Yu Yunicorn

YU Yunicorn review: leaves a little something to be desired

|June 7, 2016 |Android Phones, Reviews, 4G, 4G LTE, YU

Expert Rating
3.5/5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • Metal body
  • 4GB RAM
  • Impressive battery backup
  • Around YU is useful
Cons
  • Older iteration of Android
  • Camera is a mixed bag
  • Poor gaming performance
The final rating may or may not be the average of sectional sub-scores as it's a reflection of our overall experience of using the device.

Micromax’s sub-brand YU hasn’t shied away from setting audacious goals and taking bold steps to achieve them, right from its inception. From the Zeus of phones (Yureka) to the world's most affordable 4G HD phone (Yunique) to the most powerful phone on the planet (Yutopia), the company has always made tall claims and its latest smartphone is no different. With the Yunicorn, it’s aiming to redefine flagships.

YU Yunicorn review 01

While we will let the jury decide whether the YU Yunicorn should be considered a flagship or not (considering its mid-tier processor and a standard set of specs), it surely seems to be a clincher of a phone at its current price of Rs 12,999. So, is there more to the Yunicorn that meets the eye? And, more importantly, is it worth buying? Join us as we answer all the questions about it in our review.

Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.5 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 1.8 GHz, MediaTek MT6755
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 32 GB
External memory Up to 128 GB
Battery
Capacity 4000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Talktime Up to 20 Hours (2G)
Standby Time Up to 500 Hours (2G)
Camera
Primary camera 13 MP
Secondary camera 5 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 4000
Operating system Android 5.1 Lollipop

Design: if the OPPO F1 Plus and HTC One M9 had a baby...

Dimensions: 153.3 x 75.4 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 172 grams

One of the favourite pass times during our childhood days was the ‘spot the difference’ game, wherein one needed to point out the difference between two similar images. At first glance, the pictures seem to be the same unless one takes a closer look. It seems that nowadays, the smartphone manufacturers are also playing this game with consumers. Don’t believe us? Check out the image below and see if you can identify the two devices, and point out the differences.

YU Yunicorn review 30

In the above image, the one on the right is the YU Yunicorn alongside the OPPO F1 Plus (first impressions). It seems that both the devices are a literal example of brothers from another mother. From its fascia, the Yunicorn also looks similar to the MEIZU m3 note (first impressions). It goes without saying that all these devices, in turn, are inspired by iPhone’s design language.

A 5.5-inch display graces the front of the Yunicorn. Above the screen, there’s an earpiece which is symmetrically placed between a secondary snapper and an ambient light sensor. There’s a notification LED as well. A fingerprint scanner which doubles up as a home button can be found at the bottom. For navigation, the phone offers virtual keys as part of the software. YU has made use of a 2.5D glass which curves towards the edges and adds to the charm at the front.

YU Yunicorn review 04 YU Yunicorn review 05

If the front of the YU Yunicorn seems to be inspired from Chinese brands, the design ethics at the back are borrowed from the HTC One M9 Plus (review). Although, in the case of the Yunicorn, the curves aren’t as prominent and only the edges are tapered.

YU Yunicorn review 10

Our review unit sports a gold hue, which looks quite classy and the brushed aluminium finish also captures attention. The phone is also available in silver or graphite options. The company says that with the use of Aluminium, Magnesium, and Manganese, the Yunicorn will age better with time and its finish won’t fade. Above and below, the YU Yunicorn has plastic antenna bands, but otherwise, it’s a unibody metallic smartphone. The primary snapper doesn’t protrude out, which is neat. Below it, you’ll find the dual-tone LED flash, and towards the bottom, there’s YU branding along with the regulatory info.

Talking about ports and buttons, both the power toggle and the volume rocker are available on the right. The left spine is home to an ejectable tray with a primary SIM slot and a hybrid slot. The audio socket is present up top along with the noise-cancelling microphone, whereas the micro-USB port is at the base, flanked by the precision-grilled speaker holes.

YU Yunicorn review 20 YU Yunicorn review 23

YU Yunicorn review 18 YU Yunicorn review 19

While the use of metal as a construction material is definitely a plus, the YU Yunicorn is quite bulky at 172g. Most phones of its size are much lighter and compared to the competition, it’s also quite thick with its waistline measuring 8.5mm. Having said that it isn’t too unwieldy and we were able to use it single-handedly with ease for most operations, except for actions like typing.

While we we think the YU Yunicorn looks nice and premium, we couldn’t help but think why the Micromax-owned sub-brand would give up its original design language. It offered a unique Saturn ring around the camera and a three-element control for the volume buttons and the power key with the Yuphoria (review). The same design continued to the Yunique and Yutopia, but with its latest offering, the company has relinquished all that and is following the herd.

Display: shows a good time

Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 401 ppi

The 5.5-inch display on the YU Yunicorn features a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. The IPS display panel offers impressive colours with ample brightness. However, the brightness seems to fall short outdoors since the display is quite reflective. The text remains incredibly sharp and reading eBooks or webpages on the phone was a delightful experience. The viewing angles are also quite wide.

YU Yunicorn review 26

The Yunicorn runs on MiraVision technology, which enhances the display quality. You can choose between different picture modes – standard, vivid or user. The last one lets you adjust all the aspects of the display, be it contrast, saturation, sharpness or colour temperature – something which isn’t available on most devices. Not just pictures, the technology also promises superb video experience with options like dynamic contrast and colour effect.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (60) YU Yunicorn screenshot (59)

Software: Android with steroids

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.1, Lollipop

The biggest change with the Yunicorn isn’t visible outside – it’s what’s inside. When YU debuted back in December 2014 with the Yureka (review), the brand highlighted the customisability of its software thanks to its partnership with Cyanogen. All its devices have offered Cyanogen OS, until now that is. With its latest smartphone, the company is going solo with its own custom skin based on Android. Although the underlying OS is quite dated as it stands at the version 5.1 Lollipop.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (39)

YU’s custom layer is dubbed as Android on Steroids (AoS) and looks very close to stock Android. Apart from the custom icons, the lock screen, homescreen and notification panel – all have been left untouched. The app drawer is a vertical scrolling list sorted alphabetically, with a search bar and recently-accessed apps on the top. There’s no bloatware either, with only apps such as Gaana, Gallery, Yuniverse (rebadged Opera browser), installed out of the box.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (44) YU Yunicorn screenshot (45) YU Yunicorn screenshot (49)

YU is betting big on services and its strategy came to the fore with the Around YU feature first introduced in the Yutopia. The Yunicorn also has a dedicated Around YU screen towards the left. Instead of you having to install multiple apps, Around YU aims to become your one-stop shop for ordering food, booking movies, hailing cabs, recharging your phone or DTH accounts among other things. It’s much more refined since the first implementation. It also has a wallet which is powered by Udio, though the feature doesn’t seem to be live right now.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (46) YU Yunicorn screenshot (47) YU Yunicorn screenshot (48)

The Around YU feature will also be updated to include the ability to ask doctors for consultation, which will be powered by Lybrate. Currently, the company hasn’t integrated the option, but there’s a Health app in the smartphone, which can work standalone and suggests how useful this option could be in the future.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (50) YU Yunicorn screenshot (52) YU Yunicorn screenshot (55)

While AoS pales in comparison to the feature-packed Cyanogen OS, it does have some interesting tricks up its sleeve. Long-pressing anywhere on the homescreen bring up the music playback controls, which is quite neat. There’s also a Monochrome mode, enabling which results in the whole display turning greyscale. The mode is really helpful when you want to read something at night without straining your eyes. It’ll also improve the battery life. However, the interface seems to be slightly sluggish in this mode due to a lower refresh rate.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (54)

As mentioned in the design section, the YU Yunicorn features a fingerprint reader at the front. It’s extremely fast and unlocks the phone instantly, although it isn’t very accurate. There were several instances where it failed to recognise our fingerprints. Like most handsets with fingerprint sensors, it allows you to store up to five fingerprints.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (41) YU Yunicorn screenshot (42) YU Yunicorn screenshot (43)

What’s odd though is that YU is offering its own software for storing fingerprints, which feels redundant along with Google’s lock screen security options. We had to create two separate backup PINs / patterns to save our fingerprints – one for Android and another for the software used by the company.

The Yunicorn also comes with the YU Cloud Backup, which lets the user store their contacts, SMS, call logs, etc. on the cloud. The feature will be helpful when you are transferring to another YU phone and seems to be inspired from Xiaomi’s Mi Cloud option.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (40)

All in all, Android on Steroids gains marks for being vanilla, but isn’t feature rich and more importantly, seems buggy. We saw prompts saying ‘Steroid launcher has stopped’ quite often. That said, we are really excited about the possibilities with Around YU, which could be a game-changing feature, if implemented and integrated well.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (33)

Camera: sometimes a hit, but mostly a miss

Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP

The YU Yunicorn comes with the standard set of snappers – a 13-megapixel sensor at the back and a 5MP front-facing shooter. The primary camera features an aperture of f/2.2 and is supplemented by a dual-colour LED flash. It also features PDAF to focus quickly on the subjects, though in our usage, it didn’t seem to be as fast. The shutter speed isn’t the best either.

YU Yunicorn review 15

The side-effects of YU going on its own in the software department continues to the camera aspect as well. At first glance, the Yunicorn has a barebones camera app, not much different from the one found on the stock interface. However dig deeper and you’ll find quite a few options and modes. Kept in the horizontal position, the interface lets you choose between stills or videos, preview your clicks or go to the settings menu on the right. Towards the left, there’s an option to switch to picture-in-picture mode, which lets you capture with both the rear and front snapper at the same time or shoot a panorama. Other options like switching to the selfie camera, toggle flash or HDR and enable slow-mo recording are available on the top. There are also live filters like negative, mono and aqua when you swipe upwards. The app also has options like gesture shot or smile shot, which capture the image automatically when the camera detects a certain gesture or one’s smile.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (57) YU Yunicorn screenshot (56)

Quality-wise, the YU Yunicorn isn’t the best we’ve come across in this segment. For some images, it manages to deliver good details and punchy colours. But in most cases, the pictures appear washed out. The shooter also struggles in poorly-lit conditions with barely traces of the subject being visible. The HDR mode is quite effective though, though it takes time to process the images.

You can read our review of Yunicorn’s camera prowess, if you want more details. But if you are short on time, then worry not, you can take a peek at some camera samples right here.

IMG_20160602_124637 IMG_20160602_125337 IMG_20160602_124658

IMG_20160526_220012 IMG_20160527_101752

Overall, the Yunicorn’s camera quality falls behind its competitors, which includes the likes of the Moto G4 Plus (camera review) and Lenovo ZUK Z1. It skips features like 4K recording as well, and shoots slow-mo videos at the odd resolution of 640p.

Performance: powerful on paper, not in the real life

CPU: Octa core, 1.8 GHz, MediaTek MT6755
GPU: Mali-T860 MP2
RAM: 4 GB
Memory: 32 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM

Taking on the mantle of performance on the YU Yunicorn is MediaTek’s Helio P10 SoC, which offers eight cores clocked at 1.8GHz. The P10 is a decent processor, but sits below Taiwanese chipset maker’s flagship Helio X series. However, paired with the silicon is a monstrous 4 gigs of RAM, which suggests that the phablet is fully capable of handling anything thrown at it. It certainly manages to – at least for the most part. The navigation is smooth and switching between apps is never a concern. But the hardware fails in the most important test to gauge its prowess – gaming. While playing titles like Vector 2 and Need for Speed No Limits, there were noticeable frame drops and stutters. The graphics weren’t rendered smoothly either, even though the Mali-T860 is a capable GPU.

YU Yunicorn review 24

Apart from gaming though, the YU Yunicorn manages to offer a lag-free usage. Another good thing about the phone is that it has kept the thermal efficiency under control, and it only gets slightly warm and not unbearably hot, which has become a trend these days with most devices.

For installing apps and storing your multimedia content, the Yunicorn ships with 32GB of memory on board. You will get around 25GB of space for use, which is more than sufficient. But if you want, then you can make use of the available hybrid slot to slide in a microSD card of up to 128GB.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (1)

The YU Yunicorn accepts two nano-SIMs (if you forgo the memory expansion option) and both of them support 4G networks. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

YU Yunicorn review 08

The speakers on the YU Yunicorn are quite loud and offer the oomph factor with its support for DTS sound. Sadly, if you are holding the phone in the most natural position while watching a movie or playing a game, your hand would be placed towards the bottom, resulting in muffled output.

Battery: a full charge a day, keeps the charger away

Capacity: 4000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Talktime: Up to 20 Hours (2G)
Standby Time: Up to 500 Hours (2G)

Another feather in YU Yunicorn’s cap is its capacious battery rating of 4,000mAh. With poor battery life being among the major issues for most mobile devices, the Yunicorn tries to take care of that issue with the use of a massive Li-Po battery. It surely lives up to the expectations, easily lasting more than a day even with a strenuous usage of gaming and GPS navigation, along with a few calls and internet browsing. With moderate usage, it might be able to last a day and a half. With both the brightness and volume at 50 percent level and everything else switched off apart from the cellular network, the smartphone played an HD video on loop for more than 14 hours straight, which is quite notable.

YU Yunicorn screenshot (15)

The YU Yunicorn comes bundled with a charger rated at 2A, but it misses out on the support for fast charging. This means that it takes more than two and a half hours to charge it fully. With such a massive battery rating, it’s not clear why the company didn’t opt for fast charging. 

Verdict

We have always stated that the pricing is the most crucial thing for a product – one that can make or break it. In most cases, we dismiss the device due to the poor pricing. But with the YU Yunicorn, it’s the complete opposite of that. The smartphone deserves a second look due to its aggressive pricing. It’s available for mouth-watering Rs 12,999 for a month as an introductory offer. After this, it’ll retail for Rs 13,499, which is still quite an attractive proposition. YU is going back on its original premise of being an online-only brand and we’re certainly glad about it. Starting next month, the Yunicorn will go on sale at offline stores as well.

YU Yunicorn review 02

The YU Yunicorn is up against some tough opponents such as the Lenovo ZUK Z1 (review) and Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review), and both of them offer powerful specs with long battery life. There’s Lenovo-owned Moto G4 Plus (review) as well, which is also a solid offering.

YU Yunicorn review 07

Taken at the face value, the YU Yunicorn has an equal share of positives and negatives. What works ultimately in the favour of the YU Yunicorn is its pricing and the fact that it’ll eventually be available offline. It features a premium metal body but the design language is copied, it has powerful innards and yet it struggles with heavy games and the camera performance is average at best. It’s Around YU feature is surely promising and could unlock a lot of possibilities if it’s integrated well. But summing it all up, we can’t recommend the YU Yunicorn whole-heartedly considering that the competition is much better when it comes to offering an all-round experience.

 

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

 

Pros

  • Metal body
  • 4GB RAM
  • Impressive battery backup
  • Around YU is useful

 

Cons

  • Older iteration of Android
  • Camera is a mixed bag
  • Poor gaming performance

Photos by Raj Rout

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