While thinner bezels and foldable screens have captivated the attention of many users, a niche of consumers demands more than just a visually appealing device. Ulefone has introduced two rugged smartphones, namely the Ulefone Power Armor 18 Ultra and Armor 18T Ultra, engineered to withstand harsh conditions, from extreme temperatures to dusty landscapes. The surprises within, from design to a thermal camera and temperature measurement sensor, are truly captivating.
In this comprehensive review, we embark on a journey to explore the Power Armor 18 Ultra & Armor 18T Ultra, delving into their design, performance, camera capabilities, and more. By the conclusion, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of whether these rugged contenders shine in their segment, offering a blend of rugged resilience and modern smartphone features. So, we’ll unbox this rugged power, explore its unique design, delve into its impressive technical specifications, and put its capabilities to the test.
Note: Both the Ulefone Power Armor 18 Ultra and 18T Ultra share identical features, differing only in the secondary camera sensor. This review focuses on the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra.
Design & Build Quality
Ulefone has consistently been a prominent player in the rugged smartphone market, known for producing devices that marry durability with striking aesthetics. The Ulefone Power Armor 18 Ultra or 18T Ultra is no exception to this trend. From the moment you lay your eyes on this smartphone, it becomes evident that it is a robust powerhouse designed for extreme conditions. The phone boasts a design that exudes strength and power. Its size alone is impressive, and its rugged build reinforces this image. When holding the smartphone, you can’t help but feel like you’re equipped with a formidable tool. The name “Power Armor” is well-suited to its design philosophy, which prioritizes robustness.
On the front of the smartphone, you’ll find a 6.58-inch FHD+ panel, and the bezels around the screen are neat, but with prominent edges. This display stands out with its vibrant colors and natural color calibration. This level of color accuracy is somewhat unexpected for an LCD panel. Additionally, the display can achieve impressive brightness levels, while still maintaining deep blacks.
One of the standout design features of the Ulefone Power Armor 18 Ultra or 18T Ultra is the rear camera module. It’s not just a mundane camera setup; it’s giving the phone a distinctive and somewhat robotic appearance. Three camera sensors are neatly arranged, including a 108MP main sensor, a dedicated sensor for macro photography, and an 8MP ultra-wide camera. The standout feature here is the Temperature Measurement sensor for Power Armor 18T Ultra, and the Thermal Imaging sensor By FLIR Lepton 3.5 for Power Armor 18T Ultra.
Ulefone has always adhered to high-quality materials in the manufacturing of their smartphones, and this phone is no exception. The smartphone features a robust metal frame, and the side rails are reinforced with metal, ensuring it can withstand the harshest conditions. This rugged device is engineered to endure the toughest challenges. One common concern with rugged smartphones is their ability to survive accidental drops. Ulefone addresses this concern by reinforcing all four corners of the phone. This reinforcement provides extra protection against accidental drops and bumps.
In terms of physical buttons, the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra boasts a customizable key with an orange accent, and accessory pogo-pin style connector, designated as the smart connector for the optional endoscope flexible camera. The power button on the right side not only serves as the device’s primary control but also functions as a reliable fingerprint sensor. This biometric security feature proves responsive and accurate, facilitating swift and secure unlocking.
On the opposite side, the left side houses the volume rockers for seamless audio control and the SIM tray for convenient management of your mobile connections. All buttons are made of durable materials, giving them more solidity. In terms of ports, it’s equipped with a USB Type-C port and a 3.5 mm audio jack. Also, it has dust plugs for its ports, which show its dustproof capability.
The protective accessory case is not just for protection but also as an adapter or connector case. Once fitted into the case, you can then use a selection of clips and buckles to secure your phone on your belt or otherwise. There’s even a separate adjustable mount you can clip into, which is great if you need to secure it in your vehicle. The added protection is a little unnecessary, but the belt clip and carabiner are helpful.
A valuable addition worth considering is the Ulefone endoscope, available in two models: E1 with a single camera and E02 with dual cameras. The E02, equipped with front and side cameras, boasts LEDs for illumination and a convenient switch button. Its 2-meter flexible cable enhances maneuverability. The package incorporates versatile ends like a hook, magnet, or protective case, making it an essential tool for inspecting challenging areas.
When one thinks of rugged smartphones, durability is one of the first considerations. The Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra is not just tough on the outside but also fortified against the elements. With an IP68 and IP69K rating, it offers an impressive level of water and dust resistance. This means the device can survive submersion in water up to a certain depth without any adverse effects. It can operate seamlessly in temperatures ranging from -35°C to 75°C. Such resilience makes it an ideal companion for adventurers and professionals.
To protect against accidental drops and impacts, the Power Armor 18T Ultra is equipped with reinforced corners that absorb shocks and provide additional protection to the device. This engineering design ensures that the smartphone can withstand accidental falls and rough handling. It also boasts MIL-STD-810H certification, a military-grade standard that assesses the device’s ability to withstand various environmental stressors, including vibrations, shocks, humidity, and high altitude. This certification guarantees that the smartphone can endure the rigors of daily life.
The Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra boasts a 6.58-inch IPS display that delivers an FHD+ experience with a resolution of 2408 x 1080. This expansive real estate is complemented by a pixel density of 401 dpi, providing vibrant and sharp images for every visual encounter. The display can reach around 500 nits peak brightness ensures legibility even in well-lit environments. The screen’s clarity and luminosity make it a comfortable companion for various tasks, ranging from casual browsing to multimedia consumption, even in outdoor settings.
It’s worth highlighting that the device allows adjustment of the screen’s refresh rate to offer a choice from 60Hz to 120Hz, to provide remarkably smooth transitions and interactions, making every swipe, scroll, and gaming experience more fluid and responsive. You should know that a higher refresh will affect the device’s battery life, so if that’s your priority, leave it at 60Hz.
The color reproduction on the Power Armor T18T Ultra display is vibrant, rendering images and videos in a captivating manner. The IPS panel offers good color accuracy and impressive contrast, making content come to life with a natural and pleasing vibrancy. Moreover, the display settings allow customization of the visual experience, from adjusting the brightness, and color temperature, and applying night mode, catering to various user preferences.
The screen’s sensitivity is further demonstrated by its ability to handle up to 10 simultaneous touches, unlike some newer iPhone models that support only five. Moreover, the device offers a touch sampling rate that impressively surpasses expectations, delivering optimal responsiveness. The device’s exceptional Corning Gorilla Glass 5 adds to its durability and allows it to withstand drops from heights of up to 1.8 meters. These features make it one of the most secure and rugged smartphones available.
Playing content on YouTube was very smooth. You can play videos at a maximum of 1080p at 60 FPS without any problems or lag, and this is the highest quality you can get. My major issue, however, is the lack of Widevine L1 certification, which restricts the video resolution on most streaming services to a mere 480p. While this does not become an immediate deal breaker, if you like watching your content on your smartphone, this might be an issue. This level may be difficult to find in many Chinese smartphones without exaggeration.
At the heart of these remarkable devices, the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra and 18T Ultra boast a triple-lens camera system, led by a cutting-edge 108MP Samsung HM2 main camera. The HM2 is a very popular choice for rugged designs now, as it’s a massive 108MP 1/1.52” sensor that includes Samsung’s ISOCELL Plus and Smart-ISO technology. The inclusion of a 108MP sensor, a feature typically reserved for mid-range and high-end regular smartphones, places both phones in a league of its own. This sensor’s super high original resolution supports 9-in-1 pixel binning, a technology that captures an abundance of light while maintaining commendable noise control.
The result? Stunningly vivid colors with a remarkable contrast that brings your photos to life. The samples captured on this camera not only meet but exceed expectations, showcasing the device’s prowess in delivering exceptional photography experiences, even in rugged environments.
Beyond the powerful main camera, both phones introduce two more remarkable lenses. The first is the super microscope lens with 60X zoom. What sets this lens apart is its extraordinary close focus, eliminating the need for intricate adjustments to find the perfect focus. The fixed focus allows users to place the device directly on the subject’s surface, offering unparalleled convenience. During shooting, a ring of fill light around the lens illuminates the subject, ensuring clear and detailed shots, even in challenging lighting conditions.
The second addition to Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra its camera setup is the thermal camera, incorporating a thermal imaging camera and a FLIR Lepton 3.5 Sensor with a resolution of 150 x 120. The thermal sensor adds a unique dimension to the 18T Ultra’s capabilities through the ability to explore thermal imaging, making the device invaluable in various applications.
But, Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra has the temperature measurement, which works the same as a regular non-contact thermometer. In the back module between the cameras, there is a sensor that measures the temperature. It can measure body temperatures from 35 to 42°C (accuracy ±0.2°C), object temperatures from -20 to 80°C (accuracy ±0.5°C), and ambient temperatures from -20 to 80°C. To use, hold the device up to aim at the target and tap “Measure” on the screen. The accuracy is quite good, comparable to a regular non-contact thermometer. Historical readings can be viewed at any time.
The Power Armor 18T can record up to 4K 30FPS, although all video is restricted to 30fps, sadly. Also, it lacks any on-sensor image stabilization, resulting in slight jitters in the output video that would need post-processing to clean up for any professional use.
The 32MP Samsung S5KGD1 selfie camera on the front of the phone is also passable, but again, nothing outstanding. The images felt somewhat dull and lifeless, but this is acceptable for a rugged phone. Videos from the selfie camera are restricted to 1080p@30FPS.
Ulefone didn’t prioritize the best camera performance for this device. That’s not to say it’s bad—it’s just best described as utilitarian. Between the main camera, an endoscope, a microscope, and thermal imaging, the Power Armor 18T can handle any kind of surveying needed. It might not be best suited to your Instagram holiday snaps, though.
Performance and Gaming
The Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra sets itself apart by being one of the pioneering smartphones to adopt the advanced MediaTek Dimensity 7050 5G chipset. While this chipset might not be an entirely new addition to the market, it stands as a notable enhancement over its predecessor, the Dimensity 920 5G. Diving into the technical intricacies, this chipset boasts an octa-core processor configuration and is built on the 6nm process. This includes two Cortex-A78 performance cores clocked at an impressive 2.6GHz, along with six Cortex-A55 cores operating at 2.0GHz. This dynamic combination ensures a balance between high-performance tasks and power-efficient operations.
The graphical prowess of the chipset is handled by the Mali-G68 MC4 GPU, providing an exceptional visual experience and supporting smooth graphics rendering. The 5G module integrated into the chip is a game-changer, offering not only faster and more reliable 5G connectivity but also optimizing power consumption. This dual benefit ensures that users can experience enhanced data speeds without compromising on battery life, striking a delicate balance between performance and efficiency.
Memory and Storage
It’s a mid-range phone, let’s not forget, but that doesn’t stop it from offering a generous 12GB of LPDDR4 RAM, which ensures smooth multitasking and fast app switching. Also, offers an interesting feature known as “Virtual RAM Expansion” This feature allows the smartphone to allocate a portion of its storage space up to 24GB to act as additional virtual RAM, essentially increasing the available RAM for running apps and processes. This can lead to improved multitasking and smoother performance, especially when dealing with resource-intensive applications.
When it comes to storage, this phone offers flexibility to suit your needs with 512GB. This ample internal storage capacity allows you to store a vast amount of apps, photos, videos, documents, and more without worrying about running out of space. Moreover, if you find yourself needing even more storage, with its microSD card support. You can expand the storage by up to 2 TB.
We conducted stability tests on the Armor 18T Ultra, and it excelled in all aspects. The CPU Throttle test, which ran for 60 minutes, yielded an excellent result with an 83% score. The GPU stability scored an impressive 99.6%. The phone, equipped for heavy-duty tasks and gaming on the go, operates smoothly, remains cool, and does not experience throttling. While it may not be the fastest in its price range, it stands among the fastest and is sure not to disappoint.
The Dimensity 7050, housing an impressive processor, handles both single-core and multi-core tasks with finesse. Its GPU performance is equally noteworthy, reflecting robust capabilities in benchmark results. The Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra exhibits commendable ability in tackling graphics-intensive tasks, making it an ideal choice for gaming enthusiasts.
In the AnTuTu 9 compound test, the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra distinguishes itself with an outstanding score of 593,005 points, firmly placing it among the elite in rugged smartphones within its price segment. The Armor 18T Ultra packs a substantial punch, particularly within its class, as evident from the benchmark score. While other devices may boast higher processing capabilities, they often come with a steeper price tag or belong to a previous generation of smartphones.
Delving into the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra’s performance with benchmark scores reveals impressive results. It achieved a 3D Mark score of 2,104, showcasing its graphical capabilities. In Geekbench 6, it excelled with scores of 674 (single core) and 2080 (multi-core), indicating efficiency in individual tasks and multitasking prowess. The GPU performance was equally impressive, with scores of 2384 (Vulkan) and 2346 (OpenCL). Additionally, the PC Mark Work 3.0 score of 13,842 underscores its proficiency in handling various tasks, making it a versatile and high-performance device.
The significance of this accomplishment lies in the fact that the Power Armor 18T Ultra strikes a commendable balance between affordability and performance. It competes favorably with contemporaries in its price range and outpaces certain higher-priced counterparts, emphasizing its value proposition for users seeking a rugged smartphone that doesn’t compromise on power.
While more potent devices exist in the market, the distinction lies in the associated trade-offs. These alternatives, albeit more powerful, often come with a premium price, making the Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra an appealing choice for those who prioritize performance within a reasonable budget.
Examining gaming performance, the Power Armor 18T Ultra maintains a fairly acceptable frames-per-second (fps) rate. In graphics-intensive scenarios like Vulkan or Car Chase, the device reliably achieves 23fps, ensuring smooth gameplay. The true testament to its gaming capabilities lies in Manhattan 3.1, where it impressively reaches 56 fps, providing an immersive and lag-free gaming experience.
The prowess of the MediaTek Dimensity 7050 chipset is evident as it navigates through resource-demanding games, including Mobile Legends and CoD: Mobile. Notably, the phone accommodates Genshin Impact, a graphics-intensive game, although optimizing the gaming experience may require tweaking graphics settings to a lower configuration. Prolonged Genshin Impact sessions may lead to the device generating heat, which is not unusual for high-performance smartphones engaged in resource-intensive tasks for extended periods.
Battery Life & Usage
The Ulefone Power Armor 18T Ultra boasts an impressive 9600mAh battery, standing out in the rugged smartphone category. Compared to most flagship smartphones with batteries in the 4,500mAh to 5,500mAh range, the Power Armor 18T Ultra’s battery capacity is over double, providing extended usage benefits. During testing, the battery showed remarkable endurance even with continuous usage, offering enough power for at least four days and, with curation, possibly a week.
Moreover, the phone features 66W fast charging capability, reducing recharge time to 1 hour and 20 minutes. The combination of a massive battery and fast charging ensures less time tethered to an outlet. Additionally, it supports 15W Max wireless charging and reverse charging, serving as a power bank for other devices in need of a charge, such as smartphones, smartwatches, or earphones.
Software and User Interface
The Armor 18T Ultra’s software experience is refreshingly straightforward and clean. Running on Stock Android 13, it offers a significant advantage in a market where many rugged devices come with heavily customized Android skins. Cubot’s choice of keeping the interface close to stock Android is a wise one, providing a familiar and intuitive navigation experience. The absence of bloatware or unnecessary pre-installed applications allows users to customize their devices according to their preferences.
The smartphone handles tasks smoothly and exhibits swift app launches. Android 13 brings performance optimizations and privacy features, ensuring efficient operation while keeping user data secure. Personalization options include the device’s color scheme, theme, language, and themed app icons. Additionally, it offers enhanced privacy and control over notification permissions and other settings.
While not entirely stock, the UI includes the rugged toolbox selection of apps and the MyFLIR app for using the thermal imaging system. With 10 different digital tools, the device aids both outdoor and indoor activities. The built-in flashlight is useful for outdoor activities in the dark, while tools like the Hanging Painting tool assist with home improvement projects.
Connectivity is a crucial factor for any smartphone, particularly a rugged one like the Armor 18T Ultra. This phone offers the convenience of simultaneously using dual SIM cards from different carriers and covers an extensive range of 5G and 4G global LTE bands. Broad network support ensures that users can stay connected to high-speed data networks and make HD-quality voice calls in various regions across the globe.
Additionally, it supports various satellite systems, namely GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Beidou. The phone is also compatible with a range of WLAN protocols, including 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n 2.5 & 5GHz Wi-Fi support. It boasts Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC capabilities, making it compatible with services like Google Pay. It’s worth noting that WiFi 6 support is significantly superior to WiFi 5, especially when paired with a router that supports the newer technology.