The Full Review: THL W11 Monkey King
When we first heard about the THL W11 Monkey King we were very skeptical about it. The device bragged of having 13.0-megapixel shooters for both the front and back cameras and we thought that it was all gimmick and the quality would suck. However as you saw in our camera shoot test (click if you haven’t seen it yet), the front camera of this phone actually takes much better photos than the primary snappers of a lot of other smartphones in the market today! All that’s left really is to see how the THL W11 Monkey King performs in all other aspects and check if it’s worth the Php11,999 price tag. We’ve been using it as a daily driver for the last few days now and we’re ready to share with you guys our full review.
Before anything let’s quickly go over the specs again.
THL W11 Monkey King Spec Sheet
- 1.5GHz Quad-core Processor, MTK6589T
- PowerVR SGX 544
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB Internal Storage
- 5.0-inch Full HD Display (1080p)
- 13.0 megapixels primary camera with LED flash and Autofocus
- 13.0 megapixels secondary camera (HD video recording)
- WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth, 3G, HSPA+, GPS with aGPS, FM Radio
- Dual SIM, Dual Standby
- 8.6mm thin
- Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1
- SRP: Php11,999
Based on the spec sheet the only complaint really is the lack of expandable storage. 16GB internal storage might not be enough especially since you’d want to take advantage of the 5-inch Full HD display for downloading and watching videos. Anyway, let’s jump to the review!
By the way, helping us out for this is the Boy Wonder himself, Robin! 😛
>>> SEE ALSO: THL W11 Monkey King Unboxing and Initial Hands-on
Superb Hardware and Build
We were delightfully surprised when we unboxed the THL W11 Monkey King and held it in our hands for the first time. Over-all form factor and design was superb mainly due to the design of the body. Measuring just 8.6mm thick, the Monkey King offers great usability and manageability even with a big 5.0-inch display. The curved edges and the smooth back plate does wonders for one-handed and prolonged use.
As we noted in the unboxing post, the Monkey King’s ports and buttons are all situated on the sides, including the slots for your two SIM cards (back plate not removable). The micro SIM card tray needs a pin to be opened while the secondary SIM card just needs a little prying with your fingernails.
Up front is all glass with the three Android capacitive buttons at the bottom. The LED light for three is a bit dark so that’s a little bit of a turn-off. We’re not certain as well if THL used scratch resistant glass on this since there’s nothing listed on the box or online about the glass they used.
At the back we have a smooth matte white finish. The frame of the camera has a metallic red accent giving the phone more personality. At the bottom of the back we have the slogan (or meaning) of THL — “Technology Happy Life”.
The thinness and the high quality display sets apart the THL W11 Monkey King from a lot of 5-inch smartphones in this price range. Speaking of the display…
Spectacular Display Quality
The THL W11 Monkey King doesn’t deliver qHD or HD quality on it’s display. It’s Full HD — 1080p! That’s 1920 x 1080 pixels and on a 5-inch screen that’s 441 pixels per inch. Combine that high resolution with the brilliant screen and you have a winning combination. Images come out sharp, detailed, and vibrant. Definitely one of the most impressive displays we’ve seen on a smartphone below Php12,000.
One of the big reasons why the display is so impressive is that THL also used OGS technology, or “One Glass Solution”. This type of execution basically eliminates the space in between the touchscreen glass and the LCD layer. This gives you the feeling and the visual that you’re almost touching the icons themselves and not just a glass screen.
Unfortunately we don’t think THL used Gorilla Glass or Dragon Tail so better make sure you have a screen protector if ever you’re going to roll with this smartphone.
Software and User Experience: Fascinating Take on Android
The THL W11 Monkey King uses a heavily customized Android Jelly Bean ROM. They radically changed it so it will function a lot like iOS wherein there’s no app tray/grid. All the apps are in the home pages and you swipe the different pages to view them. The folders and widget functions still work so you can mix and match the contents of your home screens to your liking.
Their implementation of folders reminds me a lot of how iOS 7 does it now. I’m just not too sure who got it first, Apple or THL, hehe.
We did a quick Antutu Benchmark Test to see how powerful the processor was because THL was claiming that this was a turbo version of the quad-core processor from Mediatek that we usually saw with other smartphones. It looks like they’re telling the truth. The W11 Monkey King clocked in well over 15,000 which is 2,000 more than what we usually got with other smartphones carrying the regular version of this CPU. Definitely a nice bump up! In terms of comparing scores with global brands, the THL W11 Monkey King is in the same league as the Sony Xperia SP which is actually one of our personal bang-for-your buck mid-range smartphones from Sony.
Fantastic for Watching Videos
We loaded up HD videos on the device and they all played smoothly. There were some instances when scrubbing across the different scenes becomes a little jittery but that’s okay since it never really crashes. For our video tests we used the MX Player Pro app from the Google Play Store (it can play almost any video file and it has a nice UI).
By the way, if you’re worried about the limitations brought about by the 16GB internal storage, the good news is that this phone supports USB OTG. Just plug-in a flash drive and you have access to pretty much everything that you need. This is the same solution that the highly successful MyPhone Iceberg is using to address the storage limitation.
Erratum: The THL W11 Monkey King does not support OTG. We mixed it up with another phone we were reviewing simultaneously. Apologies for the inconvenience.
Smooth Gaming Machine
For gaming we tried a variety of games ranging from hardcore graphics intensive titles like Wild Blood, NBA 2k13, and Dead Trigger on Ultra High settings. The only lag we felt was the loading time but after the game started running we barely encountered any delays or issues with the frame rate. We did however slowed down a bit in the very later stages of Dead Trigger but we were able to fix this by knocking down the graphics settings to medium. Just adjust the graphics settings and you’re good. 🙂
Unfortunately there are still some apps that won’t run. You can get around this by rooting the device but that’s a different and long technical discussion. Here’s a photo of the notice on the Google Play Store saying that Asphalt Heat 8 is not compatible with the THL W11 Monkey King.
Can Handle Almost Everything You Throw At It
Beyond the incompatible games, the THL W11 Monkey King can handle almost everything else. Social networking, photo editing, video editing, web browsing, productivity, messaging, and personalization apps all ran smoothly on it. That’s with a live wall paper running in the background coupled with a bunch of active widgets on the home screen. We’re definitely impressed with the power behind this device.
Customize the look with themes
There’s also a pre-loaded theme store in the device. Just tap on the app and it will show you the different themes (both paid and free) available for download. There are also several pre-loaded with themes ranging from the Avengers to Transformers. Activating these themes will change the icons, wall paper, lock screen, and even the typing sounds on your on-screen keyboard.
The heavy graphics themes tend to lag the phone though so you might want to stick to the simple ones, hehe.
Camera: Front and Back are the Killer Features
Now we get to the winning proposition of this awesome smartphone — the cameras. Let’s start with the front-facing camera. We’ve already written a post about this and showed some sample pics but we just have to reiterate the fact that the secondary camera of the THL W11 Monkey King beats the crap out of the primary cameras of a lot of other smartphones, especially the local brands. The sensor of the camera is able to take amazing detail and it gets the colors right even in low – moderate light environments. Let me re-embed some of the sample photos we showed earlier for your convenience:
Not bad right? Now we go to the primary camera. It actually packs an aperture of f/2.2 which allows it to take even nicer photos in low-moderate light environments. The sensor is also as good (if not better) than the secondary camera. Here are some sample shots for your reference:
Definitely one of the nicest cameras you’ll find in a smartphone below Php12,000!
Battery Life: Average
The 2,000mAh battery of the THL W11 Monkey King was just enough to get us around 7-8 hours of moderate usage. Heavy usage drops it down to 5-6 hours. We think the main culprit is the 5.0-inch Full HD display since it definitely takes a lot of power to push all those pixels up.
Verdict: The Best Selfie Machine with No Compromises Under Php12,000
If the THL W11 Monkey King taught us anything, it’s that we should never assume that all Android smartphones coming from China are the same, hehe. We were pleasantly surprised with everything about this device and we would highly recommend it to people looking for a smartphone that can take excellent photos and selfies without compromising power and user experience.
We only have two reservations. First is the after-sales service. While we know there’s a distributor already locally we’re not 100% confident that they can support full service operations. We’re actually having them as our guests on the podcast on Monday so we’ll definitely ask them about that. Be sure to watch 7:30PM at the New Media Factory!
Second is the price. At Php11,999, the THL W11 Monkey King comes dangerously close to the mid-range smartphones of other brands that have LTE connectivity. Just add Php2,000 and you can actually go for the Sony Xperia SP. Or add Php3,500 and pick up an LG Optimus G. If you want a very good selfie camera though, don’t mind not having LTE, and want to save the extra budget then the Monkey King makes for a good buy.
The THL W11 Monkey King is now available in Novo 7 stores and at Kimstore for Php11,999.