A fortnight or less ago, Tecno released its second device in 2018 that highlights the Chinese OEM’s maturity in the manufacture of Android devices. The Camon X Pro, which was also announced alongside the ordinary Camon X with watered down specs, features a key design departure from the ordinary, 16:9 slabs that have been the norm for more than a decade. It is the first Tecno device that has an admirable FHD+ 18:9 full-screen display that tags along midrange internals like 4 gigs of RAM, a roomier 64 GB of media-hoarding space and a total of 40 MP count on the front and back.
It is easy to get distracted by what the Camon X Pro gets right owing to the standards some of you have for the company. Admittedly, this is a company that entered the Kenyan market with feature phones and only started manufacturing smart handhelds in 2012 for the budget segment. At that time, established players such as Samsung possessed the lion’s share of the local smartphone market share. Since Tecno was a new player, it churned out low-quality products that were linked to the misconception that China-based electronics are fake or of lowly-placed quality. In that learning curve, the manufacturer picked itself up and took advantage of the dynamics of the Kenyan market that adores budget devices to catapult it to its current state.
Tecno, whose camera-centric line of devices is today’s primary target, aims to elevate its image-capturing prowess to new heights. This edge, which Tecno continues to advance, was noted back in 2017 when the OEM drove multiple Camon versions in the market and echoed it further with a dual cam-equipped Phantom 8 that we highlighted in this review. It is an obvious approach by the manufacturer in a bid to squeeze a space in the hotly contested camera department that seems to appeal to every smartphone buyer out there.
In this short review of the Camon X Pro, we are going to dive into a few admirable features and setbacks that would have otherwise made the phone an excellent choice for most of you who need to purchase an affordable midrange smartphone.
So, let’s jump right into it:
It is very difficult to fault the Camon X Pro as far as design and choice of materials are concerned. It takes on the latest trend of skinny, 18:9 aspect ratio displays that squeezes a large screen on a smaller footprint, which, in this case, is a 1080 by 2160 six-incher. Side bezels are minimal, although its forehead (that houses an array of sensors and the earpiece) and chin could be smaller. The back is equally minimalist with a single, top-placed camera sensor and a large flash, a speedy fingerprint scanner and gold Tecno logo. Our unit is painted in black, an is accented by gold strips around its sides and signal inlets that give the entire device an appealing personality.
The device outer casing is plastic, although Tecno did a fine job to manipulate its feel that apes metal. That is not a bad thing considering it is a KES 25,000 device. Perhaps the most interesting thing about using plastic is how featherweight the phone is. I was pleasantly surprised after picking it up, and this is a huge plus for people who love their phones light in the pocket.
Additional pluses in the design department include a bottom headphone port that I personally love, an okay bottom firing speaker, as well as a ribbed power button that separates it from the volume button. The button controls reside on the right side of the device, which helps in keeping the Pro as clean as possible.
I must admit the Tecno team did a good job in the design of this phone, and since this is their first attempt to deviate from traditional phone design, I have a good feeling about their incoming, flagship-grade Phantom 9 in the months to come. I must also point out that the X Pro outshines the Phantom 8 in the design perspective, and while I liked the latter, its weight distribution was subjectively off.
It is not capped at 720p like its lite sibling the X. We do not have the numbers of the screen to body ration, but it looks promising, perhaps close to the 80% mark. What’s more, its corners are curved like true 18:9 displays should look like. It is also plenty bright for outdoor usage. As mentioned, it has a resolution of FHD+ and we did not expect any less at the price point.
The advantage of a tall and thin screen is easy one-handed use, which might still not be easy on a 6-inch phone. In fact, it was challenging to perform single hand actions on a slightly smaller OPPO A83 that were reviewed a few weeks ago.
For the average user who is the primary target of the Camon X Pro, the screen will serve them just fine. I didn’t find any issues with it save for subjective colour accuracy issues that might be limited to my eyes.
HiOS v.3.3.0 and Android 8.1.0
We have always had issues with phones that ship with dated Android version. However, this is not the case with the X Pro, which packs the latest version available to the masses. The software goodies are complemented by a February security patch (and we did not receive any update thereafter). While that is not the latest patch around, the manufacturer has tried to ensure it is not toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities we have come to accept in the Android space and we hope it [Tecno] continue to push those updates in a timely manner.
The phone also clads the latest version of HiOS, the skin atop Android on Tecno devices. It is packed to the brim with nice tricks such as gestures, transition effects, app shortcuts (a huge plus) and extra apps that should make your phone usage glide along just fine (but fail to do so owing to our right to choose apps that we deem appropriate for daily interactions). Most of these unnecessary apps and tools can be uninstalled or deactivated (using another app called Freeze, ha!).
In a nutshell, the skin has been toned down and looks much better than it was two years ago. Settings look better as HiOS V3.3.0 has debloated and minimized redundancies that plague the skin’s previous versions.
The Camon X Pro has a huge 24 MP sensor on the front and a 16 MP primary camera. This is a slight detour from the dual camera system we saw on the Phantom 8. We kind of hoping the manufacturer will jump on the dual, or even triple camera train if attempts by Huawei were to be replicated across the board. This hope was pegged on the camera-centric features of past Camon devices.
So, let’s talk about the quality of the images captures by these sensors: first and foremost, you need plenty of light to nail some good, social-media friendly photos. The primary camera does just that: the images it takes will appeal to most of you as they are rich in colour. They are also packed with details to allow low-level editing or zoom outs without losing quality. A 3X software zoom is available for capturing distant objects.
A key addition to the camera feature set is superpixels that crank up the pixel count of the 16 MP sensor to give out a 60 MP image. This comes in handy for the preservation of detail, and while I do not see an immediate use for the basic users, it is nice that it exists just in case it is needed for whatever purpose.
It worth noting that software-initiated bokeh or portrait mode is absent on the main camera, however, it is present on the pixel-packed 24 MP sensor on the front.
Similar to the back camera, the selfie sensor takes social-media friendly pictures, with great detail that will appeal to the masses. You can pull okay portrait mode shots if you have steady hands in well-lit surroundings.
There are a couple of filters and settings to toy around with, including a face-smoothing mode that removes facial defects like pimples for fake results that look disgusting. Never touch it unless you want to look too plasticky. Another addition worth mentioning is a makeup option (this one can be accessed via gallery (MyPictures)) for the ladies. It works as advertised.
Read More: TECNO Camon X Pro Camera Showcase
Quick Fingerprint Scanner and Face Unlock
Face Unlock is nothing new to Android enthusiasts as the feature was part of the feature set in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich back in 2012. Its use started to taper off until Apple’s iPhone X happened with Face ID. A couple of Android manufacturers have, in turn, routed back to allowing face unlock.
Notably, there are no array of sensors that map your face for some iPhone X-esque magic. Rather, the front camera just recognizes your face. Simple.
I should also mention that the Pro’s fingerprint sensor is quicker than that on the Phantom 8. It is also more accurate and more recessed for a better finger placement.
Face and fingerprint enrolling are equally speedy. Both can be used to restrict access to apps if you are paranoid about people reading or viewing your private content.
By the way, the device can be unlocked in the dark by firing up a front flash.
The Camon X Pro can pull a day just fine on moderate usage. Its cell has more than enough juice capacity at 3750 mAh. It would hit 4 to 5 hours of screen on time, which is above average, but not spectacular like the OPPO A83 that we reviewed a few days ago.
I have also been spoilt by my primary phone (Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X) that has a bigger battery for a comfortable two-day use. I guess I expected more in this segment, but I think most people will be served well by its juicer performance.
On the other hand, there are a number of things that I do not like about the Camon X Pro, which will never be fixed in the foreseeable future but are worth highlighting nonetheless.
Yes, there a number of apps that Tecno packages in HiOS. Most of them are a pain as they push unauthorized ads to the notification area. You can get rid of some entirely or use another app to freeze them.
No one needs Palm Store in place of Play Store. No one needs two pre-installed browsers. No one needs a Face ID app as the feature can be accessed from the Settings Menu. We covered the HiOS bloatification obsession in our Phantom 8 review.
I’m not aware whether the X Pro has some form of fast charging tech like the Phantom 8. This is because the phone took its sweet time to juice up. I switched the phone off and plugged it into a wall with the packaged charger, only for it to charge at 1 percent per minute. This means an hour will give you about 50% of charge, which is unimpressive for 2018.
The Camon X Pro uses a MediaTek Helio P23 SOC with Mali-T720 graphics chip. This is a midrange CPU that demonstrates okay performance from day to day. My only gripe is with the GPU: it is slow and gets overwhelmed by basic titles like Candy Crush Saga.
I use the mentioned game for an unscientific test of GPU performance based on how fast I crash candies and response time during gameplay. I was genuinely unimpressed by multiple hiccups and redraw spells out a weak graphics chip. This is not a problem in midrange Adreno GPUs embedded in Qualcomm chips on similarly priced phones. It is that obvious, and a keen eye will notice dropped frames from time to time. So, if you plan to crash heavy titles (the phone has plenty of room to store them), you may need to look elsewhere.
- This is perhaps the best-looking phone Tecno has ever put out there.
- It is astounding how light the device is. What’s more, it does so without compromising on battery size.
- The included case is a nice touch.
- HiOS v3.3.0 and Android 8.1 are an admirable duo. If they could go easy on bloat and excessive settings…
- Cameras could be better for professionals. For the masses, no one will fault their shortcomings.
- You are probably never going to drop in a memory card in here since 64 gigs of storage are roomier for media files and apps. Also, the included hybrid slot allows two SIMs or a single SIM and a microSD card. Choose wisely.
- A USB Type C cable and port would have been a nice touch for future proofing.
- We do not know of the phone’s update plan or a commitment to future updates. The Phantom 8 is still stuck on Nougat so, we will trust such a commitment when it happens.
- A combo of Face ID and a fingerprint sensor is another nice touch.
Get the TECNO Camon X Pro from Jumia at Kes.24,999
For a second opinion on the TECNO Camon X Pro, checkout Saruni Maina’s video review: