Recently i am seeing LYF smartphones being sold at a very low price and also knowing that LYF phones are manufactured by ZTE , a brand that can be better trusted than other generic Chinese re branded phones. I felt whether there is any device from LYF that competes with Xiaomi Redmi 4A and i found this device, the LYF Water 10.

Before talking about the physical and technical aspects of this device ,you can watch my unboxing and first impressions video on https://youtu.be/M5Jkyoe_GB8

Box contents :

This is one of the few devices where you get a headphone out of the box. Although i am pretty sure that the sound quality of the headphone is average at best, it’s better to have something than not having anything at all. The flat style cable of the headphone makes it durable in the long run and you won’t get that wire tangle problem.

Other contents like user manual ,charger and data cable are also provided. The charger is a standard 1A charger with no quick charging support, the USB data cable supports micro USB standard which i expected in this price range and also the cable is decently built.

Design and Build Quality

The phone is a plastic built device with removable back panel , the quality of the plastic used in the phone is good and it did not make any creaking noise or anything like so. Actually i may be one of the few persons who likes smartphone built on plastic because metal which may give a premium look will not be much of use as we will be probably putting a case over it destroying its very purpose of aesthetics and also metal is prone to scuffing ,it can easily absorb heat and cold which will cause big problems in terms of basic usage such telephony when you are under the scorching sun.

Also an another point is that i am pretty sure that people who are buying this phone will not be staying in AC room for long hours and so in a warm and hot climate country like India, Plastic built smartphones makes perfect sense , they are neutral as far as temperature absorption is concerned and they are easier to maintain.

 

The battery is a 2300mAh capacity one and for sure at first it seems this device is lacking the battery capacity to last through a working day but i believe with right power management system this issue might not exists at all and this will be tested as we progress through this review. we have capactive buttons the bottom as navigation keys and they are not backlit.

One of the highlighting factors of this device is the support for dedicated micro-sd card slot,  Therefore you will not be doing any hacks to use both SIM’s and microsd card like you do with Xiaomi devices. Therefore i see this feature as a very practical one as most of them will use Airtel or any major cellular providers as their primary SIM for calls ,JIO for data usage and a micro sd for media storage, because with whatsapp in your device there will be no space for storing other media stuffs such as songs in Internal storage since whatsapp will be hogging most of the available internal storage with other applications in the device.

The device supports 4G on both of the SIM slots but you can use only one SIM with 4G enabled and the other one will automatically switch to 2G.

Display Quality

The device is a 5 inch 1280x720p based screen and has a pretty decent display quality for the price. There is no black and white effect appearing on the display when the device is tilted. The touch response is decent and the sunlight visibility is average with the only downside being the very average contrast on both indoors and outdoors, Even with the display viewed straight the colours were not that good and the blacks turns to grey when the device is vertically tilted . I expected a bit more from this devices as far as contrast is concerned but this is just a nit picking as a common user will not notice these things easily.

The device has no mention about the gorilla glass or any other form of screen protection, therefore it is a good idea to put a tempered glass which you can buy from this link http://www.amazon.in/M-G-R-LYF-WATER-10-Scratch-Resistant/dp/B01M0FAS1Z/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1498338439&sr=1-1&keywords=lyf+water+10+tempered+glass

Software

The device initially came with Android lollipop 5.1 but it recently got an update to Android marshmallow 6.0 with march 2017 security patches , so you get a decent Android version and latest security patch compared to other phones that are even more expensive than this device.

The software also offers some gesture support and some prebundled Jio apps which can be uninstalled or disabled.

Battery Life

As said, the device is powered by a 2300mAh battery and the result is decent. With light to moderate usage you will get full day of use without any issues. Although there is a caveat. the battery seems to last a day only when it’s in WiFi. The standby drain from the WiFi is very low in a way that the device barely looses power during idle time . With mobile data turned on instead of WiFi, you may have to charge the device in late evenings if you are a moderate user .

Since the device is only powered by a 2300mAh battery it chargers to 95% within 1.5 hours and mind that during charging the charging adapter gets hot. It might not be a problem for some but i think it’s worth noting . Also i need to put some additional pressure to connect the bundled data cable with the adapter because it seemed the cable did not fit with the adapter properly and this applies while inserting battery also. I almost felt whether i am inserting the right battery in the battery compartment since the battery has a very tight fit with the battery compartment but at the end both where able to fit in the respective places without any issues.

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I tried running PC mark battery life test and unfortunately the device failed to complete the test. After multiple attempts by keeping the device in an AC room, i was able to complete the test .

This shows that the phone does have throttling issues when stressed tested to extreme levels. Note that the regular user will not face these throttling issues since these kinds of heavy usage pattern will be generated only by bench-marking applications and sometimes during gaming but during real time usage i did not face any heating issues , the phone only got warm but never got heated up to point where i felt uncomfortable to use the phone. The battery temperature seems to be totally under control.

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On the whole, the battery doesn’t seem bad as the capacity looks , You will get through a day if you are a light to moderate user with ease. For heavy users charging is necessary at early evenings.

Telephony and Speaker Quality

I used both Airtel and JIO to test the call quality and i did not have any signal reception issues. The call went fine with both the SIM’s and the earpiece was loud enough . The other person was also able to hear me without any issues. i haven’t tested the noise cancellation microphone in particular but the overall call quality is good and you will not have any issues. Here is the speedtest with Reliance Jio connection.

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As far as the loud speaker is concerned, the speaker volume is below average and the quality of the loudspeaker was also not that great. Although it’s worth mentioning that the ringtone volume seems a bit louder and you won’t have issues missing a phone call. The vibration motor is also strong and you can easily feel it in louder environments allowing you to not miss a phone call.

Performance 

Now, let’s see how the octa core Mediatek processor and the 3GB RAM with the hardware to software optimisation works with this device.

Before looking at the benchmarks let’s see the technical specifications.

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Although the information such as display size is wrongly mentioned in the CPU-Z application, things like Chipset, Android version and Sensors list are correctly mentioned.

About the Chipset , the mediatek MT6753 is a very decent Chipset for this price mostly better in CPU performance than the Qualcomm snapdragon 425 in Xiaomi Redmi 4A atleast in paper. The actual performance benefit between a quad core and the octa core remains to be seen.

We have Mali T720 GPU from ARM which will be suited for basic needs and definitely not for heavy gaming. Basic games like candy crush,Temple run and subway surfers had no issues running smoothly.

Finally about the sensors, we do not have a extensive set of sensors such as gyroscope,pedometer etc like in Xiaomi Redmi 4A but the most necessary sensors such as proximity,light,compass and accelerometer are covered which is absolutely fine for this device in this price range.

CPU performance

If you ask any tech savvy person on why a particular device is faster than the other one, the person would answer its because of the software optimisation done by the particular OEM with the device. We might have seen devices with powerful specification run slower than the phone with very basic level specs and we might have also seen devices with same Chipset but one of them have heating issues but the other doesn’t . Well let me clear all these analogies here.

  • Kernel Optimisation
    • Although there is some work that needs to be done on an abstract level like the UI layer of the operating system by speeding up the animations ,other techniques like giving priority to tasks that are running on the main thread so that the user feels as if the phone is acting fluid even though the hardware is not powerful is also done. This is all due to the kernel optimisations done by the OEM with that device. This is probably the reason why older devices from Apple or Windows phone seems a lot faster than its Android counterparts.
    • About the devices which perform faster even with low end specifications is probably and might only be only due to the kernel governor
      • kernel governors
        • For those who wants to learn indepth about the kernel governors, visit this thread in XDA https://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1680183 which will give you a comprehensive explanation on the parameters that makes a phone work as smooth as a butter. I’m going to explain about CPU and GPU governor a bit since i think it’s the most important parameter that makes a device operate faster or slower based on load conditions.
        • So talking about the CPU and GPU governors, its basically telling the processor when to clock higher and when to reduce the clock speed to both CPU and GPU based on the load conditions. For example when the user is scrolling a webpage or opening an application, the kernel algorithms automatically triggers the core clock speed to max thus making the applications open faster or make a scrolling experience smooth . I am not saying that maxing out the core clock is the only way to increase responsiveness . There are other ways such as  switching the core clusters to a more powerful one is also done by OEM’s in devices that implements big little architecture based processors like the snapdragon 650 or 622 etc.
        • Although this seems to look very simple outside, it’s actually a double edged sword. Clocking CPU and GPU to max speeds or staying with the more powerful core cluster in unnecessary situations will drain the battery significantly resulting in a smooth buttery experience with poor battery life. Therefore it’s important to find the best of both worlds.
        • There are certain common situations where OEM’s will raise the clock speed to max or activate all the cores based on certain scenarios. OEM’s such as Google in their nexus and pixel devices tend to max out clock speeds on all of their cores when the kernel detects a scrolling event or an application launch event and this may be the main reason why Google phones feel a lot smoother than the Samsung phones. Unfortunately it’s not all roses with these algorithms because this is probably the reason why nexus and pixel phones doesn’t have a better battery life when compared to it’s counterparts from Samsung or LG . Google considers performance as the top priority so that the battery life is compromised. Samsung follows the opposite direction with their devices where battery life is important for them when compared to the fluidity of the device and therefore we see Samsung  devices operate a somewhat slower than Google devices but gives a better battery life . It’s all due to the CPU and GPU governor mechanisms .
        • With respect to heating issues , the design of the device plays an important role because the processor needs space to exhaust heat generated by the components inside it. Since current smartphones comes with metal build, they act as a heat spreader and dissipates heat using the metal build of the device. The downside of this technique is that the user feels very uncomfortable when doing intensive tasks such as Web browsing or gaming since the user will directly feel the heat that is being by the metal body of the phone.It’s probably the job of the OEM to either choose a chipset that doesn’t have heating issues or build a phone that exhaust heat better or have a better thermal throttling policy . Mostly  the OEM’s follow the option  throttling the processor to maintain the temperature of the device . For me the best way to get best performance and least thermal throttling is by selecting a better processor or a chipset that doesn’t have heating issues even when stressed to max. One example is the Snapdragon 625 from Qualcomm which may be the only Chipset at this time that maintains performance and temperature at the same level so that both aren’t affected.
        • On the whole, Kernel governor is probably the main reason on making a device faster or slower or getting out a better battery from the device. Look at how Oneplus made their device to operate a lot faster compared to it’s competitors , it’s due to efficient kernel governor algorithms https://www.xda-developers.com/dissecting-speed-how-oneplus-leveraged-excellent-real-world-performance/
  • CPU and GPU Performance of LYF water 10
    • Everything that is explained above holds true with the device too. Since the phone is based on stock Android, there is no unnecessary application apart from JIO based apps that sucks the resources holding the device performance. I am pretty sure that the performance of this phone is very adequate for a moderate user. Switching between multiple apps at the same time did not cause any issues and the device did not get heated up while browsing the web. Probably the 8 core count helped in maintaining the fluidity of the device while actions like background playstore app updates and installation did not slow the device as these tasks were handled efficiently by utilising all the available cores. BTW to get an indepth knowledge on how much core count the Android actually requires, read this article from Anandtech  http://www.anandtech.com/show/9518/the-mobile-cpu-corecount-debate which explains clearly about the multicore functions that Android offers .
    • I feel the device performed better in web browsing since the chrome seems to use all the 8 cores to load web pages faster and the scrolling experience was very smooth even a little bit faster than a normal scrolling process. It seems LYF has tuned some parameters that makes the scrolling extra smooth. I have also seen these kind of techniques with Lenovo devices lately and the users seemed to like it.
    • I ran the PC mark performance test to identify how the CPU governor behaves when the device is stressed.
      • Screenshot_20170507-072155
    • From the benchmark results, it’s pretty evident that the CPU clock speeds sticks at a meagre 0.8 GHz upto 60% of CPU usage and the max clock speeds are triggered only when the CPU usage reaches 100%. This is a typical CPU governor parameter where you do not get either an excellent battery life or excellent performance but you get the best of both worlds with battery life being slightly better because 0.8GHz at 60% seems a very conservative one. It’s maybe the kernel Algorithm is trying to use the core count as the advantage to mitigate battery issues as running a single core at higher clock speed drains more battery than running multiple cores at lower clock speeds .
    • I also ran other benchmarks in case you guys need to take a look at it. Overall i would say the performance of this phone is very decent and a moderate user will not have any issues with the performance of this device.
      • Screenshot_20170506-222435Screenshot_20170506-221357

As far as GPU performance is concerned, it will suffice for casual gaming and internet browsing , the ARM maliT720 GPU is more than enough to handle low to medium end games such as subway surfers and Temple run without any issues . Although i couldn’t find any better device than this one which has a more powerful GPU than this device at this price point.

For a full list of other benchmarks and it’s screenshots ,you can download from this link https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B_Fja0AvjVGOQXRWbUtCUHVWTWM?usp=sharing

Camera Performance

The camera is a regular story where rear camera is powered by a 13 megapixel shooter (probably a omnivision one )and the front camera is a 5 megapixel shooter. Here are the screen shots for camera interface . It’s basically a Mediatek camera software with no customisation from LYF.

Still Image Performance

About the still camera performance, the rear camera is an average shooter with very less details as there is a lot of noise reduction going on and that’s to be expected for this phone in this price range. Daylight shots are decent and low light shots are below average. One thing good that happened with the marshmallow update is that the low light performance of the camera has improved a lot . The noise levels we greatly reduced but the camera app started to behave weird where every first shot would take 3-4 seconds and the rest would be taken after a second. Maybe LYF might address this issue with a software update or else you could use some third party camera apps to solve this issue.

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Photo with flash
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Photo without flash

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Testing the dynamic range

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Here is a picture with HDR enabled.

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The front camera performance is also decent in daylight but the dynamic range is very poor and also the photos looked completely washed out . On the whole average performance with the front camera in daylight and below average in indoor shots.

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Video recording performance

The device is capable of recording 720p videos at max and the quality is same as the still camera , The video looks soft even in broad daylight and the condition becomes bad in low light. The audio pick up is decent and there are other features like touch to focus to help in case the camera fails to focus during the video recording.

The front video camera also performs decent in broad daylight with the audio pickup being pretty decent .

Here are the youtube links for the video footage of LYF water 10 in both outdoors and indoors with artificial light. The video file default format is .mp4 . One thing for sure i could say is that the frame rate while recording with the rear camera even in indoors did not drop much whereas i have seen footage from Xiaomi Redmi 4A being worse where the frame rate drops drastically leading to a poor video recording experience under artificial light.

 

Final Thoughts 

So summing it up , i would say if you are okay with average battery life and feeble loudspeaker , I would say the LYF water 10 at price of RS 5400 is a very good deal . I will soon posts the becnhmark comparison with the Xiaomi Redmi 4A to give you guys a much more clearer perspective. Till then Stay curious.

 

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