Florida-based BLU enjoys a popular presence in the affordable Android smartphone market, with a slew of entry-level and mid-range devices on offer, that are great options for those on a budget. What is great about BLU’s latest smartphone, the R1 HD, is that if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can avail special discounts and offers that help make this already affordable smartphone even cheaper.
We are now seeing an impressive trend where affordable smartphones feature high quality builds, and that is certainly also the case with the BLU R1 HD. The device features a metal frame and a polycarbonate backing, that feels great in the hand. The matte finish of the back cover offers a lot of grip that supersedes the slipperiness of the metal sides, and the slight curve along the sides of the back allow for the phone to sit nicely in the palm of your hand.
Taking a look around the device, the volume rocker is on the right side, with the power button right below it. The buttons come with the same metal finish, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The back cover is removable, giving you access to the two microSIM card slots and the dedicated microSD card slot. However, while the back cover is removable, the battery is not. Finally, the headphone jack and the microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively.
We are definitely seeing more and more affordable smartphones that go above and beyond what their price points would suggest as far as design and build quality are concerned, which is absolutely fantastic, but when you consider how affordable this phone actually is, the BLU R1 HD certainly impresses.
The BLU R1 HD comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display of 1280 x 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi, and a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel helps keeps the display protected, which is always a nice touch.
The resolution may disappoint some, but there is only so much you can expect from a device priced at $100. The quality of the display is actually quite good, with content appearing sharp overall, along with good viewing angles and decent color reproduction. You don’t get the punch that you would with the AMOLED screens out there, but this display will certainly get the job done.
Under the hood, the R1 HD comes with a quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM depending on which version of the device you pick. This review unit comes with 2 GB of RAM, and the overall performance of the phone has been quite good.
There have been no serious issues with day to day performance, and opening, closing, and switching between apps has been fairly smooth. The device also handles gaming quite well, even though it understandably struggles a touch with more graphic-intensive games. Of course, the R1 HD isn’t a performance powerhouse, which is reflected in the benchmark scores, but it isn’t expected to be. For those looking for a decent performer on a budget though, the BLU R1 HD is certainly up to the task.
8 GB or 16 GB are the internal storage options available, which also dictates how much RAM you get with the device. With rather low storage options, especially if you pick the 8 GB iteration, users will certainly appreciate the availability of a dedicated microSD card slot, allowing for expandable storage up to an additional 64 GB.
The device comes with two microSIM card slots, but that is a very market dependent feature, and something that may not be all that useful in the US. This phone is also unlocked, allowing you to pick the GSM network carrier of your choice, and you do get 4G LTE connectivity, with bands 2, 4, 7, and 17, with support for band 12 expected to arrive with a future OTA update.
The R1 HD comes with a single speaker unit on the back, which isn’t a great placement, making it easy to cover up when holding the phone in both the landscape and portrait orientation. The sound quality is pretty good however, with no distortion at the highest volume levels, and good highs and lows. The positioning could have certainly been better, but overall, this isn’t a disappointing speaker by any means.
The device comes with a non-removable 2,500 mAh battery, which may seem small, but does offer good battery life. With average usage, the phone comfortably allows for a full day of use, and even with heavy usage, that involved streaming video over LTE and keeping the screen brightness at maximum, the phone managed to last for 8 hours. There are no quick charging capabilities here, and takes around two hours to get back to a full charge, which isn’t too bad.
The R1 HD comes with an 8 MP rear camera, with a f/2.0 aperture and a 4P lens, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit with a wide angle lens. As is the case with any budget-friendly smartphone camera, these cameras can be hit and miss. The front-facing camera faces issues with overexposure and some noise, and while the wide angle lens allows for you to capture more of the scene, detail is lacking. There is a front-facing flash however, which is useful for any selfie lovers out there.
The story is the same with the rear facing camera as well. You do get good looking shots in daylight and well-light conditions, but the camera does tend to overexpose shots, and noise will start to creep in as the lighting deteriorates. The camera app has a few built-in shooting modes available, including Panorama, but video recording capabilities are limited to Full HD at 30 fps. As is the case with the picture quality, videos tend to look a little grainy as well. Overall, the cameras of the R1 HD will do in a pinch, but are certainly not something to write home about.
On the software side of things, the R1 HD is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, which is great to see, given that some other, more expensive, BLU smartphones released earlier this year were launched with Android 5.1 Lollipop. BLU has also done a good job with keeping the software very close to stock, and there aren’t really a whole lot of extras packed in.
As mentioned, there is an Amazon Prime exclusive version of the device available, with Prime members able to avail discounts and offers when picking up the phone, and later on as well. There is a catch however, with this version coming with lockscreen ads in tow. Essentially every time you press the power button, you will be greeted with a new ad, which you can swipe away to get to your homescreen, and you will even see an ad tacked on at the end of your notifications in the notification shade.
The presence of these ads can be a deal breaker for some, but some users may even appreciate the offers available and the products being displayed. Of course, a standard version, without these ads, is available as well.
5-inch IPS LCD display 1280 x 720 resolution, 294 ppi
8 MP rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash 5 MP front-facing camera, wide angle, LED flash
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
143 x 70.7 x 8.5 mm 142 grams
Pricing and final thoughts
The BLU R1 HD is currently priced at $100 for the 8 GB and 1 GB RAM version, with the 16 GB and 2 GB RAM iteration requiring just an additional $10, so the latter is definitely the way to go if you do decide to pick up this phone. Amazon Prime subscribers can available a $50 discount, but you will have to deal with the non removable lockscreen ads in this case.
So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU R1 HD! This phone gets a lot right, with a solid design and build quality, decent performance, a clean software package, and an unbeatable price point. The camera experience is a bit of a let down, and the ads, if you go for the Prime version, can get annoying, but at this price, these are understandable compromises to make. If you are looking for a good option on a budget, the BLU R1 HD should definitely be considered.