The S90 effectively ranks amongst the best-rugged smartphones out there, but with a couple of minor flaws. We believe that it sets a new benchmark in the market with an innovative clip-on accessory range that will unquestionably turn heads and inspire others to follow suit.
Chinese manufacturer Doogee educated us a couple of months ago that its next lead smartphone would be very different from the rest of the competition, and that it would break away from the pack not because of the components it used, but because of the accessories. And afterwards, the S90 landed around our desk in a shoebox-sized case comprising of two drawers containing the phone and four add-on modules (if you include the wireless charger).
With regards to modular smartphones, many of us will remember Project Ara, Google’s ambitious plan to make phones easily upgradable via Lego-like accessories. Motorola was bought from Google by Lenovo, and the Z series with modular add-ons (called mods) came around, with the Motorola Z3 promising a 5G mod, no less.
Accessories are additionally very well-known with business-focused rugged smartphones from manufacturers like Zebra or Panasonic and offer a very easy way to add optional, genuinely useful functionality while increasing profitability and margin for the manufacturer.
When the S90 is out of the box, the size of the phone is astounding at 170 x 80 x 15mm, with a weight of 302g. It effectively ranks amongst the biggest rugged smartphones that we have tested, which is something to bear in mind. The E&L S60 and the Poptel P60 are two option rugged devices to consider if you’re looking for something lighter.
The Doogee S90 is the first smartphone that we have tried which accompanies the Mediatek Helio P60 processor, also known as the MT6771. This chip was launched early in 2018 and competed against the Qualcomm Snapdragon SD660. It packs four Cortex-A53 little cores and four Cortex-A73 cores.
Both clusters can work at up to 2GHz and are supported by a Mali-G72 GPU. The chip can do LTE and supports up to 8GB of LPDDR4 memory (the S90 has 6GB onboard). Note that the MT6771 also sports a Neural Processing Unit from Tensilica which may come in handy for AI workloads in the future.
As one would expect, you can use a microSD card to add to the 128GB onboard storage, although that means sacrificing one SIM card. The S90 has NFC (great for payments), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, plus the ability to charge the sealed 5050mAh battery wirelessly, leaving the Type-C port untouched (a great idea as this is a rugged phone).
The S90 performed spectacularly in our tests, racking some of the best numbers we’ve seen in our benchmarks, surpassing previous Mediatek silicon by a wide margin. One can safely assume that this phone will be able to sail through most applications without much trouble.
The phone supports 29 bands in all and provides dual 4G SIM standby. It doesn’t run the latest version of Android, though, instead of sticking to a customized version of 8.1 Oreo. The latest firmware is dated December 2018, which is a good sign.
Value for money
Stock Android would’ve been better.
No status light or oleophobic finish
No, the S90 can’t be depicted as strong. It can be scratched, and it can be wrecked beyond repair. However, the present exercise was not one of truth or dare, yet an endeavour to discover what Doogee’s new flagship is capable of – and boy did it impress. It is available on banggood.com for as low as US$194.99
Should you buy the S90? The answer is unequivocal yes if you are after a best-in-class rugged smartphone (at least on paper) and are ready to take risks usually associated with buying expensive hardware from abroad.