The Bluboo Xfire is a 4G LTE Android Lollipop phablet that costs just under 0 from GearBest. Shipped from China you should also take into account import duty, however. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo Xfire smartphone review.
The specification is competitive, given the low price, with a 1 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB of RAM and dual-core Mali-T720 graphics inside. It’s considerably faster than the similarly priced Moto E 4G, but there are several reasons – including its size – that might lead you to prefer that phone.
As well as 4G LTE support and dual-SIM functionality – with one SIM tray doubling as a microSD slot – you get a 5-inch IPS screen. The quarter-HD resolution is low for a screen of this size, but it does promote longer battery life, and Bluboo claims up to two days with normal use. The screen has curved edges, which look nice but still don’t lie flush with the screen bezels.
The Bluboo Xfire looks good for a budget phone. It ships with a smart case not too dissimilar to the LG G3’s Quick Circle case, with a silicone rear cover and a front flap that has a circular window through which you can see a clock face.
The Xfire is built entirely from plastic, which keeps down weight, but it’s obvious that this isn’t a premium phone. The removable rear panel – plus 2750mAh removable battery – is a nice touch, though, and available in blue or white it has a grippy, chequered texture, plus an anodised pink camera surround.
The cameras themselves are a strong point on this budget phablet, with 8Mp and a dual-LED flash at the rear, and an 5Mp selfie camera at the front. It’s capable of recording full-HD video at 30fps, too.
Running Android 5.1 Lollipop, Bluboo promises an OTA upgrade to Marshmallow. The implementation differs from vanilla Android only in its screen icons, which adopt the form of curved tiles. Some are sufficiently different that we found them confusing, such as the link the Google Play Store, which is here a red tile with a white house icon. Fortunately, you can change all this by switching the theme.
Gestures are also supported, including a double-tap to wake the screen, a letter M to play music, or a wave of the hand to trigger the camera. These aren’t customisable, but there are plenty to choose from. There’s little else in the way of preinstalled bloat, and of the Xfire’s 8GB of storage around 6GB is available.
Design and Build
Bluboo’s Xfire is a plastic phone, a black slab with a silver plastic edge. It doesn’t look like a premium device, but you would be surprised by its price. The plastic build also keeps down the weight, and at 149g the Xfire is light for an 8.8mm-thick phablet.
The rear cover is thin but clips on tight. It’s removable, too, giving access to an also-removable 2750mAh battery and dual-SIM slots. One of these doubles as a microSD slot, although Bluboo doesn’t specify how much storage it can accommodate (many budget phones allow just 32GB).
Available in blue or white, the rear cover features a chequered design that aids grip in the hand. With a 5 in screen and an 8.8mm-thick body this is a large phone, although its slim bezels to the screen’s left and right make it just about manageable in a single hand.
Around the edges you’ll fins two speaker grilles at the bottom, a volume rocker and power switch on the right side, and a Micro-USB charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack on top. A 8Mp camera is on the rear, surrounded by a pink anodised aluminium ring and supported by a LED flash.
The screen itself is an IPS panel. While colours are realistic and it’s usefully bright, a quarter-HD resolution of 960×540 is pushed almost to its limit on a 5.0 in screen. The Xfire has a pixel density of 200ppi, which isn’t horrendous but it’s not as sharp as we’d like. For web browsing it’s fine, but for viewing media you might prefer an HD display. The large panel is useful in this regard, mind.
Hardware and Performace
When you’re paying $80 for a smartphone, you can’t expect blistering performance. However, in many of our benchmarks the Bluboo impressed us, and we certainly found it faster than its rival Motorola Moto E 4G at this price point. Its performance is due to the phone’s MediaTek MTK6735 SOC, which integrates a 1.0 MHz ARM Cortex A-53 quad-core CPU and Mali-T720 MP2 dual-core GPU, plus 1GB of RAM.
In Geekbench 3.0 we measured 654 points in the single-core test, and 1940 points multi-core. Other 5.5in phablets we’ve tested such as the ZTE Blade S6 Plus are faster, but at this price point it’s faced with rivals such as the Moto E 4G and the Xfire floors them. In the real world performance is adequate, but it’ll take a second to launch most apps.
Performance was also good in GFXBench 3.0, which tests the graphics performance. The Bluboo recorded 25fps in T-Rex, and 13fps in Manhattan.
SunSpider is our third test, and to ensure a fair comparison we always run it in the Chrome web browser. Here the Bluboo recorded 1327ms, which isn’t bad for a cheap Android. In the phone’s preinstalled browser, however, the Xfire managed 1016ms. This is often the case with the phones we review (a lower score is better in SunSpider).
Our final test is the battery life measurement built into Geekbench 3.0. We’ve not long been running this benchmark, so have few results with which to compare it. However, the Bluboo recorded 2946 points, and seven hours 22 minutes.
The battery is rated at 2750mAh, but don’t expect to find advanced features such as quick- or wireless charging, or even an ultra power saving mode.
Storage-wise you get 8GB built in, with around 6GB available, and if you don’t need the second SIM slot you can insert a microSD card. (Bluboo doesn’t specify the maximum capacity supported.) This is Android, too, so expect to be able to make use of all manner of third-party cloud storage services – Google Drive is preinstalled for you.
When you’re buying a phone from China you should always check the frequency bands to ensure it will be supported by your mobile operator. The Bluboo Xfire supports GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz, and 4G FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz.
Other connectivity specs include Bluetooth 4.0, single-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS and A-GPS, and USB OTG. While there’s no NFC there is HotKnot, which is MediaTek’s alternative.
If you’re not using the second SIM slot as a microSD slot you can take advantage of dual-standby dual-SIM functionality. This is a dual-standby dual-SIM phone.
For photography the Bluboo Xfire is better than it has any right to be at this price. As is often the case with the Chinese phones we review, there’s a 8Mp camera at the rear and an impressive 5Mp at the front. It’s not all about the megapixels, but we were impressed with the photos and test video we captured on the Xfire (it’ll record 1080p at 30fps). A LED flash is also useful for improving low-light performance.
The Xfire runs a slightly customised version of Android Lollipop, and it’s not one we’re particularly keen on. The key difference between vanilla Lollipop and what we have here is the Xfire’s use of themes. Having spent a lot of time messing about with Android phones, we’re used to seeing familiar icons for such things as the Google Play store. When we don’t instantly recognise them it’s confusing, and makes the phone unintuitive in use.
Four themes are installed on the Bluboo Xfire, and not one of them is what we’d consider normal. The default theme switches the Google Play icon to a red tile with rounded corners and a white house icon; the only thing giving away its purpose is the legend below. The themes will change the wallpaper and icons, but you can also separately customise the wallpaper and lock screen. But not through the Settings menu. Themes and wallpaper customisations are instead made through the Theme manager, which is found in the App menu. Or you can toggle between them using the Switch theme shortcut, also in the App menu.
And this is a bit of an, erm, theme with the Bluboo Xfire. The Xfire supports several useful gestures, but you don’t switch them on in the Settings menu. Instead you look in the Apps menu for the appropriately named ‘Direct’ and ‘Smart wake’ apps. The former is short for Direct Call, and lets you turn on the ability to instantly call contacts when viewing a contact or a text message and lifting the phone to your ear. You can also swing the phone to answer an incoming call, which seems a little bizarre, but perhaps less bizarre than waving your hand across the proximity sensor to capture a photo (it could make your subject smile, we suppose).
In Smart wake you’ll find the ability to wake the screen with a double-tap or unlock it with a swipe upward. Several characters can be drawn on to the lock screen with the screen on standby to launch certain apps. Drawing an ‘m’ begins playing music while ‘v’ triggers video; less obviously an ‘e’ opens the browser and ‘c’ opens the dialer (no, not the camera). It’s only a shame that you can’t customise their function.
The Bluboo Xfire supports wireless updates, and Bluboo promises an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is not at all a given with cheap smartphones.
Bluboo Xfire: Specs
- 5.0 in quarter-HD (960×540, 200ppi) IPS screen
- Android 5.1 Lollipop (with OTA upgrade to Marshmallow coming)
- 1.0 GHz MediaTek MTK6735 SOC (1.0 MHz ARM Cortex A-53 quad-core CPU + Mali-T720 MP2 dual-core GPU)
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB storage
- Micro SIM
- dual-SIM dual-standby or single-SIM + microSD
- GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, WCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz, FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7/B20 Cat 4 LTE
- 5Mp front camera
- 8Mp rear camera, LED flash, 1080p video at 30fps
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, single-band
- no NFC
- FM radio
- Removable 2750mAh battery
- one-year warranty
- Geekbench 3.0: 654 (single-core), 1940 (multi-core)
- SunSpider: 1016ms (preinstalled browser), 1327ms (Chrome)
- GFXBench 3.0: 25fps (T-Rex), 13fps (Manhattan)
- battery life (Geekbench 3.0): 2946 (07:22)
Our Final Verdict
For a cheap phablet the Bluboo Xfire has a lot going for it. It’s reasonably fast compared to its similarly priced rivals, it supports 4G and dual-SIM functionality, and the large screen is useful for browsing the web and viewing media, if it’s not particularly high-res. It has a few quirks, and we’re not keen on the software customisations, but at $85 you really can’t complain.
If you do want to pickup a Bluboo Xfire for yourself, do so from GearBest.com. If you use the Coupon code BlubooSAM you can the phone for just $78.89! So hurry up! Click the buy now button below!