Ulefone Armor 9 Review
Sergio Montana
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Ulefone Armor 9 Review

Rugged smartphone with integrated thermal camera and endoscope support.

The Ulefone Armor 9 is an incredibly resilient smartphone, which can become an invaluable all-in-one tool for construction workers, mountaineers, and even first responders thanks to its integrated thermal camera and endoscope support. The phone is drop-, shock-, water-, dust-, pressure-, temperature-, solar radiation-, and whatnot- resistant and it looks sure like it's wearing a heavy armor.

As a smartphone, the Armor 9 falls into the mid-range category - it has a 6.3" 1080p LCD screen and is powered by the Helio P90 chipset coupled with 8GB of RAM. It has a dual-camera on the back - 64MP+2MP, and a single selfie snapper at the front. It is equipped with an impressive 6,600 mAh battery that should last you for days on a single charge. What's most interesting of the new Armor 9 is the thermal FLIR camera at the back.


In the box and optional accessories

The Armor 9 box contains the phone itself and the two vital companions - a red USB-c cable and an 18W charger.


Inside, you will also find a microUSB-to-USB-C adapter, a USB OTG cable, and even a wrist sling, which you can attach to the gigantic hook on the back of the Armor 9. Also you can find a tempered glass screen protector and some manuals, which help you to know the principles of operation of thermal cameras.

You can buy also two optional accessories for the Armor 9: multifunctional protective case and endoscope accessory.


Design

The Ulefone Armor 9 is one durable, thick, and heavy smartphone, yet beautiful in its own way. The Armor 9's exterior is rich in materials - you can see and feel metal, rubber, different types of plastics, and glass, of course. It was designed to endure all sorts of torture and accidents, and you would believe Ulefone's claims the moment you lay eyes on the Armor 9. It is indeed wearing one heavy armor.

Ulefone specifies all sorts of endurances - IP68-rated for dust and water protection, drop (to concrete) resistant from up to 1.2 meters. It should easily survive such a drop thanks to the enhanced corners and rear panel, as well as the additional plastic frame that engulfs the screen's glass. Finally, the Armor 9 is also compliant with numerous MIL-STD-810G standards for temperature and altitude shocks, solar radiation endurance, acid atmosphere, transport shock, high humidity, among others.

The front of the Ulefone Armor 9 is all about its display. There is a 6.3" IPS LCD screen of extended 1080p resolution and a droplet-shaped notch. There are a bunch of sensors and a tri-color (RGB) LED notification light above the screen notch and then - the earpiece grille.


The back of the Armor 9 is really cool. It is made of thick and soft TPU plastic that has this rubber-like feel. It has a tiny diamond-shaped texture that makes for a very secure grip. 

The 64MP primary, the 2MP depth, and the FLIR camera, as well as the quad-LED flash, share a common plastic plate on the back of the Armor 9. All snappers are slightly concave, and they won't have contact with the surface when the phone is lying on its back.

The Ulefone Armor 9 has a unique frame with a ton of features all around. The four corners are the first thing that stands out - they are enlarged and enhanced with rubber, aluminum, and plastic.



The top and bottom sides are made of the same TPU plastic as the corners, and each has one rubber cap protecting the 3.5mm jack (top) and the USB-C port (bottom).


On the right, you'll see the fingerprint scanner, the power key, and a long metal cap hiding the SIM and microSD tray. 


The left side of the Armor 9 has two round volume keys, a dedicated PTT key, and the endoscope mount. The latter has six pins, a hook, and a removable screw. When connecting the endoscope, you need to remove the tiny screw, then hook the endoscope module on its place and screw it back in using its own screw.

Handling the Armor 9 is indeed a very secure and satisfying experience, no matter if your hands are sweaty, wet, oily, cold. It always sticks nicely to your hand, and you will never feel like dropping it, no matter what you are doing.


Display and battery

The Ulefone Armor 9 has the same display as the Armor 7. It's a 6.3-inch IPS LCD with 1,080 x 2,340 pixels and a droplet-shaped notch. It is protected by a shatter- and scratch-resistant glass, and you can enhance it further with an additional screen protector.

The screen bezels are thick, but for a rugged phone, they are fine.


The screen provides deep enough black levels and can be pretty bright - we measured 550 nits at the far right of the brightness scrubber. With such good numbers, the Armor 9 display has an excellent contrast ratio of 1541:1.

As for battery the Ulefone Armor 9 packs an impressive battery withing its thick body - it's a 6,600 mAh unit and sounds beyond promising. It also supports 18W fast wired charging and ships with such a charger. The 18W adapter refills 35% of the depleted battery in 30 mins and 70% in 90 mins. A full charge takes nearly 150 mins.


Software and performance

The Ulefone Armor 9 comes with Android 10 out of the box. The software looks a lot like vanilla Android. The home screen, lock screen, notification shade, and the recent apps menu look a lot like those from the stock Android, minus the icons.


Looking deeper into the Settings menu reveals the changes that Ulefone has made - there is AI app launch acceleration, various gestures, nav bar settings, among others. You can also assign up to three different actions on the PTT key - one upon the short press, another one - on long press, and the third option is when you double click it.

There is no app drawer available on the Armor 9, but if it's a must - there are plenty custom launchers. The Toolbox is probably the most powerful app you will find on Armor 9. It offers Compass, Level tool, Flashlight, AR level for paintings, Height meter, Magnifier, Alarm bell, Protractor, Noise meter (uses the microphone), Heart Rate (uses the camera), Bubble level, and Plumb bob.


The Armor 9 also offers a dedicated FLIR camera app and FLIR gallery, where you can see both the FLIR and regular image by swiping on the photo. Endoscope app (combines camera and gallery) for when the endoscope accessory is also present.

The Ulefone Armor 9, just like the Armor 7, employs the MediaTek Helio P90 chip. This SoC is already two-years old and is based on the rathe dated 12nm manufacturing process from TSMC. The Helio P90 features an octa-core processor with two large Cortex-A75 cores clocked at 2.2GHz and six smaller, energy-efficient Corext-A55 cores working at 2.0GHz.

There is a (3-core) PowerVR GM 9446 GPU for taking care of graphically intensive tasks.

Finally, the Armor 9 packs 8GB of RAM and comes with 128GB UFS2.1 storage. A microSD memory expansion is available via a hybrid-SIM slot.
The Helio P90 is far from a powerhouse, but it packs enough punch to manage both crucial and entertainment-related tasks. The Armor 9 is a mid-ranger by heart, and it does score accordingly in the tests we ran.


AnTuTu 8 puts the Armor 9 on par with the cheapest of the Redmi Note 9 phones, which isn't that impressive. Then again - performance was never a priority for the Armor 9.


Camera 

The Ulefone Armor 9 packs a dual camera on its back for your regular photos and videos. It has a 64MP primary snapper and a 2MP depth sensor. A powerful quad-LED flash is also around, but it will be used much more as a flashlight and far less as a camera flash.


At the front, you'll find an 8MP camera for selfies that's using the Sony IMX134 sensor with 1.12µm pixels and f/2.2 lens. 

The 16MP photos, which you should have been getting by default, are nice but nothing impressive. They are free of noise and have good resolved detail everywhere but in foliage. The dynamic range is average and so is the contrast. The colors are warmer than they should be and you can tell that immediately. The sharpening is a bit excessive at times, but it's not a real issue.

The Night Mode takes about 2 seconds and produces excellent shots - they are a bit soft sometimes, yes, but quite bright, low on noise, and with good contrast. Oddly, those are saved in 12.5MP instead of 16MP.

The FLIR camera is thoroughly interesting and even if you are not a professional, you should still be able to enjoy it and find a way to put it to some useful work in a variety of situations.


The FLIR system on the back of the Ulefone Armor 9 has two snappers - a thermal and a regular (2MP) one, which work together to provide a more detailed image of what you are seeing. The thermal one captures thermal images only (duh), while the regular snapper enhances those with contours from the objects you see.

One useful mode of the camera app is fire detection - this is a special mode that searches for electrical or otherwise fires within inaccessible areas, such as walls.

Naturally, the FLIR camera supports temperature measurement and it has a couple of different modes - via a temperature bar or by chosen spots. You can also get averages, too.


Conclusion

The Ulefone Armor 9 is one of the toughest smartphones on the market with impressive resistance against the elements. It also offers one incredibly good FLIR thermal camera and you can even mount an endoscope.

The Armor 9 is not that impressive as a smartphone though - while it has excellent software features, its chip and camera won't be winning any fans. 

So, if you can live with average specs and camera quality but enjoy the rugged features with plenty of pro tools, then the Armor 9 would be a perfect fit.








Ulefone Armor 9 4G Smartphone IP68 IP69K Waterproof 6.3 inch 8GB 128GB 64MP Camera NFC 6600mAh Helio P90 Octa Core Global Version


$968.23


$509.99







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