Ulefone Armor 12 5G rugged smartphone review
Two minute review
Ulefone has added yet another handset to its bulging portfolio; the Armor 12 5G is the cheapest 5G rugged handset we have tested to date but that doesn’t mean that it lacks unique selling points. Ulefone innovated by radically changing the design of the Armor 12 to something a bit more refreshing, at the same time, it added an antibacterial product (composite silver ion) as well as adding two speakers for improved audio performance. Add five camera sensors, wireless charging and a larger than average battery and you have a rugged smartphone that’s worthy of interest. Its low resolution and the use of the slower Dimensity 700 processor are the two potential blots on an otherwise great spec sheet.
As for the competition, other than the fabulous Nokia XR20 (far more expensive and a tad slower but also protected by a three-year warranty), there’s the Doogee V10 ($260 at the time of writing and next on our review list) and the Oukitel WP13 ($240).
Pricing and availability
Available in Black or Black/Orange, the Ulefone Armor 12 5G sells for $280 at online Chinese retailer Banggood. The price excludes local taxes, shipping and courier fees.
As mentioned in the introduction, the Armor 12 celebrates a new design philosophy from the Chinese challenger brand, one that can be reduced to the letter X (or cross), one that can be found imprinted all over the smartphone.
Ulefone says that “X” – other than marking the spot – “represents exploration and technology” and that “future is evolved from fishbone (sic!)” and the design can be found on the sides of the phone, on the two speaker grills. Beyond the marketing spiel though is a real effort from them to do things differently.
Gone are the boring utilitarian designs from yesteryear (for now), we now have material (mainly at the back) that remind us of a dolphin skin with the same grey color, a composite plastic that extends to the corners and part of the sides. Built into it is silver ion which has antibacterial properties and provides permanent protection against this category of nasties.
It weighs 297g and at 176 x 83 x 14mm, is reasonably comfortable to use. The 16-megapixel selfie camera sensor sits in a hole in the middle of the top edge of the 6.52-inch display. The latter doesn’t come with any oleophobic coating so will get smudged quite easily.
The right hand side of the device has a volume rocker and a fingerprint sensor housed in the power button.
The left hand side hosts a dedicated camera button as well as a dual SIM tray that can also accommodate a microSD card. At the bottom is a type-C USB port that is not covered with a flap. So be careful when you plug in a changing cable. Any moisture or sand particle may cause havoc.
On the back is a 48-megapixel camera with a 8-megapixel wide angle lens, a 2-megapixel macro lens and a 2-megapixel depth sensor, supported by a dual-flash mechanism. The lot slightly protrudes at the back which is not ideal for a phone that is IP68/IP69 rated.
As for all the recent affordable 5G rugged smartphones we’ve reviewed lately, this one is powered by the Mediatek Dimensity 5G smartphone which uses two powerful cores and six power-efficient cores. There’s also an Arm Mali-G57 GPU to deliver the graphics firepower.
The Ulefone Armor 12 5G comes with the following hardware:
CPU: Mediatek Dimensity 700
GPU: Arm Mali-G57
Screen size: 6.52-inch
Resolution: 720 x 1600
Dimensions: 175.9 x 82.5 x 14.3 mm
Rear camera: 48MP, 8MP, 2MP, 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
OS: Android 11
Elsewhere, there’s 8GB of RAM, 128GB system storage, a 6.52-inch 720 x 1600 pixels resolution. The 5,180mAh battery that powers them is fed by a compact 9V,2A (18W) power supply unit and you still get the usual assortment of NFC, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity and 15W wireless charging. Note that the smartphone also comes with a tempered glass screen protector.
Worth mentioning that the device has a headset free FM radio. That’s right, it’s one that doesn’t need a wired headphone (there’s no 3.5mm audio jack anyway). And speaking of audio, Ulefone says that the Amor 12 comes with a dedicated audio amplifier chip called the AW88194.
Performance and in use
The Ulefone Armor 12 runs on stock Android 11 with a lightly customized user interface and produces an interesting – and sometimes perplexing – set of results. It notched out the highest PCMark score to date ahead of a pair of Helio G95 devices (the S97 Pro and the Power Armor 13).
This is how the Ulefone Armor 12 5G performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
PCMark (Work 2.0): 10643
Passmark CPU: 3208
Androbench (sequential): 993 (sequential read); 479 (sequential write)
Androbench (random): 215 (random read); 180 (random write)
3DMark Wild Life Vulkan: 1111
LinPack MFLOPS: 667
Likewise, it set the best sustained sequential read/write transfer speeds at 993MBps and 479MBPs respectively, which leads us to believe that it might be using the faster eMMC 5.0. Clearly then, Ulefone has done something to this Dimensity-700 powered device that others haven’t.
Also bundled are the Easy Launcher and Children Space applications which provide dedicated, customizable virtualized environments for senior audiences (for the first one) and kids (for the second one).
The display is reasonably bright and its low resolution means that battery life – which we didn’t measure – should be longer than a comparable device with a full HD (or higher display). Sadly, you won’t be able to load two SIM cards and use a microSD card simultaneously.
Should I buy the Ulefone Armor 12?
Buy it if:
You want a 5G rugged smartphone that is out of the ordinary. The Armor 12 is the only rugged smartphone that has two speakers and antibacterial properties. That and the fact that it comes with 128GB storage and Android 11 make it a great buy for business users and outdoor workers.
Don’t buy it if:
You want regular firmware and security updates. A common criticism levied against challenger brands is that – sadly – there is no commitment from them to deliver regular OS and security updates. Likewise, after sales warranty is likely to be problematic. Unlefone’s Armor 12 is no exception in this case.