*These devices are loaned review units from Ninetology Malaysia*
First, I have to let you know that this blogpost is a part of Ninetology Malaysia’s “Tech Kaiju Arena” Blogger’s Review Program. It’s basically a series of blogger review in line with their “Wall of Pledge” for “Responsible Blogging” campaign. I have set out to give you an honest user review and feedback of both the Ninetology U9X1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.
As usual, in WinnieKepala.com fashion, this is another long ass blogpost with an in depth review of both devices, even though I’m only required to give you a high level short post of the devices. But I want to be able to provide you, my readers, with more info that would help you make a decision n which phone to get. Which I hope you’ll appreciate. Responsible blogging, right?
So, here goes…
For the last week, I have been using both Ninetology U9X1 and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini thanks to Ninetology Malaysia’s latest blogger review program. Why did I get both these devices? Well, Ninetology was nice enough to loan me a unit of their hero device, the Ninetology U9X1 and gave me a choice between another comparable device to do this comparison post.
Reason I picked the S4 Mini to compare with the U9X1? Specs are not quite the same, but both devices are going after the same mid range market. So, if you’re looking at a mid range Android smartphone, perhaps you should read on?
Let’s get down to a quick comparison between both the Ninetology U9X1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.
Unboxing the U9X1 and the S4 mini
If you follow me on Instagram (CLICK HERE NOW), then you’ve likely seen these pictures…
Yes, the Ninetology U9X1 box is very very big. It’s definitely the biggest smartphone box I’ve ever come across. Like ever.
Interestingly, the Ninetology U9X1 box looks like a giant cigarette box. Haha. The front of the box bears their U9X1 smartphone’s tagline – “Stand Out”. Even without looking at the phone inside, the box itself certainly stands out!!!
A friend on Facebook event commented if the Ninetology box comes with T-shirts and other goodies. Sadly, no.
Inside the Ninetology U9X1 box (Top) shows they really provided some extras. The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini’s box (Bottom) has your standard affair – the device, removable battery, 2-piece adapter charger, USB to micro USB sync / charge cable, in ear headphones and user manual. The Ninetology U9X1, on the other hand, has the same items PLUS a screen protector (complete with the screen wiper cloth and plastic application card) and a hard backplate casing.
The hard back case, as any other case, adds bulk to the device, by just a little. As someone who loves phone cases, I appreciate that Ninetology included the hard case to the box. My annoyance with it though, is that the case is a little thick. And it don’t seem to quite fit the phone that properly. As you see in the picture above (bottom right), the corners don’t quite fit very well.
I was actually quite impressed with the included in-ear headphones. It looks quite sleek – all black with red accents. They look premium, almost passing off as a Beats headphones or something. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get a chance to test out the sound quality. Sorry.
Winner : In this respect, points goes to Ninetology for including so much extras in the box.
First, let’s look at the specifications for the Ninetology U9X1 :-
- 4.8″ Super AMOLED Plus HD display (1280 X 720)
- 1.2 GHz quad core MediaTek processor
- 16 GB internal memory (expandable microSD slot up to 32 GB) + 1 GB RAM
- Powered by Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” OS
- 13 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front facing (720p) camera
- 10 mm thin, weighing only 160 grams
- 2,200 mAh removable battery (up to 8 hrs 3G talktime)
- Connectivity : Dual SIM, HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS
- Available in 2 colours : Black / Red
- Price : RRP of RM 1,099
For more information on the hardware specs and key features of the phone, you can check out Ninetology U9X1 Product Page at http://www.ninetology.com/u9/products/x1/
And now, here’s the specifications for the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini :-
- 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED display (960 X 540) <– lower resolution
- 1.7 GHz dual core Snapdragon 400 processor <–lower than U9X1’s quad core
- 8 GB internal memory (expandable microSD slot up to 64 GB) + 1.5 GB RAM <– smaller internal storage, higher microSD support & RAM
- Powered by Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” OS <–same as U9X1
- 8 megapixel rear camera, 1.9 megapixel front facing (720p) camera <–lower megapixel front & back
- 8.94 mm thin, weighing only 107 grams <–more than 1.06 mm thinner & 53 grams lighter
- 1,900 mAh removable battery (up to 12 hrs 3G talktime) <–300 mAh smaller, but 4 hours more talktime
- Connectivity : HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, DLNA <–better Bluetooth & additional DLNA support
- Available in 2 colours : Black / White
- Price : RRP of RM 1,499 <–more expensive
For more information, you can check out Samsung Galaxy S4 mini Product Page at http://www.samsung.com/my/consumer/mobile-devices/smartphone/android-os/GT-I9190ZWAXME
Winner : Specs vs Price wise, point goes to Ninetology U9X1 for being cheaper and better spec-ed.
Build quality wise, I have to say both phones are made of polycarbonate (read: plastic). The U9X1 has a groove in the middle of the back of the phone. You’d think this is the separation to access the removable backplate. Well, not quite. That line in the middle of the back is just, well a line. You know, for design purposes.
In the hand, both phones feels comfortable in the hands. Of course, the U9X1 has a 4.8″ screen versus the S4 mini with a smaller 4.3″ screen. Screen resolution wise, the U9X1 has a much sharper resolution, with 1280 X 720 showing crisp and clear HD resolution. Not bad for a mid range phone.
Also, don’t forget that the Ninetology U9X1 is a dual SIM phone. Which means you can use 2 SIM cards in one phone simultaneously. Both SIM cards are stacked on top of each other in the same location (different slots). The U9X1 accepts regular SIM cards and not micro SIM like most new smartphones these days.
Unfortunately for me, as per the picture above, both my personal micro SIM cards are sitting outside the phone, rejected.
See Also : HTC Desire 600 Dual SIM User Review
As pointed out in my earlier Ninetology U9 series launch write up here, the U9X1 does look very much like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus devices.
Winner : Since both phones are made of the same plastic material. And minus the logo, they could both look so much alike, like it’s manufactured by the same company. So, in this area, it’s a draw!
Software and Usability
Both devices are powered by Android 4.2 “Jellybean” OS.
Samsung has the TouchWiz User Interface skin on top of Android, while Ninetology has their own skin/theme, too but looks pretty much vanilla. Meaning, it’s almost pure Android OS and navigation.
The default browser on both devices are great – pinch to zoom, tab browsing. The on screen keyboard are both good as well – Samsung having perfected the word prediction and auto correct after so many iterations of their “Galaxy” series devices, and Ninetology adding just that little bit extra to their messaging apps like emoticons.
Both the U9X1 and the S4 mini has pre-installed apps and built in features. Both has Microsoft Office apps, both has the usual note taking apps, good basic apps like Contacts, Calendars, etc.
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini has the highly marketed feature additions like Samsung Hub (app store for Videos, Books and Games), Group Play (multiple phones playing the same song on speakers simultaneously), Samsung Link (connect multiple Samsung devices together to share files), Motions and Gestures (like swipe your hand across the screen to answer calls etc) and Smart Stay (turns your screen off when you’re not looking at it) and more “killer features”.
Ninetology U9X1 is not to be disregarded as they have included some great apps and features as well. For example; NQ Mobile Security (virus scan, backup & reset etc), QR code scanner, NQ Vault (extra security and password protect your content), Smart Compass, Flashlight, and more. Heck – even WeChat was pre-installed.
From a usability point of view, both phones has their pros and cons. The U9X1 was lagging a little when I started using it on Day 1. The swipes between screens was a little slow at first. Fortunately, over time, it got better and because a lot more easier and smoother to navigate.
As for the S4 mini, well, I have previously complained about the older flagship brother, Samsung Galaxy S4 for being a little too bloated with features that slowed down the phone. Unfortunately, the same thing is present here with the younger S4 mini as well. The phone, even mid range, included either too many features or TouchWiz UI is now too heavy that it slows down the performance of the phone too much. Whether navigating between screens or simply opening an app.
See Also : Samsung Galaxy S4 User Review
The same problem with my Gallery app not loading images is the same again. As pointed out in the Galaxy S4 review here, this is a problem when the Gallery app is also syncing pictures from your Cloud storage apps like Dropbox, Flickr or Picasa. Samsung seriously needs to fix this soon.
Winner : From a software, apps and usability point of view – point goes to Ninetology U9X1 for being simple and usable.
Camera and Image Quality
The U9X1 comes with a 13 megapixel rear camera, while the S4 mini ony has an 8 megapixel shooter. Megapixel count wise, the Ninetology wins. But does this mean that the one with the higher megapixel count camera wins? Not necessarily.
Here are some sample images of the same situation taken with both cameras. Mouse over (hover) for description and click to see enlarged photo. Remember, images are unedited, not resized.
Winner : Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. Contrast a bit heavy, but image quality is improved together with their camera software technology as well.
Ninetology U9X1 has a 2,200 mAh battery while the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini has only a 1,900 mAh battery, both removable. Spec wise, you’d think that the U9X1 has won. However, U9X1 only records an 8 hour 3G talktime, while the S4 mini has a much longer 12 hour talktime!!!
I didn’t get to take any screenshots of the phone’s battery life, unfortunately. But in my use of both phones, they both actually score around the same battery life, lasting me a full day of light to moderate use, before I have to charge them again.
Winner : Draw. Both phones does surprisingly well, even with different battery capacity.
I want to try to be objective here. From scoring, it looks like the Ninetology U9X1 is a definite contender. Price is cheaper at RM 1,099 vs RM 1,499 for the S4 mini. Spec wise, it seems to have higher specs. Usability wise, it seems to be rather smooth and light and easy to use.
Would I recommend it over the S4 mini? Well, I have to get subjective here.
The U9X1 is a good mid range Android smartphone. Their problem is though, not many people recognise this brand.
Yeah – it’s a Malaysian manufacturer, selling this phone to the whole Southeast Asian region. They even have their own flagship Sales and Service store in Plaza Low Yat in KL. You’ll likely also see the Ninetology U9 series in big billboards in various hotspots around town.
Compared with a more household brand name like Samsung, it’ll be a tough sell for people to pick the Ninetology over anything that bears the “Samsung” brand name.
It’s not that Ninetology U9X1 is not a good phone, really. In fact, I think it’s a much better phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini in this comparison here.
So, for RM 1,099 for the Ninetology U9X1, if you’re looking for a good mid range Android smartphone, I say “YEAH” go ahead and buy this.
See Also : Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos User Review
The Ninetology guys have a bigger Marketing challenge to try to win more customers over. And not just in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, it’s a challenge to compete with any other bigger global smartphone brand names in general.
Good news is – Ninetology is doing quite a lot to try to get their brand name out there. I think it won’t be long until you hear more people talking about Ninetology, followed by more talks about their U9 series Android smartphones. When that happens, remember this comparison review post!
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That’s not the end of this blogpost yet.
Remember in the beginning of the post where I mentioned that this was a part of a Blogger’s Review program. Every month, Ninetology Malaysia has allocated RM 15,000 to RM 20,000 worth of prizes to blog readers. All you need to do is click on the banner below, to sign up for their e-newsletters.
The first 100th reader every month who click on the banner and subscribe to their e-newsletter will win RM 100 – RM 200 worth of Ninetology e-vouchers for discounts off their devices.
The e-newsletter will include featured blogger’s post under this “Tech Kaiju Arena” program, Ninetology’s latest product news and well, e-vouchers. So, click on the banner NOW!!!!
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