2015 has been a year of the midrange phones and very powerful ones at that. Tons of good specs packed in for highly competitive pricing and some of them have performed exceptionally well. And among the scores of Chinese smartphone makers who have set out on their global conquests is Coolpad which made its official entry to Indian markets only this year. One of their latest offerings if the Note 3 (never mind the names resembling one of those Samsung Galaxy flagship series. This is not the only company to use that name though). The Coolpad Note 3 is a midranger that aims to deliver some good all-round performance for something as less as 8,999 INR. Does it manage to pull off its manufacturer’s claims? Read on as we bring you our findings based on our extensive testing.
The one thing that worries potential buyers is the design and build quality that are normally compromised in the quest to lower the pricing. Coolpad Note 3’s overall design is nothing great, but nothing shabby either. Coming at 9.33mm thickness and weighing close to 160 gms, the device is heavy but thanks to the curved edges and the contour on the back, it fits neatly into one’s palm. The baby skin finish on the back (as Coolpad names it) brings in a matte finish ensuring the heavy phone taken over by gravity is not slippery. However, much against the claims of Coolpad, the surface gets dirty and quickly too. Thankfully, the dirt can be removed and given a thorough wash.
A metallic rim goes around the device and on the front face it does give that “posh” looks to the phone. The power button on the right and the volume rockers on the left are integrated with the cover and provide a decent “clicky” feel – good enough for its price range. Three capacitive buttons sit at the bottom but wont light up which is again expected at this price range. Oh wait! Did we forget something? The Finger Print scanner at the back just below the camera – a positioning that has rather become a norm with Nexus phones doing the same. Yes, this is easily one of the cheapest smartphones currently to offer a fingerprint scanner. Overall, we are happy with what Coolpad has done here with their design but be ready to handle a heavy chunky fella.
The display consists of a 5.5” HD display packing ~267 pixels per inch, but do not get fooled by the number here. We were pleasantly surprised at how bright the display is and demonstrate that “vividness” in its nature and is quite a charm. This ensures the phone has decent viewing angles even in the sun but the glass is rather very reflective under direct sunlight making it hard to view. The touch was rather over-sensitive compared to other phones but as we spent time, we kinda got used to it.
Under the removable back resides a combination of Mediatek MT6753 octa-core processor clocked at 1.6GHz and 3GB of RAM – something that we’ve hardly seen anyone else provide at this price range. 16 GB of internal storage also allows for as much as 64 GB to be added via a micro SD slot. All of these ensure that the Cool UI v6.0 built off Android 5.1 runs very smooth. Throughout our usage we never encountered any lags or stutters, and even with as many as 20 apps open, the device handled it all smooth and easy – kudos. The Cool UI v6.0 is a highly customized one and doesn’t have an app drawer. It comes with tons of pre-loaded apps which may not be liked by many. What was annoying was the custom keyboard that started throwing tons of ads. Since this is set by default we had to move over to Google Keyboard. The Rock Wallpaper app is something which we loved, changes the home screen wallpaper in a single tap.
This phone even has a multi-window option but it gets jerky at times but Coolpad threw this in nonetheless. The setting also houses some cool gesture options like double tap to wake up, enabling the gloves mode and flip case mode – gestures is something that we are seeing a lot in some of the latest Chinese offerings in the recent past.
The notification and toggle menu shows up on a swipe down and has tons of options in it ranging from screenshot to data choices on a sim. Though the performance and actions work well, what you will notice is the UI and its designs could use lots of work. At times some icons get chopped off during transition, gradients are out of whack and the overall UI itself needs lots of refinement – call us sticklers for nitpicking on this but we are spoilt by the likes of MIUI that comes on phones that are as less as 6000 INR.
In terms of the AnTuTu benchmark scores, Coolpad Note 3 scored between 31-33K in the multiple instances we tried. Though this benchmark scoring doesn’t catch the attention of the ones who love the big scores, the overall day to day usage was free of any lags or stutters even as we had upto 30 apps open in parallel.
Gaming was good too even with high end games like Asphalt 8, Riptide 2 and Real Racing. Occasional stutters during extended gaming was noticed but what was more drastic was the fact that the region around the camera gets very hot – upwards of 45 degrees and gets very uncomfortable to hold the phone. So yes, this phone has some overheating issues during extended hours of high-end gaming.
The Fingerprint scanner is a stunner. Coolpad claimed the 360 degrees ability and they were certainly not lying. It is superfast and not for once we ever felt it was messing with us. You have to use it to believe it to know how well it works – no kidding here. Coolpad also provides a FP Scanner app using which you can define which of the apps on the phone you will want to secure by mandating the finger to be scanned to be able to access it – neat feature!
We have another stunner for you – the 3000 mAh battery. Will get straight to the point or something what you want to hear, the phone gave us an average of 5+ hours of screen on time, even when the brightness level was set to 50%. This is one phone that will never have you worrying if the phone will die on you, but where it gets you worrying is the rather long time it takes to charge itself from 0 to 100% – as much as 3 hours. There is a special “Long Standby” option in the toggle menu and using this option will turn off everything in the phone and let you do only calls and texting, and extend the battery life by at least 30-40%. The home screen goes black and you will see the options in big squares that resemble the tiles in Windows mobiles. We feel this is a very handy feature that lets your phone save all the juice it needs to do telephony related tasks in some special scenarios.
Dual micro SIM slots can be found that support 4G LTE and 3G – signal reception wasn’t the greatest of what we have seen and there were times when we had to re-connect to the person we were talking to ensure they heard what we spoke. The microphone quality is pretty bad and the person on the other end frequently complained about the voice being feeble. We tried with two different networks and the findings were the same. And while we are on connectivity, the Coolpad Note 3 supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio and GPS which worked surprisingly very well.
The camera consists of a 13MP rear shooter built off a five element lens coming at f/2.0 aperture and 1.4 mPixel size, all of this accompanied by a LED flash. We did not have many expectations here but guess what the Coolpad Note 3 stunned us again! Under daylight conditions, the phone is capable of taking some good pictures and also some close up shots. It handled the exposure well but where it struggled was the dynamic range and depth of field was a swing and a miss, but when it got it right it simply did an amazing job. Exposure too was handled decently well. For the price range the phone comes at, low light performance seemed acceptable. The front facing 5MP shooter too does a decent job. The camera app is also snappy but takes a bit to load up the preview of the picture it took in the viewfinder – at times we were wondering if the click got through or not.
8,999 INR is the figure. Decent build, shiny chrome rim for the looks, very good camera performance, stunning battery performance and Finger Print scanner is what the Coolpad Note 3 will be known for. If the chunky heavy phone that comes with a to-be-refined UI, poor microphone/loudspeaker and average signal reception is something you can make a trade off for the stunners the Coolpad Note 3 comes with, it is a very good consideration you MUST NOT ignore while making your choices. Of course the post sales service is still a question mark but at 8,999 INR and the kind of performance we have seen in our extensive testing, it is well worth a gamble.