Cube Talk 5H review – 5.5 inch phone with Mi Home launcher

Cube Talk 5H promoCube has been around for about a decade now and is known in some parts of the world for its range of Android tablets. But the company also makes large screen smartphones like the Cube Talk 5H. With a 5.5 inch 720 HD screen the Talk 5H is not a small phone but it has lots to offer. I spent a few days with the device and here is what I discovered.

Spec sheet
  • Display: 5.5-inch IPS, 1280*720
  • Processor: MTK6589, Cortex A7 quad core, 1.2GHz
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX 544MP
  • RAM: 1GB
  • OS: Android 4.2.1 with Mi Home Launcher
  • Storage: 4GB plus microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • Connectibity: Bluetooth V4.0 / GPS / Wi-Fi 802.11 n/b/g
  • Networks: WCDMA: 2100MHZ / GSM: 900MHZ + 1800MHZ – Dual SIM
  • Cameras: 1.3MP / 8.0MP camera with auto-focus support
  • Battery: 2500mAh
Design

Cube Talk 5H frame

The Talk 5H has a 5.5 inch screen and because of its solid construction the device is slightly longer than a Galaxy Note 3 but with quite a different design philosophy. The 5H looks and feels firm, sturdy, even rugged. The boldly designed case gives your hand plenty of places to grip and there is little worry that it could accidentally slip from your hand. Even though it weighs 200 grams it isn’t an unwieldy monster, quite the contrary since its slightly curved back helps it fit into your hand. For a phone with a 5.5 inch screen the design is a compromise between its thin bezels, which are just 4mm wide, and the strong internal frame which is made of a magnesium aluminum alloy. The phone gives you a sense of confidence. Confidence in its construction and confidence  in its strength, but without the sense of holding a brick!

Visually the phone seems to take design cues from the Sony Xperia S with its plastic bar at the bottom, just below the soft keys. The bottom bar houses the microphone and the micro USB port. On the left is the volume rocker and on the right is the power button. The very top is home to the headphone jack and the 1.3MP facing camera, the light sensor and the earpiece grill are all on the front, just above the screen.

On the back is the 8MP camera with LED flash and the speaker grill. Once you take off the back cover (which isn’t at all flimsy) you get access to the removable battery, the microSD card slot and the two SIM slots. One slot is for regular sized SIM cards and the other takes a micro SIM. Either slot can be used for 3G.

Cube Talk 5H - inside

Display

The Cube’s display is a 5.5 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 which allows the phone to use the 720p HD moniker. The viewing angles are excellent and after 45 degrees the picture is still clear without any dimming.

The display also has a good brightness range and I found that indoors even 50% seemed too bright. This was a pleasant surprise as many middle to lower end phones tend to have darker displays that need to be pushed hard to get an acceptable level of brightness, even indoors. This isn’t true for the 5H.

The color reproduction is excellent. Images are shown with a vividness and richness that you don’t except from this type of display. I am ashamed to say that the Talk 5H’s display made my Nexus 4′s screen look quite dull and boring.

Hardware

The  MT6589 package is something that I have seen in lots of phones from China including the ThL W100, the Pomp W89 and the Goophone N3. The performance was as expected and produced similar results to the other MediaTek quad-core phones that I have tested. The MT6589 uses four Cortex-A7 cores at 1.2GHz along with the PowerVR SGX 544 GPU. This SoC has always been reliable whenever I have encountered it and the performance is more than adequate for normal usage and for moderate 3D gaming.

Cube Talk 5H - Benchmarks

The AnTuTu score was 13386 which is roughly the same as the other MT6589 devices I have reviewed. The 5H managed 58.1 frames per second (fps) on Epic Citadel in High Performance mode and 56.0 fps in High Quality mode. As with the other devices with this same GPU, the 5H does start to falter when using Epic Citadel’s Ultra High Quality mode where it achieved 23.5 fps. However this is to be expected for this class of GPU.

The only disappointment with the Cube Talk 5H is the 4GB of storage. First the negative aspects. 4GB is nowhere near enough for a modern smartphone, even more so when you consider the 5H’s screen size, quad-core processor and design features like the magnesium aluminum alloy frame. The good news is that the storage can be expanded with a SD card and the phone’s default write location can also be changed. This feature is very useful. For example, without an SD card I was unable to installed Modern Combat 4 which is some 1.93GB in size. But with the SD card insert and the default write location changed then the game installed without any problems. The 2GB of space needed was taken from the SD card.

Cube Talk 5H - in hand

During a simple GPS test the device took about 90 seconds to get its initial lock and from then onwards lock was obtained within a few seconds.

The phone supports 2G GSM on 900 and 1800 MHz which means it will work on most carriers in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It won’t work in North America. Likewise the 5H supports 3G on 2100 MHz which means it will work in many countries around the world including most of Africa, Asia and large parts of Europe. It won’t work in the USA or most of South America. You need to check with your carrier to ensure compatibility or if you trust Wikipedia then the List of UMTS networks page could have the information you need.

Battery

Cube Talk 5H - battery

The 5H comes with a  2500mAh battery which gives the phone a fairly impressive battery life. During my testing I found that the phone can play 3D games for around 4.5 hours on one charge and can watch videos streamed from YouTube over Wi-Fi for around 5.5 hours. My simple 3G talk time test showed that the device offers around 10 hours of 3G talk time. I assume 2G talk time would be even higher. These figures show that the battery will easily last from morning to evening with moderate use and it may even last two days.

Camera

The camera uses an 8MP sensor and the phone has an LED flash on the back. The supplied software is fairly standard but includes various advanced features like face detection, smile detection, HDR and burst  mode. The photos are sharp and have a good resolution and only in low light is there any perceptible noise on the images. However overall the photos are lacking in color vibrancy. This is magnified by the fact that the display can produce such bright colors. The result is that the pictures can look dull. The good news is that the built-in image editor can be used to alter the vibrancy, saturation and contrast relatively easily.

Here are some example photos taken with the Cube Talk 5H:

IMG_20131223_115439

Software

Cube Talk 5H - Mi Home

The phone shipped with stock Android but rather than the default launcher it uses the Mi Home launcher from the custom Android firmware project MIUI. The phone can also run the full MIUI V5 ROM and there are links on Cube’s forum about where to download the latest version.

Mi Home is a colorful and visually pleasing launcher with support for themes which can be discovered and downloaded from with the program. Other than the bright colors the main design feature of Mi Home is that there is no app draw. All the app icons are on home screens but they can be added into folders to help with clutter. It is rather like iOS in that sense but looks very different. There is also a categories tool which attempts to put apps in relevant folders automatically.

The device comes with Google Play and although not many of Google’s apps are pre-installed they can be easily found. If Mi Home doesn’t interest you then the launcher can be replaced with one of the popular Android launchers, including the new breed of KitKat based launchers which are now in the Play Store.

Price and wrap up

The Cube Talk 5H can be found for around $180 plus taxes and delivery. Considering the 720p HD display and the quad-core processor that is a pretty cool price. Having played with the device for a few days I found myself looking at my Nexus 4 and then looking at the 5H and wondering if I should give up the Nexus, even with the benefits of Android 4.4, and switch to the Cube!

Also for those who like phones with support for alternative Android firmwares then the Talk 5H is an interesting option with the availability of MIUI V5. MIUI has lots of interesting features that aren’t available in stock Android including a built-in permissions manager that allows you to view the permission details for each installed app.

If you are in the market for a big screen Android phone and you don’t want to pay $300 to $400 for some of the big brand phones then the Cube Talk 5H could be a good choice.

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