Normally, there is big anticipation and excitement around a review of a smartphone. What will it be like? How will it perform? Are the rumors all true? Well, this week we are taking a quick look at a largely unknown smartphone from probably, an equally unknown manufacturer. The manufacturer is NUU Mobile and the device is the recently released X1 smartphone. While the NUU X1 smartphone is a device you have probably not heard of, the price will be one which will be attractive and certainly one of the biggest selling points. The device comes in with a MSRP $229.99 in the U.S. That said, the device is pretty widely available for $199.99. Keeping in mind, this is an unlocked android smartphone and as such, the price is almost certainly the big selling point for the X1. When you also then start to factor in that this is also a device which comes with a Qualcomm processor inside and also supports LTE, the device begins to look even more attractive.
The NUU Mobile X1 is definitely a budget placed handset. As such, as well as coming with what is a ceiling on the price of the device, there is an equal limitation on the specs on offer. In terms of those specs, the X1 comes equipped with a 5.0-inch IPS display with 1280 x 720 resolution. Inside, the X1 offers 1GB RAM and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor (clocking at 1.7 GHz). In terms of memory, the X1 is loaded with 16GB internal storage and offers the option to expand in memory via included the microSD card slot (up to 32GB). While in terms of cameras, the X1 offers a 13-megapixel rear camera coupled with a 5-megaixel front-facing camera. Other features on offer include WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC, LTE Support (4 and 7) and dual-SIM support. Not to mention, powering everything is a 2,400mAh battery, while the X1 runs on Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) out of the box.
Design & Hardware
There is no escaping that on a sub-$200 unlocked smartphone, something somewhere, has to give. In the case of the X1, this is certainly where the phone first shows it signs of being a budget product. The X1 is almost entirely made of plastic, resulting in somewhat of a toy-like presentation and feel. The device is available in both a black and white variant and the black one does at least mask the look of the device a little. One positive is that the back of the device does contain a smoother texture than you might be expect on a plastic device. This does at least provide a better feel although does not for long detract away from the generally underwhelming feel. It is probably also worth mentioning that this is a device which comes with a removable back. Therefore, SIM-loading occurs under the back cover and the whole process is rather fiddly. That said, this is a dual-SIM compatible device, which is largely unexpected for a U.S. available option and certainly one priced within this range. Overall though, when it comes to the design and hardware, this is largely a budget device, both in terms of how the device looks and feels. It is also worth pointing out that the X1 comes with the USB charge point on the top of the device, with no connectors noted on the bottom at all.
Software and Performance
Interestingly, the software on the device is extremely close to stock. Unfortunately though, that is, close to Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) stock. It does seem likely that this will remain on KitKat too, with no clear indications of this being an Android 5.0 (Lollipop) upgradable device in the future. As such, the software in effect consists of a typical KitKat appearance in all respects.
That said and in spite of being close to stock, the X1 does not perform particular fast. There were no overwhelming issues in terms of speed of fluidity, however, the device was still felt to be a little too slow. Especially for one which comes so lightweight in terms of the UI. As already noted, there is a Qualcomm processor inside, but, coupled with the 1GB RAM, everything just lacked in most respects. One positive which certainly can be noted and also added to the lightweight feel of the software, was the almost complete lack of any bloatware. This device does come unlocked and as such there was no immediate issues with carrier bloatware and likewise, the manufacturer seems to have opted for next to no specific features which resulted in a very clean selection of apps on offer. In fact, if you are after a budget device which is as light as possible then this would be a suitable option. However, the lack of features did result in the settings, notifications and so on assuming a very bare appearance and functionality and lacking any individuality.
This was also a mixed bag when it comes to reviewing a smartphone. There were no overwhelming issues with battery life. But by the same token, there were no redeeming factors either. The Battery life is not a selling point for the device, but when you factor in the slow performance and generally light level of software, the battery life is to be as expected, average. With roughly 5 hours of continual usage. In standby mode and on WiFi, the device would achieve three to four days on a full charge. However, with nothing really eating at the device's performance, this again was not particular a point worth noting.
The camera elements of any smartphone is fast becoming one of the most important aspects of a smartphone. As the general level of smartphone cameras increase, so does the consumer expectation. On the NUU X1, the camera is certainly the best feature on offer. That said, it is not great. The X1 does come equipped with a Sony 13-megapixel rear offering and therefore, has the spec capability of being as good as any other device running a similar lens. However, the X1 does not compete with the likes of the 2nd generation Moto X simply due to the software, processing and image capturing. Images were of an acceptable quality but lacked the overall edge to compete with similar spec devices. The software on the camera side was also too limited and lacked any novel features or attributions, resulting in a slow, choppy and sometimes aggravating image-taking experience. Not to mention, the shutter speed was poor and the ability to turn off the sound for the shutter quickly became a nuisance. Selfie wise, the camera also performed poorly. Image were far too often too blurry and grainy and simply not worth using. In particular, poor or limited lightning really did highlight the lack of abilities on the X1 and nearly always rendered unusable images.
You can see a selection of the images taken with the X1 below.
It is difficult to know where to place the NUU X1 smartphone. The price does dictate that this is aimed at a certain section of the market. Coming in with a $200 price tag is a selling point. However, the price tag is the only selling point. If you are looking for a device which can do anything above the basics, then this might not be the device to go for. As there are now a number of options that offer a much more inclusive experience and within a $100 premium price range. That said, if you are looking for a backup or secondary device which will be shipped to you new and unlocked and which does support LTE and all under $200, then this might be worth your consideration.