Blu G9 review

Blu Products is back with another smartphone for mid-2019, this time offering up the G9 as part of its portfolio. After what felt like an almost monthly product launch in previous years, the brand has slowed to a more methodical and deliberate pace. As such, the Blu G9 is just the second release this year.

The G9 is a big-screen, big-battery experience with a mirror metallic finish and upper-end hardware. As the first Blu phone to feature a V-notch cutout display, the unlocked handset comes in Back and Gradient Blue.

We were fortunate enough to receive an early look at the phone as Blu sent us a G9 to review over the last week or so. Here’s what we think of the device after having used it as a secondary phone for about seven days.


EDITOR NOTE

For a limited time Amazon is offering the Blu G9 for just $130, or $50 less than its standard price. We’ll go ahead and spoil the review, but at that price you really ought to consider it as an unlocked GSM phone. Read on to learn more about it and whether it’s worth the $180.


Design

The first thing we notice about the look and feel of the Blu G9 is that doesn’t much resemble other phones in the Blu lineup. The Gradient Blue is eye-catching and sharp, looking right at home with today’s modern handsets. The fading effect reminds us of much pricier models and we like the shades of blue.

This marks the first device from Blu to have its stylized ‘B’ on it, where it resides at the bottom rear. For what it’s worth, we also have the branded ‘BLU’ on the back, essentially giving us two markings.

The front of the phone houses a 6.3-inch display, one of the largest Blu has offered thus far. With a V-notch, or waterdrop, cutout, it packs a high (89%) screen to body ratio.

There’s a front-facing 13-megapixel camera at the top center of the phone with a small speaker sitting just above it. Around back is a 13-megapixel main sensor and a 13-megapixel depth sensor camera. The main camera is capable of creating 52-megapixel images.

The power button and volume rocker are found in the expected places on the right side of the screen with a USB C, 3.5mm headphone jack, and speaker at the bottom. The fingerprint reader is in the back approximately two-thirds of the way up the center. The microSD expansion card slot and dual-SIM card slot is on the left edge.

Although it appears to be comprised of metallic materials, it’s actually closer to a plastic or polycarbonate. Nevertheless, it looks like a pricier device and that’s cool with us.

Software

The Blu G9 runs Android 9 Pie with very little customization or add-ons. We’re a fan of this experience as there’s not much more that you can add to Android without it feeling like an agenda. Phone makers and carriers will sometimes sprinkle in a few apps or services and that’s not bad. But, when it’s a whole host of things that can’t be removed, we get irritated.

Aside from the default suite of Google apps the Blu G9 only has two other titles installed. At least that was how our review unit arrived. One, the FM radio is practical if that’s your thing. The other, Opera, is a quality alternative to Chrome.

Out of the box our phone had used just 12 percent of the storage used, leaving nearly 56GB of space left. The phone had a security patch from April 5, 2019 on it so things were very current.

We won’t hold our breath over an Android Q update, but we do hope to see semi-regular security patches. For what it’s worth Blu did commit to updates on its VIVO XI+ where it promised Android 9 Pie on a phone that launched with Android 8. Here’s hoping the more measured phone releases help keep things moving on the software front.

Performance

The Blu G9 houses a quad-core Mediatek Helio P22 processor with 4GB RAM which puts it in the thick of the pack for mid-range phones. These were more than sufficient for us in the category of daily needs.

We synchronizes a couple of Google accounts on the phone, adding in a smattering of games, and a few social media clients. Our aim was to mimic the everyday stuff as quickly as we could in the first few days, yet understanding that it’s often a few weeks or months into living with a device that we see how things stack up.

We didn’t have any issues with the performance of the G9 in our time with the phone. In fact, we found it to be somewhat of a joy. It’s sleek and modern design language and thin profile made the handset easy to pick up and use.

Truth be told, as much as we don’t mind when companies make sacrifices on aesthetics, we kinda notice it over time. That cheap plastic, dimpled battery cover, or somewhat thicker bezel is passable in the early days. Long term, however, we start to feel those corners that were cut.

The G9 is one of the first Blu phones in the last few years that really surprised us in performance and usage. Why, you ask? It’s not as if the hardware was necessarily any stronger than its other models. And the materials aren’t quite as “premium” as those found in other Blu devices. It all comes down to price, really. The Blu G9 costs just $180.

Sure, you can stack this one up against other $200 phones and draw comparisons. But that’s what’s great here. It’s the fact that you can compare it to other models.

When it comes to phones it’s often easy to look at what’s not present in the overall package. Why did they cut out wireless charging? Where’s the waterproof protection? Those are valid questions in this device. If those are important to you, look elsewhere. If neither feature is all that important, then you’ll like the rest of this kit.

Battery

Battery life was excellent, thanks to the 4,000mAh power source and its quick charging. Over the years we’ve become conditioned to charging our phones at night. It’s just what we do and we accept it, regardless of where the battery level is at bedtime. To that end, we routinely found that the G9 had more than enough in the tank to go a few more hours.

We suspect that once the average G9 user settles into a routine that they’ll get around two days of basic usage. That’s not counting when you put it on the charger for a half hour or so every once in awhile. Do that, and you’ll find the phone gets 2-3 days. Or so we imagine.

Camera

As for the camera experience, we were impressed with it considering the price. You won’t get the depth of field that you might expect when dealing with two sensors. At least, that’s what we’ve found so far in our time with it.

Switching to the different shooting modes is similar to what you get in the Google Camera experience. Among the modes are HDR, photo, video, beauty, pro, night, and 52MP. Indeed, that last one snaps pictures of 52-megapixels, or 8,320 x 6,240 pixels.

We found that taking a picture at that resolution was a really slow process. This should be expected when dealing with 20MB files, though. Instead of the rapid fire “tap, tap, tap, tap, tap” over the span of two seconds it’s more like “tap. pause. pause. tap”.

We back our photos up to Google Photos and don’t often use the full resolution. Given how we tend to share our images on social media or view them directly from a phone, it matters little to us if we get the entire picture as it was originally taken. To that end, Google turned 52-megapixel images into 16-megapixel shots. And, when looking at them on a phone or PC, we could hardly discern a difference.

Note that the samples here were initially uploaded to Google Photos and then resized to 1920px wide. No other treatment was applied to the photos.

It’s too early in our testing to say exactly how great all of the different modes are as we’ve only snapped a few images per day and had not taken any at night. We’ll update this post with more information and samples as we gather them.

Suffice it to say, we’ve seen far worse images on more expensive phones. Even today, people routinely take blurred, out of focus, shots and share them on social media. Nobody seems to bat an eye when your aunt uploads hastily taken pictures with smudged lens. As we’ve shown this phone and some of its pictures to other people the response seems to be generally impressed with it.

Display

We had to look up the resolution of the display to see how many pixels the phone offers up. At 720 x 1,520 it’s certainly on the low end of what’s available in 2019, but don’t let that deter you.

Given that we didn’t know it was as low as it is might actually be telling. Pictures were crisp enough for our taste and text was more than just discernible. There’s that whole idea of the human eye not being able to tell the difference above a certain threshold to keep in mind.

If you don’t plan to use the phone for VR and aren’t into extreme gaming, you will be just fine with the Blu G9 screen. If both of those mattered to you, then you would have already set your on a much pricier phone.

As for the notch or waterdrop cutout, we’re beyond thinking about those as we use our phones. It’s a non-starter for us and we truly don’t think about it after a day or so.

Sure, we’re glad that the next-generation phones look to be working around notches with interesting cameras but we’re still happy with where we are today. If you have issue with them and can’t wrap your head around one, keep the phone you have. Oh, and good luck buying a new phone over the next year or so because it’s kinda tough.

If there’s one aspect to the screen where we feel the phone falls (very) short, it’s the brightness. Outside, on a partly cloudy day, you might have trouble picking up details in the display.

We had to check a couple of times to make sure that brightness was all the way up. Moreover, the reflective glass on the phone didn’t help its cause. You can see in the image here that it’s pretty damn bad.

As much as we like the gradient and metallic-like appearance of the battery cover, we have to admit that it’s a fingerprint magnet. Smudges, oils, and the like are attracted to it and you’ll make it messy in no time. Luckily, a quick wipe against the pants or sleeve takes care of a lot of the smears.

Conclusion

We feel like a broken record when it comes to Blu phones. Why? More often than not, they offer up compelling devices with attractive price tags. That is certainly the case here as the G9 is a fine package.

Considering the $180 cost of the phone you get a handset that delivers the goods in areas that matter to a lot of consumers. That is a large screen, generous battery, and a modern design. The USB Type C port and headphone jack are both welcome features, too.

As an unlocked phone that works with AT&T, T-Mobile, and their respective GSM brands the Blu G9 is definitely worth a look. We’d love to see one of the prepaid brands or MVNOs offer a Blu phone as part of their portfolio because we think it would do well.

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