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Hands-On with the Blu R1 HD

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Sep 15, 2016, 7:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu's R1 HD is a compact budget phone that offers a lot of bank for the proverbial buck. It's well made, attractive, and boasts some features that are hard to find at this prince point. Here are our initial thoughts.

Blu R1 HD 

Blu's ultra-budget handset has been for sale since mid-July, but we though it worth spending some time with. This phone is available directly from Blu for $99 and from Amazon (with lockscreen ads) for $49. I have to say, the R1 HD is really impressive for a phone that costs less than $100.

The device features a glass front, metal frame, and soft-touch plastic rear panel. The phone looks good and feels nice to hold and use. It has a smaller footprint and comes across as tough and strong. The phone is offered only in one color combo, a conservative black and gray. The frame is gray, the front glass is black, and the rear panel is a very, very dark gray that nears black.

Blu R1 HD  

I really like the size of the phone. Though I tend to prefer devices with extra-large screens, the R1 HD is truly comfortable. It has a nice weight to it and the build quality is very good. The metal frame is excellent and the polycarbonate rear has a great texture that makes it rather grippy. The curved shape of the rear panel helps the phone sit deeper in your hand. Most people will have no problem putting this phone in their pocket or carrying it around.

The screen measures 5 inches and has 720p HD resolution. This combination is certainly good enough for a $99 handset. It doesn't boast the highest pixel density ever, but it gets the job done. On-screen elements look sharp and I didn't see an individual pixels. The display is bright and colorful. The R1 HD relies on software buttons to control the user interface. They come and go as needed.

The dual SIM tray is on the top edge of the phone, leaving the left edge smooth metal. The screen lock button and volume toggle are on the right edge. The volume toggle is rather large and easy to find, and the screen lock button has a good profile, too. I was pleased with travel and feedback, which was surprisingly solid.

The rear panel, surprisingly pops off. Even so, there's no pulling out the battery. That's fine. It's a 2,500mAh power cell that should be more than adequate for this phone. I like the way the polycarbonate forms the camera module; it's a little mound on the back with the camera sticking out like a ring.

Blu selected a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 processor with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. You can double the RAM and double the storage for just $10 more. Both the 8-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera have LED flashes. A selfie flash is rare for a phone of this caliber.

This is a solid little phone. Blu and Amazon are selling it unlocked. I'm not sold on the idea of viewing ads just to save $50, but this phone is a steal at that price.

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About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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