With the Elephone S7 Mini, the Chinese manufacturer launches a real masterpiece. It is not often that you find a low-budget smartphone with a curved display – quite a sideswipe at the big and well-known manufacturers. The phone is a smaller version of the Elephone S7. Compared to the bigger version, not only the display has been reduced (5.2- instead of 5.5-inch), but also some other features have been cut down. The Elephone S7 Mini has a quad-core processor and the 2GB of RAM are also smaller than the RAM of its bigger brother. Of course, the device has some weak spots as well, but it has an absolutely tempting price. In this review you’ll find out the strong and weak points of the smartphone and what it is beyond its great outer appearance.
Design and build quality
The Elephone S7 Mini is quite a masterpiece. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I am still looking for someone who does not think this device is beautiful. The design is similar to that of a well-known manufacturer, of that there is no doubt. However, what can be wrong with the copy if it is made well and sold for a fraction of the price?
Let’s start with the facts though. With its 7.6mm, the device is pleasantly slim and it is 0.1mm slimmer than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Thanks to the compact dimensions of 68.8mm x 144mm, a one-handed operation is possible as well. The weight of 145g is quite light. This could be because of the material of the back cover. The plastic, however, is sensitive to scratches. Nevertheless, the device leaves a high-quality impression thanks to the special reflection-effect. The manufacturer compares this reflection quite appropriately to the Northern Lights. The camera juts out a bit.
The frame is made of aluminium which creates nice haptics and a high-quality impression. Power button and volume control are located on the right. This position can be reached very well with the thumb also when operating the phone with one hand only. Speaker, microphone and micro-USB port can be found at the bottom. The audio jack is at the top. Black plastic lines interrupt the aluminium frame, which looks quite nicely. You can find the SIM slot at the left side.
A notification LED shines in red, green or blue and it is located at the Elephone S7 Mini’s front side as well as the multifunctional button. The button is fixed in the thick Gorilla Glass 3, which protects the complete front side, however, it seems a little lopsided and unfirm. Nevertheless, it does a fine job and combines the following 5 functions:
- Fingerprint scanner
- Home button (press)
- Back-button (quick touch)
- Multitasking menu (press longer)
- Shortcut-key (press 2x)
Elephone S7 Mini scope of delivery
Elephone does not include a lot of extra stuff in the s7 Mini’s box. In the quite simple box you can find only a micro-USB cable for charging and data transmission, a quick-charge adapter, operating instructions (available in 6 languages) and the SIM ejection tool.
The Elephone S7 Mini’s best selling point besides the cool design is clearly the awesome 5.2-inch curved display. With its full-HD resolution (1920×1080 pixels) and its bezel-free display, the Elephone S7 Mini, compared to other devices in the low-budget sector, is like a UHD flat screen TV among CRT TVs. The IPS panels offers impressive contrast, strong colours and has almost as stable viewing angles as a page of a book. Thanks to MiraVision, you can customize the representation.
The smartphone’s display is not an edge-display like that of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but rather a bezel-free (or slightly curved) panel in combination with 3D-Glass. The screen of the curved-display does not extend that much over the edge like the Samsung device’s screen. I think this solution is the better one because you do not unintentionally touch the display while holding it with only one hand.
Fan of the SmartWake function will be a bit disappointed: it is not possible to wake the Elephone S7 Mini’s display by touching it. You can only apply the waking function onto the volume control so it wakes the device when it is pressed. Whether this is an advantage is doubtful, as the power button is located under the volume control anyway. Therefore, I think that this feature is unnecessary.
Scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 protects the display. In bright sunlight, it reflects so strongly that it is difficult to recognize any contents. Nevertheless, display brightness is sufficient for operating and reading the multi-touch screen (max. 5 points of contact) in 98% of the cases.
Of course, you cannot expect a device in the low-budget range to play all 3D games with highest graphics settings, but the Elephone S7 Mini can quite surprise in terms of performance. Navigating through the menu happens fluently: there are neither jerks nor long load times nor crashes. Among demanding 3D games, only N.O.V.A 3 could be played rather well with impressive graphics settings. Trying to play Asphalt 8 or Modern Combat 5, you clearly notice that the device does not house a high-performance processor. Heat development is okay. The temperature is rarely higher than 50°C.
Elephone uses the MediaTek MT6737T, which houses 4 Cortex-A53 cores with 1.5GHz. This processor is very common among 90-130$ phones. The MediaTek processor is supported by a Mali-T720 MP2 graphics chip and 2GB of RAM. The RAM is not that big, but it is okay for average multitasking.
The benchmark results do not cause astonishment. The Antutu value of 41,000 was an expected result. The RAM was measured and it was shown that it works with 4.3GB/s. The 32GB main memory has a good reading speed of 200MB/s, whereas the writing speed of 80MB/s is rather a bit slow. In daily use, both paces are sufficient.
Clean Android 6.0
The Elephone S7 Mini uses Android 6.0 in an almost unchanged form. An update to Android 7.0 is mentioned several times in the Elephone forum, but there is no concrete statement. The common standard apps (except for Google Maps) are preinstalled, as is the Google Playstore. Furthermore, there is a service app by Elephone available, which with you can ask the manufacturer questions or make suggestions. I tried it and asked a simple question, but unfortunately, I never got a reply.
Surprisingly, Elephone did activate user control, which means you can create different user profiles with restricted permissions (or at least it should be possible). At this point, however, there is a fatal bug: if you change to the user profile “guest”, your rights are restricted. You cannot get access to the quick settings, notifications are no longer shown and the worst thing is that you cannot get back to the user control in order to change the user profile. You have no possibility to change back to the normal mode and therefore, you’re locked in the guest access. The only remaining possibility is to reset the device to the factory state. I strongly recommend to stay away from the menu item “user” until this bug has been fixed! If you want to create another user profile besides the guest access, the launcher crashes and you have to reset.
Apart from that, the operating system runs stable. Updates are installed via OTA and will hopefully fix the bugs in near future.
The manufacturer’s website does not advertise the Elephone S7 Mini’s camera, which has a simple reason: neither the 5MP front camera nor the 13MP rear camera offer something special. The rear camera has an aperture of f/2.0. Some shops report a value of f/2.2, which I however cannot confirm. In good light conditions you can take quite nice pictures. Colour representation is natural and pictures appear to be sharp on the 5.2-inch smartphone display as well as on a 15.6-inch notebook screen.
Compared to current high-end smartphones, the Elephone S7 Mini can’t keep up in terms of image quality. During the night, you have to have some extra light in order to get a suitable and sharp picture. In complete darkness the flash does not really help. The LEDs’ brightness is only sufficient to take a photo of things in maximum 1.5-metre distance. The front camera especially reminds of the smartphone’s price range. Selfies lack sharpness. Edges disappear and the pictures are therefore not rich in detail either.
The autofocus needs about 1 second (maximum 2 seconds) to find the right focus. Trigger time is (still) sufficiently fast. In the camera settings you can adjust a few things, such as the ISO-value. Nevertheless, hobby photographers with extended knowledge will not be satisfied.
Communication and connectivity
GSM 850 MHz, GSM 900 MHz, GSM 1800 MHz, GSM 1900 MHz, W-CDMA 900 MHz, W-CDMA 1900 MHz, W-CDMA 2100 MHz, LTE 800 MHz, LTE 1800 MHz, LTE 2100 MHz, LTE 2600 MHz, LTE-TDD 2300 MHz (B40), LTE-TDD 2600 MHz (B38)
Voice quality on the other hand is only mediocre, if not insufficient. Some callers said my voice sounded faded, especially when I used the speaker. The speaker itself could not convince either. It sounded weak when telephoning as well when playing sounds and music from the phone. Therefore, you cannot really enjoy music via the speaker, which is why you should use headphones instead.
The Wi-Fi-module on the other hand was surprisingly good. It supports dual band and receives 5GHz as well as 2.4GHz over long distances. The smartphone has dual-SIM, but only if you go without storage expansion. This is because a hybrid slot is used.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not seem to appreciate navigation very much: Google Maps is not even preinstalled. After being activated, the GPS module locates the device fast and precisely, but during the navigation, there are some problems. On a test track, the position often jerked and switched into parallel streets. This led to a wrong route description. Google maps, after being installed, seems to have some problems with the Elephone S7 Mini’s GPS module. Navigon showed a more reliable position, but it was not flawless. Maybe this will be fixed via an update, as it happened with its bigger brother.
The Elephone S7 Mini is a real battery monster, but not because of the capacity: it is because it consumes a lot of battery in the stand-by mode. With a capacity of 2450mAh, the battery has run down after one day. If seldom used, the battery can last for 1.5-2 days. In normal use, you have to charge the S7 Mini in the evening in order to have enough power for the next day. Charging the phone happens quite fast. After 45 minutes the battery has back 50% of its capacity. After 1 ½ hours the battery has 90% and it is fully charged after 2 hours. Quick-charge is still a rare thing in the low-budget sector.
* Incl. VAT and, if applicable, delivery costs – subject to interim changes.