Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (2022)

TechRadar Verdict

Once again, Ulefone redefines the upper boundaries of what constitutes an exceptionally good rugged smartphone. With FLIR and an endoscope, the Armor 9 has the potential to become an essential tool in the arsenal of many tradespeople.

Pros

  • +

    Great price

  • +

    Good performance

  • +

    Endoscope camera

  • +

    FLIR camera

  • +

    Big battery

Cons

  • -

    Only 128GB storage

  • -

    Slower storage

  • -

    No VOC sensor

We have followed the rise of Ulefone as one of the most prominent rugged smartphone (opens in new tab) vendors, alongside Blackview and Doogee over the past four years. While the Armor 8 has yet to land - it will be a 5G rugged handset - Ulefone introduced us to its latest rugged smartphone, the Armor 9.

The unique selling point of the latter is an endoscope feature that can prove mightily useful for DIYers, tradesperson, field operators and more. Oh and there’s also a thermal FLIR camera which is essentially a Lepton 2.5 heat sensing module.

(Video) Ulefone Armor 9 review

Price

The Ulefone Armor 9 bundled with the endoscope module (opens in new tab) sells for around $581 from Gearbest. You can get the smartphone by itself for $537 and if you don’t fancy buying from Gearbest, you can grab it from Amazon.com (opens in new tab) for $630 and in the UK on Amazon.co.uk (opens in new tab) for £469.99, both without the endoscope module.

  • Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first (opens in new tab).

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (1)

Design

No big surprise when it comes to the design philosophy adopted by the Armor 9 (opens in new tab). This is a classic example of a rugged smartphone, combining plastic (TPU and polycarbonate) and metal with glass. The resulting product is a behemoth; this is a relatively bulky smartphone at 168.2 x 82 x 15mm for a weight of 320g. That is partly due to the extra electronics used for the FLIR camera, the endoscope connector, the bigger battery and the extra padding and protection that comes with an IP68/IP69K-rated, MIL-STD-810G certified outdoor smartphone.

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (2)

A 3.5mm audio connector hidden behind a flap can be found on the top edge of the Armor 9. At the opposite end is a Type-C connector, again hidden behind a flap.

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (3)

On one side of the phone are a rocker volume, a customizable button and a proprietary connector for the endoscope while the other houses the power button, the fingerprint sensor and a nano SIM/microSD card stray.

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (4)

At the rear can be found four camera sensors - which includes the FLIR Lepton sensor - and a quad-LED flash located above the Ulefone logo. The front is a standard Corning Gorilla protected glass panel with a water drop selfie camera. The four edges of the smartphone have been trimmed at 45 degrees to the longer sides to improve resistance to drops.

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (5)

Hardware

Spec Sheet

(Video) Ulefone Armor 9 Review The Best Phone For Tradesman?

The Ulefone Armor 9 that was shipped to us came with the following hardware:

CPU: Helio P90

GPU: IMG PowerVR GM 9446

RAM: 8GB LPDDR4x

Storage: 128GB

Screen size: 6.3-inch

Resolution: 2340 x 1080

Weight: 320g

Dimensions: 168.2 x 82 x 15mm

Rear camera: 64MP, 5MP + 2MP

Front camera: 8MP

OS: Android 10

Battery: 6.60mAh

First, the relatively big disappointment has to be the fact that there’s no 5G. Ulefone has already confirmed that there will be a 5G phone coming later this year, the Ulefone 8 5G, which will use a Mediatek Dimensity SoC. For now, the Armor 9 sports a Helio P90 SoC which packs eight CPU cores and an IMG PowerVR GM9446 GPU cluster.

That is paired with 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage, a big 6,600mAh battery, a 6.3-inch full HD display with a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution, a triple rear camera setup (64-megapixel, 5-megapixel and 2-megapixel), a front 8-megapixel sensor, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.

We also received an 18W (9V,2A) charger with a tempered glass screen protector, an OTG cable and an adaptor inside the box. Optionally, you can purchase a back clip, a sling, an arm band or a holder to carry the Armor 9 around.

(Video) Seeing Heat with the Ulefone Armor 9 and FLIR Thermal Camera

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (6)

In use

Benchmarks

This is how the Ulefone Armor 9 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Geekbench: 396 (single core); 1486 (multi core)

PCMark (Work 2.0): 9590

Passmark: 5589

Passmark CPU: 14958

Androbench (sequential): 308 (sequential read); 245 (sequential write)

Androbench (random): 75.1 (random read); 30.9 (random write)

3DMark Slingshot: 2130

3DMark Slingshot Extreme: 1183 (OGL) 1472 (Vulkan)

HWBot Prime: 5383

The Armor 9 runs on a clean, stock version of Android 10. In general the overall performance of the device was on par with that of other P90-based smartphones (Ulefone Armor 7E (opens in new tab), Blackview BV9900 Pro (opens in new tab), Ulefone Armor 7 (opens in new tab) or Doogee S95 (opens in new tab)) but was behind in storage tests, which impacted one of our main benchmarks, PC Mark; slower eMMC memory could be blamed.

We found the usual app bundle located in the aptly named digital toolkit. There’s a speedometer, a compass, a protractor and even a heart rate monitor. Sadly, no VOC sensor, something which would make the Ulefone Armor 9, the most complete rugged smartphone on the market but also add to the cost and bulk.

(Video) uleFone armor 9 follow up 6 months later | The whole truth about this phone !

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (7)

As for the endoscope, it has to be manually secured to the side of the smartphone via a screw. The peripheral itself is a long cable (about 2m) that is flexible and waterproof. There’s an inspection camera at the end with an LED light and a set of small accessories including a reflecting mirror, a hook and a magnet. Expect to pay around $70 for it.

The competition

There’s no Android smartphone that we know that comes bundled with an endoscope. However, if you are looking for a rugged Android smartphone with a FLIR camera, then there’s at least three you should consider.

The CAT S62 Pro (opens in new tab) also has a FLIR camera, one which uses the superior Lepton 3.5 sensor. It is far more expensive than the Armor 9, has less system memory and a worse camera. However, CAT has aftersales support in more than 50 countries and has already confirmed that the S62 Pro will come with Android 11.

The Blackview BV9900 Pro (opens in new tab) uses the same Lepton 2.5 sensor as Ulefone’s flagship model. It matches the Armor 9, almost feature for feature but is lighter, cheaper and has a much smaller footprint (which might also explain the much smaller battery).

For $110 less, you can get the Blackview BV9800 Pro (opens in new tab) which runs on Android 9, has a weaker processor but features the all-important FLIR camera. Its main rear camera has 25% fewer pixels while its selfie camera has twice as many pixels as the Armor 9. It even almost matches the latter when it comes to the battery capacity.

Final verdict

The Ulefone Armor 9 is the most accomplished rugged smartphone on the market thanks to the addition of an endoscope feature that nicely complements the FLIR Lepton camera onboard. There are few improvements we’d think of at this stage; 5G would be nice as would a VOC sensor, a 2D scanner (like on the forthcoming Blackview BV10000 (opens in new tab)) and more, faster onboard storage (256GB maybe) but none of all this take away the fact that Ulefone’s new flagship smartphone is nothing less than an exceptionally good outdoor smartphone.

  • We've also highlighted the best rugged smartphones (opens in new tab)
  • Check out our review of the Cat S52
Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR rugged smartphone review (8)

Desire Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.

FAQs

Is Ulefone a good? ›

If you are looking for a rugged phone that's built to last and has moderately decent features, then the Ulefone Armor 11 isn't it. While battery and processor performance are both stellar, the extremely cheap build quality and poor night vision camera make the phone hard to recommend.

Is Ulefone armor 9 waterproof? ›

4. Armor 9 is splash, water, and dust resistant and was tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP68 under IEC standard 60529 (maximum depth of 1.5 meters up to 30 minutes). Charger and accessories are not water-resistant.

Who makes Ulefone? ›

Ulefone Mobile is a manufacturers of mobile devices and accessories in China.

Does Ulefone use Android? ›

Ulefone Armor X7 Android 10 Rugged Smartphones, 13MP + 5MP Waterproof Cameras, IP68 Smartphone, NFC, OTG, 4G Dual Sim, 5.0 Inch Screen, 2G RAM 16GB ROM, 4000mAh Battery, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi - Orange.

Can Ulefone be trusted? ›

Don't trust ulefone

This company are thieves. They do not warrant they screen saver that they send with the phone. Watch their videos showing you can pound a nail in with the screen protector, LIES. Every time it falls out of my top shirt pocket when I bend over it falls 2 feet onto gravel and the screen gets damaged.

Which is better Ulefone or Blackview? ›

Display comparison

Blackview's phone has display density of 432 PPI & Ulefone's phone has only 395 PPI display density. In terms of screen to body ratio, Ulefone's phone has better screen to body ratio of ~ 73.5% than Blackview's phone ~ 69.12%.

Will Ulefone work in the US? ›

Keep in mind that to have a perfect coverage, the ideal thing is that the Ulefone Armor has all the frequencies for all networks, that are used in USA, although if the Ulefone Armor lacks any of the frequency bands used, it does not mean that it does not work on that network, but coverage could be limited to certain ...

Who makes the Blackview phone? ›

Blackview, a Hong Kong-based rugged smartphone manufacturer, is launching the world's first ruggedised 5G handset. The BL6000 Pro is set to launch as an Indiegogo campaign on November 17, with an early bird price tag expected to land somewhere between $400 and $500, making it pretty cheap for a 5G-enabled device.

Does Ulefone Armor 10 have FLIR? ›

A The Armor 10 5G is not integrated with FLIR thermal imaging camera. If you want a thermal imaging camera phone, we recommend you the Armor 9.

Videos

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2. Was kann ein Outdoor Handy? Ulefone Armor 9 Review!
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3. Ulefone Armor 9 Series Brutal Durability Test
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4. Ulefone Armor 9 VS Blackview BV9900 Pro - Which should you Buy?
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5. Panzer mit Wärmebildkamera?! Ulefone Armor 9 | Erweitertes Review
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6. Ulefone armor 9 With Flir Camera, Bought with my own money | one week real costumer review.
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