“The Yureka Black offers an iPhone-esque design for a seventh of the cost”

Up until a few years ago, buying a smartphone in the sub-Rs 10K price bracket meant settling for a device which came with a gig of RAM, a dual-core processor and a plastic body. Fast forward to 2017 and Chinese smartphone brands like Xiaomi and Coolpad have drastically upped the ante in the budget smartphone segment. Metal bodies, quad-core processors and upwards of 2 gigs of RAM are just some of the pre-requisites buyers look for in a budget smartphone today. By offering such jaw-dropping specs at reasonable prices, Chinese OEMs have stolen a big chunk of market share from indigenous brands. YU’s answer to that is the new Yureka Black, a smartphone that offers premium design and comparable specs to its competitors. Can the YU Yureka Back make a stand in the cut-throat budget segment and find a place in your pockets? Stay with me to find out. 

Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.0 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 1.4 GHz, Snapdragon 430
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 32 GB
External memory Up to 64 GB
Battery
Capacity 3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Talktime Up to 21 Hours (3G)
Standby Time Up to 168 Hours (3G)
Camera
Primary camera 13 MP
Secondary camera 8 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 3000
Operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Design and display

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I believe that innovation on the design front has plateaued in the recent past, especially in the budget segment. Most smartphones in this bracket look like slabs of metal, with some marginal differences in the edges or the back here and there. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (review) and others of its ilk look bad. I just feel like I have seen that same design being implemented by a host of other mobile phone manufacturers. Clearly, the budget segment is looking for a messiah to guide them and I firmly believe that the YU Yureka Black could be it. The smartphone has been constructed entirely out of metal and has a glossy finish which screams premium. The entire smartphone has been coated in deep black paint which is impeccable and the Yureka Black looks exactly like a compact version of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus’ Jet Black variant (review), which is saying a lot about the smartphone’s stunning design. Matter of fact, the black finish of the smartphone gives it a pseudo bezel-less appearance and the design feels all the more seamless too.

The handset curves towards the back and has chamfered edges, which coupled with the chrome antenna lines on the top and the bottom add to its sex appeal. As is expected from any glossy smartphone, the YU Yureka black is a fingerprint magnet and is extremely slippery too. So much so thatit will take you a couple of tries to pick the smartphone up if it is laid flat on a table. Similar to the Jet Black variant of iPhone 7, the Yu Yureka Black is prone to scratches too. YU does provide a case to go with the Yureka Black and going by the looks of our review unit, I’d recommend you put it on the phone as soon as you unbox it. 

In terms of specifics on the design, buyers will be looking at a 5-inch HD display on the front. A mechanical home button can be found below the display, which also houses the fingerprint sensor. Speaking of which, the fingerprint sensor is really accurate, though there is some delay between my fingerprint being registered and the smartphone unlocking. Up top, buyers will find the front-facing camera, an LED flash module, earpiece as well as some sensors. A micro-USB port can be found at the bottom sandwiched between two speaker grills, however, only one of them outputs sound. The handset comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, which can be found at the very top with the volume rocker and power button positioned on the right side of the smartphone. The left side of the device has been reserved for the hybrid SIM card tray, which can house up to two SIM cards or a SIM card and a microSD card.

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Micromax has outfitted the Yureka Black with a 5-inch full HD display which gives the device a screen pixel density of 441ppi. Naturally, text appears sharp and images feel crisp too, albeit slightly warm to my eyes. The viewing angles were good, however, the display doesn’t get too bright and therefore you might face some problem using the Yureka Black in broad daylight. On the plus side, the smartphone’s compact footprint makes it great for one-handed usage and there’s even an option within the settings to toggle a one-handed mode, which brings down the display size even further.

Cameras

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The YU Yureka Black comes with a pair of 13MP and 8MP sensors on the back and the front respectively, with each sensor being aided by a dedicated LED flash module. The 13MP primary camera comprises of a Sony IMX 258 imaging sensor, has an aperture of f/2.0 and comes with support for PDAF and full HD video recording at 30fps. While the front-facing sensor of the smartphone captured some really nice selfies, the performance of rear-camera was a bit of a downer. But before we get into that, let’s look at the camera app.

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The Yureka Black’s camera UI is fairly minimalistic and comprises three panes. Swiping to the right will take users to the camera settings, where they have the option to toggle flash on or off, change picture/video quality and so on. Swiping to the left brings up a bunch of pre-loaded shooting modes such as Night, Sports and Super Pixel. Surprisingly, the Yureka Black doesn’t come with a pro mode, a feature which is present on quite a few basic Android phones today. Therefore, you’ll have to rely on the camera’s best judgement to determine focus speed, ISO levels and exposure settings. Here are a few snaps captured by the device.

Coming to the Yureka Black’s camera performance, the smartphone’s 13MP primary camera offers middle-of-the-road performance. The camera struggles with focus issues and you’ll have to tap the subject a couple of times if you want to get the shot you desire. Moreover, although the HDR mode does increase the dynamic range of the image and makes the colours pop, it muddies up the details at times and in my testing, I found that the Yureka Black performed much better with the HDR mode turned off. Understandably, photos taken in low-light are full of noise and grain. However, when assisted with the LED flash, the camera manages to capture sufficient details. 

On the flip side, the front camera’s performance was much better and the 8MP shooter managed to capture a good amount of detail. The selfies aren’t void of noise and the colour reproduction is a bit on the warmer side but considering the asking price of the smartphone, look really good. The addition of a front-facing flash is an enticing feature for selfie lovers too and it does improve the quality of the pictures when you click in low-light.

Software

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I was pleasantly surprised with how refined the software on the Yureka Black is. A disclaimer – the smartphone is still running the dated Android Marshmallow which is simply unacceptable this late into 2017, especially since Android O is just around the corner. On the bright side, the UI is mostly stock and besides a redesigned home screen, isn’t too flashy. There are some nifty features bundled with the UI too, which add to the functionality of the Yureka Black. For instance, pulling down the notification bar from the top left opens up a panel which can be used to draw a gesture and assign it to an app.

Yu Yureka Black Software 2 Yu Yureka Black software 1

I found the feature to be quite handy since the lack of an app drawer on the Yureka Black scatters all the installed apps across different home screens. Therefore, instead of searching for the Clash Royale game, I could just swipe down from the top left, draw a ‘C’ and the phone would open the game for me. Unfortunately, since the gesture box cannot be reassigned to some other part of the screen, I often brought it up whilst pulling down the notification bar.

Performance

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Much like most of its competitors, YU has outfitted the Yureka Black with a quad-core Snapdragon 430 processor which works in tandem with 4GB of RAM. As is expected from any handset in this price range, performance isn’t going to be the snappiest. However, the Yureka Black manages to hold its own when it comes to day-to-day tasks and I found little to no instances of lag when I was using the handset as my daily driver. Be it browsing the web, or switching between different social media apps like Twitter and Instagram, the Yureka Black performed admirably. The app load times were slightly high, especially on applications like Chrome and Snapchat which take up a lot of resources, but that isn’t much of a surprise given the smartphone’s spec configuration. Moreover, the Yureka Black is perfectly capable of some casual gaming too and SuperCell’s Clash Royale played buttery smooth on the smartphone.

Matter of fact, I was greatly impressed with how the handset manages thermals, and despite playing the game for nearly two hours, the device didn’t heat up all that much. I did load up some graphically intensive titles on the Yureka Black such as Asphalt 8, but had to tone down the game’s graphics settings to get playable frame rates. All in all, the Yureka Black is a budget smartphone and as long as you keep that in mind while buying the device, you will not be disappointed with its performance.

The YU Yureka Black is fuelled by a non-removable 3,000mAh battery and despite being powered by an energy efficient processor, the battery life of the handset is downright average. The handset will do well to last you a trip to the office and back, however, you’ll have to plug it in at the end of the day. What works for the Yureka Black in the battery department though is its excellent standby time and the handset manages to retain its charge well. I once forgot to charge the smartphone and woke up seven hours later to see that the battery had depleted by only 2 percent. In our standard 91mobiles battery test, the smartphone managed to run a 720p video footage for 13 hours on loop, which is better than what the Redmi 4 achieved, but is inferior to the performance of the Redmi Note 4. 

Verdict

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The Yureka Black is easily one of the best looking smartphones in the budget segment and can even compete with devices priced much higher when it comes to design. The handset is a decent performer too, so long as you don’t subject it to some intensive gaming and has a good camera on the front as well. If you want a smartphone which will make a statement every time you pull it out of your pocket and don’t have the budget for a Galaxy S8 (review), then the Yureka Black is your best bet in the budget segment. If however, you want a more well-rounded option, then I would recommend you to go with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, which has a better processor, much better cameras and a superior battery life too. All things considered, the Yureka Black is a solid comeback by YU and if this is a sign of things to come, then the brand could thwart the Chinese competition, after all.

Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros

  • Stunning Design
  • Near-stock Android OS
  • Good Performance 

Cons

  • Sub-par cameras
  • Dated Android version

Photos by Raj Rout
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