenes, preserving detail in the highlights and producing an evenly lit image. This is something that poorer quality cameras always tend to struggle with and we we’re happy to see the handset overcome this with relative ease.
Dark shots were a bit of a problem, with the phone struggling to pull in any light despite the high f/2.0 aperture. Noise was minimal and detail seemed to be reasonably well kept, but the images are just far too dark to be usable in any worthwhile scenario.
One thing that really impressed us about the rear camera during our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review was the speed of the shutter, which is lightning quick. There’s literally no delay between hitting the button and taking the snap, with zero processing delay thereafter. For snaps that require little hesitation, it’s a handy feature to have.
The default camera application that ships with the Smart Platinum 7 is excellent, with plenty of modes and a quick start-up time. You’ll get a full manual suite of controls including shutter speed and ISO, which helps to get better shots. That said, it didn’t seem to make much difference in low light scenarios, where the sensor still seemed to struggle.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]
Possibly the biggest highlight of the Smart Platinum 7 is the panel, with a 5.5-inch Quad HD display boasting a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. This makes it a perfect partner for virtual reality, which is exactly what Vodafone is marketing the smartphone towards. The mobile network will be shipping the device with a free headset that allows people to take advantage of the experience and first impressions are good. The screen size is pretty much spot on for VR, while the use of an AMOLED panel means that colours pop and black levels can go deep. It also has the ability to output the full sRGB colour gamut, which is a bit of a novelty but helps to make things feel more vibrant and rich.
That said, it’s not perfect. During our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review, we noticed some significant ghosting when using it as a VR device which is especially evident when making quick movements with your head. I found myself getting a little motion sick after about 30 minutes of continuous use, though it’s likely that most people won’t be wearing it on their heads for that long. When you consider that you’re getting a QHD panel for £250, I think we can let this slide a little bit. There’s currently nothing else out there in this bracket that comes close.
There’s also the issue of maximum brightness, which is high but not quite as much as other devices. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between medium and high settings, with only a subtle jump when cranking things up for outdoor use. You’ll be able to see it in bright sunlight reasonably well, but don’t expect things to be jumping out quite as much as the competition.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]
With a Snapdragon 652 and 3GB RAM, the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is well equipped to tackle most things available today. We know that the chipset performs on a par with the 810, a processor that was considered the flagship last generation. The Adreno 510 GPU is a bit less impressive, not quite matching the prowess of last generations Adreno 430. Instead, it seems to be more comparable to the Adreno 418, which the same GPU that we saw alongside the Snapdragon 808. As you’ll remember, it was still a pretty powerful chip, able to run most titles at highest settings with good frame rates.
Testing the game alongside our current real-world benchmark title Asphalt 8: Airborne, we found our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review unit to be smooth and fluid. Even on the highest settings, the handset had no problem driving the title at full resolution. In fact, with the help of the excellent front-facing stereo speakers, this actually turned out to be a really handy little gaming device. For general performance, we found very little slowdown and lag even when opening several large memory hogging applications. Subtle slowdown was only ever a momentary thing and during our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review we can only remember one encounter where the phone hung for more than a fraction of a second.
Our various performance tests showed good all-round results for graphics performance and in the stress tests. Our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review unit averaged out at 82,978 on Antutu, which puts it in the upper tier of mid-range smartphone devices. Likewise for the Geekbench score, 5,088 in multi-core and 1531 in single-core puts it way above last-generation flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and not too far behind devices running the Snapdragon 820. This is a strong result that really shows off the power of the 652.
Vodafone has done a great job with keeping this device close to bloatware free and it really shows in the UI. In our Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review unit, we found that it shipped with stock Android 6.0.1 out of the box, which is the newest version currently available. What you get is an essentially pure experience without any overlay whatsoever. There’s a couple of Vodafone applications thrown in for good measure such as their own messaging and dialler services, but these can easily be replaced with something else should you wish. They can’t however be completely deleted. You’ll also get some subtle branding cues in the UI, such as a Vodafone symbol when powering on and their own help application saved as the default favourite homescreen app. Again, most of this can be changed.
With a 3,000mAh battery, the Smart Platinum 7 is well equipped to last a full day on a single charge with fairly heavy use. It’s on a par with flagships and can even reach the elusive two day mark if you’re being careful. Leaving the device on standby overnight will barely drain anything, though this is largely thanks to the breakthroughs made by Android and its Doze function. We measured the battery at around 12 hours using the default medium brightness setting, which is a solid result that puts it in the upper tier.
Thanks to the fact that it uses a newer Qualcomm chipset, the device also includes the newest Quick Charge 3.0 standard. This means you can juice the phone from 0-50 percent in just 30 minutes, though in real-world scenarios it’s often slightly shorter. From 0-100 percent, you can expect it to take just under 90 minutes.
Since the Smart Platinum 7 has a one-piece design, the battery is non-removable, so don’t try prying it open to replace things. If you’re going on a long camping trip, you’ll need to bring a powerbank to keep things going.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 review: Conclusion[/highlight]
The Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is a perfectly powerful handset that offers good value for money and plenty of features. It’s also priced itself into an immensely competitive sector and for that reason, it will probably face a tough time gathering interest. While the OnePlus 3 may be better than the device in almost every area overall, real-world differences are actually quite small. Counter that with the QHD screen, which is a steal for £250, and it gives the handset a powerful unique selling point. There’s definitely stronger handsets out there but this is undoubtedly the best budget virtual reality device currently on the market.