UMIDIGI C Note review

UMIDIGI has turned out some great-looking phones of late, and despite its budget price tag the C Note is no different. Also see: Best Chinese phones 2017 and Best budget phones 2017

Available from GearBest in grey or gold at the low price of £106.03 ($129.99/€118.66) the UMIDIGI C Note is a metal unibody phone with a 5.5in full-HD screen and some mid-range specs. It supports all three UK 4G bands – and on both of its twin SIM slots.

Before you jump in and purchase the C Note, remember to factor in import duty to the purchase price. This is calculated at 20% of the value on the shipping paperwork, plus an admin fee of around £11. Also be sure to check out our article on buying tech from China for some other potential pitfalls.

UMIDIGI C Note

UMIDIGI C Note design and build

The C Note has the same premium design as the flagship UMIDIGI Z Pro, with an aluminium alloy body and a large, bright full-HD screen. It’s 0.1mm thicker than its brother, but otherwise has identical dimensions, and is 3g lighter at 172g. Also see: Best Android phones 2017

Slim screen bezels and gently rounded edges at the rear make the C Note feel great in the hand. The screen features the same 2.5D curved glass, too, which makes everything feel seamless as you run your finger across its surface.

This handset is very well made for a budget phone, with no gaps, creaking or flex. The metal should prove reasonably tough against accidental drops, while Dragontrail glass protects the screen.

This panel is the same as that found on the Z Pro, a full-HD Sharp IGZO display that is sharp, bright and offers decent contrast and viewing angles. You can adjust the colour temperature and turn on Adaptive brightness in the settings, too.

UMIDIGI C Note

The rear camera protrudes only very slightly at the rear, but fitted with the supplied clear protective gel case you wouldn’t know any different. Unlike on the Pro you get just the one 13Mp camera here, with a 5Mp selfie camera at the front. Also see: Best mid-range phones 2017

You’ll see two grilles at the bottom of the handset, which sit either side of a Micro-USB port – one of the few obvious signs that this smartphone has a cheaper price tag. There is actually just the one speaker inside, with a mic concealed below the other grille. The 3.5mm headphone jack is found at the top.

UMIDIGI C Note

A pin-operated SIM tray is found at the top of the phone’s left edge, and this is a hybrid tray that can accept either two Nano-SIMs or one Nano-SIM and a microSD card up to 256GB in capacity. The built-in 32GB of storage is already very generous at this price point. Also see: How to add storage to Android

We’re not overly keen on the Home button, which you tap rather than press – it just doesn’t feel very natural, though we’re sure you’d become familiar with it reasonably quickly. Either side of this are multitasking and back buttons, though with no labels it takes a little getting used to.

Built into this home button is a touch-style fingerprint scanner, which worked very well and very quickly in our tests. It’s a shame that the phone has no NFC support, since this would have enabled mobile payments on the C Note.

UMIDIGI C Note

UMIDIGI C Note core hardware and performance

So the budget price of this phone is not at all evident from the outside, but inside there is some decidedly low- to mid-range hardware. Real-world performance is still pretty decent, especially preinstalled with the latest Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, but you’re not going to get anything close to that achieved by the UMIDIGI Z Pro here. Also see: What's the fastest phone?

In gaming framerates the difference in power is most noticeable, but benchmark results are lower across the board. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about here, the UMIDIGI C Note is a much closer rival to the Ulefone Gemini – it’s nothing to write home about, and UK budget phones such as the Moto G5 perform better.

But speed isn’t everything to everyone, and the 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6373T quad-core chip (based on the Cortex-A53) and ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU are up to the job of daily tasks. UMIDIGI also specifies 3GB of RAM, which will help improve multitasking.

We ran our usual benchmarks and recorded a low single-point score of 672 in Geekbench 4, and a still pretty low 1872 points multi-core. AnTuTu also clocked the C Note at 39,691 points.

Gaming performance was lower, with just 11fps recorded in GFXBench T-Rex (the best phones achieve 60fps here), 4fps in Manhattan and 3fps in Manhattan 3.1. This isn’t a phone you’d choose for playing games, though it is capable of casual titles if you keep down the detail settings.

Its JetStream JavaScript score of 20.7 is about average for a budget phone but, again, on the low side.

Battery life is very good from the 3800mAh cell - you should get two days' use with moderate use. (And you can always use a power bank if you need more.)

UMIDIGI C Note connectivity and extras

The only real thing missing from this phone in terms of connectivity support is NFC, as we mentioned earlier. This will be frustrating if you want to make mobile payments, but it shouldn’t be too much of an annoyance otherwise.

There’s 802.11n Wi-Fi support, as well as GPS, GLONASS and Bluetooth 4.1. More interestingly, this is a dual-SIM phone that can support 4G on either card (not all dual-SIM phones do). It operates in dual-standby mode.

Both are Nano-SIM slots and support all three UK 4G bands (if you’re buying elsewhere then check out our advice on how to tell whether a phone is supported by your network), but annoyingly you must choose between either dual-SIM or microSD – you can’t have both.

UMIDIGI C Note cameras

UMIDIGI C Note

The C Note is fitted with a 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 rear camera with phase-detect autofocus and a  dual-LED flash at the back, and a 5Mp selfie camera at the front. Also see: Best phone cameras 2017

At first glance the camera app is rather basic, with just Normal, HDR and Panorama modes and no real-time filters to speak of, but there’s also a Professional Camera mode which UMIDIGI claims can help you to take DSLR-quality images.

This gives you loads of control over your images, with sliders for everything from saturation and brightness to ISO and white balance.

To be honest, the quality of the camera isn’t that good, but for the money it isn’t bad. Even in Auto mode we saw natural colours and a reasonable amount of detail, though blurred edges are visible.

With HDR mode switched on things look much better, but there is a lot of image sharpening in evidence.

You can check out a couple of our test images with Auto and HDR settings below. (Click to view full-size.)

UMIDIGI C Note

UMIDIGI C Note

The main camera is capable of video recording at 1080p but by default is set at 720p. You can turn on electronic image stabilization in the Video settings (or rather Vedio settings).

The selfie camera isn’t up to much, with a very soft image. You can make use of a beauty mode, turn on anti-shake and control such things as white balance and scene mode. Also see: Best phones 2017 

UMIDIGI C Note software

UMIDIGI C Note

It’s refreshing to see a budget phone supplied with the latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat) out of the box. This is a vanilla version of the OS, with no deviations from standard Android – it should feel instantly familiar.

Nova Launcher is preinstalled, but there’s nothing else in the way of preinstalled bloatware.

You can double-click to wake the screen, change the colour of the notification LED for incoming calls, and rearrange the order of the touch buttons below the screen.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

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UMIDIGI C Note: Specs

  • 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) IGZO Sharp 2.5D display, Dragontrail glass protection
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6373T quad-core Cortex-A53 64-bit processor
  • ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage (up to 256GB via microSD)
  • 4G LTE on dual Nano-SIMs (dual-standby), supports all three UK bands
  • 802.1a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • OTG
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Micro-USB
  • 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 PDAF rear camera with dual-LED flash, Professional Camera mode
  • 5Mp selfie camera
  • front TouchID fingerprint scanner
  • 3800mAh battery (two-day life)
  • 154.7x76.6x8.3mm
  • 172g
  • 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) IGZO Sharp 2.5D display, Dragontrail glass protection
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6373T quad-core Cortex-A53 64-bit processor
  • ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage (up to 256GB via microSD)
  • 4G LTE on dual Nano-SIMs (dual-standby), supports all three UK bands
  • 802.1a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • OTG
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Micro-USB
  • 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 PDAF rear camera with dual-LED flash, Professional Camera mode
  • 5Mp selfie camera
  • front TouchID fingerprint scanner
  • 3800mAh battery (two-day life)
  • 154.7x76.6x8.3mm
  • 172g

SHOULD I BUY UMIDIGI C NOTE?

The UMIDIGI C Note is a very well-designed budget smartphone with a premium design. Performance is lacking, but capable, and the camera can produce decent results in good lighting. A good budget buy.

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