Neffos N1 Quick Review: A RM1099 Smartphone That Ticks The Right Boxes?

The brand Neffos might be unfamiliar to some, but the TP-Link-owned brand has been selling budget smartphones in our market for quite some time now. For 2018, they’ve launched 2 new products at MWC 2018, and not long after both are here in Malaysia. In this quick review, we will be taking a look at one of them – the Neffos N1, which is also their current flagship device. In this quick review, we’re taking a look at 5 key points which makes the Neffos N1 quite a bargain with a price tag of RM1099.

Specifications:
MTK MT6757CD Helio P25 Processor, 8×2.6GHz
4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD support up to 128GB
5.5-inch IPS display, 16:9 1080 X 1920, 403 PPI
12MP RGB + 12MP Monochrome Rear Camera, 4K video recording
8MP front-facing camera
3200mAh battery

The way it looks

If you are into the smartphone market, you will immediately recognize the design of the Neffos N1. As for us, it looks familiar. Way, way too familiar. It almost looks like a complete carbon copy of another smartphone announced last year. But, of course, it’s not just a blind carbon copy. There are lots of differences as well, but at first glance, most people will recognize it as the other smartphone. And to be honest, at this price point, it is completely fine. While it looks like most other smartphones out there, there’s nothing offensive about the looks of the Neffos N1. At this price point, the understated and premium look adds points for the N1.

As for the build quality, the Neffos N1 certainly does not disappoint. You do get a solid metal unibody construction, paired with a glass on the front. The matte metal unibody feels really good in the hands, and it’s well weighted as well. We’ve definitely seen worse construction even at higher price point.

There’s a 5.5-inch display located on the front with Full HD resolution. While it isn’t an 18:9 aspect ratio like what’s found on more recent devices, it’s ought to be expected at this price point. Below it is touch-sensitive navigation keys with the home button in the middle. You can interchange the position of both the back and recents button on both sides of the home button. The earpiece, front-facing 8-megapixel camera, the neffos branding as well as the rest of the sensors are above the display.

On the left, apart from the volume buttons, there’s also an additional mute switch which is highly appreciated. Makes us wonder why it isn’t standard on all devices. You can switch between normal or vibration mode. On the right, above the power button is a SIM tray, which takes 2 SIM cards and a microSD card. While there is nothing on the top except a microphone, the 3.5-mm headphone jack, the USB Type C port and the mono speaker is at the bottom.

On the back (which is the part where it looks really, really similar to the other said smartphone), there is a glass strip on the top, where it houses the dual 12-megapixel cameras and a dual-tone LED flash in the middle. You also can’t miss out on the “Dual Lens” wording on the right. The round fingerprint reader is located below it, at a right height there it is easily accessible. It’s rightly sized, has a matte surface and is quick and responsive. Apart from the visible antenna lines on the bottom and top of the device, the rear finishes off with a Neffos branding below the fingerprint reader and a TP-Link branding just above the bottom antenna line.

The N1 is only offered in 1 colour – Space Black. It makes the device looks classy and elegant.

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The way it performs

Let’s get specs on paper out of the way first. The Neffos N1 is powered by MTK’s Helio P25 processor. It is an octa-core setup, with all cores being able to achieve up to 2.6GHz. It is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, with microSD storage expansion support up to 128GB.

In the real world, the Neffos N1 performs quite decently to be honest. The setup allows the N1 to fly past lighter tasks. Going through built-in apps and other lightweight apps isn’t a problem for the Neffos N1. It does start to suffer on heavier tasks, but that’s well within our expectation. For a budget smartphone, it really doesn’t disappoint at all. Like other MTK processors, there are still random lags and slowdowns, but that’s still within the limit.

The 4GB of RAM does offer a lot of space for background processes, and the 64GB memory offers quite speedy storage, with sequential read and write speeds above 200MB/s.

Geekbench numbers are looking not too bad as well, with single-core score of 854, while multi-core score sits at 3842.

Connectivity wise, the Neffos N1 is pretty loaded as well. Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity is present, while wireless ac didn’t make it to the N1. The Bluetooth chip inside is also only a Bluetooth 4.1. LTE connection is available too, but no 4G+ here. There’s even a USB Type-C port at the bottom for charging and data transfer, but we believe that it’s only a USB 2.0 support. It can also act as a WiFi extender where it will increase the range of the WiFi that you are currently connecting.

The way it takes photos

Time to let the Neffos N1 really shine. The big news about the Neffos N1 is that it features their first ever dual-camera setup. If you are familiar with the phone we are talking about previously, it’s camera setup concept is pretty much the same as what’s found on the N1. A pair of 12-megapixels sensors from Sony are found on the N1, with a similar diameter lenses. While it may sound the same, one of the sensors are capable of capturing RGB colours, while the other captures monochrome images. The idea is that the monochrome camera captures all the fine details, then passing it on to the RGB camera to fill in the colours. There shouldn’t be any problem since both are pretty much similar, and both do work together all the time.

From the samples below, the Neffos N1 is a pretty good shooter, especially when the surround lighting is sufficient for the sensor. You can expect photos to be clear and have lots of details thanks to the monochrome sensor, and while the colours are nice and true-to-life, we do expect more vividness to it since it’s handled by a different sensor. There’s good amount of dynamic range. On the other hand, there’s no auto HDR, and it’s only a simple on-off switch. Leaving it on is probably the best. It could use faster photo processing times too. Monochrome photos actually looks quite decent, with quite a good dynami range.

In low-light conditions, the N1 performs quite well for most part. Colours are still good and true to life, but there are times where a good amount of visible noise is present. It doesn’t horribly ruin the entire image, but it clearly shows the low-light capabilities of the N1. During our testing period, we noticed that while it claims that it’s sharpening the image after shutter, without an extremely steady hand, the image looks blurry and out of focus. There’s no dedicated night mode, but you can play with the manual mode. Overall, it is quite impressive on the low-light section, only if you know how to hold it well.

The benefits of having dual-camera on the back is its ability to take simulated variable aperture photos, or in layman terms, “bokeh”. Portrait mode on the Neffos N1 is nothing too exciting. While most of the time it works quite well, keeping the bokeh effect level slightly lower gives you a more realistic effect. It does get the shape well too, but like other entry-level bokeh effect, it doesn’t like complicated shapes.

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We couldn’t believe our eyes at first when we read that the N1 is capable of recording at 4K resolution. Yes, actual 4K, in 3GP format. To be honest, we don’t really have any high hopes for their 4K recording, let alone expecting 4K recording in the first place. Thankfully, videos shot in 4K aren’t too disappointing. The details are okay, but colours are a bit on the warmer side. 30 frames-per-second, the framerate is smooth enough for most of the time. But, without stabilization, it all goes to waste. At least there’s no continuous focus hunting like most other phones at this price point. Going down to 1080p, there’s noticeable loss of detail, and the entire image is darker too. We recommend sticking to 4K in this case.

For some reason, YouTube isn’t able to play back 4K videos of the Neffos N1. You can download the original files to playback on your device by clicking here.

As for the front-facing 8-megapixel camera, it is adequate enough for most cases. The colours are okay, but we’re expecting better details. There’s also visible noise at low-light conditions. On the bright side, apart from software beautification, there’s also HDR and “flash” for the front-facing camera using the screen as a flash.

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The camera app is simple to use and will look familiar to most other camera UIs out there. You can easily access the toggles on the left, while the shutter, record and preview buttons are towards the right. Swiping up reveals the modes that you can play with, which includes monochrome and a full-blown PRO mode.

Battery

The Neffos N1 is packed with a 3260mAh battery, and throughout our test, the N1 hold up decently. Even though we noticed that leaving the mobile data on will somewhat drain the battery, but our test revealed that it will hold up to around 8 hours, which is slightly less than expected, but good enough at this price point.

Another plus for the Neffos N1 is support for fast-charging. It is basically a 9V 2A charger. Neffos claims that it will get a flat battery to 50% in just 30 minutes, and during our test, it gets pretty close to that. It is also smart enough to slow down the charge as battery gets full. But, so far we can only see fast-charging effect using the included charger and cable. It’s hard to see similar effect with third-party chargers or powerbanks.

Software

The Neffos N1 comes with Android 7.1.1 right out of the box, with Smart NFUI 7.0 customization on top. It is a relatively lightweight and simple-looking user interface, with bits and pieces taken from others as well. It’s iOS style homescreen doesn’t have an apps drawer, instead all apps are cluttered around the homescreen. Apart from a couple of TP-Link related apps and a few Google Play bloatwares, the rest is pretty much what you need.

Conclusion

As the title suggest, the Neffos N1 is probably one of the best smartphones you can get for RM1099. If you do follow Neffos’ product line-up, you can see that the N1 is a huge jump from the other products in their line-up. Yes, it does look and feels like the Huawei P10 Plus from last year, and Neffos might be late to the party in terms of some features, but back then, you those features are reserved for flagships that costs 3 times as much, and while the N1 is Neffos’s current flagship, it is still priced below a lot of midrange phones. There is no doubt that the Neffos N1 packs and incredible value, and for some it might only be good as a secondary phone, but as a primary phone, it isn’t bad as well.

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