Elephone S7 full review

Elephone's S7 is a sub-£200 phone with a lot going for it - not least its gorgeous design - and in some respects it even bests its namesake Samsung Galaxy S7. But this is a decent mid-range phone in its own right, and not just another Galaxy S7 copycat. Also see: Best phones 2017

The Elephone S7 is available in several versions, so you'll have to double-check which you are buying before you go ahead. We reviewed the blue model with a Helio X20 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which ships free from TomTop's Chinese warehouse for £177.11 ($215.99) at the time of writing. Because you are buying from China you may be asked to pay import duty upon its arrival to the UK, which you will need to factor into the total cost. (Read our advice on buying Chinese tech for more.)

Packages usually come via DHL, which charges 20 percent of the value written on the shipping paperwork, plus an £11 admin fee. In this case then, assuming the full value is on the paperwork, that would work out around £46 and take the total cost up to around £222. That's still fantastic value for a phone with such a pleasing design and decent specifications.

Alternatively, if you're happy to buy the black version instead, you can get it shipped from the EU warehouse. Assuming you will pay import duty on the full value of the phone when bought from China then buying from Europe will work out cheaper, at £192.94 ($235.29). You won't have the hassle of paying any fees before you can receive your item, but you do miss out on the opportunity to own the blue model, which is a real looker.

The S7 also comes in green and gold colour options, and in variations with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage or 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. We're told there is also a version of the Elephone S7 with a 5.2- rather than 5.5in screen.

Finally, a top end option has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but an upgraded processor in the form of the Helio X25. It is similar to the X20 but runs at a higher clock speed. This model is available for £188.59 ($229.99) from TomTop.

With every version available under £200, you would likely be on a tight budget to opt for anything other than the top model. That said, those who aren't too bothered by performance might be happy with one of the lower models, and as all support microSD up to 128GB you needn't worry too much about the storage differences. Also see: Best Android phones 2017

Elephone S7

Elephone S7 review: Design and build

One of the best things about this phone is its design. To be quite honest, knowing there were 5.2- and 5.5in versions we had to get out a ruler to check we were actually holding the 5.5in model. This is a large-screen phablet, yet it feels much smaller with its minimal bezels to the left and right, curved edges on the front and rear, and ultra-thin 7.6mm chassis.

At 175g it has the weight of a standard phablet, but its petite dimensions make the Elephone S7 one of few phones of this size we can comfortably use in a single hand.

That's not even the best bit, though. With its mirror finish light bounces off this phone like a jewel, with what looks like beams of light running right across its surface. It is absolutely stunning - particularly in blue - and that is something we never thought we'd say about a plastic phone.

Though its rear panel is designed to look like the glass panel on the back of the Galaxy S7, it's actually a glass front and plastic rear, which meet in the middle around a thin metal frame.

In the hand the plastic rear makes it feel a little cheaper than what we've come to expect from mid-range Chinese phones, where metal is now the norm, but we like the smooth, albeit slippery, surface. Our only real concern is that it seems to scratch fairly easily, even just sitting on our desk. Meanwhile, the age-old problem of fingerprints isn't overly noticeable. Also see: Best Chinese phones

Elephone S7

The 5.5in JDI fully laminated in-cell display is jet black in standby, creating a gorgeous contrast against the blue frame. When switched on it's equally appealing, with a sharp full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. Colours are good, as are viewing angles.

Usually when we look at phone screens we comment on their brightness, but with the Elephone S7 it's not how bright it can go that impresses, but how dull it can go. You can reduce the brightness all the way down to 1 nit to eliminate night-time glare; there's also a blue-light filter to protect your eyes.

The layout is standard, with volume and power buttons on the right side, a SIM tray on the left, headphone jack up top and Micro-USB port and speaker grilles below. Although there are two, it appears to be a mono speaker inside. 

Elephone S7

Exactly like on the Galaxy S7 below the screen is a Home button that builds in a fast fingerprint scanner, which uses a self-learning mechanism to operate in just 0.1 seconds. We're not so keen on the fact it is the only button here, though you can activate an onscreen navigation bar in the Settings. As standard you tap the Home button to go back, press it to go home, long-press it to open the Recents menu, or press it twice to access a shortcut key. By default this will open the Settings menu.

We were intrigued to see the Elephone S7 advertised with an iris scanner as an alternative to the fingerprint scanner for security. The preinstalled software includes Smart Lock, which can be activated once you have set up a screen lock and allows you to add trusted devices and places, and set up face-, voice- or body detection. Whenever the Elephone detects any of these things, the phone stays unlocked. See all phone reviews

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