Review: Blu Life One X2
The One X2 drops the goofy lock screen that we saw on some of Blu's other handsets this year for a more traditional Android experience.
A quick press of the screen lock button will wake the screen, which places a digital clock in the middle of the display with notifications lined up underneath. As on most Android phones, you can control how much detail is shared by notifications. Dismissing them requires but a swipe. The lock screen allows you to access the full notification shade, as well as the Quick Settings tools. There are shortcuts to the phone and the camera apps in the lower corners of the lock screen.
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Blu didn't include any fancy gestures or motions for waking the phone up. Security options run the typical, which means PIN, pattern, password are available. The fingerprint sensor is a cinch to train, but it doesn't work as fast as I'd like it to. I'd say 50% of the time I attempted to use the sensor is misread my print and asked me to reposition my finger. That gets really old really quick.
Blu did add some neat fingerprint-based features. For example, you can hide files behind your fingerprint, or assign custom actions for your different fingerprints. This lets you choose to have the phone unlock with your thumb, but call your mom with your index finger. Neat.
The One X2 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but the stock user interface is covered up by Blu's skin. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that Blu's take on the Android home screen drops the traditional app drawer.
The phone has three home panels active out of the box. The left-most panel is the "home" screen and is where you'll see a Google search bar, weather widget, and some core apps. The following two panels are filled with preloaded apps. There is no app drawer, so all of your apps are on a home screen, similar to iOS. However, the One X2 adds a secondary app menu screen that lines them up alphabetically and allows you to search through them. It's not a traditional app drawer, per se, but you might say it follows in that vein. Users can rearrange the home screen panels however they wish. The home screens support folders, widgets, animated screen transitions, and so on.
The One X2 has a traditional Android Quick Setting panel that slides down from the top. The toggles adopt Blu's custom icon shapes, but that doesn't impact usability.
The Settings tools are standard Android. One thing worth pointing out: because the phone supports two SIM cards, you can customize how incoming calls alert the device. For example, you can set one ringtone for your personal number and a second ringtone for your work number.
The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 430 processor. It comes with either 2 GB or 4 GB of RAM depending on which model you select. I strongly suggest you pick the 4 GB model. The 430 delivers more than enough power to run the One X2 smoothly. Not once did the phone feel slow or underpowered. I tested the 4 GB modern, which likely helped.
Making use of the lock screen shortcut is by far the quickest way to launch the camera app. It opens quickly enough.
The controls are arranged in a fairly typical manner with the shutter buttons on the right side of the screen. Swipe the viewfinder up to access all the settings and swipe the viewfinder down to access the shooting modes. Swipe either left or right to switch to the selfie camera.
The One X2 has 8 different shooting modes: normal, professional, HDR, panorama, night, face beauty, sports, and smart frame. Many of these modes are self explanatory and work as you expect them to.
The professional mode is mostly robust and allows users to adjust focus, exposure (brightness), ISO (speed), white balance, sharpness, and saturation. You can't set your own shutter speed, which means no creative night shots. The smart frame tool is kind of fun. It puts a picture you've taken into a frame, such as a mirror, laptop screen, TV screen, or billboard advertisement.
Most people will be happy to use the normal shooting mode, which is the default setting and easiest to manage.
I like that the settings tool is an array of icons rather than a boring list. It's quite easy to take control over the flash or geotagging, change the resolution for photos and videos, and so on.
The app is a little on the slow side, particularly when it comes time to focus and capture pictures. Low light really puzzles the camera's focus system, which delays the picture-capturing process even more. I wish the camera were quicker.
The One X2 has a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.4. It's not the best camera in the market, but it holds its own for this class of device. Images are generally sharp and white balance is mostly on-point. Exposure is inconsistent, and I noticed a fair amount of grain in photos taken in low light. The flash doesn't help when taking photos in darker spaces, other than to give everything that "flash'd" look. You can compensate for some of the camera's problems with a little know-how in manual mode.
The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and its own flash. Shots I took with it outdoors were a bit of a mess, with soft focus, poor exposure, and odd white balance. It only gets worse when used indoors. Definitely use the selfie flash if you can, because it helps a little bit.
As for the 1080p HD video I shot, the One X2 produced usable results as long as there is plenty of light. Chances of you scoring good footage of your kid's school talent show in a darkened theater is pretty low, but their afternoon soccer game might look decent.
I wouldn't use the One X2 as my primary imaging device, but it suffices for simpler, spur-of-the-moment stuff.
For a non-carrier phone, this thing sure has a lot of bloatware on board. You've got all the Google apps, a handful of Amazon apps, a couple of Blu apps, and plenty of generic utilities. You can delete most of the unwanted junk.
Blu has a new Android phone offering desirable specs like a fingerprint reader, 5.2-inch, full-HD screen, 16-megapixel camera, fast charging, and memory card slot, all for under $200 unlocked. We spent a little time with it.
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