Blu­boo X9

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Blu­boo is a Chi­nese brand, and is shipped to the UK from third-party sites such as GearBest (gearbest.com), which sup­plied our re­view sam­ple. GearBest has a UK ware­house, and buy can buy the Blu­boo X9 from here for £100.92 – at least you can usu­ally; right now it’s out of stock.

GearBest also stocks the X9 in its Hong Kong ware­house at the cheaper price of £98.67. Ship­ping to the UK is free, but note that you may be asked to pay im­port duty when your par­cel ar­rives.

De­sign

In com­mon with the Cubot P12 we re­view on page 54, the Blu­boo X9 is among a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese phones that are avail­able sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than UK mid-range phones, yet look far more ex­pen­sive.

Were you to buy a smart­phone with a sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tion on the UK High Street you’d more than likely walk away with a plas­tic hand­set with an HD screen; by com­par­i­son, this Blu­boo X9 has a stylish gold-colour chis­elled metal frame with a soft-touch black plas­tic re­mov­able rear panel, while the 5in full-HD IPS dis­play ap­pears jet black in standby.

The black and gold ef­fect is cer­tainly stylish, al­though the X9’s de­sign is not with­out com­plaint. The rear cover is dif­fi­cult to re­move with­out it feel­ing as though the plas­tic hinges will snap, and the screen is a mag­net for fin­ger­prints. But we do like the 2.5D curved edges to the glass, which makes the tran­si­tion be­tween metal and glass much smoother.

We’re not overly keen on the CE and re­cy­cling leg­ends printed on the rear, á la Ap­ple – surely th­ese could have gone un­der the rear cover. But one thing we do like on the Blu­boo’s back is its fin­ger­print scan­ner, which is housed in the same gold sur­round as the phone’s 13Mp pri­mary cam­era and LED flash. We tend to find this po­si­tion­ing more con­ve­nient than those built into the Home but­ton be­cause it falls un­der your fin­ger nat­u­rally as you hold the phone. You can wake the screen and un­lock it with a sin­gle press, and recog­ni­tion is quick.

The rear cover snaps off to re­veal a re­mov­able 2520mAh bat­tery, dual-SIM (one full-size, one

Mi­cro-SIM) and mi­croSD slots. The bat­tery has a plas­tic tab for eas­ier re­moval; it looks cheap and is un­nec­es­sary, but at least is hid­den from view most of the time.

Switched off you can only just make out where the screen be­gins and the bezel stops; turn it on and this full-HD (1920x1080-pixel) JDI IPS panel is a beauty for a £100 phone. With a pixel pitch of 440ppi it’s in­cred­i­bly clear, and the black theme runs right through to the apps tray. Even whites seem a lit­tle grey, al­though the screen is plenty bright and colours are fine. View­ing an­gles are ex­cel­lent, too.

Below the screen are the three usual An­droid but­tons, but only the home but­ton is marked out with an X, light­ing up as you tap it, and open­ing up the mul­ti­task­ing menu with a long press.

If you don’t want to use the fin­ger­print scan­ner to wake the phone there’s a power but­ton on the right edge, and the X9 sup­ports cus­tomis­able smart wake ges­tures (con­fus­ingly through an app rather than the Set­tings menu). This power but­ton sits be­side a vol­ume rocker, while a 3.5mm head­phone jack and Mi­cro-USB charg­ing port sit up top. We were pleased to find the speaker fir­ing out sound at the bot­tom rather than the rear of the phone.

Per­for­mance

While you shouldn’t ex­pect flag­ship per­for­mance from the Blu­boo X9, it’s cer­tainly faster than what you’d get in the UK from the likes of Voda­fone’s Smart range or Mo­torola’s Moto E or Moto G. In fact, when we ran it through our usual Geek­bench test it per­formed only a lit­tle be­hind the HTC One

M8 and iPhone 6 with 2818 points scored. That’s just the one test, though, and the Blu­boo fell down else­where – par­tic­u­larly in graph­ics.

It’s easy to place too much em­pha­sis on bench­marks, how­ever, and es­pe­cially when it comes to cheap phones such as this. For most tasks the Blu­boo X9’s 1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MT6753 64-bit octa-core pro­ces­sor and 3GB of RAM are more than up to the job. You’ll find a small amount of lag with the usual sus­pects, such as launch­ing the cam­era, but at all other times op­er­a­tion feels fluid.

In our other bench­marks, the Blu­boo scored 36,570 points in AnTuTu, 12fps in GFXBench T-Rex (4fps in Man­hat­tan), and 19.785 in Jet­Stream. None is out­stand­ing, but at this price none is an is­sue ei­ther.

Ar­guably more im­pres­sive at this price point is the 16GB of built-in stor­age, plus sup­port for stor­age

ex­pan­sion via mi­croSD. You’ll be lucky to get 8GB for the same money in the UK. The Blu­boo is fit­ted with a 2520mAh re­mov­able bat­tery that should be good for a full work­ing day. It doesn’t sup­port fast- or wire­less charg­ing, which can hardly be ex­pected in any case.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

The X9 has the most im­por­tant con­nec­tiv­ity bases cov­ered with dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.0 and GPS with GLONASS. How­ever, it lacks the likes of NFC (Me­di­aTek’s sort-of-but-not-re­ally equiv­a­lent HotKnot is present) and an IR blaster.

One of the clear­est ben­e­fits of buy­ing a Chi­nese phone such as this is its sup­port for dual-SIM op­er­a­tion. This is a dual-standby phone that can si­mul­ta­ne­ously ac­cept a full-size- and a Mi­croSIM, al­low­ing you to use two sep­a­rate tar­iffs to best suit your needs.

It’s also a 4G phone, and the X9 sup­ports all three UK bands: 800-, 2100- and 2600MHz (aka Bands 3, 7 and 20). It’s said to be us­ing LDS an­tenna tech for im­proved sig­nal sta­bil­ity, and we cer­tainly had no prob­lems in our tests.

Don’t for­get the fin­ger­print scan­ner ei­ther, which is use­fully back-mounted and far from stan­dard at this price point.

Cam­eras

For a £100 phone, it’s dif­fi­cult to find fault with the pho­tog­ra­phy spec­i­fi­ca­tions. With 13Mp and an LED flash at the rear, and 5Mp at the front, on pa­per the Blu­boo is miles ahead of some of its UK ri­vals. But there’s more to it than the sheer num­ber of

megapix­els, of course. We tried the X9’s cam­era and found it did a very rea­son­able job, even de­spite the mis­er­able Jan­uary weather out­side An­droid Ad­vi­sor’s Eus­ton of­fice. Zoomed in to 100 per­cent the Blu­boo X9 man­aged to re­tain more de­tail than many of the 13Mp cam­eras we try, al­though it also in­tro­duced a fair bit of noise. On the whole, though, colours were re­al­is­tic and the Blu­boo X9 does an ac­cept­able job.

Soft­ware

The Blu­boo X9 runs a nearly stock ver­sion of An­droid 5.1 Lol­lipop, but with the ad­di­tion of Smart Wake ges­tures. Th­ese are cus­tomis­able, al­low­ing you to draw a char­ac­ter on screen-off and

au­to­mat­i­cally wake an app of your choice; or you can stick to the likes of dou­ble-tap to wake. (Look for the Smart Wake app in the app tray; you won’t find it in the Set­tings menu.)

Very lit­tle soft­ware is pre­in­stalled, but full ac­cess to Google Play means you can in­stall what­ever you like. There’s a file man­ager and apps for mu­sic, video and brows­ing the web, plus a hand­ful of Google apps and Ap­pLock, which use­fully al­lows you to lock down only the apps you spec­ify rather than the en­tire phone.

Ver­dict

Blu­boo might not be well known over here, but its X9 is a stylish phone that packs in both a fin­ger­print scan­ner and a 5in full-HD screen for just £110. Gen­eral per­for­mance is ca­pa­ble, and there’s plenty of space here for all your apps and me­dia. Marie Brewis

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5in full-HD (1920x1080, 440ppi) 2.5D JDI IPS dis­play An­droid 5.1 Lol­lipop 1.3GHz Me­di­aTek MT6753 64-bit octa-core chip Mali-T720 GPU 3GB RAM 16GB stor­age, plus mi­croSD sup­port 4G (FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz), dual-SIM dual-standby (one full-size, one Mi­cro-SIM) Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 4.0 GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS HotKnot Rear-mounted fin­ger­print scan­ner 13Mp rear cam­era with LED flash 5Mp front cam­era 2500mAh re­mov­able bat­tery 71.5x7.9x145mm 166g

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