BLU, which stands for “Bold Like Us”, puts out quite a few smartphones each and every year. A lot of times they are smartphones made by manufacturers in China and are rebranded for BLU. That’s actually something that HTC used to do quite a bit, and how they initially become a big powerhouse in Android before their downfall began. Most of BLU’s smartphones are under $200, there are a few over that price point but for the most part they are under $200 and sold unlocked. Which means you can take them to AT&T or T-Mobile with ease. BLU has announced the new Life One X, and we have one here to review. It’s a $149 smartphone that does feature 4G LTE compatibility for both AT&T and T-Mobile’s network (no band 12, before you ask). So let’s keep that in mind as we jump into the full review.
BLU Packed in some pretty spectacular specs here in the Life One X. We have the 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display, along with a MediaTek MT6753 processor which is an octa-core chip clocked at 1.3GHz, with 2GB of RAM inside for multi-tasking. BLU also included 16GB of storage inside along with a microSD card slot that can support up to an additional 64GB of storage. There is a 13-megapixel camera around back, and a 5MP front-facing camera for taking selfies, powered by a 2900mAh battery that is non-removable. The BLU Life One X is running on Android 5.1 Lollipop, with a pretty minimal skin on top.
As far as bands go, on 3G networks it supports 850/1700/1900/2100 and on 4G LTE networks it supports bands 2, 4, 7, 12 and 17. So it will work completely with both AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US.
In the box
In the box, BLU includes a micro USB cable along with the wall adapter, a set of headphones, a screen protector along with a flip case for the Life One X. One of the only manufacturers to include a ton of accessories with their phone, at any price point. Of course you also get the phone in the box, and the battery is already inside the phone since it is non-removable. It’s a pleasant unboxing experience. Nothing too special, but you wouldn’t expect that from a phone that’s under $200.
On the Life One X, we have a 5.2-inch IPS display that measures in at 1920×1080 giving it a full HD resolution. Typically when you get a smartphone in this price range, the display isn’t all that great, and often times it is a bit of a hassle trying to use the display. However, the Life One X has a really great looking display here, and it also registers your touches without any issues. An issue we’ve seen countless times before on other smartphones. The IPS display here on the Life One X gets nice and bright, especially when outside. Colors are nice and vibrant, which makes it look great when you’re watching a video on YouTube, or Netflix.
In the Life One X, BLU has added “MiraVision” which allows you to switch between different modes for the display. So here you have standard, Vivid as well as User Mode. I prefer to keep it on Vivid mode as it looks nicer, although that’s just my opinion. On user mode you can adjust things like the contrast, saturation, picture brightness, sharpness and color temperature to really make the display look as nice as you’d like for it too. There’s really no boundaries here.
Hardware and Build
This phone reminds me a bit of a Galaxy Note 4 mixed with a Sony Xperia Z3. The back of the phone has a faux leather-like material, which don’t get me wrong, it feels great in the hand and the best part is that it gives you plenty of grip. The sides are curved metal, like the sides of a Xperia Z3. It’s a good looking phone, to be honest. Although, BLU did put the speaker on the back of this one, unfortunately, so if you’re listening to music or watching a video with it sitting on a table the sound is going to be muffled a bit.
In the upper left-hand corner, we have the 13-megapixel camera along with the dual LED flash and the BLU logo is in the center towards the top. On the right side is your volume rocker and power button. The volume rocker is only slightly longer than the power button. So if you’re using your phone at night, you might accidentally turn off the phone instead of turning down the volume. Not a huge deal, but it would be nice to see the power button with a different texture, similar to what Huawei did on the Nexus 6P. Your 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top of the phone, with the micro USB port at the bottom. Unfortunately, no USB Type-C here on this smartphone.
The back cover can be removed, and that’s where you’ll find your two SIM card slots along with your micro SD card slot. And as you’ll see the battery is not removable without voiding your warranty. On the front of the phone, BLU has added a flash along with the camera, and one is on either side of the earpiece. So now when you’re in a club you can get a great selfie with that flash (or maybe not, if the Moto X Pure Edition has taught us anything).
The Life One X is a very well put together phone, hardware wise. Often times you’ll pick up a smartphone that’s $149, and it just feels cheap, like it could fall apart in your hand. Luckily the Life One X doesn’t feel like that. It actually feels a bit premium, even though we know it is an inexpensive handset. Just looking at the hardware, I could definitely use this as my daily driver. It’s a good looking and good feeling smartphone here.
Performance and Memory
One thing that surprised me with the Life One X was the performance. Typically performance is okay, but not great. However, the MT6753 performed like a boss in our testing. The octa-core 1.3GHz processor performed very well, the interface on the Life One X was nice and snappy, it really did shock me. Along with the 2GB of RAM included, the Life One X does a nice job of multi-tasking. It’s not perfect, and you’ll likely run into the same issues the Nexus 5X has with its 2GB of RAM, but for most users, this should be adequate. You can see the benchmarking results in the next section.
Something that likely helps the MediaTek MT6753 processor perform so well – especially since it’s meant to be a low-end or mid-range chip – is the fact that this is running mostly vanilla Android. There are a few tweaks in here from BLU. But for the most part, this is vanilla Android. Think of what Motorola has done with the Moto X for software, this is pretty similar. BLU includes 16GB of storage available internally. And out of the box you’ll have around 10GB of free storage. Luckily, BLU has support for a 64GB microSD card for you to add apps to, pictures, videos and music as well. So you’re not stuck with just the 10GB of free storage inside.
For benchmarks we ran 3DMark, Geekbench and AnTuTu. On 3DMark, the Life One X scored a 182. With a graphics score of 147 and a physics score of 1076. Not the best scores here, but you have to remember what specs the Life One X is packing inside. Over on Geekbench 3, we got a 603 on the single-core and a 2706 on the multi-score. Which is actually on par with what the Snapdragon 800 and Snapdragon 801 were putting out. Finally, with AnTuTu we got a score of 37,484. Again, not the best score there, but considering the specs inside, it’s pretty decent. It sits below the vivo X5Pro at 46,008 and the Lenovo K3 Note at 46,301.
Phone Calls and Network
This is an unlocked smartphone, so it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile (it will not work on Sprint or Verizon). We did our review process with the Life One X on T-Mobile’s network and it performed about as well as we expected. Compared to our Nexus 6P on T-Mobile, the Life One X pulled down about the same speeds as we saw on the Nexus 6P. With the Life One X having support for Band 12 LTE on T-Mobile, it has some pretty decent indoor coverage (as long as you’re in a market that has band 12 LTE up and running).
Inside the Life One X, we have a pretty hefty battery a 2900mAh capacity. That’s larger than the Nexus 5X which is about three times the price and the same size. The 2900mAh battery was enough to last us through a full day and then some, as you can see from the images above. If you pick up the Life One X, you definitely won’t need to worry about the device lasting throughout the day.
Like we mentioned earlier on, the software here on the Life One X, is mostly stock Android 5.1 Lollipop. It’s not Marshmallow, unfortunately, although it is slated to get the update in the next few months. So hopefully that does come. We do have a few changes here, compared to vanilla Android. For instance, it’s not using the Google Now Launcher. However, the launcher appears to work almost identical to it, aside from having Google Now on the left side of the home screen and having a vertical scrolling app drawer. Instead the app drawer scrolls horizontal, which most people prefer anyways. There are quite a few apps pre-installed here, including Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Underground, FM Radio, McAfee Security, Opera and Touchpad 2015. The Touchpad 2015 keyboard is a pretty decent keyboard, however I still installed SwiftKey because I simply like that keyboard better. That’s what’s so great about Android. Don’t like the keyboard or the launcher, just install one you do like.
BLU has also made a few additions into the quick settings pull down. So now we have a power saving toggle there as well as an audio profile one. So, the do not disturb feature in Android 5.x Lollipop is not present here in the Life One X. That might make a few people happy. Since the do not disturb feature was met with a bit of skepticism. A few other features that BLU have included here include Smart Awake, which works for four different things. By turning on Smart Awake, you can simply draw the letter “m” on the screen when it’s off to launch the music player. It works for the camera by drawing a “c”, and the flashlight with the letter “o” and you can double-tap the screen to unlock it.
Overall, the software here is pretty fluid and fast as well. It’s always great to have a smartphone, especially a cheaper one, that’s running stock Android and is fast. Last thing you’d want to do is wait for the phone to open up an app. And that’s something you don’t have to do here, thanks to the MediaTek MT6753.
As we mentioned in the hardware section of this review, the Life One X’s speaker is on the back of the phone. Therefore it won’t be as good as some of the other smartphones on the market. But when it’s not sitting on a table, the speaker is pretty decent. You’ll get some decent sound out of the speaker, however if you have a Bluetooth speaker handy, we’d definitely recommend using one to play music or watch that video.
Here on the BLU Life One X, we have a 13-megapixel camera on the back of the smartphone, which can take some decent pictures. It’s not going to compete with the Galaxy S6, or the Nexus 6P, but at $149, I wouldn’t expect it too. However, the performance of the camera is pretty spot on. The shutter is nice and quick, and the pictures taken with the camera do look pretty nice. They aren’t over-saturated or over-exposed at all. Again, nice to see. The front-facing camera, however could use some help. The Life One X isn’t the first to have a flash on the front. The front-facing flash never really does much, as it usually blinds you and makes your selfies not look as great as they could. It’s a 5-megapixel around front, so the pictures don’t look too grainy.
The camera app is pretty straight forward here. Many of our favorite features are found in the viewfinder, however many others are in a menu. Which means it’s going to take an extra step or two to get to them. This includes Beauty Mode, Dual View Mode, Night Mode, Sports Mode, HDR and there is also a Pro Mode. Something we’ve seen on a lot of high-end smartphones as of late. The Pro Mode allows you to play around with the ISO, White Balance, exposure and much more. As we mentioned, HDR is available here in the camera app, however there is no Auto HDR, meaning you’ll need to jump into that menu to turn on HDR whenever you want to use it. A bit unfortunate, but still a pretty decent camera here on the BLU Life One X.
Number one, the price. The BLU Life One X is selling for just $149 right now on Amazon. That’s a pretty low price for a smartphone, especially one with specs like this. We’re also looking at a 64-bit processor here, definitely good to keep the smartphone future proof for a bit. The best part of all, perhaps is the fact that it does support 4G LTE on both T-Mobile and AT&T’s network, and top of that there is support for band 12 LTE. So those on T-Mobile will get great indoor coverage. BLU is also launching this with Android 5.1 Lollipop, another nice addition.
We’d like to see a bit more storage available here. While there is 16GB of storage – a bit more than their devices normally have, and there is a microSD card slot – 32GB of storage would really be nice to have. Another sore point in the Life One X is the RAM, while 2GB might be enough for some people right now, it’s rapidly not becoming enough for everyone. So adding in an extra GB of RAM would have been really nice to see here.
The Life One X is one of my favorite smartphones from BLU, for a few reasons. One, it’s a pretty high-end smartphone – aside from the 2GB of RAM – and it’s price point is insane. Just $149. BLU also stuck with a fairly small 5.2-inch display, something a lot of people have been clamoring for. And it’s full HD (1080p), so it’s a great looking display. It’s pretty tough to find anything to complain about with this one. Adding in the somewhat premium build here and 4G LTE connectivity, this is the phone I’d definitely recommend to anyone looking for a new, somewhat small, smartphone that is cheap and isn’t just crap. BLU did a great job here and they have plenty more surprises for us at CES in a few weeks.