“The YU Yunique rises like a saviour for those looking for a budget device with fast processing and 4G capabilities”
In the world of fashion, you might have noticed how a designer introduces a bizarre trend on the ramp, and after a while, you find a more wearable version of it in high-end stores. Kind of like how Aztec prints, after being introduced in 2009, hit stores like ZARA and MANGO. And then, if the style picks up following, just like this one did, visibly similar and more affordable stuff floods thrift markets. You know the vibrant geometrical and tribal prints that street markets were filled with a while back? Aztec.
Consequently, what we have right now is virtually a thrift market of smartphones. Budget smartphones are all what the Indian smartphone market is about right now. Just as functional as high-end devices, at nominal prices. While they do not compete directly with premium smartphones, budget phones are getting better by the day. YU, a brand which took the budget segment by storm with its debut player, the YU Yureka (review) and follow up offerings like the YU Yuphoria (review) and YU Yureka Plus (review | camera review), has now launched another budget smartphone dubbed Yunique. The device justifies its name to the fullest by being the cheapest smartphone which rocks a Snapdragon 410 CPU. In for a detailed look at the device? Read on for our review.
Design: Can’t Go Wrong with Black
You know what they say…when in doubt, go with black. The Yu Yunique looks classy in its matte black body. Even though the device sports a smooth finish, it doesn’t feel slippery at all. You won’t find any accentuated trims on the smartphone and this differentiates the Yunique from the current smartphone lot. Even though the basic chassis of the device is similar to its sibling, the YU Yuphoria, the absence of trims makes the design language of the YU Yunique more subtle. Flip the phone over and your attention will immediately be drawn to the primary camera module which is placed in the centre, towards the top. The famous YU Saturn-rings encircle the lens and also house the LED flash.
Towards the bottom, there’s minimal YU branding and a speaker grille featuring four rows of precision drilled holes. The back panel is removable and hides slots for two micro-SIMs and a microSD card, plus a fixed battery. On the right edge of the device you will find the power button sandwiched between two volume keys in a metallic finish. The micro-USB port and primary microphone are on the bottom edge of the smartphone while you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack on the top. You won’t find any capacitive navigation keys below the display since they come as part of the software. On the top of the display, which spans 4.7-inches, there’s an earpiece, secondary camera, a notification LED which lights through the earpiece grille, and few sensors along with some YU branding.
While the smartphone is shipped with a black bodice, you can go for the combo as well, which brings along two additional back covers in white and grey hues. With its compact display, a waist that measures 8.6mm and a weight of 131g, the YU Yunique is extremely convenient to handle. You can easily access corners and operate the device with one hand.
High Definition which Reflects, Literally
The 4.7-inch screen of the YU Yunique sports HD resolution and looks decently sharp with a screen pixel density of 312ppi. It’s difficult to discern any pixels be it icons or text. The images look pleasing as well since the colours appear vibrant. While the viewing angles are average, the touch response of the screen was rather good. The scorching heat in Delhi was more than enough to test the screen’s brightness and the results were somewhat disappointing. We also found the auto-brightness was never appropriate considering ambient lighting. The poor legibility is also a result of the smartphone’s highly reflective display.
The YU Yunique flaunts Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 protection on its display which should keep your phone’s screen nice and scratch free.
Camera: Not the Worst camera, but Definitely Not the Best
The YU Yunique’s primary snapper is capable of capturing stills at a resolution of 8MP. However, you will have to work with self portraits clicked at 2-megapixels.
The default camera app is pretty simple and easy to use. On the right of the viewfinder you will find a virtual shutter button and an option to switch between camera, video or panorama mode.
A trail of options and settings follow on the left side. There’s an option to tweak manual settings as the app gives you control over ISO, exposure and white balance. Then there’s a mode to beautify your selfies. While you can choose from three presets to whiten and smoothen the skin, there’s an option for custom settings as well. You can choose from as many as nine filters to pre-apply while clicking pictures. Lastly, there are the usual camera modes including Automatic, HDR, Portrait, Flowers, Candlelight, Night etc.
The default editing app on the YU Yunique is pretty loaded. You can choose from a number of filters and frames.There’re options to crop, straighten, rotate and mirror your images along with being able to draw on them freehand. The app also lets you play with the contrast, shadows, highlights, vibrance, exposure and vignette in your pictures. For allegedly prettier portraits, the post-editing features include whitening and softening skin along with Trimface and Bigeye effects.
If there’s abundant light, your YU Yunique should deliver great pictures. We tested the shooting capabilities of the device and the results were decent. The colour reproduction was almost accurate and the images looked sharp. However, zooming in revealed blurred seams and texture. The 8MP shooter on the YU Yunique does not perform as well as the 8MP snapper on its sibling, the Yuphoria, when it comes to long shots. However, the device managed to capture enough detail when we tried some close-up shots. The HDR mode in the camera app is pretty impressive as well since the output had better contrast. However, in some shooting conditions, the camera overdoes it, making the images look a tad artificial. The flash on the smartphone works well too, keeping the subjects evenly lit. Night shots taken with the device were pretty usable as well. While there will be a lot of grain visible when you zoom into images, you won’t face issues judging what’s in the pictures if you look at them in their original size.
The 2-megapixel front facing camera on the Yunique is average, as you can expect. While the selfies clicked in broad day light will suffice for Instagram and Facebook, it’s not one of the best front cameras we’ve come across lately.
Above are some shots we took from the Yunique’s shooter (right click and open in new tab to view images in full size). Even though we’ve managed to complain quite a bit about a couple of aspects when it comes to YU Yunique’s camera, the fact prevails that for it’s asking price, the smartphone is equipped with decent imaging sensors. Read our camera review for an in-depth take on the shooting prowess of the YU Yunique.
Software: Originals Never Go Out of Style
YU has dumped Cyanogen OS this time in favour of near stock Android. The device runs the latest version of the same i.e. 5.1.1. There are slight changes in the icons but that shouldn’t bother you much. Instead of going with a lot of bloatware, YU has made a sly move. The only “extra” you will find in your app drawer is the YUniverse powered by Opera. In lieu of all the third-party apps that could have been there on your device as bloatware, the YUniverse browser subtly features them as bookmarks on its Speed Dial list. The links include Askme, Askme Bazar, OLX and Quikr.
Though the YU Yunique doesn’t ship with CyanogenMod, the company has provided with an option to download and install the custom ROM over the air for people who’d like to take the customised experience up a notch. Since the device supports CM, you can root your device without without voiding the warranty.
Performance: A Slightly Bumpy Ride
The YU Yunique is a performance powerhouse considering the price it comes at. The device features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC which has four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.2GHz. There’s an integrated Adreno TM 306 GPU to take care of the graphics as well. There were instances when we experienced lags when opening some apps, but performance was otherwise fluid. The CPU made use of all the cores no matter how small or heavy of the apps we ran. While light usage was complemented with a clock speed of 800MHz, the engines grunted at 1.2GHz while we played heavy games like Dead Trigger 2 and Riptide GP2. The gaming experience was nice and smooth and the rendering of the graphics was pretty impressive as well. While we could feel the smartphone warming up a bit after two back to back sessions of both the games, there was no major heating. While the overall processing capabilities of the device are pretty decent, one big bummer was that it switched off randomly on its own a few times during the course of our review. The proximity sensor embedded in the YU Yunique is disappointing as well, and didn’t do its job well in switching off the display during calls unless the phone was held in a specific position close to the ear.
Built-in storage on the YU Yunique is rated at 8GB, about half of which you get for installing apps and personal content. The device’s expansion slot can accept microSD cards of up to 32GB capacity. Backing this budget contender by YU is a 2,000mAh battery. While the device took a great deal of time to charge, the battery drained nice and fast, which was rather annoying. Starting the day with one hundred percent battery and using the phone like we would with 3G connectivity, Whatsapp, browsing, listening to music and making a few calls, made us run to find the charger by evening. Stress testing the battery against our standard battery test which includes running a 720p video on loop while the brightness and volume are set to 50 percent, made the device die out after eight and a half hours.
The YU Yunique doesn’t cut corners in terms of connectivity and offers support for 4G, making its way among the most affordable smartphones which do so. The device can accept two micro-SIMs and comes with other standard connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
If you’re as big a fan of The Avengers as we are, you’ll probably remember the scene where during a terse negotiation, Loki brags about the army he has at his disposal, and Tony Stark retaliates by saying, “We have a Hulk.” It’s pretty much the same scenario with the latest launch from YU. Among the plethora of budget smartphones available in the market right now, the Yunique does stand out, even if it doesn’t feature Hulk-like proportions. The device has a processor which performs better than what you’d expect from a smartphone in this price range. The display is promising, and the design is slick. Plus, you just can’t complain about the UI since it’s Android in its purest form. What the device lacks is a slightly better camera and a battery to make all the good last longer. However, for Rs 4,999, these are some shortcomings one could settle for.
The YU Yunique faces tough rivalry from the likes of Xiaomi Redmi 2 (review | camera review), Karbonn Titanium MachFive (first impressions) and Micromax Canvas Xpress 2 (review). While the Redmi 2 boasts similar specs as the Yunique, its camera performs better. The Karbonn Titanium MachFive rocks 2GB of RAM and a 5-megapixel front facing camera, while the Xpress 2 comes with a 13MP primary shooter. All of these smartphones are priced Rs 1,000 higher than the YU Yunique. If you don’t have issues with sketchy battery life, the YU Yunique is a very compelling option in the sub-Rs 5,000 segment.