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The Oukitel C21 is the budget smartphone shoppers’ delight. At $108, it’s dirt cheap, and unlike most other phones in this price range, it comes with some rather impressive specifications. So, what’s the catch? What do you stand to lose when you buy this device?

Put simply, not much, and in this review, I do a deep dive on the phone to reveal the good, bad, and ugly, so you can make an informed buying decision.

Oukitel C21 – what’s in the box

The Oukitel C21 comes with very basic packaging and accessories. You get a generic-looking 10W charging brick, A USB C cable, a clear TPU case, a phone manual and warranty card, the phone itself, and that’s pretty much it. No in-ear earphones or factory screen protector.

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Oukitel C21 – Design and build quality

Not the best looking Android phone

The Oukitel C21 is not the prettiest Android smartphone in the market, I’ll tell you that, but it does look and feel good for the price. It’s a plastic build with a glossy finish. As you probably imagine, this glossy finish is an absolute fingerprint magnet.

The camera bump on the Oukitel C21 is a blatant copy of what you’d find on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra; the only problem is that it doesn’t look half as good. This and the poorly streamlined edges (which I guess was done to make the phone look sleeker) make the Oukitel C21 feel a lot less premium.

A refreshingly attractive hole-punch display

A small part of the phone’s design reputation is salvaged at the front with a surprisingly gorgeous hole-punch display. The bezels are a bit thick, and there’s a noticeable chin, but this is all standard for a phone at this price. What’s not standard is the plastic rim that goes all around the screens’ edge. It’s the same as what you’d find on the Umidigi A7S, and as was the case with that device, it’s rather prone to picking up scratches.

Oukitel C21 – Specs and performance

Decent specifications for some mild – moderate heavy lifting

The Oukitel C21 ships with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Note that this storage is of the eMMC variant instead of UFS 2.1, which is the faster storage configuration you’d find on premium Android devices. The processor is a capable MediaTek Helio P60, which is the current benchmark for mid-range budget android devices. It’s the same processor you’d find on the Cubot C30 and the more recent Oukitel C22.

UX is smooth and fast

Everything combines to provide a relatively smooth user experience on this phone. Apps launch smoothly without any stutter, scrolling through menus feels very responsive, and I have not experienced any performance lag so far. For an Android device in the $100 range, the Oukitel C21 is a steal in the performance department.

Oukitel C21 Aliexpress Price

Oukitel C21 – Camera quality

Surprisingly good

When I got the C21, I didn’t have big expectations for its camera, but after taking the device out to shoot some pictures, I have to say I’m very impressed. Images come out very punchy with enough colour and depth. There’s a fair deal of clarity, and in portrait mode, the phone does an excellent job of separating the background from the foreground.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not a Samsung nor an iPhone camera, but for a $108 phone, it’s punching very far above its weight. I’ll even go as far as to say it has the best camera in all the ‘budget budget’ smartphones I’ve reviewed so far.

Camera quality is not a numbers game

On paper, the back camera is a 16MP main, 2MP Macro, dual 2MP auxiliary setup with a large (for the prize) F2.0 aperture size. The front camera is a single 20MP F2.0 camera. These are not exceptional numbers by any margin, but excellent camera performance has never been about big numbers and the pictures taken by the C21 go a long way to prove that point.

Oukitel C21 – Display quality

Vibrant display

Oukitel c21 aliexpress review

If there’s anything I love about the Oukitel C21, it’s the display quality. This phone is an absolute peach to look at, and again that’s a pretty big deal for a $108 android smartphone. The colours are vibrant, images are very sharp, and although the phone’s pixel density is just about 398 PPI, I’ve found it hard to make out individual pixels on the screen.

It’s a 2K IPS screen

Spec-wise, the Oukitel C21’s screen is a full HD(2K) IPS display with an actual resolution of 1080 x 2310 pixels and a screen refresh rate of 60Hz – solid numbers for a budget Android device.

Oukitel C21 – Battery capacity

Not the best but certainly good enough

Buy indesign cs2. Oukitel ships the C21 with a 4000mAh battery, which is about the best you can get at this price range, in all fairness. In real-world use, the battery performs pretty well. I’ve been able to churn out about a full day of use from the phone with a screen-on time of 2 hours and 6 minutes. At 10%, the phone’s battery manager still estimates about a day of standby use left.

No fast charging

The only significant drawback is that the Oukitel C21 doesn’t come with a fast-charger. You get a 10W charging brick that takes about 3 hours to power the phone from 0 – 100%.

Oukitel C21 – Extras

Oukitel C21 Aliexpress Review

Back mounted fingerprint sensor and ‘light & distance sensor’

The Oukitel C21 comes with a back-mounted fingerprint sensor and something Oukitel calls a light and distance sensor on the phone’s top-right edge.

The fingerprint sensor works quite well, but the positioning is a little off the mark. It’s not centered as you’d find on other Android smartphones; instead, it’s more towards the right on the assembly that holds the camera. Locating it to unlock the phone is a hit and miss game that improves the more you spend time with the phone. So, really, not too much of a big deal.

I still don’t know what the light and distance sensor does, but I’ll be reaching out to Oukitel very soon to get some clarifications.

Oukitel C21 – Pricing and availability

Right now, the Oukitel C21 costs a very pocket friendly $106 on AliExpress. When I ordered the phone, I got it for $108, so the price is certainly dropping, and part of that is because Oukitel just launched a successor for the C21 – the C22. I’ll be reviewing that device very soon, so stay tuned.

What’s not to like?

The design

The back of the Oukitel C21 could really use some improvement. The glossy finish looks good, but the shape, feel, and poorly executed Galaxy S20 Ultra copy of a camera bump makes this phone look cheaper than it really should.

No fast charging

The Oukitel C21 ships with USB C as standard, so it’s a little bit disappointing to see that the phone doesn’t come with a fast charger. I’m guessing it’s one of the corners that had to be cut to keep the phones’ retail price down.

Bottom line – should you buy the C21

Oukitel C21 Aliexpress Download

At $106, the Oukitel C21 is a no brainer for anyone looking for a dirt-cheap Android phone that still manages to pack a punch. Oukitel has shaved off some 21st-century smartphone essentials to keep the price down, but in my opinion, it’s a well-worthy tradeoff as there are very few phones as capable as it is for the $106 price tag.