Cubot remains faithful to the design philosophy of its outdoor smartphones: visible screws, metal elements on the sides, and a back side that isn't flat but becomes thinner towards the middle. The King Kong 3 immediately reveals that it's a stable smartphone, and weighing 280 grams that it's also quite heavy. When compared against its predecessor, both the weight and display size have increased. A 5.5-inch display in a slimmer 2:1 format is to be found now, so that the smartphone has become a bit narrower.
The fact that the screen was relatively unprotected seemed to be an issue with the King Kong. On the King Kong 3 there's now at least a minimally raised bezel and the display also comes with a factory screen protector. However, other manufacturers have given their screens more thought and equipped them with much higher protective edges than the ones found on the King Kong 3. The display would have a lot to endure, should it fall on an uneven surface such as pebbles.
The colorful decorative elements on the case still exist, but it's no longer necessary to unscrew it in order to get to the SIM card. It can now be accessed through an ordinary drawer.
According to the manufacturer, the case is IP68-certified, making it resistant to water and dust. Furthermore, it should be usable at extremely low and high temperatures without problems. Irritably, a card in the package advises against using the device at very high temperatures or in harsh environments, which contradicts the manufacturer's promise.
Connectivity – More storage in the King Kong 3
The King Kong 3 is significantly more expensive than the first King Kong and that's also noticeable in its configuration: There's now 64 GB storage and 4 GB RAM, which is by all means adequate for a mid-range smartphone. Not all contenders can keep up with this, but the Chinese devices from Ulefone and Elephone offer even more storage.
The smartphone is also dual-SIM and provides a microSD slot, which occupies one of the two SIM card slots, so that users will have to choose between having two SIM cards or expanding storage.
Software – Outdated security
The operating system is a partially up-to-date Android 8.1; the security patches from November 2018 are, at the time of writing, already outdated. An update is not in sight so far. Cubot opted for pure Android for the western version of the smartphone, which fortunately comes without bloatware too.
However, it's annoying that a lot of streaming content can only be watched in lower resolutions because of the lack of proper DRM support from the manufacturer.
Communication and GPS – LTE in Cubot smartphone
While the predecessor only offered 3G, the King Kong 3 is now also capable of LTE. The maximum download speed reached a decent 300 Mb/s. Reception is decent in buildings in the city, but it is not great. This could be due to the metal used in the case, which can inevitably hamper the signal.
Regarding Wi-Fi, the King Kong 3 is slightly faster at receiving data than its predecessor, but at around 60 Mb/s, it still behaves like an entry-level smartphone. The Elephone Soldier and the Ulefone Armor 6 offer higher speeds on the other hand.
GPS tracking in buildings is not possible with the King Kong 3, but this works almost immediately outdoors and the accuracy is quite good at five meters.
In our practical test doing a bike lap, we used the professional navigator Garmin 520 as comparison device. The Cubot King Kong 3 didn't show any massive signal drops. Although the professional navigator didn't represent the difficult round trip correctly, the King Kong 3 was overall still less accurate than the Garmin device. Nevertheless, accuracy is good enough for recreational purposes and if an exact location isn't required.
Telephone and call quality – Buzzing noise from time to time
The phone app is the standard Google app, so Android veterans should quickly feel comfortable with it.
Call quality is good, but the ear speaker makes a buzzing noise at maximum volume; lowering the volume a bit fixes this and sound quality is good. The microphone also delivers good results and voice quality is clear both when talking quietly or louder. Sound output is also quite loud and of good quality when on speaker. The microphone has some issues in this case though: On one hand, there is a hissing noise, on the other hand, it's too sensitive, so that there's a buzzing sound even at medium volume. The only way to get clear voice quality here is to talk very quietly.
Cameras – Grainy pictures from the Cubot smartphone
Things have changed a lot in the camera department since the Cubot King Kong: In the new model, there's a dual-camera setup on the rear. There's a 16-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel secondary camera to achieve focal blur. You can tell at first glance that picture quality is much better than on its predecessor. However, pictures also look very grainy in detail. That's relatively noticeable in photographs of surroundings. Under low light, images quickly become blurry. HDR shots can also be taken but you'll have to give the smartphone a second for it to process them.
The front-facing camera takes passable pictures with its 14 megapixels; dynamic range isn't particularly high and we could also see a lot of graininess here. There's also no auto-focus, so that you need to find the right distance from the target in order to get a sharp image.
Videos of up to 1080p and 30 fps can be recorded on the main camera. The auto-focus is very slow in this case, it often needs manual assistance. Exposure varies significantly as ambient lighting changes.
The package only contains the essentials: a charger, a USB cable and a SIM tool. The quick-start guide is only available in English. Since we're dealing with a standard Android device, you'll find general tips on it. The software is completely available in German too. On another note, an adapter for the USB-C port isn't included. Users who want to connect headphones or make use of USB-OTG will have to acquire a separate adapter.
Input devices and handling – Smartphone with programmable hardware button
The touchscreen on the King Kong 3 comes with a screen protector that's hard to remove. On one hand, it protects the screen, but on the other hand, it feels rough to the touch. Overall, however, the touchscreen reacts with precision and reliability. There is no glove mode and, as with the Cubot King Kong, it bothers us that menu navigation is limited to on-screen buttons only: If you wear gloves at work or have wet hands, you might not even be able to perform some basic tasks on your smartphone.
The fingerprint sensor on the back works reliably. Google's GBoard is used as the keyboard app, making for a solid typing experience.
The hardware buttons are a real highlight on the King Kong 3, they are very large and therefore easily usable, and they seem of high-quality and work with precision. On the left side of the case, you'll even find a programmable button, which is very good.
Display – Room for improvement
The 18:9 display comes with HD resolution but offers only moderate brightness, which is incidentally also quite unevenly distributed along the screen. With an average of 378.9 cd/m², the maximum brightness is even significantly lower than on the Cubot King Kong. This is very annoying for an outdoor smartphone since it's supposed to be usable outside.
The competition not only delivers displays with considerably better brightness but also even with substantially higher resolution in some cases, like on the Ulefone Armor 6 or the Elephone Soldier, for example.
Performance – A clear step ahead
When it comes to performance, the King Kong 3 is a clear step ahead of the original King Kong: The MediaTek Helio P23 performs significantly better and is worthy of a mid-range smartphone. Compatibility with apps has also been improved; benchmarks that wouldn't even start on the King Kong can now be run. There are also limitations though: Occasionally, apps freeze or misbehave. The slightly older AnTuTu 6, for example, doesn't start, but more modern benchmarks do. So you should thoroughly test important apps before buying.
The King Kong 3 also proved to be quicker than its predecessor at browsing the web. Still, this was only good enough to gain a place in the midfield of our test field.
It's not uncommon at this price point to find that the King Kong 3 only supports eMMC flash memory. However, the comparison devices from Ulefone and Elephone offer considerably faster internal storage. Compared to the King Kong, our review device makes a huge leap forward in terms of storage speed.
We tested the speed of the microSD reader with our reference card, the Toshiba Exceria Pro M501. The King Kong 3 showed its very fast side here. It's a shame that our review device doesn't support cards using the ExFAT format.
Games – King Kong 3 is suitable for gaming
Current games like Arena of Valor can be played on the King Kong 3, and performance is good enough in many games to get smooth gameplay. However, we observed a crash in Arena of Valor when using the menu, but the app is in general not the most stable though. In Temple Run 2, we could assess how precisely the touchscreen and position sensors reacted to input, we didn't have anything to complain about in this regard.
Emissions – Low heat build-up
The device showed limited heat build-up under load: The maximum temperature measured on the top area of the smartphone was 37.6 °C. Temperatures in idle usage were between 30 °C and 32 °C. The device only ever becomes moderately warm, thus never getting uncomfortably hot.
The first things to notice in our test graphics are the strongly over-emphasized high frequencies. In addition, the mono speaker is mounted on the back, where it can easily be covered. That can only mean trouble, right? Surprisingly, no: Sound is sufficiently loud and pretty acceptable due to the balanced mids. If you're only interested in listening to music from time to time, the King Kong 3 can handle that well.
Pink Noise speaker test
The King Kong 3 doesn't include a 3.5 mm audio jack. Instead, sound is carried over the USB-C port. Unfortunately, an adapter for 3.5 mm plugs isn't provided, but several adapters we tested worked without any issues, and audio was clear. Sound output is also possible through Bluetooth 4.2, which works equally well.
Battery life – Cubot smartphone lasts foreverEnergy consumption
The energy consumption is average in the Cubot smartphone: Most comparison devices need less energy. The smartphone becomes especially demanding under load.
With its massive 6000 mAh battery, the Cubot King Kong 3 overshadows all comparison devices. The actual runtime? This is also impressive: You can browse the web for over 21 hours until the device needs to be plugged in again. That's more than enough for several workdays.
Verdict – The new king of the apes does it better
The ape makes a big leap forward; King Kong even skips the model name "2" and lands directly in the mid-range. In fact, in many ways, the King Kong 3 doesn't seem like a successor to the Cubot King Kong, but more like an extension of the model range in a completely different class. The King Kong 3 is clearly more expensive than its predecessor, but in return it offers significantly more power, LTE, more storage and an eternal battery life. In this way, 249 Euros (~$280) seems to be a reasonable price, even when the competition, primarily from China, doesn't rest and has equally strong offerings between 200 (~$225) and 300 Euros (~$337).
The new King Kong inherited some weaknesses from its predecessor though: In our opinion, the screen is still not adequately protected. Using the screen when it's wet or with gloves on is almost impossible, and in general the protection doesn't seem completely trustworthy. This is also emphasized by the manufacturer, who cautions against usage in harsh environments.
Good mid-range outdoor smartphone with long battery life. However, it is only partially suitable for harsh environments.
Users who only need general protection against water and dust, and also like the phone's design, will find a good overall package in the Cubot King Kong 3. But some annoyances must be accepted: Software updates come rarely, if ever, and the quality of the support you get will depend on the retailer you choose.
CUBOT King Kong 3 4G Smartphone