Ulefone Armor 9: Outdoor smartphone with thermal imaging camera
Ulefone is one of the Chinese manufacturers that have been around forever, focusing on battery and outdoor smartphones. The latest coup is the Ulefone Armor 9, with integrated thermal imaging camera, huge battery and interesting accessories.
- Ulefone Armor 9
- at AliExpress for $453.59 (US Warehouse) | Amazon for $597.99 – activate $32 coupon
- Amazon.co.uk for £449.99 | Amazon.de for 514,99€ | Amazon.com.au for $986.81
Technical data of the Ulefone Armor 9
|Display||6,3″ IPS LCD, FullHD+ (1080 x 2340p), 409 PPI|
|Processor||MediaTek Helio P90 @ 2.2 & 2.0 GHz|
|Graphics chip||PowerVR GM9446 @ 970 MHz|
|Main memory||8 GB LPDDR4X|
|Internal memory||128 GB (microSD to 256 GB)|
|Main camera||64 MP Samsung GW1 f/1.89, 2 MP portrait camera f/2.0, FLIR thermal imaging camera|
|Front camera||8 MP with f/2.2 aperture in Waterdrop Notch|
|Battery||6.600 mAh with 18 Watt|
|Connectivity||WLAN ac, Bluetooth 5, LTE, GPS/GLONASS/BDS/Galileo, Hybrid SIM, USB-C|
|Features||fingerprint sensor on the side, Smart Button, NFC, notification LED, IP68/IP69K rating|
|Operating system||Android 10|
|Dimensions / Weight||168.2 x 82 x 15 mm / 320 g|
The outdoor claim is written in the face of the Ulefone Armor 9. A relatively wide screen border surrounds the 6.3 inch display. Ulefone does not go for a punch-hole solution, instead there is the “good old” Waterdrop-Notch at the top of the screen. Above it is the auricle, closely followed by three millimeter thick silicone. The entire housing frame is divided into silicone (top and bottom) and metal (right and left). The display is not rounded at the four corners, but bevelled and protected at all points by the silicone bumper.
You look at a 6.3 inch LC display with a FullHD+ resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels, which results in a pixel density of 410 ppi. That you don’t use AMOLED is probably understandable especially for an outdoor smartphone, better viewing angles are probably more important than the possibility of an always-on display or fingerprint sensor in the display. The fingerprint sensor is located on the right side, above it is the power button and the SIM slot. On the left side there are the two volume buttons, a function button and gold contacts for the attachment of the endoscope camera – yes, you heard right!
The back could hardly be more outdoor. A thick rubber layer protects the whole surface, a thick IP-68 is emblazoned on the middle and above it is the triple camera. The Ulefone Armor 9 is protected against water according to IP68 rating, so it can be up to 1m deep in water for up to 30 minutes and is dustproof. The addition of the name “Armor” is no accident.
The outdoor cell phone is 1.53 cm thick and weighs a proud 320g. The overall workmanship is satisfactory and the Armor 9 has survived a few crashes, but it certainly won’t fit in a skinny jeans pocket.
With huge 6.600 mAh battery
On the board of the Ulefone Armor 9 the MediaTek Helio P90 processor does its job. The Octa-Core processor with 2.2 GHz clock frequency was manufactured in the 12nm procedure and is the second strongest chip from Mediateks P-series and is approximately comparable with the Snapdragon 720G from the Redmi Note 9 Pro. It comes with 8 GB LPPDR4X memory and 128 GB UFS 2.1 memory. This is however expandable by microSD card, according to Ulefone it even supports 2 TB microSD cards. If you need so much memory.
Android 10 runs on the Ulefone smartphone and remains relatively untouched. There is no customized icon pack, but all relevant Google services including certified Play Store, the German language, but also a bit of bloatware. These third party apps are mostly limited to outdoor functions and the features of Armor 9, there is an SOS app, a “toolbox” with compass or flashlight, but also an app for the endoscope and thermal imaging camera.
The thickness of the Ulefone Armor 9 can be partly explained by the 6.600 mAh battery, which should ensure a good battery life. Over the USB-C port at the bottom side 18W charging is possible, which might take some hours in view of the capacity. Wireless charging is not possible.
Ulefone integrates not only a USB-C 2.0 port, but also a 3.5 mm jack connector, both are protected with a silicone cap. Just like the hybrid SIM slot, which offers space for either two nano-SIM cards or one nano-SIM and one microSD card. The integrated LTE Band 20 and 28 can be used via both SIM slots. For outdoor enthusiasts, the manufacturer also installs GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, but also Bluetooth 5.0, Dual Band Wifi and NFC.
Ulefone Armor 9 with thermal imaging camera
For the main camera of the Ulefone Armor 9, the choice falls on the Samsung GW1 sensor with 64 megapixel resolution, which we also know from the Realme X3 SuperZoom, for example. The sensor is a solid choice for its price range and produces usable photos. But you also notice that Ulefone leaves the hardware to itself and hardly any software optimization, which for example Xiaomi still gets the extra 10% quality out of it. The photos are a bit dark, but if you’re out in the wilderness with your phone, you can certainly take nice pictures of nature. There is only a 2 MP portrait sensor, which is unfortunately not more than a gimmick.
The real highlight is the FLIR thermal imaging camera. FLIR is, according to its own statement, “the worldwide market leader in the development, production and distribution of thermal imaging cameras”, so you get quality here. There is a separate app for this and two sensors on the back of the camera, which are needed for the photos. In a short test, we think it works pretty well and it is fun to see who has the coldest hands in the office (answer: Thorben). The thermal imaging camera needs a short time to start, but the app leaves some setting options. You can display the temperature, activate spot measurement, but also create a time lapse.
An endoscope camera is available as an accessory, for which an extra app is also pre-installed. The cable on the camera is approx. 2m long and must be attached firmly to the left side of the Ulefone Armor 9. For this purpose it is necessary to remove a screw from the housing, a screwdriver is included. As soon as the gold contacts are connected, the app starts automatically and you can use the Armor 9 to reach remote places like the drain. But the resolution is pretty poor, in my opinion it is not a really professional solution. At least there are LEDs at the top, so you can also see something and Ulefone includes several attachments.
The Ulefone Armor 9 is the current flagship of the company and offers a sensible overall package for outdoor use. The performance, camera and battery life are very solid, but in this price range you would get much more with Xiaomi with the Poco F2 Pro, for example! This is because Ulefone focuses on outdoor features such as IP68 rating, thermal imaging and endoscope camera, which seem to have been implemented well. For me personally, the cell phone would never be considered a daily-driver simply because of its size and weight. But if you are explicitly looking for such features, you can take a closer look at the Armor 9.To the gadget