Back in January of 2014, Blu released what I then called my "favorite Blu phone to date"—the Life One X. At the time, it was a solid budget phone, but affordable smartphones have come so far since then. The last year or so has been great for the budget phone scene, and we've watched devices get more and more powerful while prices kept dropping.

Today, Blu announced the new version of the Life One X, and guess what? It's probably the best budget device I've ever used. One might even say it's probably "my favorite Blu phone to date," save for maybe the new Pure XL. But we're also talking about a phone that costs less than half of what the PXL costs, too.

Here's a look at what's under the One X's hood:

Specs

Display 5.2-inch 1920x1080 IPS Display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 1.3GHz octa-core Meditek 6753 w/ Mali T720 GPU
RAM 2GB
Camera 13MP rear, 5MP front
Storage 16GB w/ microSD card slot
Wireless 3G - 850/1700/1900/2100; 4G: 2/4/7/12/17; Bluetooth 4.0; Wi-Fi b/g/n
Battery 2,900 mAh
OS Android 5.1
Dimensions 149.5 x 73.6 x 8.6 mm
Price $99 for first three days of availability, $149 after that
Colors Black, White
Buy Amazon

Appearance, Hardware, and Build Quality

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I'll just get this out of the way early: I think this is one of the best-looking devices ever released by Blu. The edge of the display has this awesome bevel that looks and feels great, and really leads to a much higher-end appearance than you'd normally see on a phone at this price point. I really like it.

The rest of the phone follows that same sort of look and feel, with a nice aluminum band around the sides and a textured removable back. If I had to pick a weakest link in the phone's overall design, it would probably be the back because it looks cheaper than the rest of the phone. I think it's the texture.

Otherwise, this is a very typical phone. Power and volume are on the right side, the microUSB charging port is on the bottom, and the headphone jack is on the top. Nothing we've never seen before.

It's also crazy how small this phone feels—it's got a 5.2-inch display! I can't believe how far we've come in the last couple of years; back in the day most of us thought 5-inch phones were the "perfect size." Now a 5.2-inch phone feels small. I guess it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I use the Nexus 6 as my daily driver, but more and more often the size of that phone is "normal." I do love using the Life One X, though, because it just feels so nice to use in one hand. I don't have to fumble around or try to "prop" the phone on my pinky so I can reach the back button with my thumb like on the N6. It's a nice change. Makes me miss phones this size being the norm.

Like its predecessor, the new One X has a 1080p display. Of course, back when that phone was released 1080p was the highest res we'd seen on a phone—these days quad HD panels are the flagship-level (and some phones even have 4K now, which is just dumb), making 1080p the 720p of yesteryear. On a 5.2-inch panel, though, 1080p is more than enough; it clocks in at some 420 pixels per-inch. When it comes to pixel density, the LOX looks great.

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But it's not just the density that makes it look good—the display in general is quite nice. Color balance is good here, with whites looking mostly white (they are slightly gray), dark blacks, and most colors really pop off the display without being overly warm. If you don't like how the display looks out of the box, however, Blu also included a display option called MiraVision that basically allows users to tweak the way the display looks—there are a few presets, like standard and vivid, but there's also a user-defined mode that offers more granular control over the display output (screenshot below, in the software section of the review). For the purposes of this review, however, I kept it on standard, because that just makes more sense.

I may or may not sound like a broken record when it comes to Blu displays, but as usual, this doesn't look like a display on a budget phone.

On the opposite side of the display (read: the back of the phone), you'll find the LOX's 13 MP rear shooter. It's pretty much OK—nothing to write home about, but nothing to really scoff at either. It's not G4, V10, S6, or 6P good (I didn't realize how many letternumber phones names there are till just now, weird), but it's pretty sweet for a phone this affordable. It's not super great indoors, as it's just kind of dull looking. Like most smartphones, it's better outside. Here are some sample shots:

The 5 MP front camera is also pretty much OK. Here I am making some stupid faces to show you how OK it really is:

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I caught him trying to steal my Mt. Dew.

Software and Performance

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There are basically two different Blu software interfaces these days: mostly stock, and the other thing that's not really stock that much. I have no idea what it's called. At this point, though, it doesn't really matter, because the Life One X falls into the former category of being mostly stock. That makes me feel happy.

It's running Android 5.1 out of the box, and like with most other Blu phones, it's uncertain if it'll ever see anything past that. Looks like I dropped the ball here---the PR clearly says it's slated to get Marshmallow at the end of Q1 2016. Lollipop isn't bad, really, and in fact isn't a whole lot different than Marshmallow—I can easily transition between the two versions of Android without noticing very many differences during every day use. Still, I hope to see this phone get some updates in the future. Really, if Blu only picks a few of the phones released this year to continue supporting, I at least hope this one and the Pure XL make the cut, because they both deserve it. In fact, I kind of liken that duo to the budget versions of the Nexus 5X and 6P, respectively.

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That aside, the software on the One X is great. There are a few tweaks here and there in the settings menu, one of which I've never seen on a Blu phone before: the ability to customize the navigation bar. The customizations are very limited as there are only two options—back, home, recent or recent, home, back—but I still think it's neat that they included it.

Otherwise, there are options for various gestures and the like, all of which we've seen before.

On the performance level, the Life One X is pretty on point. It's not blazing fast. It's not going to burn your hand off with its vicious speed. You're not going to be in awe of its incredible quickness and mighty processor. But you know what? It's probably going to do all the stuff you want it to do, and do it well. It's snappy, fluid, and fun to use. I enjoy using it, and I would have no issues using it as my daily driver. I even put it through my hardest test: playing music and using Maps navigation at the same time. It handled it, and didn't make me want to throw it out the window. I call that a win.

If you like benchmarks, I did some of those. I compared it to the Nexus 5 because I feel like that's a fair comparison, but I also had Ryan run the same benches on the Nexus 5X. You know, because reasons. Like the fact that these phones are the same size. And have the same RAM. And because I can.

Anyway, here are the results:

Antutu

Screenshot_2015-12-08-12-47-08 Screenshot_20151208-131453 2015-12-08 19.49.12

Geekbench

Screenshot_2015-12-08-13-17-29 Screenshot_20151208-131717 2015-12-08 19.21.20

Life One X, Nexus 5, Nexus 5X

So there's that. Numbers rarely tell the entire story, but I know some people like to pretend they do.

The way I see it, the Life One X performs like a boss, especially for the money.

Conclusion

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If I had to pick a "best budget phone of 2015," I'd probably go with the Life One X. While most of Blu's handsets this year have been pretty solid, they've all had those few drawbacks where I had to use phrases like "it would be great if it had…" or "I really wish they would've…" which isn't really the case with the Life One X. It's got a solid processor, enough RAM to do what needs to be done, a very nice display, great form factor, and decent cameras. All for $99 (till December 12th, anyway). It's 85% of the flagship experience at a fourth of the price, which is something that I can get behind.

If you've been mulling over a good second phone, a budget phone for a Christmas gift, or something similar, add this one to your shortlist. Even if you don't end up picking it up for one reason or another, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not at least considering it. But if you do decide to pick it up, now's the time to do it—getting this phone for $149 is a good deal, but getting it for $99 is a killer deal. It'll be that price for the first three days of release, so save yourself a fiddy and pick it up before December 12th.

Alternate title: You Spent $600 For A Lollipop Phone And I Feel Bad For Your Son, I Spent $99 And Got A Blu Life One

Buy: Amazon

Press Release

MIAMI, Dec. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- BLU Products, one of the fastest growing mobile phone manufacturers in the world announced the Life One X as the newest addition to the BLU LIFE series of smartphone devices delivering stunning design and premium build quality with flagship performance. The BLU Life One X was created in an effort to provide the best value of any smartphone available in the market today.

"The Life One X blows the competition out of the water in all measurable features including CPU performance, Graphics, Memory, System, Battery and Web Performance." said Samuel Ohev-Zion CEO of BLU Products "In addition, we are also coming in at a lower price point with better hardware."

Compared to the Moto G 3rd Generation, the BLU Life One X outperforms in every category as detailed in the following chart:

Test

BLU Life One X

Moto G (3rd Gen)

BLU Outperforms

Antutu Overall

31,367

22,767

+38%

Geekbench 3 Single-Core

629

524

+20%

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

2,842

1,580

+80%

Vellamo Chrome Browser

2,669

2,042

+31%

Basemark OS II

828

549

+51%

Gfx Open Gl 3.1 High Level

653

295

+121%

Geekbench Battery Test

3,598

2,804

+28%

Availability

The BLU Life One X will be available immediately exclusively at Amazon.com, unlocked with Dual SIM compatibility for $149, including a leather flip view case, and premium stereo headphones, free inside the box.

In addition, there is an introductory 3 day sale for anyone who purchases the Life One X on release, getting an immediate rebate of$50 off, paying only $99, ending Dec 12th at 12:00am EST, while supplies last.

Customers who wish to purchase the BLU Life One X can visit the following link:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0189RMNTG

Design

Designed with the idea that a smartphone can combine impressive hardware and high quality build material, the new Life One X is crafted out of aircraft grade aluminum, while the middle housing is finished with a premium sand blasted matte finish for excellent texture. A leather pattern is coated in an amazingly smooth paint to ensure the back cover is soft to the touch for an excellent feel in hand experience.

Specs

The Life One X is powered by a 64-Bit MediaTek 1.3GHz Octa-Core processor that is designed to provide blazing 4G-LTE speeds, high performance capability, and long lasting battery efficiency. The Life One X boasts a 13MP main camera featuring advanced Phase Detection Autofocus with a 5P Blue Lens filter paired with a wide-angle 5.0MP selfie camera with advanced photo editing technology for the ultimate selfie, as well as built-in LED Flash in the front to capture night time selfie images. Other features include Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, with Android M over-the-air update to follow shortly before end of Q1 2016, Dual SIM Dual Active technology for multiple SIM card support, 16GB expandable memory and 2GB RAM, and a generous 2900 mAh battery.

The Life One X showcases a vivid and bright 5.2-inch Full HD (1080x1920) 423ppi display, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 featuring a curved arc edge design which elevates the smartphone's visual experience to a new level with stunning graphics and life-like colors that seem to jump off the screen.

Learn more: http://www.bluproducts.com/index.php/life-one-x-2016