SKK Mobile Lynx Review
Second Chances: SKK Mobile's Track Record with the Phoenix X1
A little over half a year ago, SKK Mobile was hot on the radar with their Phoenix X1. It was a 5,499 Php phone equipped with the octa core MediaTek MTK6592. At the time, the MTK6592 was only available on more expensive models costing 10,000 Php and up. Its spec sheet also consisted of a 720p IPS display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 2,500 mAh battery, infrequent at that price point even if you didn't take into account the performance-oriented chipset.
Naturally, many buyers put the Phoenix X1 on their wishlist. August, September, and more months passed, and the only thing that came were delays and an engineering unit from SKK Mobile which wasn't even available to reviewers. Then came late November—the phone finally hit the market, but its availability was extremely spotty until the year ended. Very few people could get their hands on one. Worse still was that the Phoenix X1 itself was disappointing. It didn't come with the MTK6592 as advertised, but the lower-clocked MTK6592M instead. Its camera was also found to be garbage, not something you'd expect from a "13-megapixel" snapper at all.
In the end, the Phoenix X1 was a failure that left a bad taste in the mouths of prospective customers. Now, SKK Mobile appears to be dangling a similar carrot with a new model, the Lynx. Except the Lynx is already available and priced lower than what they originally asked for the Phoenix X1. This phone has the opportunity of putting SKK Mobile back on the map, especially against competitors like Cherry Mobile, which plays cutthroat with a shiny spec sheet and a very low price. Of course, frequently shiny spec sheets don't translate to real-world performance, e.g. phones parading around with 18-megapixel cameras that can't keep up with some "lowly" 8-megapixel snapper from Samsung or Sony in a shootout. This review seeks to uncover any issues like these with the Lynx—is it really is as good as it looks?
Please note that the SKK Mobile Lynx is known as the Ulefone Be Pure in China.
Design and Build Quality
Design and Build Quality
The Lynx follows a similar design to the SKK Mobile Prime I reviewed a while back; it resembles the design language of Oppo's smartphones. The Lynx looks specifically like the Oppo Find 7a. The front is very flat with angular edges and a slightly curved bottom with a chin. It's not a very generic design nor is it too unique, but it succeeds in standing out against many of the devices in the same price bracket. A quality design is important because other phones in the same price bracket are starting to look better and better—there's a lot more competition now than there was in the days when all phones looked like shiny plastic bars.
The main difference is that the Lynx goes for a two-toned approach to its silhouette. The front is entirely black regardless of color variant while the back is matte. There is also a faux brushed metal bumper encircling the sides, an understated but succinct embellishment. Combined with the matte back, it cuts through the glossiness with a clean line, emphasizing the illusion of thinness. It's a well-thought design, as most plastic phones tend to be extremely glossy. Not only are glossy surfaces fingerprint magnets, but also they look cheap and unsightly when light scratches begin to accumulate—like a car that has lost its clear coat.
The back is unashamedly similar to that of the Oppo Find 7a, down to the shape, size, and position of the camera, LED flash, and loudspeaker. Not that the similarities are necessarily bad things because they work well. The gem here is how they managed to work with contrasting materials to deliver a decidedly upscale feel. It has a very executive vibe mixed with a bit of contemporary chic. It doesn't look out of place beside a Macbook or a Thinkpad at Starbucks or in a corporate meeting room.
Don't get me wrong: There are no truly premium materials on the Lynx. But they managed to ensure that the display, which is not flush with the body, doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. The capacitive touch keys at the bottom are illuminated a bright, solid white instead of the usual soft, bluish white. The gleam from the brushed metal bumper draws the eyes away from the flatness of the matte black back cover. The contrasting textures play out well in the hand as well. The slick front, smooth and cool side, and soft, slightly coarse back ensures it doesn't feel like a kid's toy. This is why metallic bumpers and faux leather back covers seem to be the rage these days.
It also has good ergonomics. The matte back with its tiny cross-hatched emboss provides grip, and the placement of the ports and buttons are ideal. The buttons don't feel flimsy and have a quiet but audible click when pressed. Both the 3.5 mm and micro-USB port are centered on the top side, leaving only the microphone hole at the bottom. The volume buttons are on the left side, and the power button is on the right, ensuring the right fingers land where they should. The only concern is that the loudspeaker is located on the rear as it is almost entirely covered while the Lynx lays on a flat surface, leaving you with muffled sound.
The body is constructed out of ABS plastic while the back cover is made out of a polyurethane-like light and bendable material. Its 148 grams of weight feels distributed equally with some feeling of heft. The cuts of the plastic are even and smooth, and the gaps are small and tight. It seems effort was spent on ensuring a good finish overall, which contributes to both appearance and feel.
There are two SIM card slots, one mini and one micro. Neither the SIM card nor the micro SD card slots are hot-swappable due to the battery locking the insertion point.
The Lynx comes installed with a screen protector. You just need to peel the thin plastic off the display and a screen protector is underneath it. Here is a checklist of what else comes inside the box:
- 1 SKK Mobile Lynx
- 1 2500 mAh battery
- 1 1000 mA charger
- 1 USB cable
- 1 headset
- 1 user's manual
- 1 warranty card
The Lynx is equipped with a 5.0" AHVA panel from AU Optronics, which is identical to IPS. The display has a resolution of 1280 x 720 (720 p) and a refresh rate of 54.31 Hz; it supports five-point multitouch. Surprisingly, the screen on the Lynx is an OGS (one-glass solution), which means the LCD panel/cell is fused with the glass screen and touch panel to form one component. It ensures little to no gap between the LCD and glass itself. It also allows the Lynx to have a thin bezel because the glass itself acts as the frame. This is a relatively expensive manufacturing process that provides a thinner footprint and ensures exceptional light transmission and luminosity. The clarity of the Lynx's display is excellent with no diffusion at all. This furthers the already good viewing angles provided by the AHVA LCD, allowing it to maintain good visuals even at extreme viewing angles, similar to more expensive LCD-equipped phones like the iPhone 6, LG G3 and Huawei Ascend Mate 7.
Its maximum brightness of 381 nits is average for a display with these specifications, but it still allows it to be appreciable in most lighting conditions except intense sunlight. The display is OGS, but the glass itself is not specially treated to enhance the image. Specifically, it doesn't have a polarizing coating, which means strong and harsh light, such as direct sunlight, makes the display difficult to see. This means sunlight legibility is below average on the Lynx. However, brightness uniformity is good and backlight bleeding is minimal.
Brightness scaling is linear, so 75%, 50%, and 25% of the brightness bar is approximately 75%, 50%, and 25% of the maximum brightness respectively. Actual brightness at 0% of the brightness bar is 46 nits though. Automatic brightness is available, which automatically adjusts the display brightness in about two to three seconds. The automatic setting is rather conservative, and many will find it too dim most of the time. I wish SKK Mobile added a (+) and (-) option to the automatic setting like Samsung phones have, so we could adjust it to our liking.
Brightness, White (cd/m²)
SKK Mobile Lynx
Cloudfone Excite 501o
Starmobile Up Lite
MyPhone Agua Rio
LG G2 Mini
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 6
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The display feels calibrated nicely and the quality of the image in general is great for a 720 p display, although rather tame if "wow" factor is concerned. The AHVA LCD is 8-bit, providing a wide color gamut. Since this is also a VA-based panel, it has better contrast than a similarly priced IPS part. The wide gamut and great contrast allows superior color fidelity, but saturation and contrast values are lowered on the Lynx. Gamma and hue are surprisingly level too. In short, the colors are detailed and fairly accurate, but not too intense or rich. In addition, the color temperature is slightly cold, which can be seen in the subtle blue tinge to pure whites and blacks. This is understandable on budget LCD panels because WLEDs are costly—instead they use LED backlights that are not pure white but slightly blue. Nevertheless, the decision to go with a more accurate image and the cold color temperature benefits the user by being more easy on the eyes, making prolonged viewing more comfortable.
One of the few unique things on the Lynx that I did not expect to find was its Screen Saving Mode. It is similar to the Ultra Low Power Mode found on the Samsung Galaxy S5, which makes the display run in monochrome instead of color. This is ideal for the Galaxy S5 since it uses an AMOLED display. AMOLEDs do not have a backlight because they are lit on a per-pixel basis, which means that turning off the sub-pixels that represent colors reduces the power consumed by the display significantly. It doesn't make as much sense with the Lynx because it uses an LCD display. The savings incurred by disabling the sub-pixels on the Lynx is minimal as the LED backlight accounts for most of the power consumed.
It would be interesting to see how much power is saved and because of this, battery tests were also conducted while this mode is enabled. Regardless of whether the Screen Savings Mode actually saves meaningful amounts of battery life, the monochrome display is great for reading text in general, such as ebooks, web pages, and text messages. The display starts to look more like an e-ink than an LCD. Even at 0% brightness settings, glare on the screen becomes less noticeable due to the way our eyes perceive contrast in monochrome. Users can benefit from better battery life due to maintaining display legibility at lower brightness settings while using the Screen Saving Mode.
The 720 p (1280 x 720) resolution at 5.0 inches equates to 294 PPI, which makes the display quite sharp and enjoyable. Icons, text, and other UI elements are crisp and do not display noticeable aliasing, even when viewed close up. This allows desktop-size web pages to be rendered in full size on the browser without the need for scaling to be legible. Those used to small text and thin fonts will be happy with the Lynx.
All things considered, the Lynx's display is quite good and not only because of its price:
- First of all, it's a nicely calibrated display that's pleasant to look at.
- Second, it's an OGS screen that offers great clarity.
- Third, the 720p resolution is crisp and fitting of a mid-range device.
The only concern is sunlight legibility—in bright situations, you'll be forced to set the brightness to maximum.
Like the Cloudfone Excite 501o, which I also reviewed recently, the Lynx also comes with MediaTek's MTK6592 chipset which has an octa core CPU with eight Cortex A7 cores that are able to work simultaneously. The graphics is a quad core Mali-450MP. However, the Lynx is equipped with the MTK6592M, the "M" denoting the "lite version." The maximum CPU clocks for the MTK6592M are 1.4 Ghz instead of 1.7 Ghz while the maximum GPU clocks are 600 Mhz instead of 700 Mhz. This means slightly less "oomph." But since it's also manufactured on the 28 nm HPM (high-performance mobile computing) process, it's also power efficient. Chipsets manufactured using an 28 nm HPM require a lower voltage and provide better thermals, which high-end chipsets require to due their high-performance targets. This is necessitated by all eight Cortex A7 cores and the Mali-450MP4 graphics running continuously at full speed without significant throttling. Likewise, high-end chipsets like the Snapdragon 800, 801, 805, and the Tegra K1 are also manufactured this way.
The Lynx appears to be well optimized and doesn't feel any less responsive than the Excite 501o despite the Lynx's slightly slower chipset and higher resolution display. It's very snappy even when running the latest apps. The Cortex A7 is dated now, but still offers good efficiency and performance for general computing. However, the octa-core configuration is rarely leveraged, and most apps run with four cores at most. This is why despite the core count, devices like the phased-out Snapdragon 600 with four Krait cores are still faster. In synthetic benchmarks optimized to make use of all eight cores, the MTK6592M is nearly as fast as the Snapdragon 600 and faster than other popular mid-range chipsets like the Snapdragon 400, Snapdragon 410, and the Intel Atom Z2560/2580, which are found on popular mid-range models like the Motorola G, Samsung Galaxy Grand 2, and ASUS Zenfone 5.
SKK Mobile Lynx (MediaTek MTK6592M, 1280x720)
Lenovo S90 Sisley (Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916, 1280x720)
AnTuTu Benchmark 5
Vellamo - Multicore
Vellamo - Metal
Geekbench 3 - Multi core
Geekbench 3 - Single core
3DMark - Ice Storm Extreme
Basemark X - Medium Quality
Epic Citadel - High Quality
GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex (Offscreen, 1080p)
GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex (Onscreen)
As I found out with the Excite 501o, the MTK6592's graphics performance is overkill for a 960 x 540 display. The Lynx's 1280 x 720 display has nearly twice as many pixels: 921,600 pixels vs 518,400 pixels. It also has the slightly less potent MTK6592M. Nonetheless, the Lynx remains a very able gaming device. Surely not as fast as it was at 960 x 540, but definitely a good match at 1280 x 720. I could not find a game, emulators excluded, that could slow the Lynx to a crawl. Most 3D games have smooth framerates even at higher graphics settings while only the most graphically intensive games show lapses in performance. Graphically intensive games such as Real Racing 3 and Modern Combat 5 run smooth on the default graphics setting and the chipset only shows sweat when graphics are set to high. And before anyone asks: No, the MTK6592M is still not powerful enough to run the majority of PSP games via PPSSPP.
The 1 GB of RAM on the Lynx is considered low end these days, but I haven't found a single app that cannot run on 1 GB of RAM. For multitasking, 1 GB is sufficient for light apps in the background, e.g. the calendar, messaging, and notepad app residing in the background while a light game such as Temple Run is running in the foreground. As for heavy apps like Chrome and 3D games, only one or two of them will be able to run in the background at most. Once the RAM runs out, apps in the background will be terminated to make room for the RAM required by the app in the foreground. Still, multitasking, in general, is smooth on the Lynx, and there is no noticeable delay when switching or juggling between apps.
The MTK6592's DSP is more advanced than the ones found on prior MediaTek chipsets, and it supposedly can now decode H.264 video content in 4K resolution. The Excite 501o with its MTK6592 could not play 4K H.264 video via its hardware decoder, and I simply thought they did not implement it. It's the same with the Lynx, as it wasn't able to play 4K H.264 video using the hardware decoder. It's entirely possible that the MTK6592 chipset doesn't support hardware playback of 4K H.264 video in the first place, despite what their marketing material suggests. However, I've found that 1080p H.264 video poses no problem, even at 60 FPS and a moderately high bitrate.
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 3 reference frames
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.0, with CABAC, 5 reference frames
1920x1080 @ 60 FPS, AVC Baseline Profile L3.0, with CABAC, 1 reference frame
4096x1716 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L5.1, with CABAC, 4 reference frames
317 Kbps, 6 channel AAC
306 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
132 Kbps, 2 channels, AAC
640 Kbps, 6 channels, AC-3
Plays via hardware decoder?
Plays via software decoder?
Yes, but with dropped frames
The ClearMotion is a feature found on MTK6592 chipsets. It's not always implemented, as can be seen on other MTK6592-equipped devices from other brands, but it is present on the Lynx. ClearMotion smoothens motion by interpolating frames and basically increasing the framerate. This is very similar to what 120 Hz LCD TVs do to lower frame rate sources. It interpolates the frames by interpreting the difference between frames, creating a new frame out of that, and inserting that frame between the existing ones. This basically makes any 30 FPS video feel like a 60 FPS video, smoothing out otherwise blurry motion. This makes watching movies with fast-paced action sequences a big treat.
ClearMotion is implemented by the hardware decoder, which means only videos played back using the hardware decoder will be affected. Videos that don't use the decoder, such as the ones you play on the YouTube app, will not benefit from it. Additionally, while the Lynx can play back high bitrate 1080p video, the ClearMotion feature has trouble smoothing out the motion of high bitrate 1080p video. Lower bitrate 1080p videos pose no problem though.
This feature is unique as it is only available on high-end Mediatek chipsets like the MTK6592. Even flagship phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Sony Xperia Z3 don't have this. The video below, which is recorded in 60 frames per second, demonstrates this feature. The video must be watched in 720p60 or 1080p60 for you to see the difference. The smoothing effect by the ClearMotion feature is more pronounced in person.
The Lynx is equipped with a 13-megapixel auto focus camera with a single LED flash and a five-megapixel fixed focus front-facing camera. The rear camera sensor is an Omnivision OV8865, which is the latest eight-megapixel sensor from Omnivision. It is a 1/3.2" sensor BSI sensor with a pixel size of 1.4 µm. The rear camera's aperture is f/2.2, which means it's pretty bright.
Although the Lynx already runs on Kitkat, the camera interface is still stock Android Jellybean. The still shot and video recording facilities share the same interface, which may make framing video a bit tricky. If you are trying to record video in a 16:9 ratio, the camera will appear to zoom in because it can only record in a 4:3 ratio. It will then crop the image to make it a 16:9 ratio.
The Lynx has an assortment of shooting modes and manual controls. Aside from auto mode, there are also the following shooting modes:
- Live photo mode—Simultaneously activates both front and rear cameras. The thumbnail of the front camera's shot will be placed on top of the image taken by the rear camera, sort of like a postcard from abroad.
- Motion track mode—The user will be asked to tap on a moving object on a viewfinder, i.e. a pet or a car. The user will then hold the shutter button, and the camera will do its best to track and focus on the moving object to come up with well-focused, sharp shots. Great for taking action still shots.
- Face beauty mode—Adds post-processing to any faces detected on the captured image, and air brushes them for a smooth, glowing look.
- Panorama mode—Your typical panorama mode. It can do sweeps in any direction. From left to right, right to left, top to bottom, bottom to top.
- Multi-angle mode—Slightly similar to panorama mode, but the user can either sweep or go around an object. It creates an interactive photo where the user can take a 360 degree shot of an object or his/her surroundings.
Most of the manual controls, image options, and filters are only available in auto mode. The following are available:
- Exposure (-/+ 3 steps)
- Color effect (none, mono, sepia, negative, aqua, blackboard, whiteboard)
- Scene mode (auto, night, sunset, party, portrait, landscape, night portrait, theater, beach, snow, steady photo, fireworks, sports, candlelight)
- White balance (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, cloudy, twilight, shade, warm fluorescent)
- Image properties (sharpness, hue, saturation, brightness, contrast)
- ISO (auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- Sound shutter (on/off sound when taking a picture)
The following shooting assists/aids are also available but are mostly available in auto mode only:
- Zero shutter delay (removes shutter delay)
- Voice capture (use a voice command to snap shutter)
- Face detection (automatically focuses on faces in the viewfinder)
- Smile shot (automatically snaps shutter when a smiling face is detected)
- HDR (takes high dynamic range shot; generates 1 HDR and 1 regular photo)
- Auto scene detection (automatically changes scene mode)
- Self timer (standard timer; off, 2 seconds or 10 seconds)
- Gesture capture (automatically snaps shutter when the peace sign is detected)
The Lynx interpolates shots from its eight-megapixel sensor to a final output of 13 megapixels. Interpolation is usually frowned upon as it borders on misrepresentation. But that doesn't take anything away from the image quality of the Lynx's main camera. It's very good. Not just in good lighting, but also in low light. Aside from image quality, the camera is quite fast in terms of shutter and focusing speed. It also doesn't have too much difficulty focusing in low light, which is a usual problem for cheap phones. It's a reliable camera in most lighting conditions.
The color contrast and saturation is great on camera: lively looking without being punchy. The hues are slightly on the green side, but that's okay. More importantly, the camera doesn't suffer from pink tinting in overcast or intense sunlit conditions. Not much issue there. Resolved detail in good lighting is superb, and the interpolation method makes use of the added pixels to resolve more detail instead of simply stretching the image. Compression artifacts are also minimal. Images are noticeably sharpened, which adds some noise, but it is controlled and is not sharpened to the point where it looks artificial. A good rationale here is that they implemented this to offset the cheap optics on the camera, which aren't the sharpest. This is understandable because quality optics are costly. Thankfully, the eight-megapixel OV8865 sensor features Omnivision's OmniBSI-2, and it can be seen in the dynamic range of the camera. It handles contrasting light and dark scenes well in a properly metered shot. This allows the Lynx to capture better shadow and highlight detail for more revealing photos.
The combination of the bright f/2.2 lens, OV8865 sensor, and proper tweaking of the software and ISP makes the Lynx an excellent low-light shooter. By excellent, I did not just mean that relatively. I have not seen any local phone, even the overpriced ones that cost well over 10,000 Php, handle low light this well. The camera can manage to focus on what would otherwise look like a pitch black area in the viewfinder because it can still make out the contrast in that void. Noise taken in low light is high as expected, but not intrusively so. Most phones usually come up with either a relatively clean looking but blurry mess due to aggressive noise reduction, or a somewhat detailed but very dirty image due to very high luminance noise. What's amazing is that the Lynx manages to keep everything detailed in low light, striking a balance between ISO noise and noise suppression. In low light, the resolved detail manages to keep color, sharpness, and shadow detail intact while keeping noise in check.
There is also night mode, which increases shutter time to allow more light in, thus more detail. But it increases noise levels to almost dirty levels and requires the user to hold their hand steady for about 2 seconds since it relies on a longer shutter time. Suffice it to say, night mode is only useful for very low light situations because the Lynx already does well using auto mode in typical low light situations.
In terms of perceived luminosity, the Lynx's camera has about the same visual acuity as the human eye, perhaps just 2/3 or 1 EV darker. If you see the images above, that is approximately what my eyes saw when I was taking the pictures in auto mode. Most smartphones would falter and just show a pitch black image in this scenario.
It's an excellent snapper overall, but it is not without fault. The Lynx has been calibrated well to perform in low light, but in situations with middling lighting (usually indoor lighting at night), the Lynx has a tendency of overexposing the image slightly. White balance adjustments are fine, leaving images color correct, but the exposures in said conditions often leaves highlights too bright. The LED flash is also bright, at least brighter than any phone in the same price range. But the Lynx's flash burst is sustained a few milliseconds too long which leaves small and close subjects overexposed. This can be seen in the two photos below.
Update (April 3, 2015): SKK Mobile has released an OTA update that fixes the burst length of the flash. It now automatically adjusts burst length for closer subjects to prevent overexposure.
The Lynx's LED flash is better suited for taking group pictures as it is strong enough to adequately illuminate subjects 1.5 to 2 meters away. Taking up close shots will just lead to overexposed subjects. For macro shots, the Lynx is able to get as close as five inches on a small object (around one or two inches wide) and still be in focus. As expected, the macro shots come out razor sharp without looking artificially sharpened. Panoramas stitching is decent and fairly even and have a vertical resolution of 704 pixels in portrait panorama or 480 pixels in landscape panorama.
Lynx Sample Shots (2015 Manila International Auto Show)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (Good lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (Indoor lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (Low light)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (LED flash)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (Macro)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (HDR)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lynx Sample Shots (Panorama)Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Lynx can record video up to 1080 p at 30 FPS, encoded in H.264 with a bitrate of 17 Mbps. Audio is mono and is encoded in AAC with a bitrate of 128 Kbps. A minute of 1080p footage (shot in the "Fine" setting) consumes up to around 120 MB. The encoding is still similar to what you'd get from a lower-end MTK6582 device, but with better optimizations, which can be seen in the minimal compression artifacts and little to no macro blocking. Despite this, the Lynx appears to be feeding a full 1080 p sensor readout to the ISP, unlike most MTK6582-equipped phones I've tried. As a result, the image looks relatively sharp even with the modest quality of the encoding. However, this also causes noticeable aliasing in things such as straight horizontal lines and text. Still, the amount of resolved detail is good, and much better compared to other Mediatek phones in the same price range. The dynamic range is notable too as the clouds and sky aren't usually overexposed, and shadow detail doesn't suffer too much. This is a common sickness of cheap phones because of their poor sensors that the Lynx thankfully dodges.
However, like most phones, the Lynx still forces the sensor to go into what is essentially "night mode" when the environment lighting goes below a certain threshold. Once it does, video capture is reduced to around 16 FPS. Regardless, it's a minor issue as the video recording on the Lynx is relatively impressive, only held back by a lack of bitrate.
The front-facing camera is five megapixels, and its sensor is a GalaxyCore GC2235, a two-megapixel 1/5" BSI sensor with a pixel size of 1.75 µm. The front-facing camera turned out to be surprisingly good—definitely not the usual selfie camera you'd find in this price range. Images are quite sharp despite its fixed focus and have good color detail. They also have low noise, thanks to the large 1.75 µm photodiodes and BSI. The field of view could be wider for group selfies, but it's a good front-facing camera overall. It actually puts to shame the front-facing camera on the Starmobile Up Lite I recently reviewed, which touts a selfie-centric front camera with a front-facing LED flash.
The front facing camera can also record videos at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 30 FPS. But for some reason when recording video using the front facing camera, the exposure is lowered noticeably and cannot be adjusted while recording.
Lynx Sample Shots (Front facing camera)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Camera Shootout: Lynx vs Galaxy Note 3 vs iPhone 6
Initially, I was going to compare the Lynx to the LG G2 Mini given that the Lynx has an eight-megapixel sensor and the G2 Mini has managed to fend off eight-megapixel combatants from local phone brands. Until now. As I have discovered, the G2 Mini was completely outmatched by the Lynx in every regard. Given this, I had to up the ante and see how far the Lynx's camera could go. The Lynx's opponent for this review will be the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (N9005) and the Apple iPhone 6.
As you can see in the below, neither opponent is a slouch. As of this writing, the Note 3 is Samsung's previous flagship while the iPhone 6 is the latest from Apple.
SKK Mobile Lynx
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (N9005)
Apple iPhone 6
Sony Exmor RS IMX135
Sony Exmor RS unknown model
3264x2448 (7.99 MP)
4208 x 3120 (13.13 MP)
3280 × 2464 (8.08 MP)
"True Tone" Dual LED
Focal length (in 35 mm equivalent):
The Note 3 initially looks to be the juggernaut here with its 13-megapixel sensor, 5 million pixels more than either the iPhone 6 and Lynx. However, the Note 3's sensor has smaller photodiodes at 1.12 µm while the ones on the Lynx and iPhone 6 are 1.4 µm and 1.5 µm respectively, meaning they are able to capture more light. All three phones have f/2.2 lenses. The Note 3 has the narrowest field of view with a focal length of 31 mm at 35 mm equivalent while the iPhone 6 and Lynx have approximately the same field of view and have a wider viewing angle compared to the Note 3.
At this point, it looks as if the Lynx and iPhone 6 are very similar. But the camera module on the iPhone 6 has more features as it has a built-in ISP, more expensive optics and a microlens array that allows it to perform phase detection autofocus (PDAF) instead of just contrast-based autofocus. The PDAF allows the iPhone 6 to be "pre-focused" at all times, which ensures it can focus extremely fast even in low light where contrast-based AF usually falters as it becomes dependent on the sensitivity of the sensor itself.
Regardless, in good lighting all three phones focus very fast. But the sheer number of pixels on the Note 3's sensor allows it to crush both the iPhone 6 and Lynx since the lower sensitivity of the smaller photodiodes do not matter much when light is abundant.
In good lighting, there is much more resolved detail on the Note 3, thanks to its additional 5 megapixels, which make its images much sharper. There's no comparison. While the Lynx interpolates its images to 13 megapixels, it still doesn't resolve more detail than the iPhone 6 upon closer inspection. What the interpolation helps with is making the entire image look sharper overall when put side by side with images taken by the iPhone 6. This may be necessary because, while the Lynx's sensor and imaging-related optimizations are very good, its optics aren't. Lens sharpness is where the Lynx falls flat, understandably so because good glass is expensive. This can be seen when comparing edge to edge sharpness of photos taken by all three phones. Photos taken by the Note 3 and iPhone 6 start to lose sharpness nearer the edge compared to the Lynx. Also, the post-processing on the Lynx, as good as it is, takes it toll on fine detail. While the iPhone 6 takes naturally clean shots, up close the Lynx's fine detail appears dirtier, with more noise and sharpening artifacts. This is evident when looking at details in the shadows. Still, if you aren't printing these photos or uploading them on the web at very high resolutions, they usually look sharper than shots by the iPhone 6.
In less than optimal lighting situations such as indoor shots, the Note 3 has a harder time keeping up the lead in sharpness against the other two. This becomes evident when taking pictures with longer shutter times. When you hands have to be more steady for a clear shot, the camera focuses more sluggishly. The Lynx in particular is unexpectedly good at keeping its AF locked and its shutter time relatively short in worsening lighting conditions, even compared to the iPhone 6 with its PDAF. This allows the Lynx to turn the tables against the Note 3 in low light, not just in sharpness but overall detail.
The Lynx doesn't falter in low light and takes as much detail as possible without excessively high luminance noise, but it's still no match for the iPhone 6. The magic of the iPhone 6 is that it's able to take high exposure shots in low light, revealing a lot of detail, without having to open the shutter for a ridiculously long time. For the Lynx or Note 3 to match or beat the iPhone 6's exposure, it has to be set to Night Mode (also called Smart Stabilization on the Note 3) which requires the user to hold their hand steady for about 2 seconds. A subtle shake will result in a blurry shot. On the iPhone 6, you just point and shoot, and you get a nice shot. There isn't even a "Night Mode" on the iPhone.
To be fair though, the Lynx is capable of taking sharp shots even with Night Mode enabled, something I found almost impossible on the Note 3. The Note's ultra-aggressive noise reduction smears away fine detail.
The LED flash on all three phones is adequate for shooting in low light. But the LED flash on both the Note 3 and iPhone 6 are noticeably stronger and are tone correct. The Lynx has a sustained burst to make up for the lack of raw brightness, which makes it ideal for subjects between one and two meters away. If an object is less than one meter away, the burst ends up overexposing the subject. The LED flash on the Lynx is also slightly blueish, which is expected of cheaper LEDs. Surprisingly, the Lynx reliably takes the sharpest shots when taking a shot using the LED in low light.
The iPhone 6 ends up taking the low-light crown with its reliability and overall low-light shooting capabilities while the Galaxy Note 3 takes the crown in good lighting with its higher pixel count. It was a huge surprise that the Lynx handily beat the Note 3 in low light. It wasn't even close. The Note 3 just couldn't keep up in low light due to its annoyingly long shutter time and super aggressive noise reduction, which kills fine detail. Even with the Note 3's stronger flash, its low light pictures ended up with lower resolved details compared to the Lynx. Compared to the iPhone 6 in good lighting, the Lynx can also come up with sharper shots thanks to the interpolation and additional processing, but rears its ugly head in not-too-bright conditions, i.e. indoor fluorescent lighting. With some pixel peeping, it would be noticeable that the Lynx has dirtier detail due to its post-processing. Its sharpness uniformity wasn't as good as that of the iPhone 6 or Note 3 either.
It's an amazing result for the Lynx as it managed to beat the Galaxy Note 3 in low light and keep up with the iPhone 6 in good lighting. That I'm even comparing against these two phones in itself speaks volumes of the Lynx's camera.
The Lynx is equipped with a 2,500 mAh battery. It's pretty large compared to what most phones in this price range have. More interestingly, it has a Screen Saving Mode, which I argued earlier in the Display section wouldn't impact battery consumption since the display isn't AMOLED. Still, it was interesting to see how much of an impact it would make.
The following are the test conditions for the three tests. Note that the display is calibrated to 150 nits, which is 37% of the Lynx's brightness bar for all tests and that the battery has been calibrated prior to testing:
- Looping video—A 1 1/2 hour 720p H.264 video is played on loop until the battery level reaches 20%. Hardware decoding is used for the video and software decoding is used for audio. Earphones are plugged and volume is set to maximum. ClearMotion is enabled.
- 3D gaming—A graphics-intensive 3D game is run on loop until the battery level reaches 20%. The built-in loudspeaker is used and volume is set to 50%.
Battery Tests Results
6 hours 20 minutes
6 hours 52 minutes
2 hours 53 minutes
Looping video (with Display Power Saving enabled)
6 hours 26 minutes
Wifi browsing (with Display Power Saving enabled)
7 hours 9 minutes
As expected, the Screen Saving Mode had very minimal impact on battery life. Switching it on only allowed the battery to last a few more minutes. The real benefit of the Screen Saving Mode is that it allows the user to turn the brightness all the way down without affecting legibility much. It's sort of like turning the display into e-ink, because that is more or less what it looks like with Screen Saving Mode enabled. The real battery savings comes from turning down the brightness as the LED backlight is what consumes power significantly. This makes the Screen Saving Mode great when you're low on battery and only need to call and text. It's also great for web browsing if you're looking at mostly text.
The MTK6592M on the Lynx appears to be notably more frugal than the regular MTK6592. Even with the bump in display resolution, the Lynx posted a noticeable improvement over the Excite 501o in the 3D gaming and web browsing battery test. Activities that tax the processor frequently or continuously for long periods benefit from lower peak consumption and therefore longer battery life. Standby battery life is also good, barely consuming any power over a 24-hour period. The Lynx should last at least two days frequently doing activities such as opening Facebook, texting, tweeting, making phone calls, etc. Users can also expect at least three hours of 3D gaming at lower brightness settings before the battery is drained.
Out of the box, the battery meter is fairly linear and accurate and should provide the user reliable information to help budget your battery without doing an initial calibration. As for charging speeds, it takes between 2 hours 15 minutes and 2 hours 30 minutes to fully charge the battery from 10% to 100% using the stock charger while the phone is on standby.
Audio quality on the Lynx is quite a bit better than any MTK6582 or MTK6592 device I've heard before. The sound is flat overall, and it very plays well with V-shaped or bass-oriented audio gear. Its dynamic range is above average, and it has a rather wide soundstage and a smooth, mellow handle on highs and upper mids that makes female pop vocals on V-shaped audio gear sound alive, with good clarity and minimal sibilance even on sibilant gear. Listening to Celine Dion's It's All Coming Back To Me using the TTPod T1E on the Lynx was simply joyous—the belts roar but stay smooth without rolling off. Spine-tingling stuff.
The Lynx may come off as bass light at first due to its fairly flat sound, but using bass-heavy gear like Nuforce IEMs with some equalizer tweaks brings out thumping sub-bass. Mid-bass is lacking, but can also be brought forward using the equalizer without introducing noticeable distortion—even with 6 dB or so added to frequencies in the 125 Hz to 500 Hz range. The power delivery is pretty clean, which makes the Lynx versatile when it comes to equalizer adjustments.
The power delivery on the Lynx is clean, with no hiss or unwanted peaks at maximum volume, but the power output itself is average. As such, the Lynx is only suited to driving less demanding audio gear. Most IEMs and earphones will definitely not be a problem, although very few demanding ones like the Havi B3 Pro cannot be driven adequately by the Lynx. This is expected since neither the iPhone 6 nor Note 3, both of which have noticeably more powerful outputs, could drive my B3 Pro adequately. Lower impedance (32 ohms or lower) headphones with 40 mm drivers can also be driven by the Lynx, but only barely and at maximum volume. Headphones with 50 mm drivers like the Superlux HD668B and Takstar HD6000 are a problem and will be devoid of low frequencies without the use of an external amp.
It may not sound as good as high-end devices off the bat, particularly because of the average power output, but the Lynx does sound very good indeed with the right equalizer tweaks and paired with the right audio gear. The Lynx plays particularly nice with IEMs with a V-shaped sound, and the good thing is most of the great and popular IEMs have a V-shaped sound. These include the Philips SHE3590, Xiaomi Pistons, Awei ES800M/ES800i, KZ ED Special Edition, and TTPod T1E, to name a few. Lastly, the Lynx's 3.5 mm port is CTIA compliant, which means that headsets (earphones/headphones with a microphone) that work on well-known brands like Samsung, Sony and LG will also work on the Lynx.
As for the loudspeaker, it has above-average volume when using simpler ringtones and notifications, such as the classic Nokia SMS tone and analog phone ringer. The volume of the loudspeaker for music playback is average. However, since the loudspeaker is almost completely covered while the Lynx is on top of a flat surface, some users will have trouble hearing the phone ring if they place it with its back flat against a material that muffles noise.
The Lynx has an 8 GB ROM, 6.03 GB of which is available to the user. This is expandable to 64 GB via the micro SD card slot and the phone supports the installation of apps onto the SD card. Just set the default storage to "SD card" under Storage in Options. Once set, any app installations including their data and OBB files are saved to the micro SD card. Pictures and video taken by the camera and screenshots will also saved to the micro SD card.
There is also a feature called HotKnot, which functions like NFC. It's a near-field communication solution that works by translating to data the electrical charge changes that occur when two capacitive screens touch each other. You can exchange data by simply making two HotKnot-enabled device "kiss," or having the phones' screens touch each other. Unfortunately, this function is only available on devices with the latest MediaTek chipsets (MTK6592 and newer).
Also, I unfortunately do not have any other device with HotKnot to demonstrate with the Lynx, so I cannot comment on how effective the technology is. Instead, I will show you the video below, which demos its use:
Aside from ClearMotion, Screen Saving Mode, and HotKnot, the Lynx also has other goodies located under Settings then Action. Most notable under this section are the Tapping Wake and Quick Start functions. Tapping Wake is the Double Tap to Wake function you often find on LG phones. You just need to tap the display twice to wake it up from standby. Similarly, once Quick Start is enabled, you can just draw a letter with your finger while the phone is on standby and it will automatically go to the app the letter is assigned to. For example, if you draw the letter "C" with your fingers while the display is off, it will automatically turn on the camera. If you draw letter "M," it will go to the music player.
There are also other functions such as flipping over the phone to mute a call, or waving your hand over the proximity sensor to answer it, etc. But the Tapping Wake and Quick Start contribute the most to usability.
A USB OTG function is also available which means various USB devices such as keyboards, mice, flash drives, USB hubs, gamepads/controllers, etc can be used on the Lynx. However, external hard drives cannot be read by the Lynx because its USB port cannot supply enough power to make the hard drive run.
Call quality is pretty good on the Lynx for both the caller and the receiver. The microphone has good pickup and isn't susceptible to volume spikes and wind noise. It's also decent at filtering ambient sound, so the receiver can still hear you clearly in noisy environments. Even with the lack of a noise cancellation mic, nearby/ambient chatter isn't too intrusive except in very noisy public areas, where you will need to cover the area between your mouth and the microphone.
The single band 2.4 GHz WiFi on the Lynx is very good for a device equipped with a MediaTek chipset, as most MediaTek devices I've tried have distinctly subpar WiFi compared to devices equipped with a chipset from other manufacturers. The Lynx has very good WiFi range and strength. It was almost as good as or on par with the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, LG G2 Mini, and Lenovo S90 Sisley in a side-by-side comparison of WiFi strength. It should be noted that all those phone use a Qualcomm chipset. Signal strength is particularly good as it manages to latch onto a signal even with plenty of physical obstructions.
Like with the WiFi, the GPS performance isn't a strong point of MediaTek chipsets. For starters, the Lynx only has access to GPS, unlike chipsets from Qualcomm that have access to Russia's GLONASS constellation. However, the Lynx's GPS lock-on speed was surprisingly fast—much faster than the Excite 501o, which I already considered fast for a MediaTek-equipped device. This is probably due to the better antenna setup on the Lynx as I noticed the Lynx finds satellites almost as quickly as my Galaxy Note 3 while using GPS Test. The very first lock-on without any A-GPS data preloaded took a mere 47 seconds. With the A-GPS cache cleared, but already calibrated due to the first lock, it only took the Lynx 30 seconds to get a lock.
Despite the good lock-on performance, the accuracy of the GPS is a bit disappointing. I did a side-by-side test, placing the Lynx and the Galaxy Note 3 in my car's cupholders. I found that the Lynx's locks were quite stable, but according to the tracking log, it kept going off the road. In comparison, the Galaxy Note 3 usually stayed on the road except when the lock was weak and it would reacquire a lock immediately.
Lastly, the Lynx does not have a magnetic sensor, which means it cannot be used as a compass offline.
Oh wow. There isn't really much to say except "Wow!" The Lynx manages to redeem SKK Mobile's rep after the Phoenix X1 managed to make it the laughing stock of the local tech scene in 2014 ended.
The Phoenix X1 had several problems:
- It was hyped by SKK Mobile for months.
- Very few could buy it because of its sparse availability.
- Turns out it had subpar performance.
But truly, the Lynx redeems SKK Mobile by being an exceptionally good phone for the price. It's exceptional in almost all aspects: display, performance, camera, design and build quality, audio quality, connectivity, and overall feature set. The only reasonable complaint would be that battery life is average.
The Lynx mercilessly crushes any and all competition as of this writing, not on the spec sheet, but real-world usability and performance. It has:
- A great-looking display that belongs on a mid-range device
- Great gaming performance
- A rear camera that doesn't shy away from a shootout against much more expensive phones
- Good 1080p video recording
- A good selfie camera
- Sound build quality
- Design with an executive flair
- Great audio quality
- Solid wireless connectivity
- ClearMotion for videos
- A nifty power-saving mode that makes the display look like e-ink
- A USB OTG
Those are a lot of pluses. Now, if it only had even better battery life and possibly LTE. But perhaps that's already too much to ask of a device that costs only 3,999 Php, or $90 USD.
Now that SKK Mobile has established that it can bring such products here, one has to ask: What else is there to improve aside from bringing even better devices at the same or lower price points? Well, for one, SKK Mobile can develop a own signature "look" for its software. For instance, it could develop a modified camera stack on its devices, complete with a unique UI. The stock Jellybean camera UI and feature set found on MediaTek-equipped phones from local brands hasn't changed for the past two years. It's boring and inconvenient. Or a complete UI overlay like TouchWiz on Samsung or Emotion UI on Huawei that overhauls the UI from top to bottom for a distinctive but familiar appeal, not just a launcher that changes the look of the home screen. It's small things like these that slowly help build a brand identity in the consumer tech industry.
For SKK Mobile to establish a brand identity that sets them apart from all the "me too" local brands, they must have the best. What's the use of having 30+ phones in your product line-up when nobody wants to buy any of them? They should have a few models that everyone wants, and not a dozen or so models nobody wants. It's not about numbers. It's about having the best and being consistent at it. And currently, SKK Mobile has the best with their Lynx. Hopefully, this isn't a one-time trick and that in the future, they can release fewer but equally or more desirable models.
- MTK6592M chipset provides excellent performance
- 5.0" 1280x720 AHVA display is currently the best at this price
- Excellent camera with reliable performance and very good image quality in low light
- Very good front-facing facing camera
- Executive appeal, good ergonomics, good build and choice of materials
- Great audio quality
- Strong wireless connectivity and GPS performance
- ClearMotion tangibly improves experience of watching video
- Unique power-saving mode that makes the display look like e-ink
- Double Tap to Wake function
- USB OTG
- Average battery life
- Loudspeaker is easily covered
- LED flash overexposes very close subjects (Update as of April 4, 2015: Fixed by latest OTA update)
Official SKK Mobile Lynx Specs
5.0" HD IPS Display, 1280x720 resolution
1.4GHz MediaTek MTK6592M octa-core processor
1GB of RAM
8GB of ROM, with micro SD slot expandable up to 64 GB
13 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash
5 megapixel front camera
Wi-Fi, Wireless Display, USB OTG, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, HotKnot
Dual SIM, Dual Standby
2,500 mAh Battery
Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
SRP: 3,999 Php
This section may be updated in the future. Here, I'll include phones that best compete with the SKK Mobile Lynx.
Xiaomi Redmi 1S
Current price: 4,999 Php
The Xiaomi Redmi 1S is now priced at 4,999 Php following the announcement of the Redmi 2. It offers a smaller and slightly inferior 4.7" 1280x720 IPS display. It also has a snappy Snapdragon 400 with Cortex A7 cores running at rather high 1.6 GHz, as they usually run at 1.2 or 1.4 GHz. Gaming performance is almost as good, but not as fast as the Lynx. The camera is also on the same page as far as good lighting and videos are concerned. It may not have the ClearMotion and "Tap to Wake" found on the Lynx, but its overall feature set and capabilities are almost identical to the Lynx. Where the Redmi 1S shines is MIUI, which offers a unique and polished iOS-like experience while retaining Android's flexibility. The Redmi 1S simply has the more refined software. However, the Redmi 1S's availability is limited as it can usually only be purchased at Lazada.
Xiaomi Redmi 2
Current price: 5,999 Php
The successor to the Redmi 1S will be arriving in the Philippines soon, and it retains nearly all the good qualities of the Redmi 1S such as a 720p IPS display, dual SIM, GLONASS support and MIUI. And now it has a slightly upgraded chipset, LTE connectivity, Gorilla Glass, and fast charging. However, the Redmi 2 appears to have a slightly worse camera than the Redmi 1S. The performance of the Snapdragon 410 is also not a match for the MTK6592M. The Redmi 2's biggest draw is LTE and MIUI. But like the Redmi 1S, its availability is sure to be sparse, and it's usually only available at Lazada.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.