When you think of smartphone manufacturers, you probably know Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola, at least on the Android side. But there are many others out there, especially smaller ones. BLU is a smartphone company located in Miami, Florida, who makes very low-cost smartphones, but are actually pretty decent. Earlier this year, BLU came out with their Energy line of smartphones. Basically, low-spec devices with huge batteries. And the Energy X continues that trend. Today, we are here to talk all about the Energy X. Priced at just $109 unlocked (works on AT&T and T-Mobile), is the Energy X worth the money? Let's find out.
In the Box
Inside the box, BLU includes the Energy X, which is wrapped in plastic. Along with the USB to micro USB cable, a wall adapter, a set of headphones, a silicon case, screen protector, and documentation. So you know how to insert your SIM card and microSD cards and such. Compared to many flagship devices, you get quite a bit out of the box in the BLU Energy X. And that actually goes for all of their devices. You can check out our unboxing video above.
As far as specs go, BLU did a pretty decent job here. We're looking at a 5-inch 720p IPS display, powered by a MediaTek 6580 quad-core processor clocked at 1.3 GHz, 1GB of RAM, 8MP camera around back and a 2MP front-facing camera. It's also powered by a massive 4,000 mAh battery inside. Which is non-removable. There's 8GB of storage inside, and you get around 3.7GB available out of the box. Luckily there is a microSD card slot on-board which supports up to 64GB of additional storage.
As far as connectivity goes, we have Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, WiFi Hotspot, A-GPS, and Micro USB. Unfortunately there is no NFC here on the Energy X, which means no Android Pay.
As far as bands go, on 2G networks it's GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and that's for both SIM 1 and 2. On 3G it's HSDPA 850/1700/1900/2100. It does support up to HSPA 21.1Mbps. Which means it won't support the fastest speeds on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, but still quite adequate.
For a smartphone that costs just $109 unlocked, you wouldn't expect the build quality of the phone to be all that great, right? I mean they have to cut corners somewhere to hit that price point. I will say the Energy X doesn't look amazing, but it's also not the cheapest feeling phone I've used. The back of the phone sort of feels like aluminum, but it isn't. It's faux aluminum. Which isn't a bad thing, because aluminum can interfere with signal for WiFi, Bluetooth and many other radios inside the phone. The back is removable, however the battery is not. Underneath the cover, you'll find the dual-SIM cards slots and the microSD card slot as well. You also have that 8MP camera in the center of the back of the Energy X along with the flash. And a single speaker at the bottom of the back.
Now BLU has both the volume rocker and the power button on the right side of the device, and when putting the back cover back on, you have to be careful as you could knock out the volume rocker. The buttons are in about the right spot. I never had any issues trying to get to the buttons to use them at all. There's nothing on the left side, and the microUSB port is on the bottom with a microphone hole and a 3.5mm headphone jack socket up top.
The front looks a bit weird, and that's because the chin and forehead are colored, to match the back of the phone. In addition to that, there's another black bezel between that and the screen. So while this is a 5-inch device, it does feel a bit large for a 5-inch device. You'll notice at the top there is a earpiece that resembles the Nexus 5 a bit. Where it is round, and looks pretty nice. There's also your 2-megapixel front-facing camera and other sensors there.
Energy X actually felt really comfortable in the hand. Of course, its smaller size did definitely help there. I've been carrying this phone with me for about a week, and I've been quite satisfied with the build quality. Is it better than the Galaxy S6? Nope. And for $109, I wouldn't expect it to be. But compared to other phones in this price range, I think it's definitely better.
So after using full HD and even QHD displays for a few years, going back to a 720p display was a bit interesting. It's a 5-inch 720p display on the BLU Energy X. So it's not terrible, in fact it's the same PPI as the Moto G 3rd Gen. And that's 294ppi. Using this phone as my daily driver, I was pretty satisfied with the display. I didn't come across any instances where I could actually see a pixel on the display, the colors were also quite accurate, I found. They weren't saturated, at least to my eyes. However, it is an IPS display and not an AMOLED display, so that could be why.
One of the bigger issues I've found on these "cheaper" smartphones is that the display needs a bit more pressure to register your touches when navigating through the OS and such. However, that was not an issue here on the Energy X. Didn't have any time where it didn't register my finger touching the display. Which is a great thing. Another issue is usually brightness. The Energy X does get nice and bright, bright enough to be used outside in direct sunlight (or as close to direct sunlight as we get in the Detroit area in October). The Energy X also uses Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it, so it should be pretty safe from drops and such.
This is the area that always seems to be the Achilles heel in terms of sub-$200 smartphones. And that's performance. BLU has the Energy X here on a MediaTek 6580 quad-core processor. That's four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.3 GHz. On paper that looks significantly slower than many of the other processors out today. But it's not too bad actually. It is paired with just 1GB of RAM however, which is not ideal. In everyday use, I didn't notice many issues with the phone getting slow or lagging at all. In fact, most of the issues were due to me running out of RAM. These days, 1GB of RAM doesn't go as far as it used to.
Performance isn't the bright point here on the Energy X, for heavy users. However for those that don't do much, except maybe check Facebook, send some emails, and such. The Energy X performs quite well. It would definitely benefit from a newer chip, especially the Helio X10 from MediaTek.
As stated earlier, the speakers here on the Energy X are on the back of the device. Which is a bit unfortunate. Especially for those times you're watching YouTube with the phone sitting on a desk. As the rear speaker will be muffled. And that is indeed the case here with the Energy X. However, when the phone isn't sitting on a table or desk, the speaker is quite good. It gets nice and loud without distorting the sound. However, the bass isn't that deep, like we've seen on other phones. Also the sounds aren't as rich. I'd definitely recommend using a Bluetooth speaker if you want some amazing sound with the Energy X.
Call Quality & Data Speeds
We've been using the Energy X on the T-Mobile network here in the US. We've made calls as well as using it on "4G" HSPA+ for data connections. All of the people we talked to when using the Energy X said that we sounded great on the other end. There's no HD Voice on the Energy X, but users still sound good. We didn't experience any dropped calls either, always a good thing. Data speeds were about what we'd get on other devices that don't have LTE connectivity.
The Energy X battery life is simply amazing. Let's look at the specs again. We have a 5-inch 720p display, a lower-clock speed quad-core 1.3 GHz processor and a 4,000 mAh battery powering the show. So it should last for a few days, right? Right. We've been using the Energy X for over a week and haven't once had to charge it every night. It typically last at least two full days for us. That was on mixed usage of mobile data and WiFi.
We also ran PCMark benchmark on the Energy X to see how good the battery life is, and you can see those results down below. Over 15 hours in the battery life benchmark. That's some of the highest numbers in recent memory from this benchmark. And with our daily experience with the Energy X, it seems to be right on par. As far as battery life goes, I'm not sure anything can top the Energy X.
As is typical with reviews, we ran 3DMark, AnTuTu and Geekbench 3 on the BLU Energy X. Which you can see those results down below. With AnTuTu it didn't score terribly high, looking at a score of 19,388. Which is at the bottom of the pack, in terms of current flagships. Not too surprising given the hardware inside, as well as the price. For Geekbench 3, the Energy X scored a 351 in the single-core and a 1143 in multi-core. Again, not amazing results, but not terrible either. In 3DMark it scored 1985
Here we have Android 5.1 Lollipop on the BLU Energy X. For the most part, it's a Vanilla Android experience. There are a few changes here but not many. We do have on-screen navigation buttons. Making it easy to swipe up from the home button and jump into Google Now. The app drawer is pretty much vanilla Android as well. We're looking at a 4×5 grid, and it swipes horizontally, instead of vertically like the latest update to the Google Now Launcher. In terms of bloatware, BLU has a few apps pre-installed. Including Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon AppStore, BLU Help, FM Radio, Google News & Weather, Opera, and TouchPal 2015. Not a ton of bloatware here, and all of it can be uninstalled. Always a good thing.
One of the features that BLU includes in their phones, which is a pretty neat feature actually, is the ability to schedule a time for the phone to turn off and on. So you could ideally have it turn off when you go to bed and turn on shortly before you wake up to download all your notifications from the overnight hours. This way you still don't miss your alarm. Because our boss wouldn't appreciate missing our alarm, right?
The BLU Help app is essentially a shortcut to a webpage, which allows you to register the device, checkout the manual and also get service on the phone. So if you are having issues with your BLU Energy X, this is a great way to get help from BLU. This is always a question for those that buy devices from lesser-known manufacturers. So it's nice to have this shortcut built-in to the device.
The camera on the Energy X isn't fantastic, but it isn't terrible either. Keep in mind we are looking at a 8MP camera here on the Energy X. We have a few modes here in the camera app. Including a normal mode, live photo, motion tracking and face beauty mode. The camera can do HDR, which looks pretty nice as you can see in the gallery down below. For the front-facing camera, you have the option of using the peace sign to take a picture. It's a nice and easy gesture to take a selfie. The Energy X can do 1080p video at 30fps. Which also has EIS included for better stabilization in your videos.
As far as the gallery goes, it's pretty barebones here. You can check out your pictures by album, as well as edit them from within the app. You can choose different filters, frames, and even crop the pictures. Of course, if you want some more editing tools, you can download Snapseed and edit to your heart's delight.
The display here is quite good. It's definitely not the best, but still decent enough to use everyday. Battery life is definitely one of the good things about this phone. Being able to get through at least a full day is something you don't see often these days. Not to mention it's running vanilla Android 5.1 Lollipop.
Storage is definitely an issue here. Some apps can be moved to the SD card slot, but not all. And that 3.7GB will be used up pretty quick. Another issue is the lack of LTE. It's 2015, every smartphone should have LTE, in my opinion. The camera is decent, but it's really not all that great. We've definitely seen worse, but I wouldn't buy this phone based on the camera.
When you're looking at smartphones that are around $100, it's hard to find one that checks all of the boxes. However, I think BLU have done a good job at checking most of those boxes. Sure the lack of LTE isn't a great thing. But HSPA+ is still plenty fast (especially on T-Mobile who uses HSPA+ 42, compared to AT&T's HSPA+ 21). If you need a phone that will last you through the day, no matter how long your day is. And you don't play a lot of games, or use a lot of apps. Then the Energy X is definitely one to take a look at. You can buy the Energy X right now from Amazon