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Blu Life One X Review: the brightest Blu phone yet


Review by Andrew Kameka on Wednesday March 19, 2014.

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Blu Life One X Gallery
Blu Life One X Gallery

Improvement is the most that you can ask for from a smartphone vendor. Actually, creating the perfect phone is the most you can ask for, but most of us will settle for something that does better than we've seen before and meets our most basic needs in most categories. The Blu Life One X isn't perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than the Blu Life phones that I reviewed last year. It's an obvious example of Blu raising its standards, but do those standards align with the changing needs of people who may purchase this Android phone? Read the review below to find out.

Hardware and Design

While the Blu Life View looked like an HTC One was cross-bred with a Samsung Galaxy S4, the Life One X looks like it could be from Sammy's lab, but it doesn't have that direct copy cat appearance. At first sight, it reminded me of the Nexus S in shape but had a larger build and better feel that's all its own. There are actually some rare aspects of the phone, like the micro USB port being at the top of the phone, that makes this unlike most device. Other aspects are more common, like the three hardware navigation buttons for menu, home, and back at the bottom of the phone. The capacitive buttons are only noticeable when the screen is on and they light up.

Composed of an aluminum body that feels as though its from composite materials, the Life One X has a solid texture that feels comfortable to hold. The edges of the phone are smoother but angled to have a firmer grip. The design emphasizes the phone's rounded and curvy shape built for comfort. The curviness even comes into play with the camera ring that sticks up from the top of the device.

The Back of the phone houses a very small but loud speaker. Don't expect the bass and equalized tones found in other devices, but you can comfortably listen to music and watch videos in a quiet room without straining to make out what's been sung or said.

Blu Life One X 5-inch 1080p HD IPS display
Blu Life One X 5-inch 1080p HD IPS display

Screen Quality

Blu has released multiple phones with 5-inch displays, but the Life One X is easily one of the best to look at simply because it's one of the few that has made the jump to 1080p HD. The 5-inch IPS display has 441 pixels per inch and some proprietary tuning to make viewing angles consistently clear. It looks better than anything we've seen from Blu to date. The display has surprising clarity and brightness on a device that's sub-$300. While the 720p resolutions on other phones have been "good enough," the Life One X upgrades the display closer to "great" status.

Performance

The Blu Life One X has a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Normally, that might be cause to rest assured that the phone has top-notch performance, but that's not the case if you need a gaming powerhouse. The Mediatek CPU and PowerVR SGX544 GPU often struggle when it comes to premium gaming, which forced me to abandon attempts to play GT Racing before I even managed to get a car on the track. It's even too weak to run the Anomaly gaming benchmark app quickly, so don't plan on playing anything beyond the graphic intensiveness of Angry Birds Go.

Blu Life One X
Blu Life One X

The mere mortals who need only a solid web browsing experience will find using the Life One X a more reasonable proposition. The phone moves at a normal pace when reading Twitter or checking email. It also is surprisingly fast when using the camera app. Photos are taken in a split second and the start-up time is quick unless triggered from the lock screen. The Life One X lacks the blazing-fast appeal of a Nexus 5, so someone with experience using a high-end phone might notice there's not as much zip in its movements. Thanks to a high amount of RAM that is managed efficiently, there's not much lag and it loads content at a decent speed. Non-gamers can be confident in the phone's ability to get things done.

Key Specifications
- 1.5 GHz quad-core processor (Mediatek)
- Power VR Series 554 GPU
- 2GB RAM, 16/32GB internal storage
- 5-inch IPS display (1920x1080, 440ppi)
- 13-megapixel camera with Bright+ and LED Flash
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera
- 2,000 mAh battery
- Dual SIM 4G HSPA+ 42 (850/1900 or 850/2100), Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB 2.0
- Phone includes: screen protector, silicon case, and earphones

Blu Life One X Android 4.2 app drawer
Blu Life One X Android 4.2 app drawer

Software and Apps

Android is the driving force of Blu's latest product but it sadly does not include the latest version of Android. The Life One X runs a mostly stock version Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. That's rather unfortunate because I really like how Blu has made very few changes to the OS, but I'm disappointed it lacks some of the refinements of Version 4.4 KitKat. There are no performance enhancements and under the hood additions, and things like the full-screen media thumbnail on the lock screen are absent as well. The lack of small touches and inclusion of old software is a bit of a letdown.

Blu mostly leaves Android to its basic nature and keeps the phone free of bloatware. There are old remnants like the ICS Browser app and the Gingerbread Music app, but most of the stock Google services apps are included without change. Other noticeable changes are the dialer is customized to meet the needs of Dual SIM users, and apps have been added to manage To-Do lists, SIMs, and Wireless devices.

The strongest selling point on the software side is the use of gestures. Using the front proximity sensor, the Life One X can unlock a phone by swiping right on the lock screen, answer a phone by bringing it to your ear, or take a photo by swiping across the screen. The practicality of some gestures is nil, but most are nice subtle touches that make sense for managing sounds on the device.

Camera

The Life One X is a serious upgrade compared to the Blu Life Play that we reviewed last year. The front-facing camera has a massive 5-megapixel sensor that give selfie-addicts a larger photo to share. In addition to upgrading the rear camera to a larger 13-megapixel lens, the phone has "BLU Bright+" settings aimed at improving low-light photos. Results vary, but for the most part, the Life One X takes surprisingly great images. The camera is the best I've ever seen from a midrange device, and it has brightness and stability to take very passable photos in daylight and okay photos indoors.

Communication and Data

Dual SIM slots make the Life One X capable of having two cellular lines operable on one device. If you need to maintain one line for work and another personal use, that's a viable option on these unlocked SIM slots. I tested the phone with an AT&T SIM and was disappointed by the network in my area, but you may have completely different results in your local market. The lack of LTE, which isn't great but noticeably better than HSPA+ here, left me wishing the phone could do more. The Life One X doesn't have LTE radios, so users must rely on HSPA+ 42 Mbps (Bands 850/1900/2100, so it also works with T-Mobile in many US markets).

Blu Life One X aluminum body
Blu Life One X aluminum body

Battery Life

The absence of LTE and a processor geared to be less intensive leads to the presence of strong battery life. My usual gamut of activities to drain batteries was affected by the lack of high-end gaming, but playing Angry Birds Go, listening to podcasts, and watching videos frequently throughout the day still didn't kill the battery. The 2,000 mAh battery isn't as high as other phones in terms of capacity, but the actual results showcase a device capable of running 9 to 13 hours depending on usage.

Conclusion

The time for midrange devices will fade in a few years as users begin diverting their interests to ultra cheap handsets or the top of the line high-end smartphones. However, devices like the Blu Life One X remain an attractive option in the middle ground today. It's above average when it comes to the camera, the shape and feel are desirable, has unique Dual SIM capabilities, and the battery life is solid enough to make this a phone that you can rely on. The one thing that gives me pause about the phone is that the processor is not as strong as it could be for premium gaming. As long as you don't need top shelf graphical performance, the Life One X is a phone worth having at a very reasonable price.

 
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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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