REVIEWSTech

Doogee S96 GT

A new flagship rugged design from Doogee

Two-minute review

If we can ignore the gold paint on our review hardware, this is one of the more elegant designs that Doogee has released.

It’s comfortable to handle even if it’s on the heavy side, and the smooth underside allows for wireless charging.

Where this design shines is through the MediaTek G95 SoC, a chip that delivers plenty of performance together with an effective GPU. This silicon can deliver up to 50% more performance than the G85-powered phones and puts the S96 GT within striking distance of the Snapdragon 480  phones, such as the AGM Glory GS1.

With that power combined with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of flash storage, this gives the S96 GT a premium phone feel and plenty of computational grunt to exploit the excellent camera sensor selection.

Five camera sensors include a 48MP main rear sensor alongside supporting cameras for wide-angle, macro and night vision modes. Even the front sensor is 32MP, providing the best quality selfies for those that can cope with that level of inspection.

This is one of the few recent rugged designs that can capture 4K video on the rear sensor, and it even has a basic slow-motion video mode (720p).

While the cameras are great, they could be even more wonderful if Doogee would take the time to create a more impressive camera application to exploit this potential.

Being less chunky than the Doogee S89 Pro (opens in new tab) has been achieved by reducing the battery capacity to only 6350 mAh, though this does shave about 200g off. That’s about half the battery capacity of the S89 Pro, making the S96 GT less suitable for that week away in the wilderness, away from a charger.

The other issue that confronts this design is that it only offers 4G LTE and not 5G, a technology Chinese phone makers seem reluctant to embrace for numerous reasons.

If you are willing to accept those limitations, the S96 GT isn’t an expensive phone and represents excellent value.

Doogee S96 GT

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Doogee S96 GT price and availability

  • How much does it cost? $250 / £220 / $AU 375
  • When is it out? It is available now
  • Where can you get it? You can get it in most regions direct from Doogee via AliExpress or on Amazon.com

The cost of this phone varies massively depending on where you source it from.

Purchasing it through Amazon.com appears to be one of the most expensive options at nearly $350.

Direct from Doogee via AliExpress, the same phone can be had for only $250, including delivery, although it will take up to 30 days to get it.

On AliExpress, the phone can be bought as we reviewed it (same price for black, orange or gold), or it can come bundled with the Doogee D11 smartwatch for around $100 more.

A third choice is the inclusion of a 65W charger that bumps the price by about $20.

There are three versions of the phone configured for the mobile frequencies of different regions defined as Russian, EU and Other (global).

For the asking price and specification, the cost of the S96 GT is very competitive and a realistic purchase for those not willing to take a valuable premium phone on a trip where water and dust might be an issue.

Doogee S96 GT

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Value score: 5/5

Doogee S96 GT design

  • Gold, Always believe in your soul
  • Solid construction
  • Thinner and lighter than S89 Pro

Doogee has produced many rugged phone designs, but there isn’t much elegance about most of them.

The S96 GT follows a well-trodden path of using a milled block of aluminium and then cocooning the corners and ends in dense TPU protection.

Compared with some other Doogee designs, this one feels a little narrower and easier to hold, but it’s still a substantial weight at 560g. And, this is a very large phone that won’t easily fit inside most pockets.

The S96 GT comes in three colour schemes that are Orange, Black and Gold. Our review phone was a gold one that looks, dare we say it, ostentatious. Thankfully in all the versions, most of the phone is black, and that saves it from the visual excesses of orange and gold paint.

As layouts go, this is more by-the-numbers design from Doogee but with one curious exception. Most rugged phone makers have now standardized on a button layout that places the volume rockers and power button on the right and a user-customisable button on the left.

The S96 GT follows this model, but instead of making the power button also double as the fingerprint reader, here are two separate buttons.
Not sure why Doogee did this, but it has two buttons where one would have sufficed. We should also mention that the placement of the fingerprint reader is great for right-handed users that can use a thumb for unlocking but less helpful for left-handed owners.

Along with the custom button, the left side also mounts the SIM tray, one of those long varieties that can take dual Nano SIMs and a MicroSD card for extra storage.

Doogee S96 GT

The camera cluster is recessed, avoiding scratches (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

To help with waterproofing, the USB-C charging port is hidden under a rubber plug alongside a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones.

Whenever we see these plugs, we’re drawn to wonder exactly how many times they can be pulled out and pushed back in before they no longer seal the phone effectively?

What takes centre stage in this design is the 6.22” LCD HD+ waterdrop screen. That area isn’t the whole story, as it is notched at the top for the front camera.

At 480cd/m² brightness and 1000:1 contrast, it makes reading emails and navigating the phone easy even for older customers.

On the opposite side is the camera cluster. Comprising four sensors bracketed by LED flashlight and Infrared arrays, the placement in the centre makes it less likely to get a digit in shot and the cameras as recessed slightly to avoid being scratched.

Overall, there isn’t anything remarkable about the design of the S96 GT, but equally, we didn’t notice anything terrible either.

Doogee S96 GT

The power button doesn’t double as a fingerprint reader (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Design score: 4/5

Doogee S96 GT hardware

  • Powerful platform
  • Modest battery size for rugged design
Specs

The Doogee S96 GT that was sent to us for review came with the following hardware:

CPU: MediaTek Helio G95
GPU: ARM Mali-G76
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X
Storage: 256GB
Screen: 6.22″ LCD HD+ waterdrop screen
Resolution: 720 x 1520
SIM: Dual Nano SIM (+MicroSD up to 512GB)
Weight: 560g
Dimensions: 167 x 81.4 x 15.5 mm
Rugged Spec: IP68, IP69K and MIL-STD-810H
Rear cameras: 48MP Samsung S5KGM1ST f/1.75, 20MP Sony IMX350 Night Vision, 8MP Samsung S5K4H7 Wide Angle, 2MP GC2385 Macro camera
Front camera: 32MP Sony IMX616-AAJH5-C f/2.0
Networking: WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
OS: Android 12
Battery: 6350 mAh

We’ve tested several Doogee designs recently, and the designers are big fans of the MediaTek SoC range.

In the S96 GT, Doogee designers opted for one of the better MediaTek options, the Helio G95. This is an octo-core CPU with dual Cortex A76 cores at 2.1GHz and six Cortex A55 cores at 2.0GHz.

When combined with an ARM Mali-G76 GPU clocked to 900MHz, this is easily the most powerful platform we’ve tested from Doogee, being the only MediaTek SoC that can be compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480.

MediaTek has now released the Helio G99 SoC, so perhaps we’ll be seeing that in an S96 Pro design sometime in 2023.

To exploit that power, Doogee gave the S96 GT 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB of ROM, which is plenty for most purposes. More storage can be added by using the MicroSD card slot on the SIM tray, though why this is limited to 512GB where other phone makers are now offering 1TB compatibility is a mystery.

The 6.22-inch screen is bright and sharp, but the resolution is another oddity at 720 x 1520.

That Doogee chose to brand this display as HD+ when it isn’t even HD (1920 x 1080) is the sort of casual embellishments that undermines phone makers with their customers.

This resolution is slightly more than 720p video requires but not close to what 1080p needs.

However, as with all Doogee designs we’ve reviewed, this phone doesn’t support the Widevine L1 video decryption standard, and streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ will automatically cap the best resolution available at just 480p.

Doogee S96 GT

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Not to spoil the camera section, but the best video capture resolution available is only 1080p, a quality level you can’t see with this screen.

We will also talk more about the battery below, but by rugged phone standards, it isn’t massive. What’s better about it than other Doogee designs is that the designers made this one wirelessly charge up to 15W. And, via the USB-C port, it can utilise the 24W charger that Doogee included in the box.

The elephant in the S96 GT room is that the mobile phone part of this solution doesn’t support 5G comms, only 3G and 4G.

While not having 5G might not be an issue in some regions, it is not ideal for those in Europe and some American cities where this technology is popular.

Until a more global standard for 5G crystalises, we’re likely to see more Chinese phones deciding not to second guess these technical adjustments.

  • Hardware score: 4/5

Doogee S96 GT cameras

  • 48MP sensor on the rear, 32MP on front
  • Wide-angle, macro and night vision
  • Five cameras in total

Doogee S96 GT

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The Doogee S96 GT has five cameras:

  • 48MP Samsung S5KGM1ST F/1.75
  • 20MP Sony IMX350 Night Vision
  • 8MP Samsung S5K4H7 Wide Angle
  • 2MP GC2385 Macro
  • 32MP Sony IMX616-AAJH5-C F/2.0 Front-facing

On paper, this looks like an impressive camera selection, and within certain caveats, it is.

The main rear camera offers very high resolution 8000 x 6000 still image captures and a good selection of special modes, including HDR, AI, Beauty, filters, panorama and time-lapse

As you will see in the examples, it can take good-quality images in the right conditions.

But, if the conditions aren’t ideal, it can also utilise the other sensors to provide wide-angle or macro functionality and even night vision.

That last feature uses infrared LED to illuminate the surrounding environment with IR light that is invisible to human vision but seen by the Sony IMX350 sensor. While not many people would look to photograph in the dark, it is handy for navigating in complete darkness, should you need to do that on a camping break.

Typically front-facing sensors are limited to 8MP or 16MP, but on the S96 GT the Sony sensor used is 32MP, providing very polished selfies.

The only aspect of the front sensor that isn’t ideal is that the maximum video resolution is only 1080p. Why we’ve no idea, but the rear sensor does support 4K capture, thankfully.

This inclusion was a relief since we’ve seen similar kneecapping on phones from Blackview, AGM and Ulefone, where sensors that are capable of 4K video are limited to 1080p capture.

There seems little point in loading these devices up with the amazing Samsung and Sony sensors only to fail to complete the circle with photo apps that can’t exploit them fully.

We suspect that the front-facing sensor on the S96 GT could probably also achieve 4K streaming if Doogee was sufficiently interested in implementing that mode.

Our only annoyance with the video capture is that it’s all at 30fps, irrespective of resolution. Although, there is a slow-motion mode that uses 720p resolution and, though never explicitly said, is shot at 120 fps.

In short, the sensors are decent, but the phone’s ability to fully exploit them isn’t complete and possibly third-party photo applications might provide more control and facilities.

Camera samples

  • Camera score: 4/5

Doogee S96 GT performance

  • Powerhouse
  • Plenty of storage
  • Battery capacity is less than others
Benchmarks

This is how the Doogee S96 GT performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Geekbench: 423 (single-core); 1633 (multi-core); 1935 (OpenCL)
PCMark (Work 3.0): 9844
Passmark: 8486
Passmark CPU: 4152
3DMark Slingshot: 2228 (OGL)
3DMark Slingshot Extreme: 2543 (OGL); 2679 (Vulkan)
3DMark Wild Life: 1327
HWBot Prime: 4945

Doogee didn’t use the latest G99 SoC in this phone, but the G95 that preceded that isn’t a bad choice, as this is a powerful chip compared with lower specification SoCs used in cheaper designs.

We’ve recently covered the AGM H5 (opens in new tab), Ulefone Armor 14 Pro (opens in new tab) and Blackview BV7100 (opens in new tab), and these all use the G85, and the G95 kicks that decent performing silicon to the kerb.

The difference in raw computing performance is about 35% in most processing tests in single-core mode and about 30% in multi-core over the G85 phones.

But surprisingly, it is also better than the Snapdragon 480 5G SoC seen in the AGM Glory G1S (opens in new tab), in some tests, but not all. Snapdragon single and multi-core performance is a bit better, maybe 5% or less in a subset of these benchmarks.

Honours are largely even in the graphical tests, such as 3DMark, with the exception of 3DMark Wild Life and the OpenCL part of GeekBench, where the ARM Mali-G76 rules supreme. The S96 GT also has a higher PCMark 3.0 score and HWBot Prime results.

Overall, the performance of this platform is great and elevates the user experience by making the S96 GT incredibly responsive and fluid.

Whatever you wish to do with this phone, it is probably capable.

The battery, as we’ve already alluded, isn’t the largest we’ve seen on a rugged phone, but how that impacts you depend on how you intend to use it.

  • Performance score: 5/5

Doogee S96 GT battery

  • Less capacity than elsewhere
  • Wireless charging
  • Fast charging

If you compare the battery in the S96 GT with one in a mainstream premium phone, it looks on the big side. The Samsung Galaxy S22 (opens in new tab), for example, has only 3,700 mAh, whereas the Doogee phone has nearly double that amount at 6350 mAh.

But, many rugged designs come with 9,000, 10,000 or even 13,000 mAh batteries, including ones by Doogee. The Doogee S89 Pro came with 12,000 mAh, nearly twice the capacity of the S96 GT.

How should we view this? Well, that all depends on how you intend to use this phone and how that might alter expectations of running time without a recharge.

Less battery does make the phone lighter, nearly 200g less than the S89 Pro, but Doogee only rate the S96 GT for 2-3 days of normal use, standby of 19 days and 29 hours of calling, only half what the S89 Pro can offer.

For those intending to leave civilisation on a trek, the S96 GT has battery limitations that other options exceed.

What we liked was that the battery will fast charge, and with the smaller capacity, it is replenished more rapidly. And, to avoid dislodging that waterproofing plug, it can wireless charge at a reasonable wattage.

The battery might be smaller than other rugged designs, but it’s still bigger than most mobile phones and provides enough capacity to be useful for several days.

  • Battery score: 3/5

The Doogee S96 GT is a rugged phone designed for those that don’t want the typical chunky and super-heavy go-anywhere hardware.

The designers made this lighter, though no-less durable, mounted an excellent SoC and cameras, but traded the long battery life that alternatives like the S89 Pro offer.
And, all this performance and specs for around $250 is a design that is remarkably hard to be judgemental about. 5G would have been nice, and maybe a less idiosyncratic screen resolution, but these aren’t show-stopping issues to many customers.

Overall, the best Doogee design from the current batch and a headache for AGM, Ulefone and Blackview.

Doogee S96 GT score card

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Attributes Notes Rating
Value For the amount of RAM, storage, quality of the cameras and SoC, the price is a bargain. 5/5
Design More elegant than the S89 Pro, but still on the heavy side 4/5
Hardware An impressive feature set that includes night vision camera, wireless charging and fast-charge. But no 5G technology. 4/5
Performance The Meditek Helio G95 rocks 5/5
Camera 4K video capture and slow-motion video 4/5
Battery The battery is only half what the S89 Pro offers but double that of a standard phone. 3/5
Overall Ignoring the battery size, this is an excellent design that is full of high-end features for a low price 4/5

Should I buy the Doogee S96 GT?

Buy it if…

You often drop phones

A resilient phone that can handle the environment well, but please don’t drop it into water deeper than 1.5m, as it won’t float.

You’re a fan of wireless charging

Being able to wirelessly charge this phone is a big plus, as it avoids pulling out the rubber plug that protects the USB-C port from dust and water ingress.

Photos and video capture are important

With 4K video capture and terrific still image options from the five sensors in this phone provide plenty of scope for those needing them. Special sensors for wide-angle, macro and even night photography deliver decent results.

Don’t buy it if…

5G is important

This design doesn’t support 5G of any variety, although it does support LTE for those with that service available.

Your adventure is longer than three days

The reduced size of the battery on this phone could be an issue if you go hiking for more than a few days without access to power.

You intend to watch streamed content

The lack of Widevine L1 reduces most streamed content to 480p, so even if it has a good quality and high-resolution screen, using it for Netflix or Disney+ won’t yield high-resolution results.

Also consider 

Image (opens in new tab)

AGM Glory G1S

Another $200 gets you the Snapdragon processor and its GPU, 5G and even thermal imaging. Overall, it’s a good design with more battery capacity.

Read our AGM Glory G1S (opens in new tab) review for more

Image (opens in new tab)

Doogee S89 Pro

Another affordable phone by Doogee, this one is much heavier but offers a huge battery that will last twice as long as the one in the S96 GT on a wilderness adventure.

Read our Doogee S89 Pro (opens in new tab)review for more information.

Image (opens in new tab)

Ulefone Armor 15

An interesting design that has a secret bay to hold and charge included Bluetooth headphones. Doesn’t offer 4K video, has a similar battery size and costs a little more than the S96 GT.

Read our Ulefone Armor 15 review (opens in new tab) for more information.

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