We’re quite fond of Hisense’s range of smartphones here at the Stuff offices, for reasons that might seem counterintuitive. They’re neat, they’re usually easy to use — if they were a friend, they’d be that one that sticks around after parties to help clean up. You know, the one with no drama while everyone around them is losing their collective er… minds.
Which is all well and good but folks who consistently have nothing going on tend to be a little boring. And that’s the case here with the Hisense Infinity H11, a mid-range phone that does what it should but without standing out from the pack.
If there were prizes awarded for the most generic smartphone design, we’d have to give it to the Infinity H11. It’s a largely nondescript slab of black glass that incorporates elements of design language from Samsung, LG, and even a spot of Apple. But these elements are, individually, so minor that you’d probably have a hard time identifying which bit goes where. Imagine blending a collection of the most iconic of last year’s devices and boiling them down to their essence. A neat trick, if you can do it, but what would pop out at the end would look like the Hisense Infinity H11.
Samsung’s definitely in Hisense’s sights here, though, considering their screen is also referred to as an Infinity Display. Hisense only gets away with the title because this is their Infinity range but we can see the comparison. Pop this one side by side with one of Samsung’s latest and it takes a second or two before you register the larger bezels and lack of a beveled screen. Hisense’s 2.5D glass design, which rounds the edges of the panels used for the device, have a little something to do with that. Even the front camera and speaker arrangement at the top of the device is similar to Samsung’s latest.
Hisense has opted for USB-C for the H11, sticking with the headphone jack and sporting a centrally-placed fingerprint sensor — a neat set of features for a mid-range smartphone. The rear camera lives far away from the fingerprint sensor but makes itself known by bulging iPhone-like just a little in the upper corner. The vented main speakers bracket the USB-C port and that… looks a little like Huawei’s speaker choices.
Peering inside the phone (thanks to the magic of software analysis, we’re not Superman) shows a less-conventional set of innards. There’s a Snapdragon 430, a mid-range chip that was already ageing in September 2018 when this phone first launched, but it stands alongside 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. CPU-Z, which we used to track all of the phone’s states, reports that the display is a 6in 720 x 1,358 panel — which lines up with Hisense’s claimed 5.99in HD+ display.
There are only two cameras here, which is a little surprising in a time when three or more is becoming the norm. There’s a 12MP sensor in the back and Hisense have splurged for a 16MP front-facer — likely the result of targeting their devices to the selfie generation. The usual range of sensors and systems on the inside are present, as is a headphone jack for those folks who cannot bear to part with their wired wonders.
The H11 has a 3,400mAh battery keeping the whole operation er… operating. This one’s adequate to keep you going for more than a day with moderate usage and the device charges appreciably fast. That’s good to see in a cheaper phone. Nobody has time to wait ages any more. We’ve got stuff to do.
Heart of the matter
Numbers are all well and good. They look nice on a spreadsheet, unless you’re the type who gets palpitations from arithmetic or statistics. But how fast those numbers move in the real world is the difference between theory and practicality. We did some benchmark testing, to get a sense of comparative speeds, and you’re looking at (tested) performance close to that of our old friend — the Snapdragon 801. That’s according to the Geekbench score of 2499 for multicore performance. The H11 also attained 647 for single-core, a number that doesn’t mean a whole lot in real terms. You’re almost never restricted to a lone core.
Antutu’s testing popped out a score of 57,224. For those hoping for a sub-R5,000 miracle of a smartphone, you’ll get that once you capture yourself a unicorn. That’s not enough to crack the top 50, where scores start at around 197,000. It is enough to get you through day-to-day apps without a hint of slowdown. Unfortunately, Fortnite doesn’t count as a day-to-day app. 3D performance is particularly galling. Antutu crashed twice while trying to measure 3D performance before finally running. As it happens, it didn’t have to bother. An interconnected slide show was the end result, with close to a second between loaded frames.
In practise, you won’t see much lag between apps unless you’re an absurd multitasker or you insist on trying to get resource-intensive 3D applications running. You’ll get some games running on this device (think Rayman: Jungle Run and friends) but partaking in the world’s premier gaming phenomenon? You can forget about that for now. Never mind, you can still do all those lovely social media things folks seem so taken with these days. TwitFaceSnapGram yourself to pieces.
Take it outside
We’ve mentioned those cameras — the 12MP rear camera might be your main shooter but it’s obvious that Hisense wants you to be pleased with the front-facer. Hence the uptick in available megapixels to 16MP. You’d think that would lead to the front cam being the better of the pair but you’d be incorrect. The major highlight for the front ‘selfie’ camera is the by-now obligatory social media prettiness filter, the visual equivalent of autotune. It’s effective enough to turn you into a smoothed-out plasticine person, or you can dial it down to reveal your natural cragginess. A soft touch may be required here.
On to the real camera though — You would do well to remember that Samsung used 12MP sensors for their main cameras before they finally made the jump to dual lenses. Hisense’s 12MP Sony Exmor RS sensor isn’t in the same league, before you get too excited, but it’s more than enough to get some detailed shots in good lighting. And even some poorer lighting but you can see in the first image (upper left), which was taken in only somewhat darker conditions, detail begins to suffer. It takes a fair amount of zooming to see but low-light performance isn’t the H11’s forte. Grain and loss of detail only extends as lighting gets worse. The flash alleviates this to some extent but you don’t want to be whipping out flash photography in a dimly-lit nightclub, do you?
The rest of the sample shots were taken in more or less ideal conditions. Available detail and contrast are fine, making the most of Stuff‘s fairly unusual outdoor areas. Photos are adequate at worst and there’s some potential for very good photography in excellent or even creative conditions.
Hisense Infinity H11 Verdict
As we mentioned right at the beginning, we like Hisense’s phones. Nothing’s changed here by the Infinity H11. It does just what it claims to do. It looks good enough that nobody’s going to ask you any questions about how much it costs. Folks’ll likely be surprised when you tell them that it only called for R4,000 (up to R4,500) from the annual smartphone budget. Yes, we know that nobody who buys their own phones has an annual smartphone budget.
But it’s also unremarkable. The design isn’t going to set your social media comments aflame. The performance isn’t going to see you notching up any Fortnite wins. The camera… okay, that’s actually up to the photographer but the average user won’t be running off excellent snaps in anything other than decent conditions. The H11 does what it sets out to do, without exceeding expectations. Sure, extra effort is always appreciated but it isn’t always needed. If you just need a phone, one that you can be sure will function as advertised, at a budget price, then this is your port of call.