Can Neffos do a premium build with the X1 and X1 Max?

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TP-Link’s first foray into the smartphone market with their Neffos brand was met with rather lukewarm reception. The devices were decidedly entry-level with plastic bodies and not a lot of horsepower under the hood. They weren’t particularly good value devices here in Malaysia either and that’s crucial when you’re competing in such a competitive segment of the market.

Now, though, TP-Link is taking a different approach with their new smartphone lineup, opting for a more premium build with better internals.

Has it worked?

TP-Link, or rather Neffos, just pulled the covers off their latest line of smartphones — the Neffos X series — which consists of the X1 and X1 Max. This lineup is interesting because it signals the start of the company’s climb up the smartphone market’s ladder.

If I had to pin down a single common denominator between the Neffos X duo, it would be the build and look. Both smartphones feature a metal aluminium body which is a first for the company.

I was a little sceptical initially when they started talking about a “dual-curved back” and how they made the chamfer as thin as possible but my initial impressions were wrong. The X duo feels pretty good as far as metal smartphones go.

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The metal feels premium in the hand, much better than something like the Redmi Note 3 or Flash Plus 2, but not quite up to HTC’s level yet. Then again, this is just a midrange device so the fact that the metal feels good at all is definitely a good thing.

Since it’s a midrange device, you do get midrange specifications too though I was a little disappointed with the processor considering how high it sits in the midrange market’s price ladder. Inside, both devices come with a MediaTek Helio P10 processor, running Android Marshmallow, but paired with different memory configurations.

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On the X1, you get a choice of either 2GB RAM + 16GB storage or 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, while the X1 Max has 3GB RAM + 32GB storage and 4GB RAM + 64GB storage options. The X1 also features a smaller 5-inch 720p display while the X1 Max gets a larger 5.5-inch Full HD panel.

Unfortunately, I could only spend time with the smaller X1 as the X1 Max was not ready to be put on display yet. That said, the 720p display is a pretty sharp with decent viewing angles and brightness too, though I would have liked to see a Full HD panel on the X1 instead. Still, 720p might be the better choice considering the relatively small 2,250 mAh battery in the X1.

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Performance-wise, the Neffos X1 did rather well. It was fairly smooth and can open and close applications rather seamlessly. But, there were a few graphical glitches when it came to accessing the recents menu and input errors when I was scrolling through the settings menu. However, it is worth noting that the unit I played with did not have the final version of Neffos’ software so they still have time to iron out the kinks.

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The same should also be said about the performance of the 13MP/5MP camera combo. Neffos is utilising Sony’s IMX258 sensor for their primary camera with PDAF for faster autofocusing.

I got to take a few quick snapshots with the device and I was rather happy with the performance especially compared to the older C5 as it’s a lot snappier. While the camera did have a little problem with exposure and dynamic range, sharpness was spot on.

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Neffos’ new smartphone also has a fingerprint sensor but that’s not too surprising anymore. The sensor itself is located at the back and is fairly accurate. It was a little slow to detect and unlock at first, but Neffos says that speed and accuracy will improve the more you use it.

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Another interesting feature is that it’s got a dedicated alert slider which is similar to what you’d find on the OnePlus 3. However, this is only a two-step slider so your choices are limited to “All Notifications” and “Vibrate”. Still, I think it’s a nice addition to have as I quite like the one on the OnePlus 3.

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Nifty little features aside, the Neffos X1 (and X1 Max by extension) is an interesting little device. It has some of the right features to make it a truly competitive smartphone in the midrange market but I believe that the deciding factor on whether it will sink or swim will be the price.

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In Europe, the base model Neffos X1 will go for EUR199 (about RM911) while the X1 Max has prices starting from EUR249 (about RM1,140). That’s a lot of money and you can get some seriously good phones, like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and honor 5C, for less. It’s a budget midrange smartphone after all, so price and value-for-money will be king here. That said, we expect the Malaysian price to be lower as phones tend to be more expensive in Europe.

Am I blown away by the Neffos X series? No, not really. It’s a good attempt from a company that’s still new to the smartphone scene but I haven’t really seen anything amazing yet. It’s a nice, solid device that plays by the rules and while there’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not gonna stun anyone either.

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That said, TP-Link is going all-in on the smartphone hype train and the plans for their next device lineup is already in the pipeline. The best part? It’s supposed to be a “flagship-level” handset with a competitive price. Now that’s music to my ears…assuming they have the same definition of “competitive” and “flagship” as I do.

What do you guys think of the Neffos X1 and X1 Max? Let me know in the comments below.