Vernee Thor E – Always in Power

The Chinese manufacturer made its name famous with its very first phone and now the upgraded successor arrived, which again offers good value.

Introduction, Specs

It would be an exaggeration to say that Vernee is a manufacturer with a history. In the one-and-a-half year since their start, they put 6 models on the market. The first was the predecessor of our test subject, the Thor. We also introduced the Apollo X of the three-membered Apollo series, and the Mars is also a well-made device.

In the Vernee Thor E, which was presented during this year’s MWC in Barcelona, many of the flaws of its predecessor were corrected. The fingerprint-scanner operates with an amazing accuracy and the notification LED is not left out this time. There were no hardware changes made, however, battery time was significantly improved. A
high-capacity battery was squeezed in, and the operating software is the brand new Nougat system.

 

The facelifted deity arrived in a less elegant white box. It looked better in black, but of course the main interest is not box, but what is inside of it.

After opening the package, we can immediately see the phone wrapped in a paper bag. Below it are the accessories: we receive a 2 ampere charger, which is capable of fast-recharging, a SIM needle, a USB 2.0 cord, and some reading materiel. The protective foil is already applied to the display.

Appearance, Display

There is nothing revolutionary appearance-wise; it is more angular than its predecessor, so it looks manlier maybe. With its 144 x 70,1 x 8,2 millimetre size, it is not impossible to use it with only one hand. The device weighs 149 grams theoretically, which I found too light, so I measured it, and turns out that its weigh is actually 165 grams. Such is life: according to fashion magazines the majority of women lie about their weigh, which is understandable; but in the case of a mobile phone, is it needed? Quality of the materials and the manufacturing is perfectly alright.

No changes were done to the display either; it is the same 5 inch, 1280×20 resolution In-Cell IPS display with 294 ppi pixel-density as in its predecessor. As before, this can be adjusted with MiraVision. Viewing arches are alright too, colours don’t become inverted, and there can be no complaints filed against the maximum brightness either, so by and large the quality of the display is convincing. There is no information about the protection of this 2.5D display.

Above the display, the colourful notification LED can be found, along with the brightness and distance sensor, the speech-speaker and the front camera. Below in the middle, there is the Home button (without backlight) and the two dots with the ’menu’ and ’back’ functions. We can use of course the virtual-keyboard, but this takes place from the display.

The power button and the volume control are above each other on the right side of the device. The buttons are not loose, and there are no problems with their pressure points. On the left side, there is the SIM tray with hybrid dualSIM technology. 2 nanoSIMs or one nanoSIM and a microSD memory card can be inserted – this means that when using two SIMs, the storage of the phone cannot be expanded. In the case of the first Thor, this is handled in a better way as there is a separate SD-socket. We can find a dedicated button here, with which we can switch to E-ink mode, thus even with 20% battery level, the phone’s operating time reaches 24 hours – but more of this later.

The 3,5 millimetre jack is on the top of the device, and the miroUSB port and the mic is on the bottom. The back of the phone resemble to that of the Huawei P9 Lite, though here it is made of brushed metal, which looks very hot. The LED flash is in its own socket with the main camera. The fingerprint scanner below them is fast and accurate, it never made any mistakes. Below the brand and model markings, the mono speaker can be found: two little obstacles are placed by the two sides of it, so the sounds are clean even if the phone is placed on the table.

Hardware, Software

The chipset in Vernee Thor E is the same as in the Thor: 64 bit, 28 nanometres linewidth MT6753. The ARMv8 processor has 8 cores, all of which are Cortex-A53 cores with 1,3 GHz performance, and the graphic adapter is a Mali-T720 series. System memory is 3GB, and the storage space is 16GB, which is expandable to a maximum of 128 GB with a microSD card, so no changes here either.

The HD display and the hardware form again a perfect couple. System speed and stability is fine. Apps start quickly, scrolling does not lag. For gaming performance-tests, I used Real Racing 3, device-warming does not occur, only to a negligible extent on the top-back of the phone.

Its scores in the performance-test can be seen on the pictures below.

As in the case of Apollo X, the OS is the Vernee OS (VOS), which does not differ from the base OS by Google according to the provided information. It was optimised a bit, but no extras were included. Fortunately, in the case of the Thor E, the Nougat system arrived with the long awaited useful functions.

The extra functions of the Vernee OS are grouped around the Smart assistance function. Device silencing when turned face down, unlocking with double tap or turning on the flashlight by drawing a V on the screen – all of these can be toggled here. The inclusion of DuraSpeed was also a good idea: with this the background apps can be controlled. The new function of the Android 7, the split-screen works just fine. As it can be seen in the picture below, I was searching for pictures in Google Photos while watching a YouTube video.

I would also mention 3 very useful things, which usually require root access. Firstly, in the case of VOS, we do not need to twiddle with the system to display seconds on the status bar, which is a must-have in all phones in my opinion. Secondly, unnecessary apps can be blocked e.g. Play Games, Movies etc. Thirdly, apps can use external storage space. What does this mean? For example, a third-party camera app can save pictures to the SD card, or after editing, the documents stored on the said SD card, can be saved. A+ in terms of software.

Camera, Multimedia

The Vernee Thor E has an 8 megapixel CMOS sensor with an aperture of f/2.4 and autofocus supported by a LED flash. The 2 megapixel front camera has the same aperture rate. In the workshop of Vernee, the 8 and 2 megapixels were probably found too little, so they were interpolated in the software to 13 and 5 megapixels, which do sound better. This upscaling should end though, and the ancient AOSP-based camera software should also be forgotten. I recommend using the free Open Camera app instead of the original.

The usual test pictures were made in automatic settings using the Open Camera app.

Pictures can be seen in full size here.

We cannot be fully satisfied with the pictures, the algorithm makes them a bit blurry, and some chromatic aberration emerges on the sides, but noise is not significant and the colours are acceptable. In this price-range, one should not expect a miracle in terms of photographic qualities. Videos can be recorded in a maximum of 1080p with 30 fps in mp4 format.

Music can be played with Play Music, which organises songs stored locally or acquired from Google according to lists, performers and albums. FM-radio is not left out, RDS information appears, and programmes can be recorded. Sound improvement is available, but the speaker is not that strong, its volume levels and sound qualities are mediocre. Sounds transferred to headphones are fair and square, high, mid and low sounds are well balanced.

Communication, uptime, conclusion

Both of the SIM trays of the Thor E can use 4G services and dual standby technology, so we can be connected to two networks at the same time. However if use one SIM is used for starting or receiving calls, the other disconnects from its service. Naturally, it can handle B20 frequencies. I found the quality of the sound during calls satisfactory on both ends, but it was not loud enough. 3 OTA updates arrived, the latest of which is concerned with the problems around loudness, and afterwards there were no issues.

Supported frequencies:

​​- 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
– 3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz
– 4G: WCDMA 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

The standard 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-fi modem is dual banded, moderately connective with both hotspot and Direct functions. We get Bluetooth 4.0 with upgraded audio-sharing profiles (A2DP), USB is 2.0 with MTP and OTG functions. For navigation, along with the ground-based routers and antennas, the device accepts data from GLONASS satellites. GPS performances were tested using the iGO Navigation on a 60 km distance. Position-acquiring was slow, but after it found the satellites, the signal was held firmly. Compass, gravity sensor, NFC and infra are not included.

The main strength of the device is obviously the 5020 mAh capacity Lithium-Polymer accu, locked in a unibody casing. The charger, which supports MediaTek’s Pump Express+ technology, charged the phone from 20% to 100% in 63 minutes. The device operated for 3 days with 5 hours actively using the display.  Uptime can be extended by using the E-ink function, during which the display switches to grayscale, performance is cut back and only base functions are available. With normal usage and using the power saver function, 4-5 days of uptime can easily be achieved. After watching YouTube videos for 2 hours, the phone only lost 10% battery power: this requires no further comments, this is exceptionally good.

What do we get for our money?

The good:

Good value for the money, compact in size, attractive and fast with an exceptionally long uptime. Software is well-optimised, OTA updates come regularly and the hardware is perfect for general use. The fingerprint scanner is accurate and thanks to the 800MHz LTE support, 4G will not be a problem.

The bad:

Backlights of the capacitive buttons were cut. It would have been nice if the internal storage was upgraded to 32GB as there is no separate tray for an SD card. Photographic qualities are nothing to write home about, but bearable.

The predecessor, which can be seen on the pictures comparing the two, had no flaws during the past year. Vernee’s facelifted device is better, so anyone who chooses the Thor E makes no mistake. The device can be purchased by clicking here, for a price of 110 USD (31 thousand HUF). Choosing the new Europe Registered shipping (after adding the phone to the cart) no additional prices will be charged.

 

Vernee Apollo X – the cost-efficient flagship

Apollo X was presented by the Shenzen-based company in Barcelona, the capital of the mobile phone world, during the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2017).

Introduction, Specs

The history of Vernee is only written since 2016; however, they showed that fame can be obtained in moments. We were first introduced to the Vernee Thor, which stirred up the stilled water, and then the Apollo Lite and the Mars continued this story of successes.

The public considered Chinese phones as junk-products, but in the last few years, the Far-Eastern manufacturers outgrew these prejudices and matched the levels of the well-known brands. Moreover, they even overshadowed their Western counterparts in a few categories. It is enough to look at the table below and it can be seen that 7 out of 10 manufacturers are located in the country where the largest human-made building can be found. Yes, this is the world’s longest cemetery, the wall of tears or as it is known, The Great Wall in China.

Vernee is far from having a place in the TOP10, but they successfully recognised the changes and needs of the market and they implemented these in their products. They do not use unique UIs, nor special extras, and they sell only well-made, well-functioning mobile phones for reasonable prices – which is what the biggest proportion of the users want.

After the introduction, let us see what the box of the Vernee Apollo X – named after the roman god of healing, hunting and arts, the twin of Diana. The X, according to Jacky Zou (CEO), refers to the ’Do Better’ spirit in which the phone was made, as in they measured the needs of the users and re-thought the Apollo-series.

The test subject arrived in a simple, moderately elegant, black paper box. There are no highlighting references to what the box contains, unlike in the case of the Ulefone Gemini. Naturally, the main specs can be found on the back of the storage unit.

Taking off the top of the box, we can first lay eyes upon the device itself, and after removing the tray on which the phone lies, we can see the provided accessories with which we are not spoiled. There is a 2 ampere charger, a Type-C USB cord, a SIM needle and of course the user’s guide. What they forgot, is a headset of better quality, with which the premium-nature of the product could have been emphasized.

A foil is already installed on screen, so at least we do not have to bother ourselves with that.

Appearance, Display

The Apollo X is covered with a 152×76,2×9,2 millimetre sized metal casing and it weighs about 175 grams. The anodized casing, polished with double CNC cut and 3D sandblasting, is protected from fingerprints by a special coating. The manufactured was careful, so the construction of the device is flawless. Once held in hand, one can feel the quality of the product. Usually the most expensive devices are constructed with such care.

The display’s – protected by Gorilla Glass 3 – resolution is 1080×1920. It is a Sharp IGZO IPS display which deserves attention thanks to its fine contrast qualities, outstanding brightness and 401 ppi pixel density. The viewing arches are wide, albeit its calibration is a bit blue – but this can be adjusted with MiraVision by MediaTek. The display operates with 2.5D and covers about 75% of the front of the device, and it is not too much, not extreme narrow and the proportions are well-designed. An OnePlus One copy can also be discovered and the frame is a bit bigger than the display, so if dropped, the screen will probably not break as the blow will be taken by the frame.

On the upper side can the usual sensors be found (light and proximity sensor) along with the 5-megapixel camera, the speech-speaker and the colourful LED for notices in the left corner. Below, there are no physical buttons, nor capacitive touch-buttons, the space below the display is completely empty. The Android buttons are software-based, thus they occupy part of the display. The order of the virtual buttons can be rearranged, and when they are not needed, the lane can be easily removed.

On the left side, two SIM-trays can be found, a nanoSIM or microSD for the upper one and a microSIM for the one below. The manufacturer uses the so called hybrid dualSIM technology. When using two SIMs, the storage of the phone cannot be expanded, however, as the built-in storage is 64GB, I do not think this is an issue. Ont he right side, the power and volume control buttons are located. These are comfortable to use and even though they are a bit loose in their sockets, their pressure points are spot-on. The back is clean, the antenna-trails are not disturbing, they fit in the design. The main camera sticks out a bit. Left from the camera, the Led flash, and below it, the fingerprint-scanner can be found (the latter functions finely with a 8/10 success-ratio). Along with these, the unobtrusive brand- and model-marks can be seen.

On the top of the device, there is only a lonely 3.5 millimetre jack port. On the bottom and in the middle, we can see the USB Type-C port, engulfed by the speakers’ trellises. These are only similar for symmetry reasons; the speaker is under the right trellis, while the mic is under the left one. However, it is worth to highlight the new generation Type-C USB port, which provides fast data-transfer and together with the possibility to charge the phone, we can also plug a headset here, which has better quality as the analogue transformation is left out. It is also useful that – as in the case of Apple’s Lightning technology – the cords are symmetric so they can be plugged in without paying attention to the correct alignment.

Hardware, Software

Performance is supplied by the world’s first mobile processor with 10 cores, the MediaTek Helio X20 (MT6797). The processor is made with a 20 nanometer three-clustered manufacturing technology, namely the 10 cores are divided into three parts which activate depending on the usage. The slowest, but most power-friendly 4 Cortex-A53 cores operate with 1.4Ghz, the medium-fast Cortex-A53 core use 2GHz and if these are not enough, the core designed to achieve the highest speeds activate: 2 Cortex-A72 duos, which provide a handsome 2.5GHz. The unique Big Little technology contains another curiosity. There is a 364MHz ARM Cortex M4 core too, which handles the tasks that require minimal resources, such as listening to music with a locked screen or the processing of the sensory data. Together with this, there is a 780Mhz Mali-T880 dual graphic core too, which easily operates the 1080p display screen.
We receive 4GB RAM, so there will be no problems with the system, and 64GB storage space, which is expandable with a maximum of 256G microSD card.

What is sure is that we will not have to compromise in terms of hardware.

Its scores in the performance-test can be seen on the pictures below.

The results of the Benchmark tests do not reflect the real capabilities of the Apollo X, although these numbers are considered good in the middle class. The real question is how the device performs while it is being used. An acquaintance of mine who uses an iPhone 6s Plus remarked only after a few minutes: ’wow is it this fast?’ Yes, it reacts real fast, system speed is continuous, transitions are lag-free, and it can run games without any issues. I tried F1 2016, Real Racing 3 and Nova 3, and the device did not produce any lags – there are no currently available games, which it could not run enjoyably.

The installed software was a bit disappointing. The phone runs VOS (Vernee OS) which uses Android 6 as substructure. According to the manufacturer, while their system is similar to the base Android appearance-wise, it contains extra functions which they consider essential to enhance user-experience. In practice, we get an unchanged Marshmallow-version. There are no problems with that, but unfortunately, there is nothing unique in this.  Where are the extra features? (It is a mystery). I thought these will be something like the CyanogenMod (now LineageOS). Nevermind, the promised Nougat-update will bring changes.

As the images show, the system is not littered with unnecessary software. Out of the Google-package, we only receive Chrome together with the ancient AOSP-based ones. There is a functioning Play Store, we can get from there what we need.

Camera, Multimedia

On the back of the device, we have a 13 megapixel Sony IMX258 shooter with an aperture of f/2,0 supported by a flash LED (with adequate brightness). On the front, we can find a 5 megapixel Samsung S5K5E5 camera module with an aperture of f/2,2 – suitable for making selfies and conducting video-calls. The camera records video files in 3gp and in maximum Full HD with 30fps the base application. With Open Camera, better qualities can be achieved and in mp4, which is why I used that app.

While making photos, the weather was clear and sunny, so the bright colours are a bit off, but anyways, the photos made during daytime are completely alright, sharpness and details are satisfactory, noise is relatively low, albeit the shutter focuses somewhat slowly.

The usual test pictures were made in automatic settings using the Open Camera app.

Images are shown in full size here

The music player is – how utterly surprising – the usual AOSP-based version, there are no issues with it, but it may be worth to replace this to a more modern version. The phone has an FM-radio too, which can be used if an earphone is plugged in, RDS-info appear and the programmes can be recorded.

The mono speaker located on the bottom of the device produces clear sounds; no complaints can be set against the sound quality, although bass sounds are missing a sin the case of many other phones. The sound quality transferred to headphones is also adequate.

Communication, uptime, conclusion

The Vernee Apollo X can hold a nanoSIM and a microSIM or a microSIM and a microSD. We can use 4G services if the SIM (or SIMs) are in either container with the dual standby feature so we can be connected to two networks at the same time. If we use the one SIM, the other disconnects from its service.

I found the quality of the sound during calls satisfactory and there were no issues with loudness.

Supported frequencies:

– 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
– 3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz
– 4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

The standard 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi modem is sufficiently connective with both hotspot and Direct functions. We get Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, and a GPS with GLONASS and BeiDou for tracking. The Type-C USB port is OTG capable, external devices can be connected to it with ease. The GPS performances were tested using the usual Sygic GPS Navigation and the location was acquired in moments and the device held the signal stable.

Gyroscope, light, proximity gravity, and hall sensors are given, NFC and Infra are not included.

Under the non-removable back, a 3500 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery provides power. It charged from 20% to 100% in an hour, thanks to the MediaTek Pump Express Plus 3.0 technology. The device operated for for about 36 hours on average, which is pretty good for hardware this strong. During a 2-hour YouTube-spree, the device consumed 18% battery power.

What do we get for our money?

The good:

With a great price-tag and strong hardware, this is a well-constructed device for everyday use, and it is also perfectly suitable for running games on it. It has no problems with the 800MHz LTE networks, its fingerprint scanner operates with high efficiency, quick-charge is functioning well and uptime is superb too.

The bad:

Maybe it would have been better to jump straight to the Android 7.0 Nougat, or to expand the current system with a few useful extras. The capabilities of the camera are average because of the ancient software, but this can be optimized by using other apps. The volume control button, which is a bit loose, also spoils the overall appearance a little.

The phone cost 180 USD (50 000 HUF, 66 000 with additional costs) and it can come in Moonlight Silver and Space Grey colours. The Vernee Apollo X can be purchased from this website.