When we talk about gaming phones, we usually talk about gaming phones. You know, the ones with the hardware triggers, cooling fans, and crazy-high refresh rate screens. These devices don’t just exist at the high-end though — you can get a solid phone for gaming for just a few hundred bucks.
One such device is the Blu G90 Pro, the company’s first gaming smartphone. It’s cheap and has a decent spec sheet, but is it worth the sub-$250 asking price? Or should you spend a little more on one of the other cheap phones available in the US? Find out in our Blu G90 Pro review.
What is the Blu G90 Pro?
The Blu G90 Pro is Blu’s first-ever gaming phone and its only flagship for 2020. The Miami-based company has budget-friendly smartphones down to a science. It’s now throwing its hat into the gaming phone ring, which is competitive in some parts of the world but not so much in the US.
At the high end, “gaming phone” means a device with a high-refresh rate screen, extra hardware, and an overclocked processor to make the gaming experience more enjoyable. The G90 Pro can’t really offer those things at this price point. Instead, it’s trying to entice gamers on a budget to take note of its big display and solid spec sheet.
What’s it like to game with the Blu G90 Pro?
You might not expect a whole lot out of a phone this inexpensive, but the Blu G90 Pro excels at gaming performance. Let’s talk games first. Over the past week I tried to play a variety of games — casual, graphic-intensive, and somewhere in between. The phone handled Alto’s Odyssey and Lego Star Wars: TFA very well. I didn’t notice any stuttering or lag.
I also played Fortnite quite a bit. I’m not very good, but I did my best to keep up! Fortnite is much more taxing on a smartphone than most other games, and the G90 Pro handled it with ease. There were one or two jittery frames here and there, but really nothing to complain about.
The Blu G90 Pro is powered by the tried-and-true MediaTek Helio G90T SoC and Mali-G76 GPU. It’s backed by 4GB of RAM. This is the same chipset that’s in the Realme 6 and Redmi Note 8 Pro, which we also found to be solid performers. If I could improve anything, I’d opt for more RAM — I regularly ran into lag when scrolling through the Google Play Store and switching apps. I think 2GB of RAM more could beef up the G90 Pro’s performance, but beggars really can’t be choosers at this price point.
The Blu G90 Pro can handle graphic-intensive games with ease. Just don't expect stellar performance for everything.
The phone is also outfitted with a liquid cooling system. Blu says this will help to dissipate heat and lower the device temperature by as much as 6°C. I suppose it’s been doing its job; The phone didn’t heat up for me whatsoever.
Handling the phone never proved to be an issue while gaming. It’s a chunky phone to be sure, but the included case helps give grip to the slippery glass design. You’ll have trouble using it with one hand if you’re wasting time on social media. It’s heavy at 215g (7g heavier than the Note 20 Ultra!) and it’s about as big as my Pixel 4 XL.
What I like about the Blu G90 Pro
There’s a lot to like about the Blu G90 Pro. Despite its ultra-low price, there are a few surprises that will likely satisfy the gaming crowd.
No one wants to worry about plugging in their phone in the middle of a match. The G90 Pro’s 5,100mAh cell is more than enough to get you through a full day’s use, even on heavy days.
With normal usage (~4 hours of screen-on time a day while gaming, browsing social media, and streaming Spotify), the G90 Pro lasted more than two full days on a charge. Expect slightly less than that if you’re constantly gaming, though the battery really didn’t discharge too quickly while playing Fortnite — only a percentage point or two was lost during a 20-minute gaming session.
Big, bright display
Gaming on the Blu G90 Pro was an overall good experience, partially thanks to the big 6.5-inch LCD display. I’ve been so used to AMOLED screens lately that I forgot what it was like to use an LCD. Honestly, it’s not that difficult to switch back. The LCD panel has a Full HD+ resolution and a 19:9 aspect ratio. It doesn’t offer a high refresh rate, though, and there’s no always-on display option.
Android 10 and quarterly security patches
The Blu G90 Pro’s software is a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good stuff. The G90 Pro runs Android 10 out of the box. Blu’s implementation of Android 10 looks a lot like Google’s in some respects, but not so much in others. The home screen launchers are visually very similar. The biggest changes to the G90 Pro’s interface are the customized quick settings panel and the ability to turn off the app drawer if you’d like.
It’ll also get quarterly security patches, and it’s slated to get Android 11 some time before Q2 2021.
Good overall value
The Blu G90 Pro offers tremendous value, especially for those living in the US. It’s a big, long-lasting gaming phone that performs well in most instances. And it costs just $220 (on sale from $250). I don’t know of many other phones in the US at this price point that offer as much as the G90 Pro.
On top of the phone already being a good value, Blu includes some extra goodies in the box that will save you even more cash. You get a protective rubber case, a cleaning cloth, a screen protector, a pair of earbuds, a Blu sticker, and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and brick. I’d opt for a different charging cable if you can. The one Blu includes in the box has a weird plastic coating all over it.
What could use some work
This is a sub-$250 phone, so it’s no surprise to find some cut corners. Most of them have to do with the phone’s hardware.
Bad haptics, fingerprint sensor, and speaker
There’s no other way to say it: the G90 Pro’s haptics are not good. They’re mushy and feel delayed every time you tap on the screen. I turned them off immediately after feeling them for the first time.
I had troubles with the fingerprint sensor, too. It’s in a good location, right below the rear cameras, but it consistently failed to recognize my fingerprints even after I deleted my fingerprint data and re-added it. Luckily the front camera supports face unlock as an alternative. I’d recommend using that instead of the fingerprint sensor. Just know that Blu’s face unlock is less secure than Apple and Google’s face recognition tech.
There’s one speaker on the Blu G90 Pro, located to the right of the USB-C port. It gets loud, but it’s very easy to cover up while playing games. It also sounds considerably tinny compared to other budget smartphones. At least there’s a headphone jack.
Cameras aren’t great, but they’re at least versatile
Four cameras can be found around back — well, three plus a depth sensor if you want to count that. The primary lens is a 48MP Sony IMX582 sensor. There’s also an 8MP wide-angle ƒ/2.2 sensor at 120 degrees, as well as 2MP macro and depth sensors.
I struggled to get good photos, even in good lighting conditions. Most shots with the main camera appear much too flat. Focusing on a subject was a big issue for me during an outdoor shooting session. No matter how in-focus the subject appeared to be on screen, photos still came out blurry. See the details (or lack thereof) in the flower and bridge images below.
Leaving auto-focus to do its thing never turned out well. The G90 Pro would constantly search for a subject, even in good lighting conditions with the subject clearly in front of the lens.
Also read: Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE camera shootout
HDR mode drastically improves the overall quality of shots. Check out the plant photo below to see how much of a difference it makes. Colors are even more saturated and the added contrast gives more life to the photo. Unfortunately the HDR setting is located in an overflow menu in the camera app, so you really can’t have it turned on at all times. I’d urge Blu to move this setting to the main part of the camera app for easier access.
While the addition of a wide-angle camera provides versatility, I wasn’t able to take many wide shots I was happy with. The 8MP lens appeared to do more harm than good in most cases. In the dog photo below, the standard-lens shot looks acceptable. Turning on the wide lens drastically messed with color balance and distorted objects around the edges. Not to mention, my dog appears much blurrier in the wide shot.
I’ve had decent luck with portrait mode in the main camera. It was able to handle edge detection pretty well, with only a few minor issues around hair. Certainly not the worst implementation of portrait mode I’ve seen on a device.
The G90 Pro is capable of taking macro shots. However, I’d urge you to ignore taking photos with only the 2MP macro camera (see below). You’ll get far better images if you zoom out a bit and use the main 48MP camera.
The G90 Pro has a 32MP front-facing lens with an ƒ/2.4 aperture. Selfies are fine. No matter where I take a selfie — outside in the sun or indoors with low light — the G90 Pro consistently produces photos with a red tint. Whites are normally blown out too, and even in ideal lighting conditions I come across a bit too fuzzy and soft for my liking. I definitely prefer the Pixel 4a’s more natural shots compared to the G90 Pro’s.
Check out the full-res image samples here.
Underdeveloped software in some areas
There are some quirks that make it seem like Blu didn’t spend as much time on the software as it needed to. According to the home screen settings, you can turn on Google’s At A Glance widget (the date/weather widget found on Google Pixels), but turning on the toggle does nothing to the home screen. There are also options to change the software’s accent color in developer options, but again, changing these settings does nothing.
There’s a decent amount of bloatware preinstalled on the G90 Pro. Apps like TikTok, VivaLive TV, Candy Crush Soda, and Coin Master are all preinstalled, but you can thankfully uninstall them right away. Shortcuts to Bing and Yahoo are also included on the home screen. These are just mobile web shortcuts, not apps.
The elephant in the room
This is a big question to cover in a review, but it’s worth talking about. Should you trust Blu as a company? Here’s a brief recap in case you need a refresher on Blu’s past:
- November 2016: Some Blu phones were found to have a backdoor that sent user data to Chinese servers. Once it was discovered, Blu claimed it had no knowledge of the backdoor and quickly deleted the collected data.
- The FTC and Blu reached a settlement in 2018 regarding the 2016 Chinese server scandal. As part of the settlement, Blu implemented a data security program to help prevent these types of situations in the future. Blu is also subject to third-party assessments of its security program every two years for the next 20 years.
- July 2017: Security researchers found some Blu phones were still sending collected data to China. Blu refuted these claims, telling Android Authority there was no spyware, malware, or secret software on Blu devices.
- November 2017: Blu issued a faulty software update to some $200 smartphones that locked users out of their phones. It took the company nearly a week to issue a fix.
I can’t sit here and tell you everything is a-okay and that Blu is a trustworthy company. I just don’t know if that’s true. The only thing I can do is tell you that it’s been a few years since the last Blu scandal and hopefully things have changed since 2017.
Blu G90 Pro specs
|Blu G90 Pro|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution (Full HD+)
19:9 aspect ratio
91% screen-to-body ratio
60Hz refresh rate
|SoC||MediaTek Helio G90T|
Liquid cooling technology
MicroSD up to 128GB
- 48MP Sony IMX582 sensor with ƒ/1.79 aperture, depth recognition, LED flash, auto focus
- 8MP wide-angle at 118.8 degrees, ƒ/2.2 aperture, auto focus
- 2MP macro, ƒ/2.4 aperture, fixed focus
- 2MP depth sensor, ƒ/2.4 aperture, fixed focus
4k video recording
- 32MP, ƒ/2.4 aperture, fixed focus
18W wired charging
10W wireless charging
"AI" face ID
4G LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/28
Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz (a/b/g/n)
|Dimensions and weight||162.9 x 77 x 10.1mm|
Blu G90 Pro review: Value and competition
Blu is only bringing the G90 Pro to select markets — to the US and Latin America, to be exact. It’s available now for the temporary sale price of $219.99. After that promotional period is over, it’ll go back up to its normal MSRP of $249.99. So, now is the time to buy if you want one.
While competition at this price point is slim in the US, there are some bigger names vying for your dollars. The Moto G Power is available for $230 and offers equally good battery life and clean software. It’s probably the better buy if you’re not looking for a dedicated gaming phone.
Speaking of buying a phone that isn’t geared towards gamers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Google Pixel 4a. Its list price is $350, but I’d urge Verizon customers to check out the recent deal that brought the price down to $240.
Blu G90 Pro review: The verdict
It’s hard not to recommend any phone that doesn’t fall flat on its face at this price. Overall the Blu G90 Pro doesn’t fall flat on its face, especially if you’re looking for a phone that prioritizes gaming performance. In that respect, the G90 Pro is a great buy.
Gaming performance isn’t all we’re judging, though. The hardware is not very good, the camera experience can be frustrating, and to be completely honest I’m not sure if Blu is a company I’d personally give my money to. If that doesn’t turn you away, the Blu G90 Pro will satisfy your needs as a cheap gaming phone. Just don’t expect it to do much more than that.