Oukitel C21 : test / review
Published on: 12-11-2020 / Modified: 12-11-2020
In my almost desperate search to find credible alternatives to Xiaomi in the under €200 segment, this time I let myself be tempted by Oukitel.
I had never tested a phone of this brand before but the Oukitel C21 has a very aggressive price positioning (around 100€) for similar characteristics to a Redmi Note 9.
Oukitel is not a recent brand, the company was founded in 2007 in China. Oukitel sells smartphones as well as electronic cigarettes and portable batteries...it's a rather particular combination of products, I hope this Oukitel C21 will not go up in smoke.
Manufacturer web site:
Site where I have bought the Oukitel C21: https://www.banggood.com/custlink/KmKhHSbEf9
Structure of my testsI test the phones according to a pre-established structure (see below) to provide you with as much information as possible. Unfortunately, this takes a long time. Some tests like network performance tests take several days and for photo tests I sometimes have to wait until the weather is suitable to take pictures in good conditions. I am therefore obliged to publish the tests step by step, so I invite you to come back if the test is not complete at the time of your visit.
Price Oukitel C21The list below shows the prices for the Oukitel C21 from more than 50 sites around the world. If you are not satisfied with any price, you can subscribe to a price alert to be the first to be notified when the price drops.
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Timeline28/10/2020 I bought the Oukitel C21 on Banggood
12/11/2020 I have received the Oukitel C21 and the test can begin
Why this phone?As I wrote in the introduction of this article, I was looking for an alternative to Xiaomi and I finally bought 3 phones: an Umidigi A9 Pro, an Elephone U5 and finally the Oukitel C21.
I bought this phone for less than 100€ and yet it offers a price/performance ratio equivalent to a Redmi Note 9 and is cheaper. Usually Xiaomi offers the best price/performance ratio. Beyond the price, other features caught my attention.
The Oukitel C21 has a metal coating, which is quite rare in this price range. It is quite light and the screen occupies 85% of the front surface. The screen is quite large and offers a resolution of 1080 x 2310 where even Xiaomi is happy with 720p in this price range.
So this phone looks very interesting, I'm curious to see what it's made of.
The Oukitel C21 is delivered in an orange box with no distinguishing mark. The box contains the phone, a transparent plastic cover (directly installed on the phone), a manual, a USB cable type C, a charger and a needle to open the sim drawer.
I have never felt like I had a 100€ phone in my hands. At first glance the phone can compare with what you find around 200€.
First configurationThe initial configuration of the Oukitel C21 follows the same path as most phones running Android. Oukitel has not added anything to register you to an unwanted service or application.
The Oukitel C21 is my first Oukitel. I had no preconceived ideas about the level of finish, I didn't expect anything extraordinary because in this price range the finish is often quite basic.
This Oukitel C21 surprised me positively. Its coating is partially metal and the smartphone is in its entirety quite well finished. The big photo block on the back hardly comes out of the back of the smartphone where Xiaomi produces phones with a photo block that comes out quite strongly on the back.
The buttons on the right are placed high up but are easy to access. The fingerprint sensor on the other hand is located in the photo block at the back, it is a very unusual place that will require some time to adapt because after a few days, I still had a tendency to put my finger on the camera rather than on the fingerprint sensor.
Underneath there is a USB type C port and a sound sensor but no audio jack connector, so you have to go through a USB to jack adapter. There is no USB to jack adapter in the box and I find this deplorable as it will force you to buy one separately.
The SIM drawer can hold 2 SIMs or 1 SIM + 1 memory card.
The display takes up 85% of the front of the phone, it is above average and the borders are quite thin. The front camera is offered as a punch in the top left corner, it is bigger than what is found on more expensive models but it is rather well integrated into the screen.
The Oukitel C21 offers a much higher level of finish than other phones in this price range. I recently tested a Redmi 9C which sells for the same price but offers a lower level of finish. I would even say that the Oukitel C21 offers a level of finish comparable to smartphones like the Nokia 5.3, the Redmi Note 9 or the Samsung Galaxy A21s...these phones cost twice as much!
The information below comes from the Device Info HW application. The application provides detailed technical information about the tested phone.I tested the 4Gb / 64 Gb version and here are the main features of the phone:
CPU / GPU Performance
The Oukitel C21 is equipped with a Mediatek Helio P60 processor, this is an entry-level processor that can also be found in other phones I have tested such as the Umidigi Bison, the Elephone U5 or the Umidigi F1. This type of processor doesn't offer extraordinary performance but it allows you to use all the phone's features in a fairly smooth way.
The Oukitel C21 is equipped with an ARM Mali G72 graphics processor that is also found in many other phones I have tested.
The Oukitel C21 therefore shares the same configuration as many other phones I tested but it is clearly the cheapest. It is not intended for a gaming audience but it is perfectly usable for a fairly large audience that is not looking for performance.
Benchmark Antutu/3DMarkAs I wrote in the previous paragraph, the Oukitel C21 is not a performance-oriented telephone. I expected to get an Antutu score close to the Redmi Note 9 but I got a lower score without really noticing a noticeable difference in use.
I scored 148637 points with Antutu. If I look in the same price range I have about 110,000 points with the Redmi 9C. The Oukitel outperforms a Samsung A21s (150-200€) and approaches the Nokia 5.3 (150-200€). The Oukitel C21 therefore offers a very good price/performance ratio.
To test the performance in game, I download the mobile PUBG game and evaluate the in-game experience, graphics level and depth of vision. This game is quite demanding and should help you evaluating the performance of a phone.
I tested PUBG Mobile on the Oukitel C21 and despite the low performance of this phone, PUBG Mobile is perfectly playable. The textures are degraded but I didn't feel any jerks in game, the animations were also quite correct.
Network performanceThe Oukitel C21 provides basic frequency coverage that will allow telephone use in most countries except where operators use frequency B28 (700 Mhz).
Signal 4G (before december 2020)
The ability to pick up the network correctly is an essential element for a phone but it is only very rarely measured. To measure a phone's ability to pick up the network, I perform a large number of measurements on the same cells to be able to compare phones under similar conditions. The signal is measured in dBm, a value of -90dBm indicates a worse signal than -70dBm. These measurements are therefore taken under real conditions and not in a laboratory, they are not scientific but give a good indication of performance.
Signal 4G (from December 2020)
I decided to change the methodology for measuring the network because I noticed that the configuration of the mobile network changes over time. This makes it more difficult to compare phones because the conditions are no longer exactly the same.
To overcome this problem, I set up a device that captures 24 hours a day about ten parameters from the mobile network (ex: cell id, rssi, rsrq, snr, frequency,...). I then place the phone next to the device for 24 to 48 hours taking the same measurements so that I can compare them.
Overview of the phones tested with this methodology
The Oukitel C21 is the second phone I have tested with the new network protocol and I have obtained really interesting results.
My measuring device obtained an average signal of - 92.04 dBm over the duration of the test (1101 measurements). The Oukitel obtained an average signal of -94.99 dBm. The deviation is 2.95 dBm where the Poco X3 (first device measured) obtained a deviation of 8 dBm. The Oukitel C21 therefore scores very close to my measuring device and this is an indication that it is able to pick up the network correctly.
On the graph I see that the Oukitel obtains measurements very close to those obtained by the measuring device but what is also interesting is to see the stability of the signal. The measurements of the Oukitel result in an almost perfect circle where the measuring device shows irregularities.
In summary, the Oukitel C21 offers good sensitivity to the 4G network and also manages to keep a very stable signal.
To test the download speed, I have identified some 4G cells offering good performance where I test all my devices several times to see what download and upload speed they can achieve.
Wifi performanceTo test a phone's ability to receive the network properly, I take measurements near my router and then remotely (and always at the same place). This gives me an average in dBm where a value of -90 dBm indicates poorer performance than a value at -30 dBm.
Not yet available / tested
To test the speed in Wifi, I connect to my router in 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz (if available) and use the Ookla application to measure the speed.
To test the quality of the GPS signal I use the Offline Maps application and I make the same train trip in pedestrian mode. Why? In pedestrian mode, the GPS does not artificially correct the signal to stick to the road, it has no markings, so you can see the actual position. I then use an application to measure the accuracy of the signal.
The Oukitel is equipped with a Mediatek CPU and this often results in good performance for GPS. My test confirms this as I obtained a level of accuracy of 1m on a clear sky. I then moved under the trees and the accuracy returned to 2m. The trees had no leaves but this means that the Oukitel C21 is picking up the GPS signal well even under the trees.
However, I have no signal with the Galileo network.
Battery rangeWhen the screen brightness is pushed to 100%, the phone consumes 2.6 times more than with 50% brightness. This puts the Oukitel C21 at the bottom of the table for battery life with the screen brightness at maximum. If I measure the range at 50%, the Oukitel C21 scores better than average.
This difference between 50% and 100% can be seen quite clearly on the following graph:
100% energy efficiency is therefore not very good. You have to reduce the brightness to find the ideal configuration.
Battery charging time is in the average of phones with the same type of battery.
Photo camera testTo test the quality of photos produced by a phone, I do a technical test (resolution, sharpness, chromatic aberration,...) in studio (identical conditions) to evaluate the technical part objectively. From the second half of 2020, I built my own laboratory to take completely objective technical measurements. I then take pictures in real conditions to see how the camera performs. I then evaluate these photos according to my criteria but I publish the photos so that you can evaluate the result according to your criteria.
HardwareThe Oukitel C21 uses an Omnivision OV16880 sensor as the main sensor at the rear and the Samsung S5K3T1 for the selfie camera. I have not yet tested a phone with this combination of sensors, so I would not be able to compare the results with another phone using the same hardware.
The default photo application is quite basic because the Oukitel C21 has only two sensors on the back (the main sensor + one macro sensor).
The main sensor is supported by a depth sensor and an auxiliary sensor. So there are three physical sensors for one picture.
The application offers the following modes:
- bokeh (for portraits)
- beauty (for selfies)
- Extra: pro, macro, filters
The photo application is therefore nothing extraordinary, but it has the advantage of being very simple and not drowning the user in thousands of options.
When the brightness drops, I notice that the camera stutters a little, you can feel the lack of power to process the image quickly enough.
Photo test / studio
For this first studio photo test, I didn't take a lot of pictures because I can only test the main sensor and the macro sensor.
The main sensor produces a very good result. The photo could be a bit more exposed but the sharpness is good and the colours are correctly rendered (with a bit of underexposure).
The macro sensor also delivers good results for this kind of sensor. The resolution is too low (2 MP), so the photo is pixelated but if it is displayed at the right size, the quality is not bad at all. Usually macro sensors deliver a poor quality photo, this is not the case here.
I am positively surprised by the quality of these photos in the studio, I am curious to see if this phone will be able to produce such good photos in real conditions.
Photo test / sunny
When I test entry-level phones like this Oukitel C21, I don't expect very good photo results. The Oukitel C21 produces fairly good results for this price range. The quality of the photos is obviously not comparable to a 500€ phone but the result is interesting.
When the light is good, the C21 is able to capture many details, and the sharpness is sometimes too pronounced. The colour temperature is a little too warm but on the introductory photo to this paragraph it is not disturbing. The photo was taken at the end of November, so the sun is quite low and produces a more orange light which is well reproduced on this photo. On the other hand, the phone needs one or two seconds to focus, so sometimes you need to pay attention before pressing the shutter button.
The problem of colour temperature can be seen a bit more in this picture, the vegetation is actually not as reddish.
At the end of the day, the reddish effect is even more visible. When the brightness drops, the differences between light and dark areas become more pronounced and the Oukitel is not very good at compensating for this difference (there is no HDR). This means that one will soon find oneself with either a white sky or a ground completely in shadow. By playing a little with the pro mode it is possible to reduce the problem but I doubt that many users have the patience to use this mode.
The Oukitel C21 is not the smartphone of the century for photography but we must not lose sight of the fact that this phone sells for around 100€ and that for this price, the result is not as bad.
Photo test / cloudy
Not yet available / tested
Test photo / night
The Oukitel C21 does not stabilise videos, which is not surprising because in this price range no phone is capable of stabilising a video correctly.
Video normale conditions
The Oukitel C21 is capable of producing 1080p videos but they are not of exceptional quality. The phone obviously needs time to focus and if there is movement, the transition from blur to sharpness is quite visible. For static videos, the problem is less visible, the video is actually quite sharp.
The colour temperature is a little too high, giving a reddish colour to the vegetation, it is the same as for the photos as it is the same sensor.
In a vertical position, rapid movements will not be corrected quickly enough and a blur of movement will appear. With a slow movement, this problem is much less present.
Video low light
Audio qualityTo test the quality of the phone's audio output, I connect the device's audio output to a measuring tool, then play sounds on all frequencies and measure the differences between the original sound and the sound produced by the phone. In this way I measure the phone's ability to correctly reproduce all sounds.
This test is intended to test the device's ability to correctly reproduce all frequencies. The white line in the middle of the graph is the ideal situation and the other colors come from tests on different phones. A deviation from the reference line indicates a deviation from the ideal situation. To see good sound at all frequencies, it is therefore necessary to get as close as possible to the reference line.
The Oukitel C21 is capable of reproducing most frequencies correctly, it offers a performance equivalent to the Redmi 9C. This frequency coverage is also quite comparable to other more expensive phones such as the Redmi Note 9s.
This test is designed to test a phone's ability to play sounds at different volume levels. Here too, the phones must be as close as possible to the reference.
The Oukitel C21 delivers a powerful sound but despite this power, the distortion is very low and the frequency coverage is very good. I was surprised by this result because smartphones that deliver a powerful sound are often subject to distortion, which is not the case with the Oukitel C21.
This test aims to identify if the device under test is able to reproduce sounds without too much noise. A high score indicates a low parasite rate, a lower score indicates a higher presence of parasites.
The Oukitel C21 does not present any interference problems, it is one of the telephones that comes closest to the reference.
I am not at the end of my surprises with this phone. The audio test reveals that it is capable of doing as well and sometimes even better than phones twice as expensive.
Screen qualityTo test the screen, I use a colorimetric probe that measures the color accuracy of a screen, as well as other parameters to see if a screen is able to correctly reproduce an image. I also test the brightness level to determine if the screen will be able to display an image in full sunlight.
The Oukitel C21 offers a resolution of 1080 x 2310 pixels and 85% occupancy of the front surface of the phone. This is not in itself a revolution except that this phone costs 100€ and at this price, you will hardly find a screen with such a good definition.
The resolution is not the only good surprise, the colorimetry is also quite good. I measured a dE 4.8 and again in this price range, it's very rare. This score is only slightly lower than what I got with the Poco X3. Beyond the score which is remarkable for this price range, I also see that the colour differences are fairly uniform. I usually measure larger deviations on some colours but here the deviations are more or less the same for all colours.
What I regret is that it is not possible to modify the colour temperature to try to lower the white temperature but at this price, one should not dream.
Brightness / Contrast
I measured a maximum brightness of 380 cd/m², which is enough for everyday use but in full sunlight the screen may be harder to read. I tried to get a higher value by flooding the brightness sensor but this did not change the values.
BiometryThe Oukitel C21 is equipped with a fingerprint sensor on the back but this sensor is in a rather unusual place and as I wrote above, it takes some getting used to. This sensor is located next to the photo sensor and when touching it, it is difficult to distinguish the two.
When the finger is positioned correctly, the sensor is quite fast and efficient.
The Oukitel C21 runs on Android 10 without any overlay added by the manufacturer. It is therefore a streamlined version of Android that highlights Google's services for all common applications. Oukitel has not forced the installation of unwanted applications.
I haven't noticed any differences with other phones on Android 10, the phone is responsive enough to switch from one screen to another without latency, Android menus open quickly.
Encoutered bugsNot yet available / tested
Accessories Oukitel C21
Compare Oukitel C21 with the others
Test / Review conclusion
I chose to test the Oukitel C21 out of curiosity and also to find an alternative to Xiaomi in this price segment. I was positively surprised on many points such as the level of finish, the quality of the screen, the GPS signal and the price/performance ratio.
For a selling price of around 100€ you have a phone that on some points tickles phones priced at 200€. It's obviously not perfect but I haven't encountered any major problems so for some points it's just an average phone and on others it manages to out-perform more expensive phones.
If I go back to my original motivation, is the Oukitel C21 able to compete with the Redmi Note 9? I would say yes because the scores are very close while the C21 is cheaper. It will depend a bit on your priorities because the Redmi is a champion in autonomy and offers a more powerful operating system.
If I only look at the price you have to compare the C21 with the Redmi 9C. In this duel it is the Oukitel that wins with a good lead.
4G frequency coverage
Photo focus latency
Colour temperature for photos
Alternatives to this product
If I take the price as a reference, compare the Oukitel C21 with the Redmi 9C and in this comparison the C21 is the winner.
If I take the price out of the criteria, you have to compare the Oukitel with phones like the Redmi Note 9, the Honor 9x, the Samsung Galaxy A21s. These phones are all more expensive than the Oukitel and the choice between these phones will mainly depend on the strengths and weaknesses that are important for your daily use.