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April 20, 2015

BLU Studio Energy review

by John_A

PROS
  • Excellent battery life
  • Low price point
  • Overall great build quality
CONS
  • Sluggish performance
  • Dim display
  • Subpar camera
7.0

The Blu Studio Energy is a phone design for consumers who value great battery life over most other aspects in a smartphone. While the combination of a giant 5,000mAh battery and energy efficient internals will give you up to 72 hours of battery life on a single charge, it’s clear that this device’s main focus is stamina, and not much more than that.

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BLU is slowly making a name for itself in the smartphone world by offering smartphones, unlocked and at very affordable prices. The company released a slew of such products at CES 2015 back in January, but the most compelling of the lot is the BLU Studio Energy, with its biggest selling point being the massive 5,000 mAh battery found within. A huge battery and the promise of long battery life is definitely a big plus, but what else does this device bring to the table? We find out, in this detailed BLU Studio Energy review!

Design

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The BLU Studio Energy does feel like a large phone, despite what its 5-inch display size would suggest, mostly because of its thickness and significant weight. This thickness and weight feels out of place given that a lot of OEMs are still pushing the limits when it comes device dimensions, but at 10.4 mm thick, is a worthy compromise to allow for the large battery that powers the phone.

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In terms of design, the Studio Energy isn’t built to turn heads, and is certainly a no frills type of device. The right side is where you will find a chrome textured volume rocker and power button, with the headphone jack and microUSB port placed at the top and bottom respectively. On the back is the 8 MP shooter and flash, speaker grill, and the BLU logo, with the back cover also removable.

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The build materials are a mix of matte and glossy plastic, with some chrome plating thrown into the mix. The glossy plastic is found mostly on the sides of the device, and is quite slippery, which would have detracted from the handling experience if not for the manageable size of the phone.  The menu, home, and back capacitive keys are below the display, but I would have preferred the presence of a dedicated multi-tasking key, instead of needing to press and hold the home key for a few seconds.

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The phone feels solid in the hand, and the weight actually works as a positive, allowing for more confidence in the grip then what you would get with the lightweight flagship devices of today. The design and build quality understandably doesn’t offer the premium feel that you may hope for, but this phone is made to do one thing, and that is offer great battery life.

Display

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The BLU Studio Energy features a 5-inch IPS LCD display with a 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. At this resolution, the display is sharp enough to zoom in to text and see more detail in images, and while the colors don’t necessarily pop, it’s certainly not a disappointing display experience. Brightness is a bit of a concern though, and when in broad daylight, it was difficult to get a whole lot from the screen without finding some shade.

The trend towards higher display resolutions dominates the flagship race, but this display does a good job with everyday tasks,  especially given the mid-range nature of this phone. It’s not going to please those looking to be at the cutting edge, but the Studio Energy isn’t targeting that market anyway.

Performance and Hardware

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Under the hood, the device packs a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, clocked at 1.3GHz, and backed by the Mali-400 GPU and 1GB of RAM. The processing package is intended to bolster what should also be an impressive battery life, and is decent for a device available at this price point. Performance isn’t the most impressive, and things do feel a little sluggish overall. 1GB of RAM doesn’t contribute a lot to the multi-tasking capabilities, but does a good job nonetheless. With minimal apps installed, even something as simple as swiping down to open the notification dropdown didn’t register, and the experience can take some getting used to.

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On the gaming front, the Studio Energy’s Mali-400 GPU did a great job with most graphic intensive games we threw at it. Although Dead Trigger and Modern Combat warranted a few dropped frames, we’d imagine your gaming experience will be mostly positive if you decide to pick up this device. The Studio Energy comes with just 8GB of on-board storage, though it offers up to 64GB of expandable memory via MicroSD. No, this isn’t particularly ideal. But this device isn’t meant to boast the best specs on the market; it’s meant to offer specs that are good enough for most folks while not breaking the bank.

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Battery

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Let’s move on to the main attraction – the giant 5,000mAh battery. Throughout this entire review, you’ll notice that, for the most part, BLU has added in hardware components that are meant to conserve as much power as possible to extend battery life. And after spending so much time with the device, we’d have to agree with BLU’s decision to scale back on the high-end specifications.

We were able to make the phone last up to 48 hours on a single charge with normal use, achieving about 6 hours of screen on time. We were connected to Wi-Fi the majority of the time we tested this device, and a typical day would consist of streaming Google Play Music and Spotify while playing the occasional game. Even if the phone doesn’t last 48 hours on a single charge every time, it’s still nice to know that at the end of a long day, there’s no need to dig around for a charger.

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Software

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The Studio Energy is running a near-stock version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The majority of the software is very close to vanilla Android, though a few minor changes can be found throughout the device, like the slightly altered notification panel.

A handy Guest Mode can be found on this device, allowing your messages, photos and other personal information to be hidden if you choose. There’s also a quick power saving mode that limits the maximum CPU performance and restricts a few other under the hood processes. To be honest, we didn’t use this mode too much throughout our time with the device since the battery is already stellar. This feature is there if you need it, but odds are, you won’t.

Camera

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The camera software on the Studio Energy is simple. The interface is very clean, though it doesn’t provide many options or controls. This definitely isn’t the best camera to use if you’re looking for a ton of granular control over your photos, but there’s always the option to download a third party camera app if need be.

The Energy includes all of the standard shooting modes we’ve come to expect on most smartphones, like HDR, Panorama and Sport Mode. There are also a few gesture-based modes to choose from, but unfortunately the selection doesn’t hide the poor image quality found in both cameras.

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Overall, the images taken with the 8MP rear camera turned out very flat. Most photos lacked color, dynamic range, and were overexposed. The same can be said for the 2MP front-facing camera, which consistently provided poor saturation levels, overexposed areas and general graininess, even in well-lit areas. If you buy this device and attempt to take some photos, we’d suggest downloading a third party app to give you more control over the image quality.

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

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So, there you have it – a closer look at the BLU Studio Energy! Sure, the specifications aren’t the best on the market and the camera could use some work, but for the most part, this device was a joy to use. For those who value battery capacity over just about every other aspect in a smartphone, this is the phone for you. And at just $150, it’s quite a steal.

You’ve heard our thoughts, now it’s time to voice your opinion! Given the price point, build quality, performance and battery statistics we’ve provided, would you pick one up for yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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