When we mention TP-Link, the first thing that comes to our mind is networking devices such as Modem, routers, switches or etc. Never would you have thought that they would be releasing smartphones, don’t you?
Same thing goes to Huawei when they first launch their own smartphones. We all doubted their capabilities but they proved us wrong with proper research & development and marketing, they too, can make splendid smartphones.
Let’s take a closer look at the TP-Link’s Neffos C5 Max, the eldest brother in the Neffos C5 line up, followed by Neffos C5 and Neffos C5 Lite.
The Neffos C5 Max retails for RM699.00 on 11street.
- Dimension: 152 x 76 x 8.95 mm (5.98 x 2.99 x 0.35 in)
- Weight: 161 g (5.68oz)
- SIM: Dual SIM (Micro)
- GSM / HSPA / LTE
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Size: 5.5 inches
- Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels (~403 PPI) IPS LCD
Under the hood
- CPU: MediaTek MT6753, Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53
- GPU: Mali-T720MP3
- RAM: 2 GB
- Storage: 16 GB, supporting MicroSD up to 32 GB
- Battery: Non-removable 3045 mAh Li-Ion
- 13.0 MP
- Dual-LED flash
- 1080p@30fps video
- 5.0 MP
- OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
Neffos, while being the mobile subsidiary of TP-Link, the branding itself is weirdly absent at the front of the box.
Perhaps TP-Link doesn’t want to scare off potential customers with an unknown “Neffos” branding at the current stage.
Device specs and information at the back.
Opening the box.
In the box:
- Neffos C5 Max
- 3pin USB charger (2A)
- USB cable
- In-ear earphones
- Product guides and warranty
Up front, the phone looks awfully similar to LG’s G series with the different tone “chin”, complete with TP-Link branding.
Up close view of the TP-Link branding.
Notice the rim of the phone despite looks metallic, in fact, it is the dreadful chromed plastic. I wonder if any of the tech gadget manufacturers ever learn the lesson that chromed plastic do not age well.
Front-facing wide-angle 5MP camera, proximity & light sensors around the earpiece. We’ll talk more about the camera in the camera section.
I usually don’t comment on the sensors, but the proximity sensor on the C5 Max doesn’t seem to be very sensitive. Often I would notice my ear pulling the notification shade down when I put the phone to my ear when I receive a call.
During a call, proximity sensor should always detect when something gets to the front of the phone and turns off the screen.
Unlike the current trend where even mid-ranged phones get to enjoy the metal body treatment, Neffos C5 Max is mainly constructed of plastic except the glass at the front.
I’m not even mad because the build is rather solid and weighs good in the hands despite being plastic.
Removable back cover! How we missed you.
Though the 3045mAh battery is non-removable, the removed back cover lets the user access to the Dual Micro SIM slot and Micro SD card slot.
Then the single speaker unit placed at the rather traditional location at the back.
Not really an ideal placement, as the sound tends to muffle up while in the pocket or in the hands.
Micro USB connector at the bottom and a small hole for the microphone.
The microswitches under the power button and volume rocker have terrible short travel distance, but the click feedback is reasonably good to compensate.
It would be better if the 3.5mm audio jack is located at the bottom instead.
For a mid-ranger, it is quite normal to compromise the screen for the lower price point. Neffos C5 Max, however, comes equipped with a Full HD IPS panel.
Perhaps the screen itself is the best aspect of this phone at the current price point. The 5.5 inch full HD panel is sharp and vibrant, perfect for media and games. Compared with the Neffos C5’s 5 inch HD screen, I would happily shell out extra for the C5 Max, just for the screen.
The front 5MP camera is not so good, to be honest. It takes pictures of course, but the slow response to action is not really helping especially when you’re trying to capture a stable and sharp selfie or we-fie.
Making the matter worst, there’s a significant amount of skin smoothening for the front facing camera which I have no option to turn off in the camera settings.
The rear 13MP camera is at best, moderate. In fact, I believe it could do better if the camera software department could do some justice.
It is botched by the same dreadful slow response as the front facing camera. Most of the time I find myself trying to stabilise the phone while waiting for the camera to take the shot.
Instead of bombarding users with hundred millions types of shooting modes, the Neffos software is rather simple with just the commonly used modes.
The simplicity of the camera software can be seen in the camera settings, not much to configure.
Here are some sample photos I’ve taken using the Neffos C5 Max’s camera.
Performance & Battery Life
Speaking of the performance, the Neffos C5 Max comes with a rather questionable SoC, the MediaTek MTK MT6753.
First, the MT6753 was launched back in October 2014. That is almost 2 years old SoC for a device that is only launched 2 months ago!
Secondly, it is inferior to the Snapdragon 615 which was launched around the same season as the MT6753. When I say inferior I mean the MT6753 has
- Slower clock speed
- Weaker GPU for
- max 16MP camera resolution support (SD615 supports 21MP)
- max 1080p video recording (SD615 supports 4K)
- max 1080p display resolution (SD615 supports 1440p)
So, it is old and slower than its competition, does it means the performance sucks to the max?
Well, yes, but not the max, yet.
The benchmark number shows the MediaTek chip being around 5~10% slower than the Snapdragon chip, but in terms of usage it still holds up reasonably well for a mid-ranger albeit not in an efficient way if we were to compare it to modern chipsets.
Throughout my testing period, the 3045 mAh battery lasted me a day (14 hours) of moderate usage.
When I mean moderate usage, that means 2.25 hours of screen on time at the cost of 73% of battery.
Even after 2 weeks of usage, the Neffos C5 Max’s best screen on time was around 3 hours max throughout the day.
That is not good at all as I’ve seen some other chipsets that could perform better at the half of the battery life. Don’t even get me started on awfully slow charging speed. TP-Link tried to compensate it by including a 2A charger.
Then the Android OS that comes with the shiny new C5 Max is 5.1 Lollipop. Come on TP-Link, you could’ve launched the C5 Max with 6.0 Marshmallow, don’t you?
Neffos C5 family is TP-Link’s answer for entering the smartphone industry. I believe they have gone through quite a lot in order to bring the Neffos C5 lineup a reality. Even with the release of the C5 line up, the story doesn’t end here as there are still a lot of room for them to improve.
You can see that the OS skin itself even though being no-named, it is slightly customised from stock OS and trying to look like iOS or Xiaomi.
Then some apps would recognise the phone as a tablet. Pretty sure some configuration is not properly setup inside the OS level.
What’s interesting is the implementation of the theme store. TP-Link sure is serious in looking for ways to make money.
But think again, if you’re buying this budget phone, do you willing to spend on themes?
Then the interesting Turbo Download feature where it uses both WLAN and your SIM data plan to download large files faster.
I can definitely see the usefulness of this feature especially if
- your WLAN is slow
- you want to download the file faster
- you want to conserve your mobile data usage
The Neffos C5 Max is a good try for TP-Link to kickstart their smartphones division. Thanks to the maturity of the Android ecosystem and smartphone industry, TP-Link is getting a good start here compared to those who had gone through difficult days when the smartphone wave just started.
However, in terms of the value proposition and bang-for-buck, I’m still holding back at recommending this phone as there are some other devices that offer better value at the same price point.
That’s exactly how saturated and competitive the market currently is and I really feel bad for Neffos C5 Max for having to fight a losing battle at launch.
- Dual SIM
- MicroSD card support
- Excellent display
- Reasonably good performance
- Chromed plastic rim
- Buggy customised Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Subpar camera
- Subpar battery life
- Slow charging