At CES this year, Blu announced a handful of new devices that should all show up in the first half of 2015. We've already taken a look at the sleek and slim Vivo Air, which really surprised me in almost every possible way. So much, in fact, that I've been using it as my daily driver for the last few weeks. I really like it.
As much as I enjoy using the Air, however, I had to put it off to the side to spend some time with the newest Blu handset, the power-packed Studio Energy. While there typically isn't anything exceptionally noteworthy about most handsets in the Studio line - which are generally designed to be the midrange devices in Blu's catalog - the Energy is itself worth talking about because of its huge 5,000mAh battery. That's essentially double what most modern smartphones offer, and Blu claims it should be good to get you through roughly four days without hitting the charger.
While my results haven't been quite that good, being able to use my phone as much as I want without fear of killing the battery sure has been nice. That said, I wish it had a little more horsepower under the hood.
5-inch 1280x720 with Blu Infinite View Technology and Gorilla Glass 3
1.3GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6582 with Mali-400 GPU
If you can't make it through at least a day with the Studio Energy, you need a life outside of your phone.
It's no Vivo Air, but at only 10.4mm thick, it's pretty dang sleek for a phone with a 5,000 mAh battery.
I often overlook this as a plus, but it's definitely a nice feature for anyone who has to carry two phones.
It's $150. It's hard not to see that as a positive.
The Not So Good
Performance could be better
The quad-core Mediatek MT6582 has a hard time keeping up with heavy multi-tasking.
Only 1GB of RAM
More RAM is better RAM, amirite?
Unfortunately, weight is a side-effect of having a massive battery. It's not unbearable, but it's definitely on the hefty side.
Slow to charge
If you drain it completely, it takes forevvvvvvvver to charge.
Appearance, Hardware, and Build Quality
Like I said earlier, the Studio series is Blu's midrange lineup, so there's generally nothing all that remarkable about it. As far as design is concerned, the Studio Energy is no different.
It's a pretty basic slab of a phone, with Blu's trademark capacitive button layout on the front (menu, home, back), volume and power buttons on the right side, microUSB port on the bottom, and headphone jack on the top. All pretty par for the course at this point. The Energy's plastic back piece is removable, with both SIM slots and microSD card slot found underneath. The battery, while visible, is not removable - it's even covered in huge warnings that basically say not to remove it. So...don't remove it.
While this may be from Blu's midrange line, the build quality is anything but.
Unlike other Studio phones I've tried, the Energy feels exceptionally well put-together and robust. Despite being removable, the back piece feels very solid, all the seams come together nicely, and the buttons feel very good. While this may be from Blu's midrange line, the build quality is anything but (though the materials - namely plastic - definitely are).
Like other devices in the Studio series, the Energy's display is nothing to write home about. While it's better than some of the other Studio devices I've used, it doesn't compare to the Vivo Air's Super AMOLED panel. It uses Blu's "Infinite View Technology," which does a good job of making a subpar display look quite a bit better, but the colors and whatnot are still more washed out than I like and the viewing angles slightly more shallow that I'm used to. All in all, it's not a bad display, but it's not great, either - it's the middle of road, just like mostly everything about this handset.
Despite having an 8MP rear shooter like the Vivo Air, the Studio Energy's camera isn't quite as good as I expected. It's not terrible for an eight megger, but colors are a bit more washed out and details aren't quite as crisp as its ultra-thin counterpart. Like most other things with this device, though, it's solid for the price. Here are a few sample shots I took, all of which are very similar to the images I took with the Vivo Air (for comparison).
On the software level, the Studio Energy is almost identical to the Vivo Air, which I really like. In my opinion, Blu has done a really nice job of balancing the right amount of OS customizations while still keeping a stock Android feel with this year's handset so far. The one primary difference with the Studio Energy - and one of my biggest annoyances - is how it handles Google Now. In short, it kind of doesn't.
The Vivo Air handles access to Google Now perfectly for a device with capacitive keys: long-pressing the home button launches Now, and short-press goes home. With the Studio Energy, long-pressing Home brings up the recent apps menu, and a short-press goes home. Long-pressing the menu button while on the homescreen launches Google Search, which is basically now just with the search box open. Unfortunately, it doesn't worth this way with any app running in the foreground, so if you want quick access to Now...well, there basically isn't a good option. I use Google Now all the time, so not having instant access to it when I need it really drives me batty.
Like with the Air, the Energy runs KitKat (4.4.2), and Blu plans on updating it to Lollipop later this year. I'm hearing that they're shooting for June, which is still five months away; while I'd normally be a little more critical of such a long timeline, I'm actually glad it'll be a little while. Why? Because right now, Lollipop isn't very good, even on devices with 2GB of RAM. I can't imagine how poor the experience would be on just 1GB, so hopefully Google will have all the kinks worked out (Android 5.1, anyone?) before Blu pushes the update to these more recent models.
All things considered, I think performance is spot on for the money, and should be just fine for most people who buy within this market.
Where performance is concerned, the Studio Energy left me wanting. I think I fall firmly in the middle of the poweruser category - I don't hack or softmod my devices to death, but definitely use many of the tools and apps readily available to me as an Android user. This means that there's a lot going on in the background of my devices, and I use a ton of third-party apps. As a result, I was able to bog the Studio Energy down pretty quickly, even causing it to slow to a grinding halt at one point by running an activity tracker (Runtastic), and second activity tracker (Jabra Sport, for a review I'm working on), and Google Play Music. Of course, there was a lot happening there, so RAM was full, GPS was in use, and Bluetooth music was playing (as well as other information from my Bluetooth headset being sent back to the phone). This is probably one of the most extreme use-cases that I could've put the Energy through, but I wanted to know if it could handle a user like me. Once everything was running, it was able to keep up just fine, but trying to interact with the phone was almost unbearable at that point.
Like I said, though, that's a pretty intense situation, and one that most users probably won't find themselves in - especially users who buy $150 smartphones. The Energy was able to handle lighter tasks, like simultaneous use of Google Maps and Music at the same time, with very little slowdown. But you can definitely tell when the processor starts to take on more than it can handle, as everything becomes much slower and more choppy.
All that said, I think the processor and RAM should hold up fine for many users. When used for simple things like texting and browsing social networks, it's very usable. I wouldn't say it's lightning in a bottle at any point, but it always gets you to where you're going without much issue when there isn't a lot going on behind the scenes. All things considered, I think performance is spot on for the money, and should be just fine for most people who buy within this market.
And then there's that battery. That massive, massive 5,000mAh battery, which is likely the reason that you're interested in this device in the first place. Blu rates the battery at four days, which is pretty optimistic in my experience. Keeping in mind that I'm a power user and have been using this as my daily driver during testing, I've been getting a little over two days from the battery. Naturally if you do less or use fewer apps, it's going to last much longer. Here's a little bit of an overview of a typical discharge cycle during the time I spent with the Energy:
About 5-6 hours of screen-on time, mostly browsing social media, checking email, things like that.
Roughly one hour of Maps Navigation, with the screen on
About an hour and a half of activity tracking (GPS)
About 6-7 hours of streaming music/podcasts over Bluetooth, half of which while using GPS
With that kind of usage, the battery hit 10% after two days and six hours. It's not quite four days, but considering I used it pretty heavily, I have no complaints. However, if you drain it like I did, get ready to let it spend some time on the charger - the first time I let it get down to 5%, it was only at 80% the following morning, after about 7 hours on the charger.
It's also worth noting that Blu ships the Energy with a reverse charging cable so the handset can be used to charge other phones. That's pretty awesome.
Blu Studio Energy
The primary thing that has to be considered with handsets like the Studio Energy is the people who buy them. I don't consider most Blu devices - especially those in the Studio line - devices for power users, and my time with the Studio Energy has basically confirmed that. For light tasks, or things that average users would use their phone for, it's great. If all the potential buyer does is browse Facebook, check the occasional email, text, and play a few games, they'll be more than happy with this phone, and the battery should get them through at least a few days without needing a charge.
If you're a power user though, it's probably not the best option for you. (I still attest that the Vivo Air is a great low-cost phone for power users, even though the spec sheet may suggest otherwise.) If you're looking for a phone for someone who doesn't need a lot of horsepower but wants to make it through a day without having to hit the charger, then the Studio Energy may be the way to go. It provides a lot of return for very little investment, which is more than I can say for a lot of the phones I've reviewed.
Either way you go, one thing is for sure: this is a great time to be looking for a budget smartphone, and I have a feeling it's only going to get better.
MIAMI, Feb. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- BLU Products, the market leader in unlocked devices in the United States, announced today that the new BLU Studio Energy is now available for just $149.00 unlocked exclusively at Amazon.com. The Studio Energy was a hit at the CES Las Vegas showcasing its industry leading 5,000mAh battery resulting in an incredible 45 days stand-by, or up to 4 days of standard usage on a single charge.
The Studio Energy is the latest device in BLU's Studio series delivering premium build quality and materials while using technological advancements to pack a 5,000mAh battery – the largest of any smartphone today – while still maintaining a thin 10mm design.
"The Studio Energy with its insanely long lasting battery is the perfect solution for users suffering from the anxiety of constantly looking for a place to charge." said Samuel Ohev-Zion, CEO of BLU Products.
Great for active users to bring on weekend hiking trip or road trip, as a backup phone in case of an emergency, movie watchers and gamers, the Studio Energy ensures that you will have power when you need it most. Perfect as a business device, international travelers rejoice from the freedom of having to carry multiple country wall adaptors, plus international roaming capability with support for Dual SIM cards.
Along with the powerful battery, the Studio Energy also supports Reverse Charge to enable consumers to use their smartphone as a power bank to charge other devices, with a USB OTG Cable included.
Not stopping short on battery performance, the Studio Energy delivers on beautiful design and features including a retina quality 5.0-inch HD display with 294ppi, utilizing full lamination, IPS, and OGS technologies with an incredible color reproduction, brightness and quality for a perfect viewing experience, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Dual Cameras include an 8.0 mega pixel main camera plus 2 mega pixel front facing camera. The Studio Energy's memory configuration includes 8GB built in storage plus 1GB RAM, with an expandable Micro SD slot of up to 64GB. Additional features include Dual SIM Dual Active technology for multiple SIM card support including nationwide coverage throughout all US GSM Networks with 4G HSPA+ Speeds. The Studio Energy will be available in Midnight Black, Ceramic White and Luxury Gold.