-near stock Android software
-good battery life
-performs well even when gaming
-good camera outdoors
-4G LTE compatibility in the US
-camera suffers in low light
This year we’ve seen a much larger focus on affordability, without compromise in quality. The end result is a slew of fantastic, premium devices to choose from, without breaking the bank. This trend is not only limited to the high-end side of things, but has made its way across the entire price spectrum, resulting in some great “bang for your buck” smartphones that fall in the sub-$250 category.
With the year winding down, BLU, the Florida-based company known for their affordable devices, seems to have saved the best for last with their latest budget-friendly offering. Given the competition it faces, does this low-cost smartphone prove to be a compelling choice? We find out, in this in-depth BLU Life One X review!
See Also: Blu Life One X vs Moto G 2015
Not a lot is expected from budget-friendly smartphones as far as design and build quality is concerned, but the BLU Life One X manages to pleasantly surprise. The device features a frame made from a high-quality aluminium, that has been sand-blasted to create a sort of matte finish texture, and the back cover is made with a faux leather plastic that has been coated in a smooth paint layer. All of this not only results in the phone feeling great in the hand, but contributes positively to the handling experience as well. Also helping is the fact that the device isn’t too tall, thick, or heavy, and with a 5.2-inch display up front, one-handed use is certainly comfortable.
Taking a look around the device, the power button and volume rocker are found on the right side. These buttons offer a fair amount of tactile feedback, and while they don’t come with a textured finish to help make a distinction between them, the buttons are spaced far apart enough for this to not become an issue. The headphone jack and microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively, and a single speaker unit can be found on the back. The back cover is also removable, and while the battery itself isn’t user replaceable, opening it up allows for access to the microSD card slot and dual SIM card slots.
BLU certainly manages to bring home the point that affordable does not necessarily translate to cheap, and while the Life One X may not have the most intriguing design, its build quality far surpasses any expectations you may have from a device that falls in the sub-$200 price range.
The BLU Life One X comes with a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. The display is sharp, with good color reproduction, allowing for a great media-consumption experience, and you will be hard-pressed to find a display of a similar quality and resolution when compared to other devices that are in this price category.
Aiding the display experience is MiraVision, which includes a set of options you can choose between in the Settings. The default setting is the “Standard Mode,” and while that is good by itself, some users may appreciate the extra punch in colors that is available with the “Vivid Mode.” There is also an “User mode,” that lets you customize the settings to your liking, with you being able to fine tune the contrast, saturation, brightness, sharpness, color temperature, and dynamic contrast. The preset Standard and Vivid modes will be more than enough for most, but the ability to play around with the settings is a nice addition.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the BLU Life One X comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 2 GB RAM. This processing package is found with a few other similarly-priced smartphones as well, but while this is considered a low-end to mid-range setup, the performance it allows for is quite impressive, helped along with the availability of 2 GB of RAM and a near-stock software experience.
Loading applications is pretty fast, and switching between apps via the Recent Apps screen is also smooth and snappy. The device also holds up very well while gaming, even with more processor-intensive games, and while you may see some dropped frames here and there, this isn’t a frequent occurrence, and rarely detracts from the gaming experience. Granted, the Life One X isn’t going to favorably compare in terms of performance when pit against the higher-end, and far more expensive, smartphones out there, but against its direct competition, the performance of this device is practically unmatched.
16 GB of on-board storage is the only option available here, but expandable storage via microSD card by up to 64 GB is possible, which is always a big plus for anyone concerned about meeting their storage needs. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, with the exception of NFC. Unlike a lot of other budget-friendly smartphones that are available from various Chinese OEMs, the Life One X has no trouble with accessing 4G LTE networks in the US, which is another big positive, and the device also comes with dual SIM capabilities.
The Life One X comes with a fairly large 2,900 mAh, which allows for a full day of use comfortably. Unlike other budget-friendly devices, you can get some pretty heavy usage with the device, including gaming and taking a lot of pictures, and the Life One X managed around 4.5 hours to 5 hours of screen-on time. There is no fast charging capabilities here, but you won’t find yourself needing to charge the device until the end of the day anyway.See also: Best cheap Android phones (December 2015)
The camera is another aspect that is mostly overlooked as far as affordable smartphones are concerned, but even that is something that has been slowly changing. The BLU Life One X comes with a 13 MP rear camera with phase detection auto focus and an LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit, which also comes with a flash.
The camera interface is very simplistic, and while there are some go-to features already on the viewfinder, some key features, like HDR, are tucked away in a menu. The menu also includes a slew of other modes and settings, including a Beauty Mode, Sports Mode, Dual View Mode, Night Mode, and even a Pro Mode, that lets you adjust white balance, ISO, and more. With there being no Auto HDR, you will have to dive into this menu every time you want to enable HDR, but it does work well for the most part.
The camera is capable of taking some nice shots in good lighting conditions, and while the image may look a little soft and with subdued colors, most pictures look pretty decent. While HDR does bring out the shadows and add a lot of sharpening to the image, you may be better off not using it in well-lit situations, because of the time it takes to take a shot, which will require very steady hands, given the lack of OIS. HDR does make more of a difference in low-light conditions, making for a brighter image every time, but once again, steady hands are a must to avoid blurry images.
The camera is capable of recording video at the 1080p resolution, but you can always lower that in the Settings. Like the images it takes, colors in the video are somewhat subdued and with cooler tones, but the videos captured do turn out looking quite nice, albeit a little shaky, with there being no optical image stabilization available. Selfies look quite good as well, with a good amount of detail. While the front-facing flash can be useful in extremely dark scenarios, it can be quite harsh, and tends to flood the subject.
Smartphone cameras have taken huge strides this year, and while the camera of the Life One X doesn’t come close to those of the flagship devices out there, it does more than get the job done if you’re looking to share images and videos to social media, and does seem to provide a better camera experience than some of its competition.
The software experience across BLU’s smartphone portfolio has been quite inconsistent, with some devices featuring drastically different user interfaces from others. However, in the case of the Life One X, what you get is a near stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, which also contributes to the smooth performance of the device, along with a few useful extras baked in.
A lot of Material Design elements can be seen throughout the UI, including the Recent Apps screen, which only adds a Clear All button, and the notification drop down, which comes with just a few extra options in the Quick Settings menu. Also available are some screen-off gestures that BLU is calling Smart Awake, which allow you to launch various apps by drawing letters on the screen when it is off, such as an M to launch the music player, C to quickly start the camera, and O, to turn on the flashlight. Other gestures include double tap to wake, and flipping the phone to silence a call or alarm. There is also a Pocket Mode, that uses the proximity sensor to save battery while the device is in your pocket.
BLU has stated that they will be making software updates a priority, and have a promised an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow by the end of Q1 2016.
|Display||5.2-inch LCD display
1920 x 1080 resolution, 424ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||1.3GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753|
|GPU||Mali T720 GPU|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 64GB|
Up to 150Mbps
|Software||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Camera||13MP rear-facing camera, Phase Data Autofocus
5MP front-facing camera, LED flash
|Dimensions||186.8 x 72.8 x 8.4mm|
Pricing and final thoughts
The BLU Life One X is currently available for just $149 from Amazon, with the color options including black and white.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU Life One X! Pricing is always a priority for users looking for budget-friendly devices, and it doesn’t get any better than the Life One X.
Priced at just $149, what you get is an impressive build quality, beautiful display, solid internals, and a great software experience, all for what is essentially one of the cheapest smartphones out there. BLU also adds some extras to the deal, including a pair of earphones and a replacement back cover with a flap to cover the display, which brings a little bit more durability. The compatibility with 4G LTE networks in the US is also a big plus, and with everything that this device brings to the table, it really is one of the best phones you can get for under $150.