Verykool s470 Black Pearl review: Solid performance on a budget

In most of my test photos, the Black Pearl's camera struggled to take clear, well-lit shots. Though the camera has an autofocus, with an option to tap the screen to manually focus, close-up shots didn't always turn out sharp. That led to photos with very small focus areas with anything not in focus looking blurry. Also, the camera had a hard time capturing color variations in close-ups as well.

Verykool Black Pearl
Here, the camera struggled to show the color variations in the flower's petals. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Landscape shots look clear and well-lit, but again, some areas end up looking blurry and out of focus.

Verykool Black Pearl
In this landscape shot, taken in the midafternoon, the sky looks bright and natural, but the trees in the foreground look blurry. Sarah Mitroff/CNET

In CNET's standard studio shot, colors look true and detail shows up well, though the white backdrop shows up beige.

Verykool Black Pearl
It's easy to see details in this studio shot, but the white background looks beige. Josh Miller/CNET

There's also a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats and selfies. The photos and video I captured with it looked clear and bright.

The back camera can also shoot HD video in 1080p at 30 frames per second. I didn't have many complaints here, as the videos I shot were sharp and clear.

The camera UI is nearly identical to the one on the Alcatel One Touch Fierce , and as a result, is just as confusing. On one side of the viewfinder, there's a row of icons that represent different scene options. Some are obvious, such as HDR and panorama shot, while others, like the star and the box with the heart, are less so. The only way to find out what each scene does is to tap and hold the icon until the helper text appears.

Verykool Black Pearl
In this outdoor shot, the water looks clear and sharp. Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Also, just like on the One Touch Fierce, when you tap on the video icon to switch to video mode, the camera automatically starts recording. Most phones switch into video mode and then give you a big red record button to start shooting, so it's jarring here to have the phone start recording without that extra step.

Call quality
The Black Pearl is an unlocked dual-SIM phone that can be used on any GSM network worldwide. In the US, that means it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile. You can't use it on a CDMA network, so that means it won't work on Verizon Wireless, Sprint, MetroPCS, Cricket, or U.S. Cellular. I tested the phone on T-Mobile's network in San Francisco.

Dual-SIM phones, which aren't available on any US carrier and thus must be purchased unlocked, allow you to have two phone numbers and two cellular service plans running on the same phone. They are useful while traveling, and allow you to have both a business and personal line on the same device.

Call quality on the Black Pearl is overall pretty good. On one call to another cell phone on T-Mobile's network, my test caller's voice sounded a bit muffled, but otherwise there was no static or dropped words. She said I sounded clear and she couldn't hear any background noise, even though I was in a crowded public space.

Verykool Black Pearl call quality sample Listen now:

In another test call, this time to a landline, the person on the other end said that I sounded far away and a bit tinny, but not so much that it was distracting.

The Black Pearl has two SIM card slots. Josh Miller/CNET

The only major issue I encountered was with the speakerphone. Unless I held the microphone right next to my mouth, my tester said I sounded too far away. Also, the speaker itself is very quiet even at the highest volume, and I couldn't hear it at all while standing outdoors next to a busy street. Indoors, the sound was faint even in a quiet area at maximum volume.

Performance
Inside, the Black Pearl has a 1.2GHz processor, which is slightly slower than what competing phones have, but still performs well.

Opening apps feels fast and snappy, and though the game Temple Run 2 took a very long time to download over the HSPA+ connection, it ran without any glitches or problems.

Testing on T-Mobile's network in San Francisco, I was only able to get 4G HSPA+ speeds, since the phone doesn't support LTE. That means, depending on your carrier, browsing Web sites and downloading apps can be slow.

The phone packs a 2,000mAh battery, which Verykool says should last for 10 hours of 3G talk time, and for 12.5 days on standby. Anecdotally, the battery didn't drain either particularly slowly or quickly while I testing the phone and you should be able to get through the day on a single charge. During our battery drain test for continuous video playback, it lasted 8.18 hours.

Conclusion
Though the unlocked Verykool Black Pearl doesn't have the latest top-notch specs, at $229.99 unlocked and off-contract, it's a great value. Its admirable screen, sturdy design, dual-SIM capabilities, and unique software features make it worth a look if you're in the market for a budget handset.

If you're willing to go on-contract, there are many affordable options. But for those seeking an unlocked phone, the Black Pearl is one of the least expensive options available. For instance, one of our top unlocked smartphone picks , the HTC One Google Play Edition , costs $549. Likewise, the highly rated unlocked Sony Xperia Z has an MSRP of $549.99.

The only unlocked handset that comes close to the Black Pearl's price tag is the Nexus 5, the most notable unlocked phone of late. It costs $349, or $120 more than the Black Pearl. If you can afford that, I recommend you buy the Nexus 5, because it's full of top-of-the-line specs and is running the latest version of Android. If you can't swing the extra cost, the Black Pearl is a compelling alternative.

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    Verykool s470 Black Pearl

    Part Number: s470 Released: 12 Sep 2013
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Release date 12 Sep 2013
    • Weight 5.29 oz
    • Diagonal Size 4.7 in
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