Review: Blu Dash L3 Android Smartphone

2 months ago comradetao Comments Off on Review: Blu Dash L3 Android Smartphone

Smartphones are an interesting economic species. A new budget phone this year can either beat the pants off of last years high end models or it can barely pass as a smartphone at all. For a lot of us, the newest and fastest CPU, RAM quantities rivaling our home computers, and screens so big we have to hold the phone two-handed are not just unnecessary, they’re unwanted. This phone today, the BLU Dash L3, is the least expensive smartphone I could find in my local Best Buy. Is it going to make you question spending several months rent on the next big thing or will it turn you away from budget devices all together?  Maybe it will leave you somewhere in between.

The Specs

4.0″ “Bright Display” with 800 x 480 resolution
1.3GHz Dual Core Mediatek 6572 CPU with Mali-400 GPU and 512MB RAM
Metal Housing
3.2MP Main Camera
2MP Front Facing Camera
up to 32GB Micro SD Card Storage (NOT INTERNAL)
4GB Internal Storage
4G HSPA+ (not really 4G, more like bonus speed 3G)
Dual Sim Slots (1 full size, one micro
Android 6.0
Bluetooth 4.0
Wifi (doesn’t say, but I’m sure it’s 2.4GHz only)
Micro USB
Hotspot (Really?)
1,400mAh battery

Does that all add up to a good phone? Well, yes and no.

Build Quality & What’s in the box.

The phone is somewhat constructed of metal. The glass on the front screen looks barely more scratch resistant than soft plastic (use a protector). This phone isn’t going to blow you away, but it actually doesn’t feel terrible “in the hand”. I can’t believe I typed that. Score one for cliche.

In the box you get a basic charger, a clear silicone case, a battery (yes, it is removable and does not come pre-installed. and a tiny manual booklet.

The phone does not come with headphones and the manual is practically worthless.

Here are two tips:

Tip one: To put the battery in, you need to look for this tiny ledge in one corner of the phone and use that to separate the back (which surrounds the sides of the phone all as one piece) from the phone itself. That will reveal the two sim card slots, micro SD card slot, and battery space.

Tip two: The screen comes with a marketing sticker on the front to protect it and advertise the features. It’s actually two stickers; one clear and one printed. You can separate the two and leave the clear one on the phone until you get a real screen protector. It probably will protect the screen from surface scratches until then, but I can’t be sure because it’s pretty thin.

 

Not So Pretty Pictures

The screen on this phone is usable. The resolution is sufficient to make somewhat small text readable. The color it produces is sad though. This is not the IPS or AMOLED screen you’re used to on higher end phones. When the screen is held at certain angles, even slight ones, the color washes out and inverts making viewing optimal only from directly in front of the screen. Even then, it will not impress you unless you’re coming from a decade old feature phone (I still have my Motorola Razr V3c) Even budget phones like the Moto E 2nd Gen LTE, which is available for fairly cheap as an AT&T unlockable model, beats the pants off of this phone’s display. It’s bigger, produces better colors, and can be viewed from more angles.

Size is size. I wouldn’t fault a phone for being small if that’s what it was designed for. That said, even my large fingers can type on this 4″ screen. I did have some trouble with accuracy, but not enough to get upset or consistently make the pages of auto-correct joke websites.

Oh, and those cameras. They’re better than my ancient flip phone also, but they’re only good enough for documenting something in an emergency. If you’re really talented, you might be able to draw out some interesting image quality. This is not the phone that’s killing compact camera sales.

 

Performance

The dual core processor and 512MB RAM don’t give you much to work with. The app drawer, Gmail, and the home screen all function smoothly and cleanly. That’s a definite plus. Apps tend to load slowly and switching tasks isn’t nearly as quick as mid-range and flagship phones. If you’re not concerned about the 1-2 seconds of extra time you would save by buying a $600 phone, then you won’t be bothered much by that. I wasn’t.

You will be disappointed with this phone if you plan to do all the fun media things that smartphones are known for now. The YouTube app didn’t come pre-installed on this phone. I thought that was curious, so I downloaded it. When I tried to play a video, the quality defaulted to 240p and, even that low, the phone could not maintain a smooth frame rate.

When I tested GPS in Google Maps, it worked well. Zooming and scrolling were choppy, but maps aren’t action movie sequences, so just being able to run is adequate performance in my opinion.

Software

Android 6.0 is nice. BLU tends to abandon their phones so don’t expect any updates. At the time of this review, 7.1 is out and rumors about 8 already season the pages of the internets.

Sound & Video

I touched on this early, but this is not a media powerhouse. Videos barely play. The camera is poor quality to say the least, and music is mediocre. My Sansa Clip+  pumps out clearer, cleaner, and more detailed sound easily and has more precise volume control. When I plugged my earphones in to this phone, it couldn’t even detect them. When I plugged in a bigger pair of headphones, it detected those but pumped out some really loud sound. I couldn’t adjust the volume low enough to be comfortable using the included controls. I had to download a volume fine-tuning app just for that (more on that later). It worked, but the sound quality remained unimpressive.

 

Storage – Pack Lightly

Out of the box, 2.6GB of the 4GB storage capacity was already occupied by the operating system and included apps. Setting up my email account and downloading a few extra apps (Google Maps, YouTube, IHeartRadio) nearly took me to the limit. When I did an update to the installed applications and added the volume control app, I received a warning that I only had 200MB left. Taking pictures on this phone will push that to the limit without adding an SD card. If you do buy this phone, I HIGHLY recommend you put any media you have on the SD card. Even with that, 4GB is not enough to get by anymore. Downloading an offline map in Google Maps can easily take up more than a gigabyte if you try to capture a wide region. Unless you’re using this phone in the most basic connected ways, 4GB is a major downside.

 

Call Quality

I haven’t owned this phone long enough to get good information on call quality and frankly, I would just assume mediocrity. The front speaker is poor, but clear enough to understand voices. I don’t know what else to say about that.

 

Connectivity

Bluetooth, WI-FI, GPS, and room for 2 sim cards WITH an SD card (no shared slots) is pretty nice actually. It comes in two radio versions, one has 850/1700/1900 frequencies and one has 850/1900/2100. Check your carrier to see which 3G frequencies you would need to operate and then find the appropriate model if you intend to buy.

 

My Thoughts

This phone will let you make calls, send texts, get emails, check maps, and take a blurry bigfoot picture. That’s all some of us want out of a phone. For $50, this phone will get you there. On the other hand, spending $100, or $150 will give you a much better experience overall. For about $100 at the time, my family bought my dad a Moto E 2nd Gen LTE phone to replace his dying touchscreen (not android) phone. It’s now available for around $70 and beats the pants off of this thing. It’s tougher, better, faster, offers more storage, and is essentially an upgrade all around. The only downside to the Moto E is that it’s not factory unlocked, but was usually sold as a prepaid phone.

I would avoid this phone unless you just need the cheapest thing temporarily and you intend to keep it as a backup later. It might be a good kids phone too, but I wouldn’t give my children phones at all given all; at least without content filtering and accountability software. Those are things this phone probably doesn’t have room to install.

Short version: This will get you by, but it’s not good enough to get my recommendation.

If you still want to buy it though, please use my link. If this review helped you decide, following my amazon links out and buying the product will help me get more things to review. I’d greatly appreciate that. I’ll also link my current favorite budget phones. They’re GSM, so mostly only usable on AT&T or T-Mobile, but they’ll probably give you a better experience than this one.

 

 

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