When it comes to smartphones under $200, there are tons of options. And many of them aren't bad options these days. That includes the BLU Life One X2. This is the newest offering from BLU, who is based out of Florida. This smartphone has a lot going for it. Including an option that gives the user 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Not to mention it also features Quick Charge 3.0, so that users can charge their smartphones fairly quickly. All for under $200. It almost seems to good to be true. But is it? That's what we'll determine throughout our review. So let's get started.
The display here is a 5.2-inch Full HD (that's 1920x1080 resolution for those keeping track at home) with curved Gorilla Glass 3 on top to protect it from scratches and such. This smartphone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, which is paired with the Adreno 505 GPU, providing a pretty stellar graphics performance on the BLU Life One X2. We're also looking at 2GB of RAM with 16GB of storage, or 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage. There's also a micro SD card slot, so you can add even more storage if you need too. There's a 3000mAh battery inside, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow installed.
For optics there is a 16-megapixel sensor around back. This sensor also has phase detection auto-focus, so you can quickly focus on the object that you want to photograph, without having to wait for the camera to focus in on it. The front-facing camera is a 8-megapixel sensor, both sensors are made by Sony. For connectivity, we have WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, but there is no NFC included. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack, for those that were wondering about that. Finally, there is a fingerprint sensor which is located on the front of the device, below the display.
In the Box
BLU has included all of the usual suspects in the box with the Life One X2. In addition to the usual charging cable and wall adapter, BLU has also included a screen protector and TPU case with the Life One X2. But that's not all, there is also a pair of headphones to go along with it. These headphones aren't the best pair that you'll find, but they are decent enough to get the job done, and they are included at no extra charge. So there's not much to complain about here.
Hardware & Build Quality
When you pick up a smartphone that has a removable back, it doesn't feel as solid as other smartphones. But that's not the case here. With the BLU Life One X2, I didn't even realize it had a removable back until I looked for the SIM card slot, which is located beneath the back cover. This is a dual SIM smartphone, so you'll find both SIM card slots on the right side, with the micro SD card slot on the left side. Those that were hoping you could replace the battery, that's not the case. As the battery is embedded here. But with it being a fairly large 3,000mAh battery, that shouldn't be much of an issue for many people.
The jacket feels is aluminum. Which is a bit surprising, since it is removable. However that does make it a bit tougher to remove. The camera on the backside of the Life One X2 is flush with the rest of the device. Which is great to see, instead of having it protruding, and users needing to worry about whether the camera may get scratched in everyday things like going in and out of your pocket. The backside also houses the LED flash and just below that is the BLU logo. The speakers are on the bottom of the device with a micro USB port. There's no USB-C here, a bit unfortunate, but then again we do need to take the price of this smartphone into account. The right side has the volume rocker with the power button just below that. And they are in, pretty much, the perfect spot. You're able to reach them without moving your hand up the side of the device. Finally, the 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top of the device - a place where many prefer for it to be.
Now the front of the device has a few surprises too. The 8-megapixel sensor is at the top, with the flash on the other side of the earpiece. This is something we've been seeing more and more of recently, having a front-facing flash for those that take selfies in low-light situations. Below the display is a button, this is a fingerprint sensor, but can double as a home button. Something that we wished other smartphones did, like Lenovo's Moto G4 Plus.
The build quality of the BLU Life One X2 is definitely a bit surprising, especially given its price point. It seems to be built fairly well, it may not feel as good as the Galaxy S7, Honor 8, or even the HTC 10, but it is still a fairly premium feeling device. Probably the most premium device you'll find in this price range actually.
With a fairly small display - at least by today's standards - the 5.2-inch display here does look pretty nice. It's a 1080p panel, which has a high enough pixel density, but not too high where it affects battery life. The panel seems to be a bit on the cool side, but it's just barely on that side. Most people likely won't even notice, to be honest. BLU has not added in an option to change the temperature of the display, however, so you're stuck with the temperature that's here.
There are on-screen buttons here, which may not be the configuration you want. For instance, if you're coming from a Samsung smartphone, you may want to have the back button on the right side (which is how Samsung does it). Luckily you can change it. However the options are pretty scarce. You can have the back button on the left side with the recent son the right side, or vice versa. And that's about it. There's no option for adding other buttons (like maybe a notification pull down) here like you'd see on LG's smartphones.
Adaptive brightness is here on the Life One X2, and it actually seems to work better than on the Nexus 6P. It goes to the right brightness automatically, as it should. We never found it to be too dim, but it was a bit brighter then we wanted a few times. But that's not a huge issue, as you can simply slide the brightness slider down a bit and you're good to go. The digitizer is often times an issue on these phones from BLU, but it's not an issue with the Life One X2. Every place that we touched the display on this smartphone, it reacted pretty quickly. So there's no multi-touch issues here at all.
The internal specs of the Life One X2 are a bit strange, but interesting. Running the show is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 430 processor. This is a rather mid-range, almost low-end processor. Not one that you would typically see with 4GB of RAM or 64GB of storage. But that is what BLU has done here with the Life One X2. The Snapdragon 430 is definitely better than what is offered in the Moto G4 Play (sporting the Snapdragon 410). It's a newer chip and more importantly, it supports Quick Charge 3.0.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 430 is a pretty decent chip, to be honest. Obviously it won't give you the same performance as what you'd get out of the Snapdragon 650 or even the Snapdragon 820, but it is a cheaper chip which means smartphone makers like BLU, can put it in smartphones and bring the cost lower. It has eight Cortex-A53 cores which are clocked at 1.4GHz. So it's definitely not the fastest chip out there, but it works well for daily tasks. During the review process, we hardly even noticed that this was running a Snapdragon 430, it felt more like the Snapdragon 617. Although it was a bit cooler.
With 4GB of RAM inside, there is plenty of RAM to get things done. Never did we run out of RAM, which can be an issue for some smartphones in this price range. But keep in mind that there is a lower-end model with 2GB of RAM. If you're a power user, you'll want to spend the extra cash on the 4GB model. Gameplay is decent. The Adreno 505 GPU is a good GPU, not the best, but a good one. It'll work great for most games, but you'll notice a few issues when it comes to the more graphic intensive games on the Play Store.
The front-facing fingerprint sensor is something that isn't that popular in the Android world. As most smartphones have been opting for a rear fingerprint sensor. It is a bit easier to use, seeing as your finger rests back there. However, having it below the screen on the front, works pretty well too. From our experiences with other phones (namely Lenovo's Moto lineup), the front-facing fingerprint sensor makes you think that it doubles as a home button. Typically it doesn't. But here on the Life One X, it actually can. You can opt to have it work as a home button or change it to work as a back button. Really nice option to see, especially for those that are going to keep pressing it, thinking it's a home button.
Now when it comes to actually recognizing your fingerprint, it does a great job at that as well. In the beginning, it seems to not recognize it as much, and it got better the more we used it. Which leads us to believe that it's learning as it goes. Nevertheless, it did work really well. Just press the button and it unlocks the phone almost instantly. Now it's a fast fingerprint sensor, but not the fastest. Huawei likely still owns that title of having the fastest fingerprint sensor, for now.
As with every smartphone that we review, we ran three benchmarks on the Life One X2. These include AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. The results were pretty much what was expected with the specs included here, which you can see them all down below.
Phone Calls & Networks
The BLU Life One X2 is a GSM unlocked smartphone, so it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. It does support all of their LTE bands too, including T-Mobile's band 12. Meaning that you'll get great coverage indoors. But remember that this is not a carrier branded smartphone, which means no HD Voice, WiFi Calling or VoLTE unfortunately. But otherwise, calls were great on the BLU Life One X2. Everyone that we called using the smartphone, had no complaints over the quality nor the call dropping. Definitely great to see.
While the bottom of the phone looks like it has dual speakers, it actually doesn't. The speaker is only located on the right side of the micro USB port. In fact, if you cover that up with your finger, you'll notice there's almost no sound coming out. The other side is for symmetrical purposes, but it also houses a microphone. Now the speaker isn't bad, not by a long shot. It's loud, but the sound can get a bit distorted, the higher the volume gets. This seems to be the case with most smartphones these days, actually.
With a non-removable 3000mAh battery inside the Life One X2, BLU provides some pretty amazing battery life. Standby is where the battery really shines here, and it's an important part of battery life on any smartphone. The Life One X2 can sit in standby for about 8 hours and lose just 1% of its battery, or less. Now when you're actually using the device, you can easily get around 4 hours of on-screen time, and the battery can easily last a full day if not longer.
There's a Snapdragon 430 processor in here, which brings Quick Charge 3.0 along for the ride. As long as you have a compatible wall adapter. We do have a few of those around here, and we used them with the Life One X2. It charges up the Life One X2 pretty quickly. We're looking at around 60 to 80 minutes to go from a completely dead battery to a completely charged battery. That's pretty close to the time you'd get out of the Moto G4 Plus (3000mAh) and the LG G5 (2800mAh) which both have Quick Charge 3.0.
Having good battery life, as well as being able to charge up the battery quickly are two great things about the BLU Life One X2. You won't need to worry about getting through the full day on a charge, and you also won't need to worry about how long it'll take to top off our Life One X2. Both are great things to have in a smartphone.
The software on BLU smartphones is always a bit puzzling. It's never really the same, going from one phone to the next. The BLU Vivo 5R which we reviewed just last week, had a pretty customized version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, while this Life One X2 has a pretty stock version of the same version of Android. There are a few customizations, but they are fairly small. The biggest customization would definitely be the launcher. There is an app drawer, but puzzlingly all the apps are forced to be on your home screens. You aren't able to just remove them from the home screens, they will end up being uninstalled. Pretty strange to include an app drawer but still force apps to be on the home screen. Luckily users are able to throw on a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store without much of an issue.
There's also the notification pull down. Which actually isn't that bad, and still mostly stock Android-ish. On Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you are normally greeted with your notifications when you pull down the shade. Pull it down again and you see all of your quick settings. Well on the Life One X2, you pull it down the first time, and you are greeted with the WiFi, Bluetooth, Network and Airplane Mode toggles. Pull down the shade again and you are greeted with the rest of the toggles. This includes Do Not Disturb, Auto-Rotate, Flashlight, Location, Cast Screen and Hotspot. There's also a nice brightness slider at the bottom, for good measure.
Otherwise, the software experience on the BLU Life One X2 is exactly what you would expect from stock Android. All the usual suspects are here. It's also worth noting here that this device is running the September 1st, 2016 security patch. And at the time of writing this, it is the latest security patch available. This is great news seeing as BLU doesn't typically release updates to their phones, and if they do, they are fairly far behind. So at least buyers of this brand new device will be able to have peace of mind knowing that they are running the latest security patch on their new smartphone.
BLU has put in a 16-megapixel sensor on the backside of the Life One X2, which provides some pretty decent shots. But before we get to the picture quality of this camera, let's talk about the actual camera app. This app is pretty minimal, but is far from being useless. There are plenty of modes included, which you can get to by swiping across the shutter button. You'll find a Pro mode, Night, Face Beauty, HDR, Scene Frame, Normal, Panorama and Sports. In the Pro mode, as expected, you'll be able to switch to manual focus, change the exposure, ISO, white balance and sharpness. Allowing you to get the perfect shot each and every time. Now if you swipe across the shutter button the other way, you'll find all of the settings for the camera. Which includes using the volume keys for things like zooming and as a shutter button. There's also the ability to switch cameras. You can also edit how the settings show up. So that the most popular ones are at the top, and not hidden (since the settings are scrollable.)
Throughout this review, we've been using the camera to take pictures and it appears to be inconsistent. Some pictures it took were actually pretty good. Then there were others that weren't so good. And this doesn't seem to be consistent on the lighting conditions either. In some lighting conditions, like direct sunlight, the Life One X2 performed pretty terribly, while in a dimly lit restaurant, it performed pretty good. You can check out all of the pictures from this review in the Flickr gallery below. It includes both the good and the bad.
Quick Charge 3.0
Somewhat slow Snapdragon 430 SoC
Micro USB port
The BLU Life One X2 is a fairly cheap smartphone, and you can definitely see that when picking it up and using it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as BLU does need to make some money off of selling these smartphones too. But, these smartphones in this price range are never going to be as good as those you pay $700+ for, and that's understandable seeing as the BLU Life One X2 is under $200 in the US. But that doesn't mean it's a phone that you should steer clear of.
Should you buy the BLU Life One X2?
If you travel internationally a lot, and don't want to spend an arm and a leg on a new smartphone, then the BLU Life One X2 is definitely one to take a look at. The Life One X2 is a better choice in the 4GB/64GB variety, of course, but even with just 2GB of RAM it still works really well. Additionally, with the dual SIM feature, it allows you to easily travel to another country without needing to take out your SIM card and risk losing it. Something that needs to be a feature of more smartphones, and that's something we can likely all agree on. The BLU Life One X2 is currently available for pre-order and will be shipping soon.