Poptel P9000 Max

Poptel is a new challenger brand from mainland China, one that specializes solely in rugged smartphones, just like Nomu or AGM. Rugged smartphones usually carry higher margins and the competition tends to be less intense than the mainstream market.

The P9000 Max doesn’t shine thanks to its design or performance, rather, it differentiates itself by adding a massive 9000mAh battery, the biggest we’ve seen on a rugged smartphone to date, offering the sort of autonomy that a sizable portion of its target audience will crave.

But has Poptel been too ambitious in trying to cram as much as possible into such a compact body for a relatively low price? Read on to find out.

Design

The P9000 Max is heavy at 327g, which isn’t surprising since that hefty battery was always going to weigh it down – but what was a bit of a shock is this phone’s size. At 168 x 83 x 17mm, it is smaller than we expected, given the fact that it is an IP68-rated device.

It embraces the traditional design associated with rugged smartphones: an eight-side enclosure featuring plenty of polycarbonate plastic, loads of visible screws and a black/yellow color scheme with a bit of metal to reinforce the chassis.

Oddly enough, the power button is located on the bottom area of the left edge of the device, which feels unnatural for right-handed users. Instead, the volume buttons are where one would expect the power button to be. Poptel added a dedicated photo button on the lower part of the right edge – that’s great to take snaps quickly but sadly it cannot be customized.

There are no status lights and the permanent navigation keys are flipped – the back button is on the right, rather than on the left (as is the case on most Android smartphones). Rubber flaps, located at the top and bottom of the phone, cover the headphone socket and a USB Type-C connector.

The SIM tray can be found on the left-hand side while a speaker grill, the fingerprint sensor, and a 13-megapixel camera can be found around the back. The latter has four flash LEDs which are hidden behind a white strip of transparent plastic that acts as a flash cover, to stop the flash from blowing out the subject of a photograph.

Specifications

This smartphone offers a set of mainstream components as one would expect. You get an 8-core midrange Mediatek system-on-chip, 4GB of RAM and 64GB on-board storage – so there’s enough oomph under the hood to last a couple of years, by which time, Android 10 (Quiche?) will probably be out.

It supports dual SIM, dual standby and a microSD card; all three at the same time. Note that the P9000 Max supports global LTE bands which is useful if you plan to travel all around the world.

There’s no 802.11ac Wi-Fi (such a shame) but you do get NFC, along with a 9V/2A battery charger (that can charge the phone from zero to full in 3.5 hours) and OTG capabilities (you can use the handset to charge other phones, although that requires an adaptor).

The screen is oleophobic, a surprise for a device at this price level, and uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.

In use

There are no big surprises here. The CPU powering the P9000 Max is slightly less powerful than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 found in the Cat S61, but it offers plenty of power for most (mundane) tasks.

The phone runs Android 7.0 and as with the majority of existing rugged handsets from China, it’s unlikely to get any sort of update to Android Oreo or Pie. There were no updates available when we checked.

Another downside is the lack of any bundled apps (such as those present on the Doogee S60 or the Cat S61): there’s no sound level meter or pedometer, although there are free apps available from the Google Play store to cater for these duties.

The IPS display produces brilliant colors thanks partly to the absence of a matte overlay (something common on entry-level rugged smartphones), and it’s suitably bright even when outside, where the P9000 Max is expected to be used most often. 

Poptel promises nearly two days of video playback on a single charge and a staggering two months on standby even with both SIM card slots active. We didn’t check on either count due to time constraints, but this seems highly plausible given the exceptional battery capacity of this device.

The competition

If you want a rugged smartphone with a large battery, the P9000 Max is your only option. The AGM X2 has a much more impressive set of components (Qualcomm system-on-chip, 6GB RAM, triple cameras, AMOLED screen) but only a 6000mAh battery; it also ships with a 100% premium on the price.

The Oukitel WP 5000 is marginally more expensive, has a lower screen resolution (which might help improve battery life) and a smaller battery. But it has three cameras, a more powerful system-on-chip and 50% extra memory.

If battery capacity is all you care about, then consider the yet-to-be-reviewed Blackview P10000 Pro with its 11,000mAh battery capacity. It doesn’t have an IP68 rating but you get four cameras, a bigger screen with a higher resolution, a lower price tag and a more powerful system-on-chip.

Last but not least, consider the leather-bound Oukitel K10 and its equally impressive 11,000mAh battery (charged using a 5V/5A power supply unit). It retails for under $300 (around £235) but other than the missing IP68 rating, delivers an even better range of components compared to the P10000 Pro, with a combined camera pixel count of 50 megapixels!

The undisputed king of capacity remains the Ulefone Power 5 and its 13,000mAh battery, the biggest ever found in a smartphone. However, this isn’t IP68 rated and doesn’t have NFC, but everything else (Android 8.1, 6GB RAM, FHD+ screen) is included for less than $300 (around £235).

The business take

There’s a lot to like about the P9000 Max and to Poptel’s credit, it has managed to produce the first real high battery capacity smartphone with an IP68 rating. With a very reasonable price, the P9000 Max should be a fairly good seller for an audience that requires both the promise of a lengthy stay away from a plug socket, and being impervious to knocks, drops, dust and water.

Outdoor workers who have to cope with challenging conditions day-in, day-out, and require guaranteed full-day operation on a single charge won’t be disappointed, as long as they understand the usual caveats associated with buying from a challenger Chinese mobile vendor.