Review: AGM H5 Pro smartphone
It’s a rugged phone with many of the same internals you’ll find in competing models. Is it worth buying?
I’ve spent the past decade writing about phones. This period saw a notable transformation of normality. Now, most phones are basically the same.
Functionally, they accomplish the same tasks. The only real difference is how fast they accomplish them.
For the most part, this is great for consumers. You don’t really need to think about what to buy anymore. If you’re team Android, anything north of $300 will do. Apple die-hards can just buy the latest iPhone.
But it is boring. I miss weird. I’m tired of the dreary, unimaginative output of most major smartphone vendors.
I’m desperate for someone to actually take a risk. To, as a certain fruit company once said, think differently.
A new challenger appears
Fortunately, we have little-known Chinese smartphone maker AGM to take on the challenge. I’ve flirted with its latest model for the past few weeks — the uninspiringly-named AGM H5 Pro.
It’s a rugged phone with many of the same internals you’ll find in competing models produced by brands like BlackView, Doogee, and Unihertz. But it has one key difference.
The AGM H5 Pro checks most of the boxes for people looking for a rugged smartphone. While it doesn’t have the power of Android and Apple flagships, it regularly runs under $400 which helps make up for its shortages.
You see, it’s loud. Really, really loud. Possibly the world’s loudest phone, even. Its 3.5W speakers produce a (frankly ludicrous) 109 decibels.
Or, put another way, equally loud as an ambulance siren. It’s louder than a motorcycle. Louder than an electric drill.
Another thing: It has RGB disco lights built-in.
RGB lighting isn’t necessarily unique by itself. Countless gaming phones come studded with color-changing LED lights (because, of course, they do).
It’s the application that sets the AGM H5 Pro apart from its rivals.
I use the term “disco lights” deliberately. They act almost like the stage lighting at a concert. They exist to accompany the music. That’s it.
A different tack
Rugged phones are overwhelmingly targeted at tradespeople. Those working in austere conditions, where a standard iPhone or Samsung Galaxy simply wouldn’t last the day.
There are outliers (like the formidable Unihertz TickTok, which we reviewed here), but those are exactly that: exceptions.
By contrast, AGM posits the H5 Pro as more of a lifestyle companion. The device you’d take on a hike or camping trip, rather than a practical phone for everyday carry. There’s a certain honesty in that.
Let’s face it. You wouldn’t want the AGM H5 Pro as your day-to-day phone. It’s ridiculously heavy, tipping the scales at 360g (12.69oz). That’s double the iPhone 14. Because it’s a rugged phone, it’s also bulky.
Its cameras aren’t the best. Pictures routinely appear grainy and washed out. It lacks the color fidelity of similarly-priced models.
The inclusion of an IR-based night vision sensor is an interesting touch, but realistically, it won’t prove useful for most people.
And while it’s equipped for demanding smartphone tasks (it touts 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, a gaming-centric MediaTek Helio H85 platform, and plenty of storage), it can’t hold a candle to most mid-range phones.
If your primary concern is getting the most power for your money, this phone won’t satisfy you.
The perfect companion
But there are scenarios where the AGM H5 Pro doesn’t merely shine, but actually exceeds the competition.
Smartphone vendors routinely band around the term “two-day battery life,” but forget to highlight the caveat that you’ll need to use the device sparingly. By contrast, the AGM H5 Pro can easily go two — and occasionally three — days between charges without even batting an eye.
It’s not the most attractive phone in the world, but AGM resisted the temptation to mess with the stock Android experience. That’s a nice touch.
While its powerful rear-mounted speaker doesn’t quite deliver Bose-style quality, it’s good enough for listening to Spotify while you’re gathered with your friends around a barbecue.
The biggest driver behind the smartphone revolution was a need for convergence. People didn’t want to carry a phone, camera, PDA, and portable gaming console everywhere they went.
By combining these roles into a single product, smartphones were able to deliver a level of convenience to consumers in a way that wasn’t possible before.
This is the first phone I’ve ever encountered that could potentially replace a dedicated Bluetooth speaker.
And I don’t worry about this phone’s ability to survive the wilds. It’s heavy, with a strong metal and rubber frame that can absorb even the most brutal of drops.
Its IP69K rating can withstand water, dust, and heat. It can fall into streams and muddy pools without even batting an eyelid.
I’d also suggest the aforementioned Unihertz TickTok — a similarly-rugged phone with a defiant weird streak.
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Okay, so you’ve heard the good and the bad. We like its battery life, its speaker, and its incredible hardiness.
Specs-wise, it earns a passing grade, but doesn’t really compete with other phones in its price range. We’re also critical of its photography credentials, weight, and girth.
Those criticisms would dominate any device that’s an everyday-carry smartphone. But the AGM H5 Pro isn’t such a device. Nor does it try to be.
It’s a companion, like the Palm of 2018. Or a substitute for those times when you don’t want to risk your day-to-day handset. And that’s fine. By that standard, it’s easy to recommend the AGM H5 Pro.
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