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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.