1. DecAway's Avatar
    I'm here today to introduce you to the latest in BLU's phone line-up, the R1 PLUS. Following up from last year's R1 device, BLU has made some substantial improvements on the outside and under the hood, combining some quality new features and amazing battery life into the new R1 PLUS. Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with BLU to do an in-depth review and test drive of the R1 PLUS. While this isn't the typical mainstream device such as the newly released LG G6, and Samsung S8/S8+, BLU takes a step in a different direction, making its own mark within the mobile device industry. BLU stands for Bold Like Us, and I feel like "bold" is a really good way to describe some of the features that are available in the R1 PLUS. Where most mainstream flagships will run you $500-800 USD, the BLU R1 PLUS breaks away from this and provides a quality unlocked device for $159.99. While it lacks a fingerprint scanner and biometrics, it makes up for this with a sharp 720p display on a 5.5" IPS LCD, with subtle curves, dual-SIM support and a 4,000mAh battery - try killing it in one day. I dare you! Without further ado, let's dive deeper in to the R1 PLUS and what makes it a unique and affordable offering in the budget phone arena.

    BLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-front-picture.jpg

    Specs:

    On the Surface:
    Out of the box the R1 PLUS is running a pretty stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is fairly standard for economy-tier devices. I did reach out and speak with BLU and they have informed me that 7.0 Nougat is planned for the device, but the date is not available yet. The interface appears unaltered, featuring the app drawer, as well as the pre-installed Google search bar. The traditional swipe-down gesture will get you to the notifications menu, with a second swipe pulling down the entire quick menu, and settings button. The R1 PLUS does come with Opera’s browser installed as the default browser, but the device also comes with a complimentary Google folder, which already has Chrome installed. The R1 PLUS does support active wallpaper. I did give one or two of the default ones a try. They work, but they definitely aren’t as smooth as I’ve seen on higher performing devices. Also, daydream features are available – remember, daydream features will not show unless you allow the display to turn off on its own. If you manually turn off the display, the daydream features will not work. Last but not least, as is common with Amazon coupled device sales, the Amazon store app and a few other amazon apps, such as Amazon Video, Amazon Kindle, and Amazon Music, come pre-installed – one disappointing thing is that you cannot uninstall them if you want to. I am unsure whether the Best Buy variant will have the same apps pre-installed.

    Device Construction:
    BLU definitely pulled out a few stops in the design and crafting of this device! The device comes in one color, Gun Metal Grey. Out of the box, It’s evident that BLU put extra time and effort into boosting the overall appearance of the phone, giving it a much more premium feel than its predecessor. The frame is solid and has a good weight to it, at 191g, and measuring 153 x 76.6 x 10.5mm. It's also constructed out of aircraft grade aluminum! The power button is conveniently located on the right-side of the phone, and the volume rocker is located just above it. Ease of access for the device buttons is quite nice, and the case that comes with the phone does not encumber the operation of them at all. The 3.5mm headphone jack is located on top of the phone, and the USB 2.0 power connector is on the bottom.
    BLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_3040.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_3020.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_3022.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_3025.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_3044.jpg

    Under the Hood:
    One of the strongest selling points for the R1 PLUS is the massive 4,000mAh battery. With new 2017 flagship devices such as the HTC U Ultra sporting a 3000mAh battery, and the LG G6's 3300mAh battery, the R1 PLUS is far and away one of best offerings you can get for battery life, especially for a budget device. The R1 PLUS utilizes a MediaTek 6737 Quad-Core processor, clocked at 1.3GHZ, and it has a Mali-T720 GPU to handle the display. Over my time using the device, I found that it is quite capable of powering through most day-to-day activities, and even some moderate multi-tasking and gaming. I can't even compare it to upper-tier Systems-On-a-Chip (SoCs) because that wouldn't be fair; the R1 PLUS is in a different class entirely, and geared towards a different environment. However, the CPU is well-suited for performance and power management, lasting well over an entire day with the 4000mAh battery combination. Honestly, I think one of the strongest arguments for this phone was made by my 7-year-old son. I let him use the phone to play some games in the car while we were driving out of town, and afterward, he wanted to trade me his iPhone SE for the R1 PLUS, because "the battery last so long." Another surprise offering in the R1 PLUS is an enormous 3GB of RAM. I'm sure a few people might get a laugh out of the usage of "enormous" for describing 3GB of RAM, but I have to put this in context. Where else are you going to find a notable phone manufacturer that sells a $150 phone that has not only a 4000mAh battery, but also sports 3GB of RAM? Good luck with that. BLU did a great job in my opinion, ensuring this phone is well-equipped with enough quality specs to be considered a solid, economical daily driver, and a more than ample back-up phone, for those of you who like to carry multiple devices. The R1 PLUS also raises the bar for budget conscious devices, with an included 32GB of storage space, which should be more than enough for everyday use and even moderate picture/video taking. However, it also supports MicroSD storage up to 64GB, in case you need extra space for larger videos or a library of hi-res photos. BLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-screenshot_20170412-094105.png

    Display and Resolution:
    The screen is a well-equipped 5.5" HD curved glass display made from Gorilla Glass 3, with a 720x1280 (720p) display and 267ppi resolution. Is it 4k, or 1080p HD? No, it certainly isn't... but the trade-off here is a solid unlocked device that powers you through the day and then some, especially when it's tailored to support reasonable graphics, and performance. The curved aspect of the screen isn't functional like the more common curved displays of Samsung's flagship devices, but the subtle curve at the edge does allow for easier holding and enhances the form factor of the device; largely, its more aesthetic than anything, but a nice novelty for this tier of device. One nice surprise for me is that I found the display to be very reactive and accurate, especially when typing. I do more texting and typing than anything on my phone, and having the Gboard keyboard already installed, combined with a well-implemented key spread, really helped out with accuracy right out of the box. As I used the device, I really didn't pay too much attention to the fact that the resolution wasn't higher because that wasn't really my expectation going into it. Another aspect of the screen that really impressed me was the viewing resolution and crispness of the pictures that I took with the device. There is a little lag between clicking on the picture and full-res display, but the color balance and image sharpness are very enjoyable. The R1 PLUS also handled video playback well, including streaming media such as: YouTube, Netflix, and other video applications.

    Cameras:
    The R1 PLUS has a 13MP f2.2 aperture main camera with built-in LED flash, and a 5MP front-facing camera. One of the bold moves that I was referring to is the front-facing flash that BLU has decided to install in the R1 PLUS. Not only does the camera take good selfies, but the flash brightens things up for low-light environments and really helps you showcase your pearly whites. The main camera also comes with a nice surprise. Even though the phone resolution only supports 720p, the video camera will record in full 1080P, at 30fps - this is a great feature if you're into uploading video or enjoy using your phone to shoot video clips. Overall, I was very happy with both cameras, and even impressed by the quality of the images, especially on the 720p screen. Here are some photos that I took with the device. I tried taking a bunch of pictures in different area and lighting locations to give a good spread of what the rear-facing camera is capable of. One of my favorite built-in enhancements is the availability to switch between the front-facing and rear-facing cameras by a simple swipe gesture. If you swipe down from the top part of the screen, it switches back and forth between the two cameras – it’s very smooth and convenient.
    BLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_20170415_143253.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_20170415_143204.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_20170415_142243.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_20170415_142126.jpgBLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-img_20170415_142334.jpg

    Speaker and Sound Quality:
    The R1 PLUS breaks from one of the popular norms of 2016, and has chosen to locate the speaker on the back of the phone instead of installing a downward driving speaker (I'm quite happy about this). If you're a sound enthusiast or like to watch videos on your phone, the R1 PLUS is a real winner here because the natural placement of your hands on the phone acts as a directional support for the speaker, channeling it back around to the front, whereas downward facing speakers are very easy to cover up and get muffled when holding the phone. The overall volume of the speaker is pretty solid. The lows and highs are ample, but the mids do seem to be a little underrepresented as the volume goes up. You don't have any trouble hearing it, but the subtlety is noticeable at times. Depending on the quality of the sound output, highs can also be a bit tinny at times on full-volume. However, it doesn't detract from the overall experience of whatever you're listening to. HD audio sources really help to create clarity in whatever you're listening to. As far as call quality goes, the volume and clarity are perfectly good; I have no complaints at all, whether talking directly into the handset or using speaker phone.

    Headphone Jack:
    One feature that should make a lot of people happy is that the R1 PLUS still has a 3.5mm headphone jack. 2016/2017 has brought us several devices already that no longer support the headphone jack, which is unfortunate. However, BLU understands that a lot of people in the world still love to use their headphones and don't want to use a converter or toss their old headphones out for Bluetooth compatible accessories just to listen to music/video - this is definitely a positive feature of the phone. On a different note, the R1 PLUS does not come with ear buds, you'll need to supply your own.

    Connectivity:
    The R1 PLUS is designed and well-equipped for the U.S. Market, sporting a wide variety of 3G and 4G LTE bands: Most notably for T-Mobile and AT&T users - Bands 2, 4, 7, 12 and 17 - be aware that the device is unlocked, and will only operate on GSM networks. Also, as I noted above, the R1 PLUS is a dual-SIM phone, which allows you the capability of operating two different SIM cards in the device at the same time (this is a huge PLUS for a lot of business professionals and international travelers). Beyond cellular connection and data, the R1 PLUS also sports Bluetooth 4,0, of course Wi-Fi, and can be used as a wireless hotspot.

    Accessories:
    One of the nice surprises you will get when you open the box is a screen protector, cleaning cloth and protective sleeve - I wish more manufacturers did this. My number one priority when I get a new device is to dress it down with a screen protector and case as quickly as possible. BLU's forethought in this area is much appreciated and helps to ensure that your shiny new phone is safe from the get-go. The included case and screen protector aren't LifeProof or Spigen quality, but they are more than adequate and will work for normal use, or as a stop-gap until you have a chance to order aftermarket accessories. The screen protector is a classic peel-and-stick, which offers quality screen protection. Additionally, the R1 PLUS comes with a standard USB charger and charging cable (it's USB v2.0; and is not quick-charge).

    Overall Performance:
    The overall performance of the phone is pretty darn good, in most regards. If you’re used to an octa-core processor with 4gb of RAM, you’ll definitely be able to tell a difference. This is not a flagship level device, and it certainly isn’t trying to compete with them. But, for most casual users, the appearance and operation of the phone will be a pleasant experience. For some more intensive programs it takes a second or so longer to load, but that is to be expected with a budget phone utilizing a quad-core processor – it’s not a multi-tasking beast. The areas you will notice shuddering or slow-down is during loading phases and graphics rendering, whether that’s loading an app or while transitioning between one app to another. Once the application is running, it runs fairly smooth. Also, one thing that I noted and brought to the attention of BLU, and the development team is the multi-touch interface sensitivity/execution on the screen. I did receive confirmation that the screen supports 5-point multi-touch, but if you try to use certain games or apps, you will notice that the multi-touch is below par. In some instances, it is frustrating, and inconsistent to pinch-and-zoom, which was a turn off for me. It did seem to work better for simple browser and picture operations, but in real-time environments and non-OS related applications, it seemed to have difficulty. I am unsure whether the inefficacy is software or hardware related. However, I will say that the model I received is running a copy of the OS from December of 2016, and I was not able to get confirmation on whether it was the final design model, so the quirks may have been worked out of it on the release device. This is a cautionary note if you plan on running certain apps or games that require multi-touch response, such as zooming or sustained screen pressing. On a positive note, it runs Fruit Ninja like a champ! See included image.
    BLU R1 PLUS - Release and Review-screenshot_20170426-090233.png

    Pros:
    - Battery Life… I can’t say this enough
    - Price – At $159, it’s a good deal. For 24-hours at $109, it’s a fantastic deal
    - Simple and efficient – works great out of the box, and surprises
    - Price versus Power Ratio – What else in this class of phone is going to give you a quad-core processor, 3gb of RAM, and 32gb of storage space?
    - Surprisingly good camera, and interface!

    Cons:
    - Touch screen issues – not a problem for normal use, but can impact applications and advanced interaction
    - A little sluggish with some apps and games
    - Not full-HD – 720p is adequate though, and on-par for price
    - Cannot uninstall some pre-loaded apps
    - The included screen protector is a nice gesture, but is a bit underwhelming and is a magnet for fingerprints. However, it does the job until you can get a higher quality or glass screen protector installed.

    Conclusion:
    All in all, I was very impressed with the phone, especially considering the price point. Even if you live at the edge of the technological power curve, the R1 PLUS has many positive selling points which even higher-tier phones cannot offer, like true multi-day use and massive screen-on time. Sure, not everything is not top-notch, but at the entry market for this phone and the amount of financial investment required, you won’t find many more capable phones in this price range, especially not one as notable as BLU. So… if you’re looking for a cost-effective and efficient phone that lasts an entire day and hammers all of the basics, then this is your phone. If you’re trying to stay one-step ahead of the competition and always chasing the latest and greatest in technology, then this probably isn’t where you’re looking in the first place.

    Recommendation:
    I give it an A+ for economy users, and a strong recommendation for normal phone users, especially during the 24-hour sale! It also performs well as a traveling media device, or as an inexpensive alternative for a backup, or a phone for your kids. It’s really a versatile device that meets a lot of needs, and looks sharp at the same time. It may be an inexpensive phone, but the build quality and presentation are quite impressive.

    The R1 PLUS, is available on both Amazon.com and BestBuy.com in Gun Metal Grey, at $159.99 unlocked. Customers can take advantage of a $50 Instant Rebate during an initial 24-hour promotion starting on April 29th, and pay just $109.99. After 24-hours, the price will revert to its full MSRP of $159.99.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...cUvbUpU5789111
    BLU R1 Plus 4G LTE with 32GB Memory Cell Phone (Unlocked) Black R0051UU 32GB BLACK - Best Buy
    04-27-2017 08:39 PM
  2. TVCCS's Avatar
    Thanks for the review... I would have ordered this on day one but didn't read about it until today. I'm wondering if you can run an Antutu benchmark on it and post the score? Thanks.
    05-03-2017 03:25 PM
  3. mitchellbrian fox's Avatar
    I bought one of these (for the $109 launch rpcie deal, on Amazon), and it is pretty good but has a major problem. Multitouch either doesn't work at all, or works badly on Google maps, google photos, and probably other apps. Multiple reviews have cited this on amazon. I let BLU support know about the issue, as others have, and so far they don't seem to have any fix for it. The questions is whether this is software related or in the hardware.
    05-10-2017 09:54 AM
  4. DecAway's Avatar
    Sorry. I am just now seeing this. Yes. The multi-touch seems to be not multi-touch at all. I asked the same question while I was reviewing the device and couldn't get any information other than "it's 5-point multi-touch", and I told them about the issue as well. Hopefully it is software related and gets fixed quickly.
    05-21-2017 08:25 PM

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