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Smartphones nowadays are designed to be thin and good looking, but this does require consumers to sacrifice on durability, as is evident by the fact that most of us rush to pick up a protective case or cover for our new devices. At the other end of the spectrum is the latest smartphone by Sonim, designed with only one thing in mind, and that is to take a lot of abuse. Is its durability enough to make it a worthwhile investment? That is what we find out, in this comprehensive review of the Sonim XP7!
Adjectives like thin, sleek, lightweight, or even good looking isn’t what can be used to describe the Sonim XP7, but with the focus on function over form, it wasn’t meant to be. The device is thick, bulky, and heavy, feeling like a brick both in the hand and in the pocket, and in a lot of ways, is everything that most modern smartphones aren’t. Of course, there is a very good reason for it all, with the target consumer for this device being those with very rough lifestyles. The Sonim XP7 certainly isn’t a smartphone for the casual user, but if you’re looking for something that can keep up with you in harsh conditions, it might be one of the better options out there.
Of course, the phone isn’t indestructible per say, as I was able to damage it eventually, but as you can see in the video above, it can withstand one hell of a beating and still keep on ticking. The hard rubberized outer casing not only protects the device from the most brutal of drops, but also makes it resistant to punctures. The device can also withstand corrosive chemicals and oils, extreme pressure, as well as sudden vibrations and shocks. Rounding out its capabilities are its IP68 and IP69 rating for dust and water resistance, which means that it can be submerged in up to 2 meters of water for as long as 30 minutes, as well as resist against a high temperature and pressure wash.
When it comes to the design language, the volume rocker is found on the right side, along with a red button that can be used to contact Sonim’s emergency support line for lone workers. The service isn’t available yet, though it is expected to launch later this year. On the left side is a dedicated camera shutter button, a push to talk button, and a quite awkwardly placed power button. Up front are three physical buttons, and the home button can be used to wake the device, which reduces the need to keep reaching for that power button.
Up top is a bright notification light, along with a headphone jack and a SIM card slot, both of which are covered by flaps held in place by torx screws. The headphone jack can be accessed without needing to remove the screws, but needs to be removed in the case of the SIM card slot, easily done with the tool included in the box. The charging port is at the bottom, but isn’t a microUSB port, but rather a proprietary magnetic port which is unfortunate considering how prevalent microUSB charging is.
On the specifications front, the Sonim XP7 features hardware that is mostly entry level to mid-range in its nature, starting with the decidedly low end display. The 4-inch display with a 800 x 480 resolution is functional, but in this day and age is quite a poor looking panel. Apart from the low resolution, colors are washed out, with a lot of color shifting when viewing off axis, which doesn’t make for a very good gaming or media consumption experience. On the flip side, the screen is usable with gloves, which is the bright spot in an otherwise disappointing display experience.
Under the hood, the Sonim XP7 packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, along with 1 GB of RAM. Like most phones running the Snapdragon 400, the performance is more than respectable, with the device running smoothly, applications loading quickly, while also handling some graphic-intensive games admirably. A contributing factor may be the near stock version of Android the device has onboard, but there is no denying that the Snapdragon 400 is one of the best mid-range processing packages available.
The device comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, but due to no microSD card slot the storage is somewhat limited, which might lead you to depend on cloud-based storage services. On the connectivity front, the XP7 packs a standard suite of sensors and connectivity options, and while it is designed for Canadian carriers like TELUS and BELL, it will work just fine on the LTE networks of T-Mobile and AT&T.
One of the biggest highlights of the Sonim XP7 definitely has to be the battery life. It packs a huge 4,800 mAh battery, and when combined with the fact that the processor isn’t pushing a lot of pixels due to the low resolution display, the battery life is understandably amazing. With 48 hours off charger, and almost 11 hours of screen on time, I have no doubt that you can go on a weekend road trip and not even have to worry about bringing the charger. This was also with really heavy usage that included gaming and watching a lot of videos on Youtube, after which it was still very difficult to drain the battery. It is by far the best battery life I’ve ever experienced on an Android smartphone, and I was pleasantly surprised at how long it lasted on a single charge.
The Sonim XP7 comes with a 8 MP rear camera, and comes with stock Android camera software. It’s not the more up-to-date Google Camera, but you do have the option to download it from the Google Play Store. The camera software is quite minimalistic, bringing just essential features like HDR, exposure, panorama, and a few other basic camera settings.
The picture quality is just about average in this case, but is certainly better than what I expected and offers a decent amount of color and detail. Noticeable is the fact the a lot of the photos tend to have a blue-ish tinge to them, along with there being a lack of dynamic range. HDR helps bring out more detail, but it does so at the expense of introducing more noise into the picture.
As mentioned, the Sonim XP7 is running what is basically a stock version of Android 4.4.2 Kitkat out of the box. There are a few carrier-specific applications, an FM radio, and a couple of useful additions like a flashlight toggle on the lockscreen, but overall, it is a very pure experience, that keeps things running very smooth and fast.
|Screen||4-inch display, 800 x 480 resolution, 233 ppi|
|Size and Weight||137 x 72.1 x 20.8 mm|
|Cameras||8 MP rear camera|
1 MP front-facing camera
|Memory and Storage||1 GB RAM|
16 GB storage, not expandable
|Processor||1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400|
|Sensors||GPS, Accelerometer, Compass, Proximity|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, hotspot|
|OS||Android 4.4 KitKat|
The Sonim XP7 will set you back $650 off-contract, which is certainly very steep for what is essentially a mid-range smartphone in its specifications and features. To justify this price point, you really have to want its rugged features, and even that may not make it compelling enough for most users.
So there you have it – a closer look at the Sonim XP7! All said and done, this smartphone is a very niche product catering to a very specific target audience in mind, so while it may not be for the casual user, if you have a lifestyle that demands this level of ruggedness, this phone could potentially pay for itself in the long run.