Thursday, July 25, 2024

CMF Phone 1 Hands On: A Mid-Ranger With A Design To Love

Nothing has just launched the first smartphone under its CMF sub-brand. Following the naming convention of its mainstream releases, the new device is dubbed the Phone 1 and features mid-range specifications, along with the ability to swap its rear case with that of a different colour as well as attach other accessories to it.

What sets the CMF Phone 1 apart from Nothing’s usual handsets is its design, which lacks the transparent elements or the brand’s signature Glyph lighting system. Instead, it features an industrial-like minimalist design that’s reminiscent of rugged smart devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy XCover7 and so on. However, bear in mind that its rough looks are just for aesthetics, as the phone itself is considerably light and only comes with a splash resistance rating of IPX2.

Personally, I really like this design and the ability to take customisation further is an added bonus. Speaking of which, swapping the rear case involves removing the rear screws by using the included tools. Unfortunately, CMF did not provide me with an alternate cover for me to try this out, so I’m stuck with the black colourway, which is still gorgeous in my opinion. That said, the Phone 1 is also available in orange, blue and green, which are also offered as alternate cases that you can purchase separately for RM99 each.

Then there’s the Accessory Point knob at the bottom right corner of the case, which can be used to attach first-party accessories by simply unscrewing it off from the phone. For now, these add-ons include a lanyard, card holder and a kickstand, which are also sold separately for RM59 each. Oh, and I should also mention that you can attach decorative items such as charms on the Accessory Point as well.

Despite its differing aesthetics, the CMF Phone 1 itself is still a Nothing product nonetheless, evident from the onboard Nothing OS platform. Much like on the brand’s mainstream smartphones, the interface offers a minimalist yet customisable design that’s straightforward and easy to navigate, though Glyph-specific apps such as the composer is absent on this version for obvious reasons. There’s also the lack of unnecessary bloatware, which is a definite plus point in my books.

Specs-wise, let’s start with the display. On the Phone 1, we have a flat 6.67-inch Super AMOLED panel with a modest 1080 x 2400 px resolution, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, and 2000 nits peak brightness. It’s not the most high-end of screens, but it certainly delivers when it comes to web browsing, photo viewing, video consumption, and gaming. You’ll also be glad to know that it comes with an under-display optical fingerprint scanner, which is somewhat a rarity for smartphones at this price range.

Since this is my first impressions with the phone, I’ve not conducted any benchmark tests just yet. That said, the onboard MediaTek Dimensity 7300 5G has so far been quite reliable in launching different apps and handling multitasking without a hitch, though I should note that the first boot up did take a while. While you can still use it for gaming, just don’t expect it to run titles such as Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail, or Wuthering Waves at their highest settings flawlessly.

Photography using the 50MP + depth sensor cameras featured on the CMF Phone 1, to put it simply, is just fine. Focusing is considerably fast, while the images produced (including those from the 16MP selfie) are sharp, bright and vivid, though the contrast is a bit on the high side. The Portrait Mode, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired due to how artificial the bokeh looks after post-processing, and there will be times where subject edge detection is inaccurate. 

It should also be noted that the phone does not feature an ultra-wide lens, and zooming is done digitally due to the lack of a telephoto. There’s no OIS either, so you’ll need steady hands when snapping a photo or recording videos. In regards to the latter, you can toggle Action Mode to reduce shakes, but note that it will crop your footage regardless of format (4K/30p or 1080/60p).

Last but not least, keeping things running on the CMF Phone 1 is a 5,000mAh battery, which comes with 33W fast charging and 5W reverse wired charging via USB-C. Much like its chipset, I’ve not fully tested the battery just yet, but considering that the capacity offered is industry standard, you can expect the device to last for more than a day on a single charge. For what it’s worth, the battery currently stands at 75% at the time of writing, and I had previously fully charged the phone about 12 hours prior.

In case you missed our earlier report, the newly launched CMF Phone 1 will be available in Malaysia on 15 July for RM1,099. It has decent mid-range specifications which could easily rival Nothing’s own Phone (2a) that was released back in March. While the handset lacks its cousin’s fancy transparent elements and Glyph lighting system, it makes up for it with an attractive design, fun personalisation gimmicks, and a far more affordable price point.