STK X2, First Take: A good-looking budget smartphone Review



STK will likely be a new name to many people, but the UK company has a range of handsets in its portfolio. The X2 is STK’s flagship, although it costs just £169.99 (or £179.99 if you opt for the tempered glass variant or want a bundled 32GB MicroSD card). The company’s entry-level smartphone is the Evo, which currently costs £39.99, and you can get an STK feature phone for as little as £12.99.

The X2 is an unashamedly budget phone in terms of specifications and build materials (although the design is neat enough), with a UI overlay on top of Android 8.1. In the box you get a headset with a 3.5mm jack and a silicone bumper, and the handset comes with a three-year warranty. Another plus is the presence of an IR blaster which, coupled with software, can turn your phone into a remote control for TVs and other consumer electronics. There’s no IR software pre-installed here, but there are plenty of choices in the Play Store.

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STK’s X2 is a 5.7-inch phone with an 18:9, 720×1440-pixel IPS screen.


Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

My review sample had a glass back which, although not a particular fingerprint magnet, was very smooth. This makes the handset slippery to hold, causing it to slide off my armchair at times. A circular fingerprint sensor sits below the raised housing for the two camera lenses. There’s also a gold version of this phone, whose back must be much more of a mirror than the one I had. The phone is relatively thick, which actually makes it easier to hold with confidence one-handed.

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The STK X2 comes in (shiny) gold as well as black.


Image: STK

STK is shy about some of the handset’s specifications. It doesn’t say that Gorilla Glass is used for the screen, which means it probably isn’t. Nor are the dimensions to be found on the product page online, though press materials put the thickness at 8.2mm, which seems right to me. I measured the phone at 152mm tall and 72mm wide.

The 5.7-inch screen is close to edge-to-edge on the long edges, but there are sizeable bezels at the top and bottom. The display resolution of 720 by 1,440 pixels (282ppi) is moderate, but the 18:9 aspect ratio is up to date. There’s no front-camera notch, but few will be bothered about that. The IPS screen is perfectly clear and sharp for most activities, including reading web pages.

The single speaker delivers rather tinny sound and isn’t really up to the job of accompanying TV catchup or music listening.

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The X2’s MediaTek MT6750V chipset is supported by 4GB of RAM, a combo that delivered middling Geekbench 4 scores of 2623 (multi-core) and 661 (single core). I saw similar benchmarks recently from the Palm Palm mini-handset, and the Honor 7A. There was a notable wait while apps launched, and screen presses were sometimes a little slow to generate a response. I also had to wait a while for the fingerprint sensor to do its job, and in general things felt somewhat laggy.

The front camera is a 16MP unit, as is the main camera at the back. There’s a second rear camera whose specification is not given online, but which is a 0.3MP unit for depth sensing. The rear camera setup struggled a bit in low light conditions, and focusing in general was a bit hit-and-miss — sometimes the camera simply refused to focus on what I asked it to, instead making its own decisions about what should and should not be in focus. I found that moving away and returning to the subject tended to fix this problem.

There is 64GB of internal storage, of which 56.65GB was free out of the box. This can be boosted by putting a MicroSD card slot into one of the two SIM trays. I noted at the start of this review that Android 8.1 is supplemented by a UI overlay. This is very light touch: STK adds an FM radio into the mix, and a couple of other management apps, but interference with Android is minimal and there are no apps that duplicate Android functions to confuse you.

The 3000mAh battery is on the small side these days, and the X2’s battery life reflects this. The Geekbench battery test saw it last for 6 hours 38 minutes and gave it a mediocre rating of 2264. In the real world, a day’s use should be possible, but not if you want to make much use of battery-hungry apps like games or services like GPS. The battery is charged by Micro-USB rather than USB-C, and there’s no facility for fast charging or wireless charging.

I did have one major problem with this handset, and that was its desire to take a rest every once in a while, completely unbidden. It seemed to get over that after a few days’ use, and it’s entirely possible that a software update will fix it, but it’s unnerving to receive a phone for review with a self-reset issue.

STK has arguably committed a marketing blunder by saying that the original price of this handset was £299.99 (or £309.99 for the tempered glass/32GB MicroSD options). At that price I would have been unimpressed. It’s much more palatable at £169.99 or £179.99. Still, I’d still suggest anyone interested in getting a smartphone in this price bracket does a little shopping around: the Moto G6 or Nokia 6.1 are among the leading alternatives.

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