BLU is a company that I’ve had the chance to cover previously at Pocketables. I really enjoyed using the Vivo 5R that was released last September. Since then, they have received some bad press over collecting user data on certain models but that seems to be all cleared up now. Enter the Life One X2 Mini, BLU’s newest budget-friendly phone and the follow-up to the Life One X2. The Life One X2 Mini checks in at only $180 yet packs in a lot of the features typically reserved for hero devices.

DESIGN

BLU continues to impress me with their phone design. The Life One X2 Mini is a beautiful phone. It really is quite fetching. It’s wrapped in a rounded machined aluminum housing and is available in three colors – grey, gold, and rose gold (aka pink). The glass on the front also has nice rounded edges that make the phone very comfortable to hold and use. There are no sharp edges anywhere – even the buttons are satisfactorily curvesome.

The screen is a pleasant 5.0 inches. It’s funny to think of 5 inches as “mini” but in today’s smartphone world it is. The phone is very pocketable ;). I really enjoy stepping down to this screen size. It sort of makes me pine for the days of the OG Moto X and the HTC M7 with their 4.7 inch screens.

The front bezel phone is color matched to the rear housing (except on the rose gold model – it’s white) which makes for a nice look. The side bezels are quite thin while the top and bottom bezels are a little larger. They’re roughly similar to those found on the iPhone 6 and 7 series. They aren’t overly large nor do they really detract from the overall look of the phone. Nestled in the bottom bezel is a silver-rimmed oval fingerprint reader/home button. The button is recessed so that it is level with the screen. Above the screen is the front camera and front flash. Around back is the camera (with it’s slight bump). There is a headphone jack up top and Micro-USB port on the bottom.

It’s hard to find any flaws with the Life One X2 Mini from a design perspective. Due to the excellent materials and design, it’s one of the best feeling phones I’ve ever used. There’s nothing cheap or subpar about it which is pretty amazing given its low price point.

DISPLAY

The screen on the Life One X2 Mini is beautiful. It’s a 5 inch IPS LCD @ 1920×1080 which gives you an excellent 440 ppi. The display is sharp, clear, and bright. I prefer AMOLED screens to LCD, personally, but there’s something to be said for the more natural tones that LCD’s typically provide. Blacks aren’t as deep on an LCD but that wasn’t really a problem after my eyes adjusted to using an LCD screen. Viewing angles are VERY good – basically up to 90 degrees. Visibility in direct sunlight is a bit iffy. It’s barely tolerable at full brightness in the full Florida sun. Any other conditions, though, were fine.

PERFORMANCE

This is the first BLU phone I’ve used with a Qualcomm processor and I’ve really noticed a difference over previous MediaTek devices. It has the octa-core Snapdragon 430, clocked @ 1.4 GHz, and 4 GB of RAM. It’s buttery smooth. The SD 430 was released in September 2015 but it holds up well today. I literally did not experience a single performance hiccup while testing the Life One X2 Mini. As a result, app loads and transitions were all seamless. Testing it side-by-side against my Moto Z with it’s Snapdragon 820 there’s almost no appreciable difference. The app drawer loads ever so slightly fast on the Moto Z and apps launch a hair quicker. But it isn’t really something you’ll notice unless you are staring at two phones side-by-side. It’s hard to overstate how impressed I am by the Life One X2 Mini.

Often budget phones, especially MediaTek based ones, will begin to show chinks in the armor when you try to use them for 3D gaming. That hasn’t been the case with the Life One X2 Mini. My standard test game for 3D is CSR Racing 2. The Life One X2 Mini handled it quite well with no jerkiness. The game even loads relatively quickly – about 30 seconds in my testing. Other titles like Hitman Sniper run, if a little sluggishly. I wouldn’t buy a sub-$200 phone with the expectation of using it for 3D gaming but it is nice to know that the Life One X2 Mini can handle modern phone gaming well, for the most part.

The Life One X2 Mini scored 2070 for multi-core CPU and 1671 for GPU benchmarking in Geekbench 4. That puts it about in line with the Nexus 5X which is pretty good at this price. It’s actually slightly lower than the Vivo 5R I reviewed last year. Of course, benchmarks don’t tell the whole story. The Life One X2 Mini offers a smoother experience and better day-to-day use than the Vivo 5R did.

  

SOFTWARE

As is usual with BLU’s phones that Life One X2 Mini ships with aged software. It’s running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with little to no hope of ever seeing an OS upgrade. That said, as of this writing Marshmallow still holds up as a “good enough” version of Android. It still looks modern and with the move of more and more OS features into Google Play Services, etc., it isn’t too much of a burden to be stuck on 6.0.1.

One problem I’ve had with BLU phones in the past is the launcher. It has always been a cheap imitation of iOS and was always the first thing I replaced on a new device. The Life One X2 Mini ships with the much improved My Launcher 6.0. It has, shockingly, an app drawer and options for adjusting the look and feel of the home screens. The app drawer scrolls vertically and is paginated alphabetically. It works well and is a welcome improvement on previous efforts.

  

Much of the phone software is very close to stock. The settings app is basically the stock android one. The pull down shade is mostly stock though the quick access buttons are lightly skinned to look like Samsung’s TouchWiz. Overall the effect is pleasing, something helped by the smooth operation of the phone.

One notable departure from stock is the screenshot software. It has some really cool features that I’d really like to see on other phones. When a screenshot is captured you are immediately shown a full screen preview. From there you can choose to save the screenshot, discard it, edit it, share it, or take a full page shot. Saving is accomplished by flinging the picture down and deleting is done by flinging up. If you take no action the image is automatically saved after a couple of seconds. Editing the image gives you some basic manipulation options. Choosing the full page option will capture a new image that incorporates the totality of whatever app you are using. The software will scroll down the entire webpage you are visiting, for example. It’s a cool feature to have and one that I could have used many times in the past.

CAMERA

It’s no surprise that the cameras on the Life One X2 Mini are only middling. It has a 13 megapixel rear facing camera and an 8 megapixel forward facing one. The forward facing camera is wide angle and does feature a flash – still somewhat of a novelty – but I wouldn’t say that either approaches the quality you’ll see on modern Samsung, Apple, or LG phones. It’s a lot more like Moto’s efforts than anything else. Which is to say they’ll do the job but won’t be confused for professional devices. You definitely can capture good images with proper lighting. The camera is about as good as I’d expect on a device at this price.

 

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BATTERY

The Life One X2 Mini packs a 3000 mAh battery and I find that’s a pretty good size for a phone with a 5 inch display. I can easily make it through a day of use with four to five hours of screen time. Since BLU has moved to a Qualcomm platform the Life One X2 Mini also supports Quick Charge 3.0 for fast recharging. There’s no wireless charging on-board but that need is mostly obviated by the presence of QC 3.0.

VALUE

 

Value is the category that BLU really hammers home. It’s amazing what sort of package your $180 gets you. First, there’s an extremely attractive phone that has premium features like a front flash, aluminum body, super-fast fingerprint reader, 4GB RAM, and standard 64 GB storage. Then there’s everything the BLU adds in the box like a screen protector, silicone case, earbuds, and quick charger. Add to that that it’s unlocked and works on all GSM networks (ATT, T-Mobile, etc but not Verizon or Sprint) and BLU has really delivered. This is a phone you can hand to someone and they probably will have no idea you paid less than $200 for it.

CONCLUSION – LIFE ONE X2 MINI

I love the BLU Life One X2 Mini. It’s a fantastic phone full of big features that are packed into a mini (!) package. With the $180 price BLU is clearly targeting Moto’s G series and Samsung’s Galaxy J phones. I think they’ve done everything they can to go toe-to-toe against those heavyweights and in many ways have surpassed them. The budget segment of the smartphone market continues to get better and BLU is doing their part to push it forward. I highly recommend this phone. Pick one up today @ Amazon.

SPECS

CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, 1.4 GHz Octa Core
GPU Adreno 505
RAM 4 GB
Internal Storage 64 GB
microSD Support Yes, up to 64 GB
LTE Bands 2/4/7/12/17
HSPA Bands 850/1700/1900/2100
Battery 3000 mAh, Quick Charge 3.0
OS Android 6.0.1
Display 5.0 inches, 1920×1080, 440 PPI
Main Camera 13 MP with LED Flash, PDAF
Front Camera 8 MP with LED Flash, Wide Angle
Bluetooth 4.1
Fingerprint Sensor Yes