Blu Studio X Plus Review (Unlocked)

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A new generation of high-quality, low-cost Android smartphones is in full bloom, with Motorola setting the bar Moto G ($ 129.99 at Amazon) and other companies mainly playing catch-up. The Blu Studio X Plus is sort of the answer, with specs aimed squarely at Motorola’s budget darling. It’s a good entry-level phone, especially for the lowest price of $ 149.99 (unlocked). But as is the case with many low-cost devices, the datasheet only tells part of the story. The 5.5-inch, 720p display is better than average, but not on par with Motorola’s panels. Likewise, the performance and overall polish doesn’t quite match the second-gen Moto G. On the flip side, you get longer battery life for $ 30 less. It’s a close match overall, making the Studio X Plus great value in the unlocked smartphone market.

Design, features and call quality
The Studio X Plus even looks like the Moto G, with a slightly curved back and a grippy rubberized finish. It’s significantly larger at 6.12 by 3.02 by 0.42 inches (HWD) and 6 ounces, but not entirely bulky by today’s standards. A fairly convincing faux-metal rim runs along the perimeter of the phone, neatly integrating the volume and power buttons on the left and right sides, respectively. The design won’t excite, but it doesn’t scream generic like many low-cost competitors.

A 5.5-inch 720p IPS LCD display dominates the front of the Studio X Plus. At first glance, it looks bright and crisp with a wide viewing angle, but a closer look reveals a few flaws. I noticed some weird vertical streaks, as well as off-putting color bands on the images with all sort of color gradation. Switching from a bright screen to a dark screen, like from the home page to the Settings menu, also produced ghosting, which is never a good sign. The backlight is uniform, however, and these issues will not be apparent to many users. Still, Motorola is clearly using a higher quality panel or has better quality control.

Unlocked and equipped with two SIM card slots (one Mini and one Micro), the Studio X Plus supports GSM (850/900/1800 / 1900MHz) and HSPA (850/1700 / 1900MHz) networks. In the US, this means T-Mobile, AT&T, or a GSM-based MVNO, although T-Mobile’s 2100MHz band is missing. I tested call quality and network performance using an AT&T SIM, which worked with no issues or additional APN setup. Call quality was acceptable in my tests, but far from crystal clear or perfectly natural. The earpiece gets loud enough for outdoor use, but it lacks tone and makes vocals harsh. Callers on the other end reported clear transmissions through the mic, but again the voices didn’t sound particularly natural. Noise cancellation appears to be average, letting in some ambient noise without letting it drown out conversations. Motorola’s noise cancellation and call quality are both more sophisticated.

Connectivity features are complemented by 802.11b / g / n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is limited to 2.4GHz networks only, with no support for the faster, less congested 5GHz band.

Performance and Android
The Studio X Plus features a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 processor with 1 GB of RAM. It’s a popular choice for budget-conscious companies like Blu or Yezz, and it more or less matches Qualcomm’s nearly ubiquitous Snapdragon 400. The synthetic benchmark results are almost indistinguishable between the two, with a slight edge going to Qualcomm’s chipset. Real-world performance is responsive and reliable, but still suffers from slight stuttering and lags. For example, the Studio X Plus takes a few beats too long to invoke the virtual keyboard after typing in Chrome’s browser bar. Gaming performance is only average, as the Studio X Plus struggled to maintain smooth frame rates on Asphalt 8 at maximum graphics settings.

Related story Find out how we test mobile phones

Blu is making a wise bet with its nearly stocked Android version and the Google Now launcher loaded by default. The Studio X Plus runs Android 4.4.2, but despite being referred to as “upgradable” to Android 5.0, I’m not holding my breath for a quick update here. Still, things are going well for the most part and this experience is far better than a clunky third party launcher.

Of the 8 GB of internal storage, 5.67 GB is available for out-of-the-box users. That’s a pretty generous amount considering the price, and it’s also refreshing to see absolutely no bloatware included. There is also a microSD card slot under the back cover, which accepts cards up to 64 GB.

In a battery drain test, where we played a YouTube video over HSPA with the screen brightness set to maximum, the Studio X Plus lasted 4 hours and 7 minutes. That’s a solid result, and way more than the Moto G’s 2 hours and 26 minutes in the same test.

Camera and conclusions
The 8-megapixel rear camera is quite disappointing. It can take great photos with good outdoor lighting, but even then it has issues with color accuracy and soft focus. These issues became even more pronounced in our simulated daylight scene, where Studio X Plus produced one of the most garish pink casts I’ve ever seen. Details are sorely lacking in anything but brilliant lighting, in part due to grainy image noise and slow shutter speeds that make everything somewhat waxy. The video resolution reaches 1080p, but looks just as disappointing as the quality of the still image. Stick to using the camera outdoors if you want usable shots.

There are a lot of cheap Android smartphones floating around these days, and most of them are just that, cheap. The Moto G has changed expectations and companies like Blu are following in its footsteps. The Studio X Plus is a close facsimile, but the fit, finish, and experiential polish matters here. To that end, the Moto G has always beaten him, but not by much. For tight budgets, the Studio X Plus will be more than enough phone, as long as you can live with slightly degraded display quality and a bulkier design. If these issues are significant, pay the extra $ 30 and grab a second-gen Moto G. Another solid alternative for big screen fans is the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G , while our editor’s choice for unlocked smartphones remains the Google Nexus 6 ($ 219.00 at Amazon) , thanks to its incredible display and performance, but both phones are significantly more expensive than the Studio X Plus.

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