Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ThL V11 4.0 Inch Android 4.0 Phone Review

ThL is a Chinese maker of mobile phones, based out of Shenzhen (where else?) and established in 2002. I had never heard of them until I saw this phone. The V11 was something a family member picked up for less than $100 USD on a trip to Hong Kong, and much to my surprise, has not fallen apart yet. Of course,  that is unfair of me, considering that I am a reasonable fan of Ainol products. What we have here is the something that is obviously derivative and cheap, but some people like things like that. In fact, there are people who are positively enthusiastic for cheap and cheerful.... like said named family member who bought this phone. The phone is not that much chunkier or bigger than an iPhone 4s. It's quite lightweight, being mostly plastic in construction. It's not wafer thin like the brightest and best of this year, but it's in keeping with a 2010, early 2011ish level of technology. The design is very obviously a mashup between the Samsung Galaxy series and the iPhone 4, with a not so subtle call-out to the iPhone with a metal (actually metalized plastic) band running along the side of the device.

The specs are a MTK6575 ARMv7 Cortex-A9 CPU on a 40nm fab running at 1.0GHz coupled with a PowerVR SGX531 Ultra GPU. If I'm not mistaken, this is a single core-implementation, introduced around late 2010. There is 512mb of ram. This is a very common type of a setup for any Chinese consumer electronic device.

Next to iPhne 4s.

The phone isn't fast and snappy like an iPhone or Galaxy, but it's not unusable slow. It will work okay with the most common apps, with a little more load time than what you would be used it. The screen is 4 inches in diagonal, but it runs at a measly 800*480 pixels of resolution. Not the greatest screen ever, but it isn't a throw-away piece of crap either. (If this seems like abysmally low resolution, it is. But think of all the people who are still using an iPhone 3gs for context...) Viewing angles are okay, but colour saturation is a bit low and the LCD panel seems to suffer from more light leakage than with a modern phone. I've seen this on almost every Chinese brand device that I've come across. If you look at them straight-on, they're okay, but they're nowhere near as good as the name-brands. As a note, "Chinese" and "touch screen" used to mean unusable resistive technology. Those days are long gone thankfully, this, like everything else that is right in the world, is capacitive. There is also a newer version of this device, the W3, with a 4.3" screen and higher resolution. The battery is rated at 1650mAh fr the V11, but I have no idea what that translates into in real world usage. Typically, not as much as a name-brand phone.

The camera is 5mp in the front and 0.3mp in the back. We've used this thing for Skype and it does okay. I don't have camera samples, but suffice to say, it's not anywhere near as good as a modern smartphone. The output is not bad, but it's about at a feature-phone level of quality. Noticeable drop in colour fidelity in low light. The lack of CPU horsepower shows up here as well; camera operations like focus and write-to-memory are noticeably slower than with a modern name-brand phone.  Call quality is okay, but it lacks (or is not as good at) the active sound-suppression technology of a modern phone; you notice this in noisy locations.

Gee, I wonder where they got the idea for the metal banding from?
The big draw about Chinese brand phones is that they often come with dual-SIM card capability. It works on the following bands:
  • 2G:GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G:WCDMA/HSPA/HSPA+: 2100MHz
The back cover comes off with ease, maybe a little too much ease for my liking. it's plastic in the same way that the Samsung Galaxy phones are plastic. There's space for two SIM cards and a micro-SD card. As I've said before, the Chinese think that North Americans are suckers for buying devices without expandable memory. Nobody over there cares how much on-board storage there is, since you inevitably add your own later on.

Dual-SIM compartment at top, next to camera.

Dual-SIMS are normal feature for traveling in Asia. Rather than paying extortionary fees for roaming, most people buy SIM's for the location that they are traveling to, much like how long distance calling cards are sold. The SIMS are linked to a pre-paid acount, so when you drain the account, the SIM is binned, so to speak. Another word about SIM's... Apple and a few others are making a big deal about how little space there is in a modern smartphone, hence the move to mini-SIM and micro-SIM. I wonder how it is that in a phone that is not that much bigger, you can jam in two full-sized SIM cards?

The problem with a device like this in North America is finding one. There is no official distribution, and service and repair is non-existent. However, if you do make your way through Asia, it might be worth it to pick one up. If you are embedded in the Android ecosystem, this makes a great travel phone. That new Galaxy SIII too dear to go backpacking with? I'd definitely take one of these instead. However, make no mistake, though the Chinese like cheap, they don't want to be cheap consumers. You can see seeds of a very vibrant consumer tech industry in devices like this, one that has the potential to go beyond imitation, and which is just a few years away. Hey, it happened with Samsung.


  1. Very good review!

  2. Your nuts, I own this phone, it is everybit as good as Samsung, for 1/3 the money

  3. Actually, I tend to agree. For the ridiculously low price this phone costs compared to anything sold in NA retail, it's been totally worth it. And it's still going strong last I heard.

  4. And I do agree. I bought one from tinydeal.com and it works fine.
    Broke the lcd-screen. My own rough handling.. Replacement part is available on the internet, but why bother? It is so cheap. I'm just buying an other one.

  5. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)