TP-Link Neffos N1 Review

What would you expect from a smartphone in 2018: An 18:9 Display? Dual cameras on the rear? Minimal bezels? USB Type-C? TP-Link’s affordable Neffos N1 has two of them, but they are probably not the two that you are expecting.

With a 16:9 display and large chins above and below the display, is the Neffos N1 one big outdated flop or is there more to this device? Most importantly, is it worth your money? Without further ado, here is my review of the Neffos N1.


Summary – An Underrated Budget Device

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Glass screen protector included
  • Volume slider for easy muting
  • Wide-angle selfie camera
  • USB Type-C
  • Fast charging
  • Beautiful themes
  • Minimal bloatware & duplicate apps
  • Affordable price tag

Cons:

  • Ugly top and bottom chin
  • Back too slippery, easy to drop
  • Stutters and heats up while playing heavy games
  • Selfie camera poor focus

Pricing & Variants – Only Black and 64GB…

Only available in black, with 64GB of storage and 4GB RAM.

In Singapore, the Neffos N1 is priced at S$368 and is only available in one color and storage configuration: Black with 64GB ROM and 4GB RAM. 64GB is the most storage you will find on a device this price in Singapore, so no complains.

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Design – Slippery

Huge top and bottom chin. Not the most original design, but still looks really good and build quality is excellent. Slippery back, so get a case.

On the front of the Neffos N1 sits a 5.5″ 16:9 display, surrounded by relatively small side bezels but thick top and bottom chin. With bezels are getting smaller and smaller on phones, it is a little disappointing to see such thick chins on the Neffos N1.

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The Neffos N1’s button layout is similar to that of the OnePlus 5. The power button is located on the right, with a hybrid SIM tray above it. On the opposite side, we have the volume buttons, as well as the life-saving textured mute switch.

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Imagine sitting in a lecture room when suddenly, you remembered that you did not mute your phone. Instead of waking the display to turn on silent mode, which may make you look disrespectful, you can use the switch to mute the device.

On the top is a microphone and below, we have a 3.5mm audio jack (yay!), USB Type-C port (another yay!) and a speaker grill.

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Moving to the rear, you may find this design a little familiar… That’s right, the Neffos N1 looks a lot like the Huawei P10, but that isn’t a bad thing. It is bold and sleek, and the rear cameras do not protrude. I would love to see a white or red N1.

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Build quality is superb, comparable to some devices that cost twice as much. The metal is cool to the touch under air-con, though it heats up quite a bit under the sun as well. With a decent heft to it, this device feels really premium in the hand.

It is a little slippery though, so you are likely to drop it if you do not use a case. Speaking of cases, the N1 doe not come with one. Considering how rare Neffos devices are in Singapore*, you may have difficulties finding a shop that sells one.

*Sorry TP-Link, but that is the truth. 😔


Display – Good Enough, Nothing More

Still 16:9, but not a bad display.

Unlike most phones coming out in 2018, the Neffos N1 still uses a 16:9 display. While 18:9 provides more display area in apps like Facebook and Chrome, there are some apps that are still screen-optimized only for 16:9, so I shall not complain.

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This 5.5″ FHD IPS LCD display offers great viewing angles, is plenty bright and pretty sharp at 403ppi, but it is a little on the cool side and blacks are not very deep.


Performance – Benchmarks Actual Usage

Excels in benchmarks but struggle in actual usage.

Beneath the hood of the Neffos N1 is a MediaTek Helio P25 processor, with 4GB RAM. In AnTuTu and GeekBench 4, the N1’s score was similar to that of the Snapdragon 625 powered Redmi 5 Plus. Can we expect similar performance in real life?

Unfortunately, this is an example of how benchmarks do not always reflect the true performance of a device. Scrolling through the UI was smooth, but play some heavy games like PUBG Mobile (at low graphics), the amount of stutter is unbearable.

The device also heated up quite a bit while playing PUBG Mobile, with most of the heat concentrated at the top.


Rear Camera – 2x the Camera, 2x the Fun!

RGB + monochrome sensors, capable of great photos even at night. Bokeh is not perfect but fun.

The Neffos N1 has dual cameras on its rear: a 12MP RGB on the left, and a 12MP monochrome on the right. Neffos wasn’t specific about the other specs: we only know that at least one of them have f/2.0 aperture and at least one have 1.25µm pixel size.

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Neffos N1’s camera app has quite a bit of features for a budget phone. On the viewfinder screen, there is a HDR, beautify and bokeh mode toggle. Swipe left, you will see a list of modes, including a “PRO” manual mode. Swipe right for filters.

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Photos taken with the Neffos N1’s rear camera looks great under bright conditions, but that is to be expected from most phones today. The bokeh mode is really fun to use, but its edge detection isn’t perfect, often blurring out parts of the subject.

But where it really shines is at night. Zoom in on the red flower photo below and you can still see the water droplets on the petals. Also, colors stay very vibrant at night, though there is a little bit of a blue tint in all RGB images.

You might be wondering: turning a RGB photo monochrome versus taking a photo with the monochrome sensor, what is the difference? I took the same photo using the mono filter and the monochrome mode and here is what I got:

Both photos are taken under low lighting. As you can see, the image taken with the monochrome sensor is a lot brighter, with more details and less noise. So much nicer!

There is a long exposure “traffic flow” mode, but you can forget about taking photos with this mode. The cameras on the Neffos N1 are just not good enough under low light to be able to produce decent looking long exposure shots.

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HDR on the Neffos N1 does a great job at increasing dynamic range. It does increase the saturation a little, but not to the extent where it looks artificial, like many other phones do.

Proud of your Neffos N1? You can add the Neffos N1 watermark to all your photos. (Enable it in the settings of the camera app)

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Moving on to video recording, the Neffos N1 is capable of shooting up to 4K at 26.69fps. The video looks sharp with great colors and focusing doesn’t seem to be an issue. (Sorry for the portrait video. The device did not detect the orientation correctly)

N1 recorded the video in portrait. To avoid quality lost, I uploaded the video to Google Drive. Download to view it here.

Taking 720p slow motion videos require ample lighting, but under artificial lighting it still looks acceptable, despite losing focus sometimes. After taking a slow mo video, you have the flexibility of choosing which parts of the video to slow down.


Front Camera – Wide Angle Wefies!

Wide angle! Has difficulties with focus, but photo quality is acceptable when you consider its price.

With a 86° wide angle 8MP front-facing camera, you are going to have a lot of fun taking selfies and wefies with Neffos N1. It does have some issues focusing though, so pictures do not turn out very sharp. But for Instagram, the quality is good enough.

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Under artificial lighting, the focusing problem gets worst and colors do not look too pleasing (accidentally deleted the photo). As for low light photos, you can expect a lot of noise, but it is still alright considering the price of the device.

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Audio – Does Not Disappoint

Better than expected.

The single bottom-firing speaker on the Neffos N1 is pretty good for an under S$400 device. At max volume, it is similar in loudness as the Redmi 5 and the audio sounds richer.

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Comparing the headphone jack audio of the Neffos N1 to the Redmi 5 (using my JBL Synchos S300i), the N1 had less emphasis on trebles, producing sound that is more detailed and colorful, with a better balance. Not bad.


Battery Life – Fast Charging Makes Up for Small Battery

Lasts the whole day on moderate usage. Fast charging is quite fast as long as you do not charge to full.

Powering the Neffos N1 is a 3260mAh battery. With such a small battery, how is the endurance of the Neffos N1? How fast can the Neffos N1 charge with the included fast charging wall adapter?

As I only had 2 full days to test the Neffos N1 (before going back to camp), my battery test for the Neffos N1 will be less thorough than usual. In this moderate to heavy usage test, the N1 drained from 100% to 5% in 11h, with a screen-on time of 4h 36min.

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  • Total duration: 11h
  • Screen-on time: 4h 36min
  • PUBG Mobile: 3h 25min
  • Music: 20min
  • Some photography
  • SIM card always inserted

Considering the size of the battery, the results of the test is not unexpected. With light to moderate usage though, the Neffos N1 should get you through an entire day on a single charge.

The Neffos N1 supports fast charging, but how fast is it? Using the wall adapter and Type-C cable that came in the box, the N1 went from 3% to 46% in the first 30 minutes. After an hour, the phone was at 85%. Not too shabby.

To get the Neffos N1 to 100%, you need approximately 1h 50min. But even with an hour’s worth of charging, the 80% juice should be enough to get you through the entire day.


WiFi – Is It the Fastest? Not Really

Not as impressive as TP-Link claimed on their website.

Neffos claims that the N1 is tuned by the world’s No.1 WiFi lab, so the N1 should get better WiFi speeds than the competition right? That depends on which device you are comparing it to.

For this test, I compared the WiFi speeds of the Neffos N1 to my iPhone SE, Redmi Note 4, Redmi 5 and Lenovo A7000. The N1’s speed was much faster than the Redmi 5 and A7000, but was nowhere near as fast as the iPhone SE and Redmi Note 4.

Note that the Redmi Note 4 I have is running Lineage OS.


Software – Clean, Sleek & Easy to Use

Other than lack of app drawer, very close to stock, with minimal unnecessary apps. Easy to learn.

Neffos N1 runs NFUI 7.0 on top of Android 7.1.1 out of the box. If you are a fan of stock Android, you will love NFUI. While it may not have an app drawer, it is very close to stock Android in many aspects, including the layout of the UI.

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One thing I love about NFUI is the lack of duplicate apps: Google’s Chrome, Play Music, Photos and Calendar are the only pre-installed browser, music, gallery and calendar apps on the N1. Bloatware is also minimal or can be uninstalled.

Another thing that makes NFUI one of my favorite Android skin till date is the theme engine. While you do not get to download more themes, the 7 included ones are among the best looking themes I have ever seen. Sweet!

NFUI comes with some really nifty features and they all work really well, like split screen and screen-off gestures. While NFUI may not be as feature-packed as some Android skins like MIUI and EMUI, all of the features it has are pretty well refined.

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Overall, I can confidently say that NFUI 7.0 is one of the friendliest and easiest to learn Android skin I have ever used.


Conclusion – More Than Meets the Eye

Do not let the 16:9 display mislead you. With a respectable dual camera setup on the rear, superb build quality and a fantastic UI, the Neffos N1 is an excellent device for its price. I do wish Neffos had gone with a Snapdragon processor though.

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