Bluboo X6 review: The £90 4G phone with a fingerprint scanner

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Shipped from China you should also take into account import duty, however (read up on our grey-market tech buying advice). Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 smartphone review. Also see: Best phones 2015 and best Android phones 2015.

The specification is competitive, given the low price, with a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB of RAM and dual-core Mali-T760 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 5.5in 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. We found the Bluboo X6 prone to picking up fingerprints, too. See all Android phone reviews.  

The Bluboo X6 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 X6 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 3000mAh 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 13Mp and a dual-LED flash at the rear, and an 8Mp selfie camera at the front. It's capable of recording full-HD video at 30fps, too. Also see: Best phablets 2015. 

Running Android 4.4 KitKat, Bluboo promises an OTA upgrade to Lollipop. 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 X6's 8GB of storage around 6GB is available. 

Bluboo X6 review: The £90 4G phablet with a fingerprint scanner, with the Bluboo X6 you get a lot of phone for your money

Bluboo X6 review: Design and build 

Bluboo's X6 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 £90 price. The plastic build also keeps down the weight, and at 167g the X6 is light for an 8.8mm-thick phablet. Also see: Best cheap 4G phones 2015. 

The rear cover is thin but clips on tight. It's removable, too, giving access to an also-removable 3000mAh 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 5.5in 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.

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 review.  

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 13Mp camera is on the rear, surrounded by a pink anodised aluminium ring and supported by a dual-LED flash. 

At the front is a 2.5D Arc screen, which basically means it is curved at the edges. This has a nice effect, but it doesn't lie flush to the case. The top and bottom bezels are larger, with a physical home button at the bottom that builds in a fingerprint sensor. It's a nice idea in a £90 phone, but using swipe- rather than touch input it's a real pain to use. And while this scanner isn't too great at picking up our fingerprints, the display is. 

The screen itself is an IPS panel. While colours are realistic and it's usefully bright, a quarter-HD resolution of 960x540 is pushed almost to its limit on a 5.5in screen. The X6 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. 

The Bluboo is supplied with a smart case, which reminds us of the LG G3's Quick Circle case. A silicone shell clips on to the rear, while a front flap features a circular cutout through which you can see the clock. 

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 review.

Bluboo X6 review: Hardware and performance 

When you're paying £90 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 MTK6732 SOC, which integrates a 1.3MHz ARM Cortex A-53 quad-core CPU and Mali-T760 MP2 dual-core GPU, plus 1GB of RAM. Also see: What's the fastest smartphone 2015. 

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 X6 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 X6 managed 1016ms. This is often the case with the phones we review (a lower score is better in SunSpider).  

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 review.

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. To put that into perspective, its time recording is on par with the 2015 Moto G, but its point score falls just below the Kingzone Z1, another Chinese 5.5in phablet. 

The battery is rated at 3000mAh, but don't expect to find advanced features such as quick- or wireless charging, or even an ultra power saving mode. See all smartphone reviews. 

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. 

Bluboo X6 review: Connectivity 

When you're buying a phone from China you should always check the frequency bands to ensure it will be supported by your UK mobile operator. The Bluboo X6 supports GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, WCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz, and Cat 4 FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7/B20. 

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 more details on what that means see our dual-SIM phones buying advice and best dual-SIM phones 2015The X6 takes two Micro SIMs. 

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 review.

Bluboo X6 review: Cameras 

For photography the Bluboo X6 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 13Mp camera at the rear and an impressive 8Mp at the front. It's not all about the megapixels, but we were impressed with the photos and test video we captured on the X6 (it'll record 1080p at 30fps). A dual-LED flash is also useful for improving low-light performance. Also see: Best selfie phones 2015. 

Bluboo X6 review: Software 

The X6 runs a slightly customised version of Android KitKat, and it's not one we're particularly keen on. The key difference between vanilla KitKat and what we have here is the X6'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 X6, 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 X6. The X6 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). 

The Bluboo X6 is a 4G LTE Android KitKat phablet with a fingerprint scanner that costs just £90 from Geekbuying. Is it a deal? We find out in our Bluboo X6 review.

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. 

Some people like finding little surprises in the software, and those are exactly the sort of people who will appreciate the Fingerprints app (also missing from the Settings menu). That excitement will wear off quick when they realise the scanner actually doesn't work very well, though. Still, we wouldn't expect much from it at this price. 

The Bluboo X6 supports wireless updates, and Bluboo promises an upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is not at all a given with cheap smartphones.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2015.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.

Bluboo X6: Specs

  • 5.5in quarter-HD (960x540, 200ppi) IPS screen
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (with OTA upgrade to Lollipop coming)
  • 1.3GHz MediaTek MTK6732 SOC (1.3MHz ARM Cortex A-53 quad-core CPU + Mali-T760 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
  • 13Mp rear camera, dual-LED flash, 1080p video at 30fps
  • swipe fingerprint scanner
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, single-band
  • GPS
  • A-GPS
  • HotKnot
  • no NFC
  • OTG
  • FM radio
  • smart case
  • removable 3000mAh battery
  • 77x158.7x8.8mm
  • 167g
  • 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)
  • 5.5in quarter-HD (960x540, 200ppi) IPS screen
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (with OTA upgrade to Lollipop coming)
  • 1.3GHz MediaTek MTK6732 SOC (1.3MHz ARM Cortex A-53 quad-core CPU + Mali-T760 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
  • 13Mp rear camera, dual-LED flash, 1080p video at 30fps
  • swipe fingerprint scanner
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, single-band
  • GPS
  • A-GPS
  • HotKnot
  • no NFC
  • OTG
  • FM radio
  • smart case
  • removable 3000mAh battery
  • 77x158.7x8.8mm
  • 167g
  • 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 VERDICT

For a cheap phablet the Bluboo X6 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 fingerprint scanner or software customisations, but at £90 you really can't complain.

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