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iOcean X7 Elite review


We love a bargain here at MoDaCo and we also have a long standing history of recommending cheap Chinese phones which can be imported from sites such as Merimobiles and BuySKU. This creates a rather nice intersection point as what we have for review here is the iOcean X7 Elite, a phone that can be bought for around £190 at the time of writing although this price is very variable depending on exchange rates and availability.

What you get for your money is quite extraordinary. A quick breakdown of the specs shows that this model includes a 5" 1080x1920 pixel IPS LCD screen, a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor, 2Gb RAM, 32Gb Storage and a 13 megapixel camera. These specs are right in line with all the latest flagship Android phones including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

So, this is a great device on paper, but what about in reality? Lets start with a full look over those specs and then dive straight into the full review.
  • Dimensions: 141 x 69 x 8.95 mm
  • Weight: 136 grams (150 grams officially)
  • 5" IPS LCD, 1080x1920 display with 5 touch points
  • 2000 mAh battery
  • 13 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash
  • 5 megapixel front facing camera
  • 1.5GHz MTK6589T quad-core Cortex A7, PowerVR SGX544 GPU
  • 2Gb RAM
  • 32Gb storage
  • 2G GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G WCDMA: 2100MHz
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v2.1
  • Dual SIM with dual standby
As is sometimes the case with these sorts of devices, the manufacturing tolerances are wider than what we are used to. Hence, some of these specs are not as listed officially. The weight of my X7 is significantly less than the official specs.

What the specs cannot tell you is how the device feels, how well it is made and how durable it is. The X7 is constructed of some pretty mid-range plastics. I think they are similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 in feel but with a completely plain finish. The back cover snaps off easily showing the 14 plastic hooks used to hold it on - fewer than on the S4. It feels fairly solid but a little light in the hand with that back cover creating a kind of ridge that actually helps when holding the phone. Frankly, it does feel a bit cheap, but no more so than a Galaxy S4 and it is a well made phone which does not creak or rattle. Everything seems to be well put together with consistent responses from the buttons, the back cover and the ports. There are no issues here. As for durability, I don't see any issues apart from the screen which has no obvious scratch resistance.


Hardware Overview

Posted Image


The X7 is a fair slab of a phone but is actually quite similar to the Galaxy S4 in size overall. It has a non-offensive and featureless design which is completely anonymous with no branding on the front of the phone but is not unattractive. That front is dominated by the 5 inch screen, with room for three capacitive buttons below it and the speaker grille, light and proximity sensors and front facing camera above. All very sensibly laid out. The plastic surrounding the screen is raised above the screen itself meaning there is some security there should you place the phone face down on a surface.

Posted Image
Posted Image


The left of the phone houses the one piece volume rocker whilst the right side is where you find the power buttons. These buttons are positive and easy to find without looking. HTC should take note of how easy it is to design good buttons.

Posted Image


The bottom of the device is where you find the micro USB port and the microphone hole. Up top, you just have the standard 3.5mm headphone hack.

Posted Image


The back is nice and simple despite being the busiest part of the design here. The speaker at the bottom has a small bit of plastic just above it to lift the X7 off a surface in that area and hopefully make the sound easier to hear. At the top there is the camera and single flash along with FHD branding. It is not clear if this branding is for the camera or the screen but it is true either way. iOcean branding is the only other flourish here.

Posted Image


Removing the back reveals the 2000mAh battery along with the dual SIM slots and the micro SD memory card slot. None of these slots can be accessed with the battery in the phone.

This is not a premium device in the hand, but the design is reasonable and it is well dimensioned for a phone with a screen this big. We think this is a good job on a tight budget.


Screen

The screen is a 5 inch, 1080p, IPS LCD fully optically laminated beauty. It is a stunning screen. Obviously at its ultra high resolution you would expect it to be crisp, but it also has amazing viewing angles, well balanced colours and reasonable brightness. The only downsides are the less than brilliant black levels and the lack of ultimate brightness. This makes the screen somewhat hard to use outdoors in direct sunlight, hard to the point of being impossible, but I gladly sought out the shade so I could enjoy this amazing screen. A phone at this price has no right to be bearing a screen this good.


Software

Posted Image


I expected to have an awful lot to say about the software on the X7, but rather pleasantly there is very little to comment on. The X7 runs an almost vanilla version of Android 4.2.1.

When switching on the device, I found the language set to English (US). UK English can be selected, but you will need to use Morelocales to change the region settings to UK. Either way, there are no real issues here. The biggest surprise to me after the initial boot was that the X7 came fully rooted.

If you hard reset the device, the language and locale are set to some form of Chinese local settings. Obviously the device was shipped from BuySKU after being set to English as they advertise. There are also a lot of Chinese apps installed. The good news is that all these apps can either be uninstalled or disabled which is fantastic.

Posted Image


Despite being a fairly stock ROM there are some tweaks which are mostly positive. The first and most obvious change is that the settings menu has been altered slightly and there are some new colourful icons. Some interesting additions here include Audio Profiles of which 4 are provided by default.

The dialler has been tweaked to include a good implementation of dial pad autocomplete, something that is finally available in stock Android as of version 4.3. The camera app has also been changed, more on that later.

Posted Image Posted Image


The quick shortcuts in the notification drawer have been added to and improved. There are now shortcuts for managing your data connection, audio profiles and screen rotation among others. I find this a useful and thoughtful addition.

The battery percentage can optionally be shown next to the clock in the top bar, another useful enhancement that is to be welcomed.

Beyond these tweaks, the software on the X7 is stock Android right down to the icons and the lock screen. An impressive job and one of the most appealing things about the phone for me.


Camera

The X7 takes 13 megapixel images from its main camera at a resolution of 4096x3072. This may sound very promising but in reality it is closer in quality to mid-range phones from last year most of which were packing 5 megapixel cameras. Pictures come out a little soft, underexposed and often slightly out of focus. The X7 struggles to pick out fine detail yet noise levels are kept under control reasonably well. This is a camera I am more than happy to use for quick snaps and sharing photos to Facebook, but it is not great.

Low light poses a challenge for the X7, but actually it is shadows and mixed light were it performs particularly poorly. You can see in the sample shots below how it struggles with images taken with that mix of shadows and bright light while in an indoor shot, detail is evenly captured even if poorly so. The video camera is more of the same although audio is very clear. I could not discern any difference recording at high or medium quality levels. This would be a disappointing performance for a £500 flagship phone, but is perfectly acceptable for a phone at this price.

Amazingly, the front facing camera is at least as good as the rear facing as long as you are in a well lit area. It is a very good front facing camera.

Posted Image


The camera interface is very simple and offers a reasonable set of adjustments. It has an HDR mode, various scene modes and can capture panoramas as well as multi angle view images which are similar to photospheres. These settings can be annoying to use as some aspects are immediately on hand and other settings have to be found in the settings menus, but at least they are there. You can initiate image and video capture from the same interface which I always find a big bonus too.



Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
(click on images for full resolution versions)



Dual SIM


Posted Image


Most Chinese market phones accept two SIM cards and the X7 is no exception. In this case, we are able to use one mini SIM and one micro SIM. The phone also supports dual standby, so both SIM cards can be active at once. This can be very convenient, but how well does it work in practice?

The X7 detects when you insert a new SIM card into either slot and you can select which is used for voice calls, text messaging and data. You are able to use whichever of the two SIMs you want for each purpose. Both slots support 3G data connections, but only one SIM card can be active on 3G at once.

Reception on the X7 was generally good but definitely different for the two SIM slots. Whilst this makes no sense, using the mini SIM slot for my 3G connection always led to worse results than using the micro SIM slot. Overall though network speeds were good and signal strength consistent. It should be noted that using both SIM slots does have a deleterious effect on battery life due to two radios drawing power at once.

Call quality is generally excellent although I would prefer the speaker to be a little louder. The external speaker on my X7 is very poor being both quiet and very distorted which is a shame.


Performance and Battery Life

The performance of the quad core A7 CPU running at up to 1.5Ghz is good without being outstanding. The issue comes with the GPU trying to drive the very high screen resolution that the X7 has. It is up to the job, but only just. It is not that the phone is slow or lags consistently, but there are times when scrolling will judder or swiping between home screens becomes a struggle. These moments do truly only last a moment though. Overall, performance is impressive and apps open and respond without delay. The ARM A7 cores may not be the fastest performing platform, but it is certainly more than adequate for running Android.

Battery life is largely very impressive. The X7 has a fairly small battery by today's standards but I comfortably got a day out of the battery. If it had the twenty percent larger capacity that most five inch screened flagships from the likes of Samsung or Sony have, then it would match their battery performance too. What is especially impressive is that standby performance quite possibly beats that of the Snapdragon based flagships we are seeing today, but those slightly slower A7 cores have to be driven harder when under load and consequently, the battery suffers.


Risks and Issues

It is important to discuss what the risks are when importing a device such as the X7 although this goes for any device of this type.

The main risks are warranty and certification. Whilst I had a decent experience dealing with a warranty claim with BuySKU, your mileage may vary and there are no guarantees from BuySKU as to what they will do beyond 45 days after delivery. Other retailers have different rules, but none that I can find offer a UK style 1 year warranty.

All phones sold in the European Union are certified to meet a set of safety and performance criteria governing items such as the radios - WiFi, cellular and bluetooth - within the device. Batteries and radiation levels are also tested before a phone can be sold here. Any device you import yourself is highly unlikely to have met these criteria. Whilst it would be surprising of there were issues with any phones these days, you are offered no guarantees. Technically, your cellular network does not have to provide a connection to an uncertified device and they will be unlikely to offer any serious technical support.

Import duties may well be charged and collected by UK Customs authorities although there are no guarantees either way here. How UK Customs decide what level of duty to charge is an unknown too.

But it is also worth noting that the basic underlying hardware is starting to find its way into mainstream devices. The launch of the Oppo R819 recently marks the first EU certified phone to ship with the Mediatek CPU also found in the X7 while there are already a range of tablets available with this hardware.

One of the most annoying issues with the X7 is the left soft button below the screen which is marked as the multi-tasking button but is actually the menu button. Frustrating! It is also noteworthy that on my example at least, the external speaker is very poor and the vibration motor weak. There are perhaps smaller issues, but you can start to see where costs have been cut.

The worst of the issues though is the GPS. It takes a long time to get a lock and unless you are standing still or walking, the lock can be extremely inaccurate. At first, when I was driving, it would have me on roads up to half a mile from where I was, rendering Google Maps Navigation useless. Having tried a few GPS tweaks, it is generally accurate to within 200 metres which is just about acceptable for satellite navigation in general but is still very frustrating. Shockingly, I was forced to stop and ask for directions one time which was most upsetting!

Conclusion

It is worthless trying to compare the X7 to anything else with general UK availability, so I wont bother. There are other devices available for importing from China which are worth looking at such as the Giayu G4, the TCL Idol X and the Zopo ZP980, but I would probably buy the iOcean X7 Plus today which is the same as the X7 Elite except it only has 1Gb of RAM and 16Gb storage - small downgrades - but is even cheaper at around £150 at the time of writing. My concern is that none of these will have the same screen as the X7 Elite and it is hard to be sure. I have used an X7 Youth - lower end than the Elite and Plus - but the screen on that device was not optically laminated and had significantly worse black levels despite being similar in other ways.

So, the iOcean X7 Elite. Can it compete with the best from Samsung, HTC and Sony? No, it can't, but then it is also less than half the cost of those. It IS a very compelling device and is a class act all round. If you are prepared to take the risk and if GPS is not important to you, this phone is better than any similarly priced device you can buy in the UK today.

About the author

James Norton's Photo
An aspiring tech journalist and a complete phone geek with a passion for all mobile technology. Vast experience of all mobile platforms and an evangelist for quality design no matter where it comes from.

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9 Comments

Photo
The Soup Thief
Aug 30 2013 11:47 AM
Great review of an interesting device. The price drop on the Nexus 4 leaves very little room for Chinese phones to put a foot wrong though.
The 2nd sim slot, sd slot, larger onboard memory and bigger/higher def screen on this are attractive, but you'd have to really want any of those to be prepared to put up with the quirks you've outlined with GPS, build quality etc (plus of course the aftermarket development).
But as you say, the real comparisons should maybe be with the Samsungs, Sonys and HTCs.
The N4 has just warped my sense of what devices should cost (as I guess it's pricing was intended to do)
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I have a Galaxy Note 1 and I can't use a phone with 4.3" or less, so when I'll replace the Note I'll look for another 5" device. Those Chinese phones look quite appealing, since I'm tired with Samsung's bullshit regarding the updates. At least I'll pay less and I won't expect any kind of service if I break something :)
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Great review. My interest in Chinese phones has been around for a while but always been put off by the poor quality. But with modaco's recent mentions I started researching some over a number of months. I came across gizchina and after a few weeks I decided on the iocean x7 elite - but stock seemed to be low and being a real cheapskate I thought its cost was on the high side (! - for the reason that the less money spent lessened the risk of wasting money).

In the end I looked again and had been browsing the Antelife sellers website - they always seem to have decent offers (group deals) and quite a few discount codes (mainly on gizchina). I noticed the THL W8 Beyond and plumped for that as it came out costing me about £150 delivered on an Antelife group deal (to reduce cost I just went for the free shipping via Singapore post).

I was very, very pleased when I got it, but as per your review had issues with the mediatek GPS (easily fixed with an external BT GPS - more of that later – I also tried all the soft fixes and it did improve but not enough for driving directions).

The THL is very much a Samsung Galaxy clone - but they at least brand it unlike some other manufacturers which are straight up Samsung copies complete with Samsung logo.

It came with a flip case, screen protector (with one on it already), extra battery and the usual accessories - nicely boxed. Build is nice and solid, the only thing that let's it down is the shiny plastic back. Screen is 1080P and lovely, twin sims is the key thing for me as I use a work sim (no data but we can use for personal calls and pay for those) and personal sim (for data).

After a couple of weeks of use I found the RAM (1GB!) to be an issue, I tried memory managers but still found some issues (slow down when loading the app draw, some apps like Flipboard closing when trying to open etc). I did end up purchasing ‘lagfix premium’ from the app store to see if the addition of trim support would help - and it did seem to - but at this point I was lured by the Antelife site again and noticed a new model the THL W8S - 2GB RAM, 32GB ROM and a laminated Gorilla Glass 3 screen :-)

So the decision was made to buy that and sell the Beyond - the W8S ended up at £172 delivered (this time by Hong Kong post - free again and an Antelife code helping to bring the cost down). And a friend had the Beyond and is very happy with it and has no issues with ram it seems (so I must have been pushing it too hard!).

The W8S screen is fully laminated so very close to the surface - how I can tell if it really is Gorilla Glass is beyond me - I don't dare test its claims - time will tell! The 2GB seems to fix all my memory issues and now with an S-Line silicon case on it I do not notice the cheap back! Performance is great and no issues with mobile reception, dual SIM use (fantastic) Wi-Fi, BT or any other function other than the GPS detailed above and below.

For my GPS needs it is fine, the inbuilt GPS is fine for general location awareness and checking Google maps traffic. For serious navigation I dug out an old BT GPS unit I had, and with an app from the play store (Bluetooth GPS), 'mock locations' developer setting and a couple of discount codes to get Sygic (£13) I have perfect offline, quickly locked and located GPS for the couple of times a year I really need sat nav :-)

I can certainly recommend the THL W8S and the Beyond if GPS car nav is not key for you - I was always someone who thought 5" phones were too big - but in my mid-forties and having recently struggled with reading on my previous phone (4" Motorola Atrix) then I am converted - 5" is the limit though!

Didn't have any issues with import duty luckily (both marked smartphone – value $40!) and obviously in effect I have no European protection and guarantee - so you have to be prepared to take a risk buying these phones - but the obvious savings are incredible.

I can also (from my limited experience) recommend going for the cheap postal service, first phone took about 7 days from notification of shipping, the second about 5 days.

Latest deals on Antelife: http://link.antelife...06_179090_13112 show the THL W8 Beyond and W8S at even lower prices now – even taking into account the retail exchange rate which will increase the price of a straight exchange rate conversion to about £140 for the Beyond and about £170 for the W8S.
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it is helpful review, i have foucsed on the X7 for a long time.

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After 3 weeks with the X7, I can say I still love it. It's not top of the line, but it's more than decent.

I have only one issue with it: the 3 buttons aren't backlit, so if you're using the phone in the darkness you won't see where they are and you'll fumble around, trying to press them. Of course, after a while you learn where they are, but I still miss them by 2-3 mm and it's annoying!

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Two short comments:

 

- It is available in EU (Italy and Belgium), with EU compatible CE.

- @absro: About support: They are sending replacement GPS antennas and manuals how to replace them. Okay, not Samsung premium support, but funny :)

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Maybe i'm missing something here, but why is there a Huawei logo on the back? I thought it was iOcean :P

 

back.jpg

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Photo
kieranswhite
Dec 10 2013 07:56 PM

Maybe i'm missing something here, but why is there a Huawei logo on the back? I thought it was iOcean :P

 

back.jpg

 

 

 

and a Sony Xperia Z/Z1?

front.jpg

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Attaquez-vous plutôt aux vrais marques de Shenzhen, le iOcean X7 est sorti de nulle part et n’est donc pas digne de confiance, en attendant prochain iphone 5s & galaxy note 3 pas cher

This site is English only please.

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