TECNO CAMON 18 Premier Review
TECNO CAMON 18 Premier new smartphone from TECNO. We have reviewed a few TECNO devices before and have liked them quite a bit.
CAMON 18 Premier is their top-of-the-line offering within the CAMON 18 series of devices. This new smartphone has a large 120Hz 6.7” AMOLED display along with a gimbal-stabilized camera and 33W fast charging support.
Let’s get the unboxing done and dive into the full review.
TECNO CAMON 18 Premier Unboxing
I like the color scheme on this particular TECNO outer box. Lots of attention was paid to the little details. There’s a shrink wrap and a tear-open tamper-proof label. This means that no utility knife is needed for unboxing.
Opening the outer box shows the phone sitting on a nice plastic insert (not cheap paperboard that you find on most other devices). Beneath the insert, you have a standard TPU case, 33W power brick, USB-C cable, earbuds, and SIM tool. You get the 13-month warranty card insert for paperwork. I like that the packaging is simple, functional, and elegant.
Hardware Design Language is one of the best in the category
I like the path TECNO has chosen to pursue with the CAMON 18 Premier smartphone. The overall design is quite elegant thanks to the textured glass on the back cover. Another interesting thing is that the back cover shows off different colors. You get to see green, gray, or blue depending on the ambient lighting which gives it a very unique look.
There is very subtle TECNO CAMON branding on the bottom right corner of the back cover. Other than that there is a clean look and a very sharp-looking triple camera module. The back cover can be easily wiped off to get rid of the fingerprint smudges which is great. But for some reason, the camera module loves attracting dust/lint on it.
I would argue that you can easily mistake this to be a device from Vivo which is quite flattering, to say the least. In terms of looks, I think TECNO did an excellent job with the CAMON 18 Premier.
As usual, build quality is excellent with tight tolerances so that the display, frame, and back cover come together in a cohesive package. Buttons are responsive to the press and have a satisfying tactile click.
The left rail has the power button with a built-in fingerprint scanner and volume rocker and the right rail has the Dual SIM/SD card tray. There is no official IP rating but the rubber gasket on the SIM tray suggests some minor ingress protection.
On the bottom rail, you have the speaker grille, USB-C port, primary microphone, and a headphone jack. A bit shoutout to TECNO for keeping the 3.5mm headphone jack around in 2021. The top rail is clean except for a tiny cutout for the second microphone.
The front of the phone looks very modern thanks to the center hole punch flat AMOLED display and uniform bezels all around. For a large 6.7” display phone it is easy to use with one hand. This is due to excellent weight distribution and just the right overall width of the device. I think most people will like the overall hardware design of the CAMON 18 Premier, especially in Ocean Moonlight color.
Large 120Hz 6.7” AMOLED Display is beautiful
TECNO CAMON 18 Premier features a 6.7” 120Hz AMOLED FHD+ display. A 120Hz high refresh rate is almost unheard of in this segment. This is what is going to set the TECNO CAMON 18 Premier apart from the other devices for sure.
The FHD+ display has a 20:9 aspect ratio with a 393 ppi pixel density. Overall color and contrast are excellent and much better compared to the LCD screens that most other devices have in this segment. Bezels are slim all around and there are no touch responsiveness issues using the phone with gestures.
The 550 nits of peak brightness result in good visibility indoors and outdoors. I did not have issues using the CAMON 18 Premier while out and about on a bright sunny day.
The display is protected by an HD film screen protector from the factory which is a nice touch.
As usual, there are quite a few customization options in the Display Settings. These include screen refresh rate, dark theme, adaptive brightness, and Always-on display (AOD). For this review, I used the regular theme, Adaptive brightness on, and auto-refresh rate. To reduce eye strain, you can turn on the dark theme at sunset from quick settings or use the Eye Care setting in the Display settings menu.
You are getting a lot of great options with a good quality AMOLED display panel with the TECNO CAMON 18 Premier. And I think most people choosing to get this device will be very happy with the quality of the display panel.
Performance on the TECNO CAMON 18 Premier is very good
The CAMON 18 Premier uses a MediaTek Helio G96 (12nm) processor with a Mali-G57 MC2 GPU. Geekbench 5.1 scores suggest that it should be able to do daily tasks without any issues. From a gaming standpoint, it should be able to play most games at medium to regular settings. Keep in mind that games running at 60fps may not be able to utilize the 120Hz screen refresh rate.
TECNO bundles in 8GB RAM and 256GB storage out of the box. On top of it, you can add a micro SD card as well for additional storage. Base storage of 256GB and the ability to add an SD card is almost unheard of these days.
Based on Geekbench scores alone you should anticipate performance equivalent to the Snapdragon 7XX series. So performance-wise, there should be no issues with daily tasks or occasional gaming. As far as gaming goes, there is a specific ‘Game Mode’ setting that optimizes gameplay by limiting interruptions.
I think the average smartphone user will be quite happy with the CAMON 18 Premier from a performance standpoint.
Software on the CAMON 18 Premier is HiOS 8.0 based on Android 11
The CAMON 18 Premier runs on HiOS 8.0 on top of Android 11 with the August 2021 security patch. The HiOS is a light skin on top of stock AOSP and there aren’t too many changes in software from the version that we reviewed with the PHANTOM X earlier in the year.
The main new change is the quick settings menu which resembles what you get with iOS. It is fairly easy and intuitive to use so that is a good thing. As usual, there is quite a bit of Google integration so there are no duplicate email or contacts apps. Messages with RCS chat features is the default app for SMS / texts which is good to see here. There is however no Google Discover Feed as you swipe left from the home screen. Instead, you get a custom feed which may be useful in the geographies this phone is being targeted at.
There are a few preloaded apps and again depending on which country you are in, these apps might prove to be quite useful. I just tucked them away in the app drawer during my review period as their applicability in the USA is minimal. Just like before, besides Google Play Store there is an additional Palm Store for apps and games which again will be useful to users, especially in West Africa.
I did not dive too deep into the software because of my issues with connectivity and the limited applicability of the preloaded apps in the USA. But from whatever apps I used I did not find any bugginess or any slowdowns. The interface is fast and fluid with or without gestures.
CAMON 18 Premier Battery life is good and 33W Fast charging comes in handy
CAMON 18 Premier comes with a 4750 mAh battery which is quite large. Consequently, for normal use, you can easily charge this smartphone every other day.
For an above-average use day with lots of photography, gaming, and Google Maps use you should still be fine. The 33W charging brick in the box should get you to full in about 1 hour. But you can easily get 45% in about 20 minutes of charging or 70% in half an hour. These fast-recharging times should enable you to be out and about in no time.
For my use case, I was able to get about 5-6 hours of Screen-on-Time which is good for a large-screen smartphone. In short, you will be quite happy with the battery life and recharging times with the CAMON 18 Premier.
Camera performance is better than what I was expecting
The cameras on the back of the Premier 18 are quite an interesting mix. The main camera is a 64MP f/1.8 sensor. Then there is the 12MP ultrawide camera with gimbal OIS.
Lastly, we have an 8MP f/3.4 periscope telephoto sensor. The telephoto camera is 135mm and yields 5X optical zoom and 60X Hyper Zoom (digital) according to TECNO.
Night mode is available on the main camera and with practice, it yields quite decent low light photos. The ultrawide and telephoto cameras are quite capable when taking pictures during the day.
Photo quality from the rear cameras is quite good in daylight
The 64MP main camera produces photos with good dynamic range and detail in daylight. Color accuracy is also quite good for pictures from this camera. The daylight pictures are quite punchy – full of color and contrast, ideal for social media posts.
Portrait mode is acceptable, although masks and wired headphones will present a challenge along with wavy hair. But I think with some use, you should be able to take good portrait pictures.
The 12MP ultrawide camera produces pictures with good contrast and detail in daylight.
The ultrawide camera takes pictures with almost zero barrel effect at the edges. I still recommend the 64MP main camera though as it has better light exposure and color balance.
The 5X telephoto lens yields great results both indoors and outdoors. Hybrid zoom of up to 60X is able to discern phone numbers on containers over 100 feet away without any issues. And I can see situations where you may want to use it occasionally.
For this review, I left the camera app in AI CAM mode as it consistently picks the right scene settings. Take a look at the various pictures in our Flickr gallery from all three rear lenses and decide for yourself how good the cameras in the CAMON 18 Premier are.
Lowlight performance from main camera is good in certain situations
At first, when you use this phone’s main camera in low light, the pictures show a lot of glare and distortion. Of course, this was a bit surprising because I was expecting slightly better performance in low-light. And the phone I was using before the CAMON 18 Premier had a special coating to prevent glare and costs almost 6 times this device!
However, after playing around a bit with how to frame the shot I was able to get good low-light pictures. Keep in mind I didn’t have to play with the exposure settings at all. So with just a bit of practice, you should get pretty decent lowlight pictures. Good enough for social media viewing on a smartphone screen.
The camera app has a special ‘Super Night’ setting to take pictures in the dark. It takes between 2-3 seconds to take a night mode picture. If you have a small tripod, you are likely to get better results.
One word of caution, do not attempt to take pictures in pitch dark situations, the results are quite sub-optimal in my opinion.
Selfies are great and Gimbal OIS produces very steady Video clips
The front-facing camera is a 32MP sensor. Selfies are quite good, punchy with reasonable detail and contrast. Portrait selfies are also more than adequate, although be careful with wavy hair or masks as the blur tends to be uneven at the edges. Indoors with an uncluttered background, you should be able to get really good selfies without having to use portrait mode.
Video-wise, you can shoot videos up to 2K 30fps with the main camera. Video quality and audio capture quality are good enough for this category of smartphones. The best feature in terms of video is the ultra-steady gimbal camera. Turn on the anti-shake icon in the camera app and you get extremely steady video from both the main and ultrawide rear cameras.
The ultrawide and 5X cameras are capped at 1080p resolution at 30fps. While recording video, you can switch ZOOM to 5X and the phone will switch to the periscope camera automatically.
I can see myself using the main or ultrawide camera to take videos occasionally especially with the OIS stabilization. In summary, you will be quite pleased with the results from the CAMON 18 Premier cameras for pictures, video, and selfies.
Audio quality is quite good especially via the headphone jack
CAMON 18 Premier has a single firing bottom speaker but it is fairly loud and clear in terms of audio quality. Vocals are quite clear and the bass is acceptable even though it is a bit on the low side but good enough for most situations. Since this is a single speaker device, remember to not cover the speaker grille at the bottom with your hand while playing videos or during gaming.
But things definitely get better in terms of audio when using the headphone jack. The audio output is absolutely crisp and clear including thumping bass. I tried out quite a few different songs from the latest pop tunes to oldies from the 90s and they all sound great with wired earbuds.
For wireless audio output, I used TECNO GO1 TWS earbuds that came with the review device. And in case you are wondering, the audio quality via these Bluetooth earbuds is excellent.
The fit and finish of these earbuds are just as good as the CAMON 18 Premier. I like the multi-color LEDs, and the shape of the case which are both unique touches. Pairing with the CAMON 18 Premier was a breeze.
In terms of battery capacity, I managed just over 4 hours on a full charge. In-ear comfort was good enough for a couple of hours at a stretch. I typically prefer over-ear headphones so for me 2 hours is acceptable at a time.
In summary, you will be happy with the audio output from the CAMON 18 Premier and personally, I would use the wired earbuds that come in the box.
Should you buy the TECNO CAMON 18 Premier?
TECNO has another winner on their hands here in my opinion. I was quite impressed with the CAMON 18 Premier. It has an excellent build quality, superb display, better than average cameras, and good battery life with 33W fast charging. Performance is more than adequate for daily tasks and gaming and the software does have a lot of useful addons and there’s a headphone jack with wired earbuds in the box.
With the TECNO CAMON 18 Premier, I think you are getting a very capable smartphone for your money.