Coolpad Legacy review: Best smartphone available for less than $150

  • Editors' rating
    8.4 Excellent

Pros

  • Large, good quality display
  • 4000 mAh battery that lasts for days
  • High quality fit and finish
  • Android 9.0 Pie and stock experience
  • Extremely low price

Cons

  • Large size may be too big for some
  • Average camera performance

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There are high end smartphones targeted to early adopters, but Coolpad is focused on developing and releasing family-friendly technology. It set out to design its flagship smartphone, the Coolpad Legacy, to satisfy key features for its budget-conscious users. I've been using one with a Metro by T-Mobile SIM for more than a month, and the design, features, performance, and the price of this new phone are impressive.

High end flagships are commonly priced in the $800 to $1,100 price range today with advanced camera performance, AI, and other features that push technology forward. While it is great that these companies keep innovating, we don't necessarily need all of these features to get work done with our phones. This was made even more evident recently when the Pixel 3a mid-level phone was released by Google for just $399.

The Coolpad Legacy is designed with a large display, huge capacity battery and Quick Charge 3.0, high quality plastic and glass materials, a microSD expansion card, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and even launches with Android 9 Pie out of the box. There are trade-offs made at the extremely low $130 price, but for the masses it is not obvious where these compromises were made on the Coolpad Legacy.

Also: Best cheap phones: $300 (or much less) buys a great iPhone or Galaxy alternative

The Coolpad Legacy is being offered for $129.99 at Metro by T-Mobile. This means you get service with no annual contracts on a prepaid basis. Metro by T-Mobile has plans that start at $30 per month and go up to $60 per month with special offers from Google and Amazon Prime.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.8 GHz octa-core
  • Display: 6.36-inch 2160x1080 pixels resolution, 18:9 aspect ratio, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 32GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 16MP and 5MP rear cameras. 13MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, FM radio
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor
  • Battery: 4,000 mAh non-removable with Quick Charge 3.0
  • Dimensions: 165.8 x 80.5 x 8.4mm and 169.8 grams

The mid-level specs include the processor, RAM, and camera hardware. However, a 4,000mAh battery with this mid-level processor results in great battery life. This is not a phone for advanced gaming, but the large screen and big battery make it a great device for getting work done for days between charges.

Hardware

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The Coolpad Legacy is a large device with a big 6.3-inch LCD 1080p display. The side bezels are fairly narrow with top and bottom bezels just under a half-inch wide. There are no buttons on the front while a 13MP camera and headset speaker are positioned above the display. Honestly, the screen looks great and I've watched a couple of TV shows on Netflix that looked awesome to my 50-year-old eyes.

The sides are rounded high quality silver plastic while the top and bottom ends are flat. A USB-C port is on the bottom with a 3.5mm headset jack on the top. The SIM/microSD card slot is on the left while the volume and power buttons are on the right.

The back has a glossy insert piece and a central area that has a slightly different silver color to give the Coolpad Legacy a classy look. A central capacitive fingerprint scanner is positioned below the single LED flash and dual rear cameras, stacked vertically. The second rear 5MP serves as a depth sensor for portrait mode shots.

Software

The Coolpad Legacy runs the latest version of Android, 9.0 Pie, with the May 2019 Android security update. When I first started testing the phone it had the March 2019 security update so there has been one update so far and it's not far behind the current month. The phone provides a fairly stock experience, similar to a Google Pixel, with standard home screen panels and Google Discover as a left panel option.

There are a couple of Metro by T-Mobile utilities installed, including an app store, mobile hotspot, Name ID, Visual Voicemail, and myMetro. There are no useless games or other bloatware apps installed on the phone. Thankfully, there is also an FM radio app installed so that one can enjoy local sports while out and about.

Daily usage experiences

When I first unboxed the Coolpad Legacy, I was very impressed by the size, build quality, and initial speed of the phone. I've used it over the past month and still cannot believe the phone only costs $130. It's currently the best deal for a mobile phone and if I didn't write about phones I honestly might be using this as my daily driver with Metro by T-Mobile.

The large screen is very easy to read, even with the default font and text sizes. I've had no trouble using it in the sun either. The phone has been quite responsive at switching between apps, but you can see it is not as zippy as something like the OnePlus 7 Pro or iPhone XS. At hundreds less, that is an acceptable trade-off to make.

With the big screen and large battery, I've been using it a lot to watch video content on my commute. It plays back YouTube videos streaming over Metro flawlessly, as well as playing downloaded Netflix content with ease. The Coolpad Legacy is a good option for those looking for something to occupy the kids while traveling, especially with the headphone jack that can be used with a splitter so more than one person can enjoy video content.

Most every phone I have has a glass back and the Coolpad Legacy has me missing the days of plastic back panels. It doesn't scratch, I don't have to use extreme care when setting it down on a table, and I'm not that worried if it slips from my hands. While glass has a premium feel, I'm fine if manufacturers want to go back to high quality plastic that also supports solid cellular signals.

Coolpad has a goal to become a brand for families with a smartphone that appeals to new phone users, those who want an affordable device, and older people who want a big screen and a battery that lasts for days, all at a great value. The Coolpad Legacy is clearly a winner at just $130 and I honestly haven't been able to find many faults with it over the past month.

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