Chunky and outdated design is difficult to use in one hand
The dual selfie cameras do not live up to the hype
Snapdragon 435 SoC offers a reasonably good performance and a battery life of one and a half day
The budget smartphone market in India carries plenty of competition, especially under the Rs 10,000 price segment. Last month, Honor announced the Honor 7C and the Honor 7A, priced at Rs 8,999 and Rs 9,999 respectively. Both phones come with a dual-camera setup at the rear and a stylish design as part of their appeal to the younger generation.
The Coolpad Note 6 enters the market with the same focus, but is more selfie centric as it features a dual-camera setup at the front. It also packs in a punch with a big battery. The phone is available on both online and offline channels at a price of Rs 10,490. Let’s see if it can offer an experience much more compelling than its Chinese competition in the market.
Coolpad Note 6 Design
The Coolpad Note 6 doesn’t seem to be moving with the trend. Carrying a 5.5-inch screen, the phone does not feature a tall display, slim bezels or a notch at the top. Instead, Coolpad has rather stuck to a traditional design, featuring the three capacitive buttons at the front, consisting of the Home button and the Android navigational keys. Because of that, the phone gets a big footprint. Anyone with even moderate sized hands would find it a little difficult to use it with one hand, especially while being on the move.
On the flipside, the plastic chassis of the phone feels solid and well built. It gets a glass coating at the front and at the back, which makes the phone look a little fancy. A unique feature of the design is the glass cutout at the back, which runs around the camera module, placed at top left corner. Overall the glass finish offers a good grip and is not a big fingerprint magnet.
Things are kept pretty simple at the front. The home button doubles as a fingerprint senor. I wish it was a little bigger in size though. There is certainly space for it. The navigational keys around it feature capacitive buttons, but aren’t backlit. At the bottom, the phone carries the micro-USB port placed right between the 3.5 mm headphone jack and the speaker grille. The volume rocker keys and standby buttons take their places at the left side of the smartphone, while the SIM and microSD card tray can be found on the right.
The 5.5-inch screen comes with a full-HD resolution and an aspect ratio of 16:9. I was quite happy with its performance. The brightness levels are reasonably good. Setting it around half way was adequate for browsing webpages or scrolling through Instagram while being indoors and outdoors. However, to get an enjoyable experience out of movies and games, I always had to bump it up to its maximum setting. The screen does fairly well on sunny days, but viewing angles aren’t very good.
The color reproduction is solid. It offers a good balance between subtlety and vibrancy. In the display settings there are four different color modes that offer a range of white balance and saturation levels. You can choose one basis your preference. The option to change the screen temperature is also available.
The Coolpad Note 6 comes with a dual-camera setup at the front. It consists of an 8-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor that comes with a wide-angle lens. The camera can also shoot full-HD video and comes equipped with an LED flash as well. On paper, that sounds good, but in practicality the camera performance was a letdown. Images clicked in broad daylight looked good, with crisp colors and decent amount of detail. However, the performance dropped a lot when clicking pictures indoors and in low light situations. Images looked grainy and the camera struggled to get the focus right in the first go.
The wide-angle lens comes in handy while taking group selfies, but the images get stretched around the edges as is usually the case with wide-angle shots. The results are also pretty similar to that of the primary camera. Images don’t look detailed and carry plenty of noise. There are also not a lot of features available for the front camera. You only get a Beauty mode and a range of colorful filters to play around with.
The rear camera is a 13-megapixel shooter and carries similar drawbacks with respect to focusing. Even with good lighting around, the camera struggles to get the focus right. Clicking pictures at night only doubles that problem. It generally took me two takes to get a well-balanced image, even with objects that were sitting close-by.
In tricky situations, the camera often struggles to get the exposure right. Images look dull even with adequate light around. While with backlighting scenarios, there was plenty of glare that made the images look washed out. There is a Night Shot mode which does somewhat compensate for the underexposed images, but the trade-off is increased noise levels.
Almost all the shooting modes are available only for the rear camera. There is Motion mode, which captures the motion of your subject and displays all of it in the final image. Similarly, there is also an Erase mode, where the camera eliminates unwanted moving objects from the image. This works pretty well for removing people walking across your shot.
Performance and software
The Coolpad Note 6 comes with Android 7.1 Nougat operating system layered with the custom JourneyUI. I like the interface. It looks clean for the most part and offers a decent set of intuitive features. The notifications drawer and the settings app look neat and are easy to get around. The only thing I didn’t like is the number of third-party apps included. Thankfully though, they all can be uninstalled.
The UI comes with plenty of shortcuts that can be triggered by using different gestures on the Home button. For example, swiping right to left on the Home button introduces a panel of recently used apps on the screen. Other gestures let you take a, quick screenshot, enable spilt-screen mode, highlight a portion of the screen, extract text and close all background applications. There is also a Game dock mode included which allows you to push forward all your notifications, in order to enjoy a seamless gaming experience.
Underneath the hood, the Coolpad Note 6 runs on the Snapdragon 435 SoC, coupled with 4GB of RAM. Performance with simple tasks and apps is good. The interface feels reasonably smooth and jumping from one app to another while multi-tasking is no problem either. I didn’t see any signs of slowing down while running multiple chrome tabs, Facebook and Instagram side-by-side. Performance with heavier games is a little sluggish though. PUBG ran on the lowest quality and stuttered occasionally, but was still playable.
A big highlight of the phone is the 4070 mAh battery. Even with playing games and watching videos, the phone lasted for about one and half day with full charge. But there is no fast charge support, so the phone does take more than two and a half hours to charge from scratch.
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The Coolpad Note 6 misses out on its own USPs. The dual-selfie cameras perform poorly and the phone doesn’t look very fancy. However, it does makes up for it in other areas. It’s still well built, performs reasonably well and offers a decent battery life. We also like the screen performance and the clean UI. For the price of Rs. 10,490 the Coolpad Note 6 is an option worth considering.
However, if design and camera performance are deal breakers for you, then you can consider the new Oppo Realme 1 or Xiaomi Redmi Note 5. With the dual-camera setup, even the new Honor 7A and Honor 7C are viable options.