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Doogee S88 Pro rugged smartphone review

A phone that doubles as a blunt instrument

Doogee S88 Pro
(Image: © Mark Pickavance)

Our Verdict

On paper the S88 Pro is amazing value. Tons of CPU power, battery life and features, but it is too big to fit in a normal sized pocket and heavy. But, if you are going on a remote adventure or a construction site, it might be ideal.

For

  • Powerful platform
  • Very robust
  • 10000mAh of battery
  • Wireless charging

Against

  • Heavy
  • No 4K video recording

Doogee is a Chinese phone brand that has focused but not exclusively, on rugged designs. Doogee is part of KVD International Group Limited headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and the business was only started in 2013.

After some noticeable successes, the company has embarked on a program of product expansion, and the new S88 Pro is one of its latest generation of rugged designs.

There is often a cynicism in the West towards Chinese phones, painting them as generally price-driven solutions. Will the S88 Pro confront that generalisation and demonstrate that it is more than the sum of its parts?

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Doogee)

Price

The Doogee S88 Pro is availably globally and can be found on the UK Amazon store for £259.99 and on Newegg USA for $299.99. That Newegg price is the price for the American version, but for an extra $20 you can also buy the ‘Global Edition’ that can handle all the mobile frequencies and standards that anyone travelling across the world might encounter.

It comes in three colours; black, orange and green.

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Design

All the Doogee rugged phones we’ve tested are on the stout side, but the S88 Pro would be classed as morbidly obese by most doctors.

Picking it up for the first time it wouldn’t take much to be convinced that it was a solid block of metal, as there isn’t anything remotely flimsy about any aspect of this phone.

Those that like the military hardware styling will love its brutal aesthetic, but it isn’t something that most people would expect to encounter when not up a mountain.

The controls are a little unusual in that the fingerprint reader is on the right-hand side, not the back. This choice works very well for right-handed users since you can unlock the phone using your thumb, but it is much less convenient for those who are left-handed.

On the left are two additional buttons on the left, one that can be user-defined and another that diverts to a default page to call emergency services.

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Doogee)

To achieve its IP68 Waterproof, dustproof and shockproof ratings each corner has a rubberised projection, and all entry points a rubber gasket.

There are only two significant points of ingress, the SIM card slot and USB-C port.

There is no headphone jack. Instead, it comes with a small conversion cable get this functionality from the USB-C.

If you don’t use that accessory, maybe because your headphones are Bluetooth, then you can avoid displacing the USB-C port cover, as the S88 Pro wirelessly charged.

The rear camera cluster, because there are three sensors, is in the middle and curiously has some LED lights near it that Doogee describes cryptically as ‘Iron Man eye-style’.

These lights can indicate a message has arrived, that the phone needs charging, a call and even flash along to your dubious choice in music. We’re unsure a phone needs that type of illumination, but Doogee included it nevertheless.

Except for Marvel-inspired lights, nothing on the outside of this design especially shocked us, but what’s inside was more of a revelation.

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Doogee)

Hardware

Spec Sheet

The Doogee S88 Pro that was sent to us for review came with the following hardware:

CPU: MTK6771T Helio P70 Octa Core up to 2.0GHz

GPU: ARM Mali-G72

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Screen size: 6.3-inch

Resolution: 2340 x 1080

Weight: 372g

Dimensions: 171.6 x 85.5 x 18.7mm

Rear camera: SONY IMX230 21.4 MP + 8 MP + 8 MP

Front camera: Samsung S5K3 16 MP

OS: Android 10

Battery: 10000mAh

Given the relatively low price, we weren’t expecting much from the hardware inside, but the S88 Pro has an impressive SoC that places this design on par with some more expensive phones.

Many makers are using the new Mediatek Helio P70 Octa-core processor, and in our testing of this design, we can see why they are flocking to it. Built from four big ARM Cortex-A73 cores and another four small and power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 cores, and each cluster can control their clocks independently for optimal efficiency.

That makes the S88 Pro fast when it needs to be and a frugal user of power when it doesn’t.

Here the SoC has 6GB of RAM and a whopping 128GB of flash storage to access, and you can add another 256GB of Micro SD storage via the card slot.

Another strong point of this design is the 6.3-inch screen with a 410 PPI (Pixel density). It’s bright, crisp, has subtle contrast levels and displays well-saturated colours at a natural resolution of 2340 x 1080. That’s a slightly odd 13/6 ratio, but it can display 1080p content with top and bottom borders without an issue on Android 10.

When this design went through a cost reduction exercise, which all phones do, and we noticed two significant places that got impacted.

The first, and most obvious, is that this isn’t a 5G capable design. It has all the GSM, 3G, 4G LTE side of things covered, but it can’t access the 5G services in those countries lucky enough to have them.

The other limitations are in the camera, more specifically the rear cluster that uses the tried-and-tested SONY IMX230 sensor in a 21.4 MP + 8 MP + 8 MP configuration. When this sensor first appeared, it dramatically improved the quality of pictures that cheaper phones were taking. But, considering that the sensor has an active array of 5344 x 4016, and can take still images of 5344 x 4008, why can’t the S88 Pro capture better than 1080p video?

The SONY specifications for the IMX230 state that it can record video of up to 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution with HDR function enabled, but not on the S88 Pro it seems.

Not everyone wants 4K video, but every owner of this phone will be keen on the size of the battery it packs. A whopping 10,000 mAh of capacity gives it an incredible 32 days of standby, 47 hours of calling and 18 hours of video playback.

For those hiking or away from power for whatever reason, the vast battery life could be quite literally a lifesaving capability.

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Doogee)

We mentioned earlier, wirelessly charging is available in the S8 8Pro, but these capabilities aren’t restricted to power travelling in a single direction. If required, the S88 Pro can act as a wireless charging pad and charge another phone with 5W wireless charging technology.

But, surely if you connected the phones via a USB-C cable, and transferred power over that, would be a more efficiently transfer than via wireless?

We never had a chance to do that test, but if you don’t have cables handy, this might be a useful feature.

Performance and in use

Wow. The S88 Pro is a powerful phone when compared to many other rugged devices, and it delivers some impressive numbers across most of our benchmarks.

But what is most striking is the 3DMark performance. Typically, most phones don’t run Slingshot Extreme well, and on some this test is reduced to a slideshow, but here it renders sufficient frames to be smooth.

Compared to all devices that have run the 3DMark Slingshot test, the S88 Pro betters 65% of them, remarkably.

These scores are in stark contrast to the relatively meek performance of Chinese-built rugged phones only a couple of years ago. The S88 Pro well represents an entirely new generation of devices that can match or better some high end branded phones.

In a direct comparison with other rugged designs we’ve used recently, the closest performer is the Cat S62 Pro. In some tests, the Doogee S88 Pro is faster, and in others, the Cat design has the edge.

Given how close these devices are it is interesting to note that the Cat phone uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, while Doogee is built around the Helio P70 by Mediatek.

The Android experience is equally slick, using a near vanilla installation of the OS. The origins of the source for this version of Android 10 might be hinted at by one settings menu that reads ‘Customize your Pixel’.

Those that are concerned that Chinese phones will suddenly abandon Google should not be worried about the Doogee S88 Pro, it comes with the standard set of Google apps and links to its services.

The only blot on the user experience landscape of this device is that the phone is so heavy and massive that we’d technically describe it as a phablet. With a bumper or the Doogee extra protection Soldier Armor attached, at close to 400 grams and metal-sided, this isn’t an object you’d want to be struck by or have fly out of an unzipped pocket.

Image 1 of 4

Pictures taken with the Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Pictures taken with the Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Images taken with the Doogee S88 Pro

Image 3 of 4

Pictures taken with the Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Image 4 of 4

Pictures taken with the Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Benchmarks

This is how the Doogee S88 Pro performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Geekbench: 290 (single core); 1376 (multi core)

PCMark (Work 2.0): 6993

Passmark: 4737

Passmark CPU: 12215

Androbench (sequential): 289.25MB/s (sequential read); 191.94MB/s (sequential write)

Androbench (random): 64.03MB/s (random read); 16.36MB/s (random write)

3DMark Slingshot: 1922

3DMark Slingshot Extreme: 1368 (OGL), 1301 (Vulkan)

HWBot Prime: 5771

Competition

The success of the  Doogee brand appears to be creating a special zone in the $200-300 slice of the rugged market where they’re mostly competing with themselves.

It is noticeable that UleFone, Cat and Blackview have all chosen to include FLIR Lepton thermal imaging sensors and move up to $500 or higher in their latest flagship designs, and not fight Doogee in the space occupied by the S88 Pro.

One exception is the OUKITEL WP6, a design with the less powerful Helio P60, only 4GB of RAM, a lower-spec 16MP rear camera but the same 10000mAh battery capacity. The WP6 can be found for £209 in the UK and under $200 from online retailers servicing the US.

To put that in perspective, the Samsung Galaxy Xcover PRO is $499 (£449) has a better camera than the S88 Pro, weighs almost half as much, has the same resolution screen, less RAM (4GB) and storage (64GB) and less than half as much battery.  

For those wanting less weight and size, Doogee makes the even cheaper S90 Pro that uses the same SoC with identical RAM and storage, but with less battery capacity for around $200.

Overall, the S88 Pro might not have the gaming potential of some full-price flagship phones from Samsung and Apple. But, for the typical Android user that wants something ultra-tough, it has more than enough processing power, memory, GPU performance and storage.

Doogee S88 Pro

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Final verdict

At each new generation, Doogee products get noticeably better in both design and execution. That makes the latest S88 Pro astonishing value for money for those that want a toughened device with excellent battery life to accompany them on a jungle adventure or in the thick of a construction project.

As with most rugged phone makers Doogee mentions it being  IP68/IP69K Waterproof & Dustproof and MIL-STD-810G Drop Proof. But it then provides details of how it interpreted the MIL-STD-810G guidelines, and it is a much more difficult test than most phone makers implement.

Doogee engineers dropped the S88 Pro 1000 times, on all six sides and on to a smooth surface from 2m and a rough surface from 1.5m. Its waterproofing is built for an impressive 24 hours under 1m full submersion, and two hours at 1.5m.

And, the phone can work across a temperature gradient from -55C to 70C. These abilities make it undoubtedly the toughest phone we’ve yet seen, by some margin.

Its obvious limitations are a camera sensor could be better implemented, and it isn’t a 5G capable design. It also won’t win any beauty contests, or easily fit in a pocket, and its decidedly on the heavy side.

The scale and mass of this phone are problematic if you want to travel light and have it handy in a trouser pocket.

But if none of those things is a deal-breaker to you, its excellent functionality, great battery life and processor speed are hard things to ignore at this price point.