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Coolpad Cool Play 6 review: Excessive RAM doesn’t equal a great smartphone

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Coolpad made quite a splash when it entered India in 2015. The Chinese company’s Note 3 smartphone caught everyone’s attention immediately upon its launch, offering premium (at that time) features like fingerprint sensor and 4G LTE at the rock-bottom price of Rs 8,999. Since then, the company has launched numerous handsets in the country.

Two years later, it seems that Coolpad wants to take the Indian smartphone market by storm all over again. The company recently launched its newest smartphone, the Cool Play 6. Bearing a price tag of Rs 14,999, Coolpad Cool Play 6 has just about everything that one would expect from a mid-range smartphone in 2017 – big battery, dual-camera setup, and even a USB Type-C port. But Cool Play 6’s true claim to fame is that it comes with an insane 6GB of RAM, a ‘feature’ that even many flagship smartphones lack today.

But even with so much going for it, is Coolpad’s freshest offering really any good at taking on the competition, which is getting even harder by the day?

The answer awaits, on the other side of my full review of the Cool Play 6.

Design and build quality

Even though the Cool Play 6 isn’t going to win any award(s) for its design, it’s a solidly-built smartphone that feels surprisingly reassuring in the hand. The smartphone has a metal unibody chassis, with a smooth and flat back that curves a bit around the edges. Two thin, shiny trims run across the breadth of the device’s back, one each at the top and the bottom.

There’s a slightly-protruding pill-shaped hump in the center of the upper-half section of the Cool Play 6’s back. It houses the smartphone’s dual-camera system, comprised of two 13MP modules (each with an f/2.2 aperture) arranged vertically. A two-tone dual-LED flash sits on the right of the setup and just below the dual-camera setup, there’s a circular fingerprint sensor. Above the dual-camera setup is a secondary noise-canceling microphone, and a Coolpad logo is stamped in the middle of the lower-half section of the smartphone’s rear plate.





Flipping over, the front panel of the Cool Play 6 is home to a 5.5-inch FullHD IPS display, which itself is surrounded on all four sides by a super-thick Black border that Coolplay seems to love too much to let go of. Although it serves its intended purpose of giving the illusion that the display (when turned off) has near-zero side bezels, this Black periphery makes the smartphone’s whole facade look cheap and tacky, the moment the display is turned on. But as questionable a design choice as it is, it’s something that those who decide to buy the smartphone will have to put up with anyway.

Above the display are the earpiece, ambient light & proximity sensors, and an 8MP front-facing shooter having an f/2.2 aperture. As for the chin bezel, it may appear to be bare at the first glance, but actually hides the three standard capacitive navigation buttons (Recents, Home and Back). It’s good thing that the buttons are backlit, because they are completely invisible when not illuminated.

Coming to the sides, the upper right has the volume rocker and the power/wake button. They don’t exactly offer the best in terms of tactile feedback, but are serviceable nonetheless. On the upper left side is a tray that can hold two nano-SIM cards. Unfortunately, this isn’t a hybrid tray and there’s no separate microSD card slot either, so the 64GB of internal storage that Coolpad Cool Play 6 comes with is all that the users are going to get.

At the bottom, there’s a USB Type-C port for handling charging and data transfer duties. It’s flanked by a grille on each side, but only the one on the right has a speaker behind it. Up top, there’s a 3.5mm audio port.

In summation, I found the build quality of the Cool Play 6 to be pretty good, even if its design is a tad generic.

Display

Coolpad Cool Play 6 has a 5.5-inch FullHD IPS LCD panel, which has become kind of a norm for mid-range smartphones these days. With a resolution of 1080×1920 pixels and a pixel density of around 401ppi, the Cool Play 6’s display works well for everything from web browsing to watching 4K videos. The screen’s has accurate color reproduction and its viewing angles are fine too. The display gets plenty bright to be used under direct sunlight sans any issues, but the ambient light sensor takes some time to automatically adjust the display’s brightness.

 

Regardless, the Cool Play 6’s display is going to serve majority of the users just fine.

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Performance and Software

Delivering power to Coolpad Cool Play 6 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 653 SoC, having an octa-core CPU (with four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 2.0GHz) and an Adreno 510 GPU. This is accompanied by the smartphone’s highlight 6GB of RAM. It surely seems like a powerful combo, but does it actually translate into good real-world performance? The answer, is yes.

Thanks to its extremely capable (for the price) hardware, the Cool Play 6 handles anything and everything thrown at it with effortless ease. Graphics-rich games like WWE Immortals load up faster and run smoothly, with no dropped frames at all. Similarly, multi-tabbed web browsing and quick switching between numerous apps running simultaneously in the background is a piece of cake. As is the case with nearly all smartphones with metallic construction, the Cool Play 6 also heats up a little during intensive tasks like extended gaming and prolonged FullHD/4K video recording, but it is not a deal breaker.

To put things into numbers, Coolpad Cool Play 6 scored 1413 (Single-Core) and 3307 (Multi-Core) on Geekbench 4, and 888 on 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme.

During my testing, I found the network reception on the Cool Play 6 to be adequately good. The smartphone hooks up to 4G/VoLTE networks without any issues, and call quality is more than fine.

As far as the fingerprint sensor is concerned, it works as intended. The sensor is quite fast and supports 360-degree fingerprint recognition. It even works with moist fingers, although not every time.

But even though hardware performance on the Cool Play 6 is extremely good, its lackluster software experience leaves a lot to be desired.

Coolpad Cool Play 6 runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat out-of-the-box, with the company’s own JourneyUI UX layer baked on top. Even though the standard Nougat goodies like split-screen multitasking and advanced battery-saving features are all there, JourneyUI isn’t exactly the best UX layer out there.

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There’s no app drawer and all the apps are laid out on multiple homescreens. That said, they can at least be arranged into folders. The notification shade, with its all-White background, doesn’t look that good either.

Notifications are a little messed up as well. They are impossible to dismiss using the standard swiping gesture. Instead, it’s a two-step process where each notification must be first swiped and then the ‘Delete’ button must be tapped on to make the notification go away. JourneyUI also does away with the slide-out pane in Settings, thus making navigating different settings a tad cumbersome.

That said, Coolpad’s custom UX layer also has some nice features. Some of these include Dual app (which lets users run two instances of apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger), Themes (which can be used to customize the user interface) and Ambient display (which wakes up the screen automatically when notifications arrive).

Coolpad Cool Play 6 does comes with a couple of pre-installed apps like UC Browser and Xender, but majority of these can be easily uninstalled. Some other useful pre-loaded apps include Phone Manager, Backup and App Freezer.

Camera

Keeping up with the times, the Cool Play 6 comes with a dual-camera system at the back, comprised of two 13MP modules, each with an f/2.0 aperture. There’s also a two-tone dual-LED flash to help with low-light photography. So how is the camera experience on Coolpad’s latest offering?

Over the course of my testing, I found the Cool Play 6 to be a slightly above-average performer in the photography department. In daylight and generally well-lit conditions, the smartphone manages to click decent-looking photos that have sufficient amount of resolved detail. Color reproduction and dynamic range are fairly good, and there’s not too much over sharpening or post-processing either. But when compared with rivals such as Moto G5S Plus and Xiaomi Mi A1, the quality of the images from Coolpad Cool Play 6 is somewhat lacking. Daylight images sometimes also come out to be overexposed, although turning on HDR helps things a bit.

The Cool Play 6’s camera quality really takes a hit when it comes to low light photography. With automatic settings, night-time shots appear to be over softened and unevenly lit. Worse, enabling HDR mode in low light conditions makes the images too bright, and they don’t even look as they’ve been shot at night.

Thankfully, the camera app has a dedicated Night mode which helps a lot in shooting better-looking images in dimly-lit settings.

The dual-camera setup of the Cool Play 6 doesn’t impart the handset any fancy features like Xiaomi Mi A1’s 2X optical zoom. It’s just for giving the images a fake ‘Depth of Field’ effect, similar to what DSLR cameras do. But sadly, it fails to do that well.

To use the ‘SLR’ mode for creating the ‘Depth of Field’ effect, one has to focus on the subject in the foreground and then adjust the aperture to fade the background. But even when that is done, the camera(s) often fail to recognize the subject in the foreground and blur it as well. Needless to say, the dual-camera setup on the Cool Play 6 doesn’t serve its intended purpose.

For selfies, the smartphone includes an 8MP front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture. When shot in the standard Photo mode, selfies actually come out to be really good. Colors look quite natural and over softening is kept to a minimum. Then there’s the ‘Beauty’ mode, which can be used to do everything from whitening the skin tone to adjusting the contours of the face.

Coolpad Cool Play 6 can also shoot 4K resolution videos, which look pretty alright. Some other modes included in the camera app are Mono, Panorama and Pro.

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Battery Life

Backing up Coolpad Cool Play 6 is a 4,000mAh non-removable cell. Given its large-sized battery, it should come as no surprise that during my test run, the smartphone easily lasted around a day and a half on a fully-charged battery. The usage involved some calls and messages, and a few minutes each of gaming and FullHD video playback, all while keeping the Wi-Fi turned on and all push notifications enabled. The battery drain during our standard test tasks was witnessed as follows:

Gaming (30 minutes) : 8%
FullHD video recording (30 minutes) : 6%
FullHD video playback (30 minutes) : 3%

Even though the Cool Play 6 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to battery life, juicing up its big cell is an altogether different story. The smartphone doesn’t support fast-charging technology, and fully topping up the battery takes an astounding 9-10 hours. This is definitely a bummer, and makes quickly charging the battery a little for a few hours of use next to impossible.

Note: We weren’t able to use AccuBattery (our app of choice to measure battery statistics) to log the total charging time for Coolpad Cool Play 6’s battery, as the (kernel-level) feature is disabled in the smartphone.

Verdict

Coolpad has made a name for itself by launching smartphones that have hardware specs far more powerful than their price(s) would suggest, and the Cool Play 6 is no different. As the cheapest smartphone with 6GB RAM available in India, it seems too good of a deal to pass on. And of course, the rest of the specs aren’t half-bad either.

But here’s the thing. A smartphone isn’t just about RAM, processor, or any other singular factor like that. A well-rounded smartphone is one that offers great experience at all fronts, be it camera, general performance or anything else. And that’s something the Cool Play 6 doesn’t do.

Even though it comes with a powerful spec sheet, Coolpad’s freshest offering has its fair share of downers, including an average camera experience, a battery that takes forever to charge and an inconsistent UI. And this is why it’s hard for me to recommend this smartphone. In the same price bracket, you’d rather go for the Moto G5S Plus or the Xiaomi Mi A1. These two may not have 6GB of RAM, but have lots of advantages such as better dual-camera setups and a stock (or near-stock) Android experience.

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