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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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