Allview X4 Soul is one of the phones we’ve tested over the past year, so let’s get to the brass tax and churn out the full review of the device. In case the handset it’s familiar to you, it’s actually the Gionee S9 in a local Romanian branded version. In the Gionee version it came out in November last year, while the Allview one came out in February 2017. The price is $371.

This upper midrange handset is a dual SIM machine and also a dual cam machine. It’s also a good looking midranger and in its best moments it can be a cheaper iPhone 7 Plus dual camera alternative. On the design front, we’ve got an elegant approach here, possibly making this the most elegant Allview/Gionee phone ever. It’s got a 2.5D glass panel upfront and the back side feels like you’re touching an iPhone.

It’s possibly the most iPhone-inspired Allview handset I’ve seen, without actually being a real clone of it. The Gionee S9 measures 7.4 mm in thickness, weighs 167.5 grams and it’s just 0.1 mm thicker than the iPhone 7 Plus, but it’s also 20 grams lighter. Huawei P9 Plus is lighter though and slimmer. The handset is 97% made of metal and it’s got a very good grip.

There are comfy buttons here and you can easily use the device with one hand. The black version of the phone is elegant for sure and we loved the solid build of it and lack of compromises. We go into the display section, where we find an IPS LCD Full HD 5.5 inch panel with 2.5D curvature and full lamination. There’s also In Cell technology, Gorilla Glass protection and narrow bezels.

The video player we’ve got here comes with DTS support and a Pop Up Play feature. The visual experience offers good brightness, good colors, a so-so contrast, wide angles and crisp imagery. The pixels have an RGB Stripes arrangement and the luxmeter showed us a value of 436 LUX, which is good. It beats the Huawei Mate 8 and Huawei Honor 8, but scores below the HTC One A9 and Allview X3 Soul Pro.

There are of course settings for the screen, including Adaptive Brightness, economical backlight, font style, font size, sleep, Skylight, multitasking style (native or card), plus Smart Protect Eye with a slider included. We’ve got a good display overall. Let’s talk about the other hardware now. We’ve got an octa core MediaTek Helio P10 CPU here, clocked at 2 GHz and honestly I expected a newer chipset, to be honest.

There’s 4 GB of RAM in the mix, 64 GB of storage and a microSD card slot. We didn’t experience any lag and the UI was quite fluid. The games run fine, without any frame rate drops and with solid graphics. Performance was good, but let’s let the benchmarks talk. We did Quadrant and beat the Galaxy A5 (2016) and HTC One A9, but scored below the HTC One M8.

In AnTuTu 6 we surpassed the Moto M and Huawei Honor 7, but scored below the ASUS ZenFone 3 and Huawei Nova. In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited we scored a pretty poor result, only slightly above HTC One M7. GFXBench was also quite low in result. I would say results are close to Moto M and Huawei P9 Lite. We also did some temperature testing and achieved 32.9 degrees after running GFXBench and 38.8 degrees in Riptide GP Renegade, so there’s no overheating.

Moving on to the battery, we’ve got a Li-Po 3000 mAh unit and a 5V/2A charger in the mix. On paper we are promised 428 hours of standby time and 878 minutes of talk time. You can also use the bundled USB OTG cable to charge other phones. We also did our own tests and achieved 8 hours and 40 minutes of video playback, which is not very impressive, but it’s rather mid level.

It beats the Galaxy Note 4 and Xperia Z5, but scores below the UMi Touch. In PCMark we scored a rather modest 6 hours and 56 minutes, which only beats the Nexus 6P and Huawei P9 Lite. It’s no match for the Huawei Honor 4X and Vernee Thor, though. Charging requires 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is reasonable even for today’s requirements. It’s better than the Allview X2 Xtreme for sure and Huawei P8 Lite.

OnePlus 2 is better for example. There are also special settings for the battery, like Intelligent Power Saving in Sleep Mode, Power Manager with modes like Normal, Power Saving Move and Extreme Mode. The latest only lets you use basic apps and that’s it. Battery optimization is also here. In the end it’s just mid level performance, nothing record breaking.

Time to talk about acoustics. We’ve got two grilles at the bottom, but only the right one is actually a speaker. There’s a typical Allview music player here, with a minimal UI, DTS mode and headphone type options. Effects include Classic, Dance, Folk, Rock etc. We also found an User option, with 5 custom channels. When the speaker got put to the test we found it to be quite loud, clear and the bass was OK.

I enjoyed the high notes and the lack of vibration of the back side. It’s a good experience all around. We also did a decibelmeter test, achieving 89.2 decibels at the front and back using our typical sample, plus 92.7 decibels when playing the game Riptide GP Renegade, which is top 10 material for sure.

It’s superior to the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S6 for sure. The headphones bundled with this Allview phone are comfy, typical Allview material, they have a nice build, plus they’re loud and clear. Noise canceling also works out fine. There’s also FM radio here, by the way. So I guess it’s time to cover that dual camera! At the back of the Gionee S9/Allview X4 Soul we find a 13 megapixel shooter with F/2.0 aperture accompanied bu a 5 MP sensor, too. The secondary one has F/2.2 aperture.

The main sensor is borrowed from the Xperia XA and Allview P9 Energy by the way. The secondary cam has 4 lenses and takes depth of field info capture. There’s also an LED flash here and Bokeh effects. Selfies are taken by a 13 MP F/2.2 shooter with 80 degree lens and its own lens. The Camera app starts up fast, it’s got an OK focus speed, fluid zoom and fast picture taking.

The camera is generous on the settings and modes, so there’s anti banding, grid, geotag, timer, resolution and HDR. The Modes are as follows:

  • Card Scanner
  • Mood Photo
  • Take Anytime
  • Smart Scan
  • Translation
  • Pro
  • Smart Scene
  • Pic Note
  • Panorama
  • Slow Motion
  • GIF
  • Night
  • Time Lapse
  • Text Recognition

There’s a separate Bokeh mode, that lets you choose to focus on the background of foreground and blur the former or latter. Face Beauty is also here, tweaking the eyes, slimming the face and more. We move on to the Gallery, taken on a pretty sunny day in mid February and as it happens I also had a Huawei Mate 9 with me, so I’ll draw some comparisons.

Somehow this Allview phone held its own in front of the Huawei powerhouse. Clarity was good, dynamic range too and the colors were well calibrated. Details were good and when zooming in we didn’t register any big detail loss. Some pictures were strangely dark, for some reason and the camera caught less light than the bigshots and compared to some midrangers even.

The HDR was rather good, bright and crisp, no exaggerate lighting. I loved the closeups that this smartphone pulls, all the texture, details and simply the quality of the shots. The Bokeh of that Donald Duck toy was very nice and you could fool someone it was taken with a Huawei P9 or P10 I’d say.

The selfies were rather underwhelming I’d say and the front camera can’t quite handle the sun. The skin texture of the selfies was reasonable, though. The Panorama was at 6816 x 1824 pixels, which is rather modest, but clarity and exposure were OK. Closeups are the strong suit of the device for sure. It’s basically an Allview P9 Energy with an extra cam and Bokeh.

I’d put it on par with the Galaxy A5 (2016) and Huawei Nova and I think that only the selfies need improving. There are some dynamic range problems and you should probably avoid having the sun behind you. The Bokeh was as good as I’ve seen on the best dual camera models, iPhone 7 Plus included. Low light capture featured big street light halos, some annoying blue hues and the flash made things even more blue.

Lighting was OK, but some clarity was lost in the nooks and crannies of the city. I feel that it’s Allview X4 Soul is nothing special when the sun goes and it’s inferior compared to the ASUS ZenFone 3 for example. It’s superior to a Huawei Honor phone though. On the video capture front, we were dabbling with MP4, Full HD, 30 FPS and 17 Mbps.

The microphone was particularly good and we registered some nice exposure change, realistic clors, but details dropped when zooming in. I got a kick out of the slow mo clip and I found that the electronic image stabilization wasn’t half bad. It reminded me of the iPhone 6, that films very well for a non OIS machine. Focus remained strong throughout filming and the weak points were the microphone when facing the wind and the details in the distance.

I found that the exposure changes in steps sometimes, taking a long while and being annoying. Focus and lighting were quite good. I’d say that filming is just OK and reasonable here, not a record breaker. I doesn’t have major flaws, but also no major prizes to receive. It feels like your average cheaper ZenFone or Huawei Honor maybe. ASUS ZenFone 3 and Huawei Nova are better for sure.

Low light video happened in 14 FPS and 8 Mbps frame rate and bitrate respectivelly. The result? Well, underwhelming, foggy, yellow and there was ghosting. However, the microphone was solid through this. The zoom is rather poor and the resulting images are poor too, at night time. Halos were big, the image was shaky and in general the video capture was forgettable at night. It’s basically like any other Allview at night.

Now since we’re done with the camera, let’s analyze other things. The web browser is a pretty much stock one, a bit on the slow side. Chrome is faster for sure, but its benchmarks tested a bit low. The virtual keyboard is the stock one with Swype included. Let’s talk about connectivity now. Allview X4 Soul supports LTE Category 6, FDD/TDD LTE, has dual nano SIM slots, Bluetooth 4.0, HD voice and HSDPA. There’s WiFi a/b/g/n supported here, WiFi Direct, microUSB 2.0 and too bad there’s no USB Type-C, since that’s the standard now.

No NFC here, by the way. The Dialer section includes a Black List, Speed Dial and the calls were loud and clear, plus the noise canceling was solid. We also did a Speedtest and achieved 63 Mbps in download and 47 Mbps in upload. On WiFi we scored 73 Mbps on download and 25 Mbps in upload. This is within normal limits I’d say. Allview X4 Soul runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Allview UI on top, an UI called Visual UI 1.1.

There’s a carousel multitasking here and you’ll swipe down for notifications and swipe up for a Control Center. It includes 8 shortcuts for functions like Fake Call, Super Screenshot and Split Screen. If you keep the homescreen pressed you triggered the apps, widgets (3D ones for weather are nice) and effects. If you swipe to the side on the Home button you’ll activate a side menu that mimics the behaviour of the Galaxy S7 Edge side shortcuts on the curved edge.

It’s basically a list of apps. Settings include Do Not Disturb, Guest Mode, Anti Call Record and then there’s the fingerprint scanner. We’ve got a 10 step setup, that offers a fast and precise unlock. Allview also provides a set of smart gestures, like Smart Dial, Smart Answer and extras like Suspend Button, Global Beauty, Smart Protect Eye and more.

We counted the preinstalled apps, 57 of them and that’s a lot, but at least you can uninstall some. The list includes Bitdefender Mobile Security, Child Mode, Chameleon, Excel, OneDrive, Word, Notes, Skype, Snapseed, Trip Plan, Video Editor, System Manager and more.

Time for the verdict!

Here are the Pros:

  • elegant and pretty
  • nice Bokeh capture
  • good camera
  • bright screen
  • OK performance
  • power bank feature
  • loud and clear acoustics
  • good fingerprint scanner

And the Cons:

  • battery could be better
  • unimpressive selfies
  • low light doesn’t convince
  • exposure changes in steps and that’s annoying
  • no Android Nougat
  • bloatware

Basically if you don’t have money for Huawei Mate 9 and iPhone 7 Plus, you can go ahead and buy this phone, whatever its name and brand is. The Bokeh action is on point, on par with the greats, the battery isn’t half bad, but the low light capture is weak. Performance and the overall feel are winners and I feel I’d take this one over the Huawei P9 Lite or even the Huawei P10 Lite.

In some bits it could also compete with the Huawei Nova and ZenFone 3, but it’s not as complete as you’d want.