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Cubot X20 Pro review: A dependable choice from abroad

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £119
inc VAT (converted from $155)

The Cubot X20 Pro is a physically impressive budget smartphone that isn’t without flaws


  • Excellent FHD+ 6.3in display
  • Superb build quality
  • Vanilla Android 9


  • Triple camera setup is rubbish
  • No NFC, fingerprint reader or 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Only available via grey import

Cubot is one of several small Chinese mobile phone makers whose name may not be familiar to the average Brit but which offers some attractive devices at extremely tempting prices. However, many of these Chinese phones can’t be purchased directly in the UK.

While the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo and Honor have all become readily available in recent years, if you fancy a phone from one of the lesser-known Chinese manufacturers like Cubot, Doogee, Elephone or Ulefone then you will need to buy direct from a Chinese retailer like Gearbest or AliExpress. You may also need to pay a hefty import charge when it arrives at UK customs.

READ NEXT: Best budget smartphones

Clearly, buying a smartphone sight unseen from China is a little riskier than picking one up from a UK-based mobile network or tech retailer. But is it a risk worth taking?

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Cubot X20 Pro review: What you need to know

That’s the gamble you have to take, but on paper at least, the Cubot X20 Pro is a solid budget smartphone. It has a massive 6.3in FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080) display, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage and a large 4,000mAh battery. The only downside might be the comparatively underpowered MediaTek Helio P60.

The Cubot X20 Pro does, however, have a total of three rear cameras; consisting of a regular 12MP camera, an 8MP wide-angle sensor and a 20MP depth-sensing unit. There’s also a 13MP camera on the front of the phone, embedded in a teardrop notch.

Cubot X20 Pro review: Price & Competition

At the time of writing, the X20 Pro is available from Gearbest for £120. That’s flagged as a 36% off ‘flash sale’ but I don’t anticipate the offer ending any time soon so we’ll take £120 as a guide price for the competition.

If you take a quick look at our regularly-updated guide to the best budget phones, you’ll spot that brand-familiar competition comes from Motorola in the form of the £100 E6 Plus and Sony’s £140 Xperia L3.

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Both are decent budget handsets, but in some important areas, the X20 Pro has them both beat. Most obviously, neither the Motorola or Sony phones have a Full HD screen or more than 32GB of built-in storage.

Cubot X20 Pro review: Design

The design and build quality of the X20 Pro is absolutely top-notch. Despite the price, if you place it alongside a Huawei P30 Pro or iPhone 11 it doesn’t look or feel out of place. It’s essentially just two sheets of toughened glass that are held together by a shiny alloy frame, but it feels absolutely rock solid – although the glossy rear does pick up fingerprints rather easily.

The Cubot’s solidity also comes at a small price. Weighing in at an iPhone 11 Pro-esque 192g, the X20 Pro is very heavy, even for a phone with a 6.3in screen. You won’t be able to hold it in one hand for too long before your arm starts to ache. The rest of the phone’s dimensions, however, are parr for the course at 157 x 75 x 8.3mm.

The layout is entirely conventional. On the bottom, there are two grilles (only one hides a speaker) flanking a USB Type-C charging port. On the right, a pair of metal buttons control power and volume. Above the screen, embedded inside a ‘waterdrop’ cutout, you’ll find the 13MP selfie camera. Opposite the volume rocker is a SIM card slot which will take either two 4G SIMs or a SIM and a MicroSD storage card. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack.

Audio quality through the solitary loudspeaker isn’t too bad. There’s plenty of volume, but the sound is rather brittle and lacking in bass. Flip the X20 Pro over and you’ll find a rather Apple-looking square camera arrangement that houses three lenses and an LED flash.

READ NEXT: Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review

Cubot X20 Pro review: Display

The Cubot X20 Pro’s display is the star of the show. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a 6.3in 2,340 x 1,080 IPS affair with a pixel density of 409dpi. I found it to be nice and bright in testing, with a peak luminance of 538cd/m2, and capable of displaying 92.6% of the sRGB colour gamut.

The contrast ratio is also very good at 1,490:1. I would be hard-pressed to criticise the Cubot X20 Pro’s screen, even if it was found on a phone costing £500 or more. If I had to be critical, I’d say the colours are perhaps a little on the cool side, but I can live with that.

According to Cubot, the display takes up 92.8% of the phone’s frontage. Usually, I’d go along with that but the press images on Cubot’s website show the bezels as being even thinner than they actually are. Slightly misleading press images are not uncommon with smaller Chinese OEMs.

What does let the screen down is the software. Sadly, the X20 Pro only has Level 3 Widevine DRM which means video streams from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will only play at 480p resolution. Switch between a 1080p web rip of Blade Runner 2049 and a 480p Netflix stream and the difference is discernible.

Cubot X20 Pro review: Performance and battery life

Powering the Cubot X20 Pro is a MediaTek MT6771 Helio P60 processor, which is an octa-core chipset (4 x 2GHz ARM Cortex-A73 and 4 x 2GHz A53) and works in tandem with an ARM Mali G72 graphics processor and 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM. It’s a very capable mid-range component that scored reasonably well in our testing.

In the Geekbench 4 single and multi-core processing benchmark, the Cubot X20 pro came off much better than both the Moto E6 and Xperia L3, which only have 2GB of RAM and weaker MediaTek MT6762 P22 processors.

In real-world usage, the X20 can easily handle games like Shadowgun Legends, Real Racing 3, PUBG Mobile and Modern Combat 5 – with the graphics details turned up to maximum – without any problems. Unusually at this sort of price, the X20 Pro has a whopping 128GB of storage which is handy if you plan on installing a number of large games. The four games I installed for testing took up nearly 6GB.

With a 4,000mAh battery, you’d expect the X20 to perform well. Granted there’s no fast charging option and no wireless charging to speak of, but when subjected to the Expert Reviews standard battery test, the X20’s battery lasted for 13 hours.

The X20 Pro runs Android 9 with no pre-baked bloatware aside from an FM radio. Sadly, as Cubot is a small Chinese manufacturer, I wouldn’t expect an eventual upgrade to Android 10. It’s better to assume that you’ll be stuck with version 9.0 for the lifetime of the handset and be grateful for any security patches that may come your way. For reference, the latest patch on my X20 Pro was dated 5 August 2019.

However, the X20 Pro is missing a few features. To start with, there’s no fingerprint scanner, which is a serious omission especially as the Moto G6 Plus and L3 each have one. Checking my own phone, I see that I have more than a dozen apps that use biometrics to authorise access. Not having that facility would be a deal-breaker for me.

Of course, you can use face unlock and it seems secure enough but reliability falls off when lights get dim, forcing you to resort to a PIN code or pattern. There’s no NFC chip either, though at this price that’s not such a shock and the Wi-Fi modem is 2.4GHz 802.11n only.

The X20’s microphone also lacks any sort of noise cancellation which does have an effect on call quality. Everything is fine if there’s not much background noise but make a call outside on a windy day or in a loud bar and you’ll notice the absence.

Cubot X20 Pro review: Camera

The X20 Pro’s triple camera set-up looks strong on paper, consisting of a Sony IMX486 12MP main shooter, a Sony IMX350 20MP depth camera and a 125-degree wide-angle 8MP camera. Sadly, despite the inherently capable hardware, camera performance is actually pretty poor.

Shots of static subjects in broad daylight look decent enough though colour accuracy really isn’t the best and turning the HDR or AI functions on seemed to have little effect. I’d have liked the autofocus to be faster and more accurate too.

Sadly, as soon as the lights dims, visual noise becomes very noticeable and colour balance goes out of the window. The digital zoom is best avoided as is the wide-angle feature. Distortion towards the edges of wide-angle shots is laughably bad.

The 13MP selfie cam does a decent enough job when the light is good but again performance trails off as the light fails. Video shot a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and 30fps looked alright while the focus wasn’t hunting for lock, which it often was.

On the positive side, the camera settings menu does offer a decent selection of ‘Pro’ manual settings for those who want to get more creative and a plethora of filters for the more casual snapper.

I’m sure a software update could cure most of the problems I encountered but most small Chinese phone makers often fail to fully optimise their camera software, which is a shame. The failings of the cameras spoil the X20 Pro like a dead fly floating in a bowl of hearty soup.

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Cubot X20 Pro review: Verdict

The problem with phones that look much more expensive than they actually are is that you feel a little let down when you realise that other parts of the package do match the price. The build quality, chipset, storage capacity, battery performance and especially the excellent display would all do justice to a phone costing four times as much as the X20 Pro, but the dismal photographic experience and the absence of a fingerprint scanner remind you that you’ve only spent £120, not £480.

On balance, the X20 Pro is still an awful lot of phone for the money but it’s not actually cut-price competition for the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro or iPhone 11 despite looking like it may be when you open the box. With better camera software, Level 3 Widevine DRM and a fingerprint scanner, the X20 Pro would be an unhesitating recommendation. As it stands, a little caution is required.

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