Hands on: Ubik Uno review

Flagship specs in an off-contract shell

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Ubik Uno has all of the makings of a winner. I'm reserving judgment until we can see how it stacks up in terms of performance, but I like what I've seen so far.

For

  • Bezel-free sides
  • Slick design
  • Good value
  • Stock Android

Against

  • Unoriginal design
  • Doesn't do anything unique

Flagship specs alone can't always guarantee a runaway success for smartphones these days. There needs to be more. And delivering more is what's helping phones like the OnePlus One, the Asus Zenfone 2 and the ZTE Axon catch on like wildfire. Not only do these phones offer the specs to satisfy power-thirsty users, they're also affordable and can be used with any carrier. It's a win-win.

As this value-minded blueprint becomes increasingly popular, it only makes sense that more and more companies will take a shot at crafting the one that will steal away your interest. One of those companies is Ubik Mobile, who have unveiled its first phone, the Ubik Uno.

Ubik Uno review

Is it the new hotness? Well, it checks all the necessary boxes. It will be relatively affordable, retailing for $345 (about £221, AU$467) and unlocked for any GSM carrier. It's also a moderately powerful device that doesn't skimp on any major features to meet its price point. These features, while nice, also pretty much describe the phones of several other competitors down to the tee.

So, what does Ubik Uno do differently than the rest? Not much, but it does have a lot going for it.

Design

If you blended the OnePlus One and the Sharp Aquos Crystal together, you'd end up with a pile of dust. But, to continue the metaphor, you'd also get the Ubik Uno, or something close to it. Nothing in particular about its design screams originality, yet each element is nestled nicely against the other. Although I only got hands-on with a pre-production unit, the Uno is a fairly cohesive looking and feeling device.

Ubik Uno review

The front is a looker, rocking tiny bezels on the screen's top, where you'll find the earpiece and front-facing camera, and its bottom. Its sides, save for about a millimeter on each side, are completely bezel-free.

The Uno transitions smoothly from the Gorilla Glass 3 that covers its screen to rounded, brushed metal sides. The left side of the phone is host to two slide out trays: one for a micro SIM and the other for a microSD card. Moving over to the right, there's a power button snuggled up against a volume rocker.

Ubik Uno review

As you might expect, a 3.5mm input is built into the top of the Ubik Uno for wired listening. On its bottom is where you'll find a micro USB port for charging, as well as a microphone. The back of the phone is plastic, but the smooth look and feel it gives off actually fooled me into thinking it was spun metal.

Ubik Uno review

Lastly, along with the shiny Ubik logo, the back panel is shared with the Uno's rear-facing camera. It bulges out a bit, but not so much that pocketing the phone feels uncomfortable.

Performance

The Ubik Uno hasn't launched into production yet, so the pre-production model I got my hands on wasn't running a final version of Android Lollipop 5.1. The team did, however, insure me that the Uno will ship with stock Android. Regardless, I wanted to give its guts a run to see if the horsepower inside equates to a lag-free experience in the OS.

Ubik Uno review

Ubik Mobile opted for the Mediatek MT6795 octa-core processor instead of the popular option for 2015, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. Citing problematic heating issues as the main reason for avoiding the 810, Ubik went with Mediatek's latest because it's skilled at core management and thus, boosts the battery life. We only spent a few minutes with the device, so we'll be able to get a better idea of the SoC's raw performance capabilities and battery life in our full review, but the 3,100 mAh capacity is promising and there was virtually no choppiness while scrolling around.

The Uno packs in a 5.5-inch FHD IPS panel that's quite vibrant and easily viewable from many angles. Inside the phone, you'll be treated to 3GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. This phone can also support for up to 64GB of internal storage via microSD.

Ubik Uno review

Regarding its camera, we didn't have a chance to try it out because the software implementation wasn't set in stone. On paper, both the 20MP sensor built into the back and the 5MP front-facing camera sound promising, but we'll provide extensive photo tests in the full review.

Early verdict

Is this the next phone for you? It might be. The pre-production unit was solidly built and at a launch price of $345, it seems to offer a decent value in terms of what you're actually getting inside.

While it looks a lot like the competition, it could be just different enough to be a standalone contender against the likes of OnePlus, Asus, ZTE and the rest of the off-contract crew when it launches in September. But we'll see just how well it can spar with the gang in our full review later this year.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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