BitDepth#846 - August 07

Putting the budget priced Blu Studio 5.3 smartphone to the test with mixed results.
Feelin’ Blu
Blu’s Studio 5.3 smartphone. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

There’s no question that the Blu Studio 5.3 is a bargain in a smartphone, though you should review current price reductions from both providers if you’re looking for a touch-sensitive device at a reasonable price.

You’ll have to get used to some rather distinct aspects of the Blu phone if you choose it as your primary device though.
The first time I showed the one I’ve been testing for this column to a friend, her response was, “That’s a cute little tablet.”
“No,” I corrected, “That’s a phone.”

Let it be said clearly that the Studio 5.3, the very top of the Blu line offered exclusively in Trinidad and Tobago by bMobile, is a big phone. For some, it will be a great honking communications device. I’m a larger person, so this aspect of the design of the device is not a turn-off for me.

After years of using phones that seem to be trending to the microscopic, it’s nice to have a device that feels like something more than a pack of matches in the hand.
Blue must have been well aware of this, because the Studio 5.3 has a nice rubberized finish on the back that welcomes being gripped in a big man’s hands.

The huge 5.3 inch screen (diagonal measure) also defiantly sports half the resolution of today’s top of the line smart phones, so elements on the 176 pixel per inch screen seem much larger. It isn’t Corning Gorilla glass and proves to be a magnet for skin oils too.

If you’ve had difficulty tapping the onscreen keyboards of a smartphone, the lower resolution makes the keys commensurately larger, offering a more welcoming target for bigger fingertips.
The screen resolution isn’t coarse though. At 176ppi, it’s almost double the resolution of a typical computer screen and there’s no real loss in quality in the interface as a result of that design choice.

The Studio 5.3 is meant to be a budget phone and there are some significant feature omissions that you should be aware of.
The device runs an older version of Android, v2.3, with no likelihood that it can be upgraded because the hardware is trimmed to the bone.

There’s an 800mhz processor that offers acceptable if not stellar performance, but the Studio 5.3 is RAM starved at 512MB. Most contemporary smartphones ship with at least 1GB and 2GB is today’s standard for demanding apps.

I encountered something that I’ve never seen before on an Android device while using Blu’s device, as apps refused to install because there wasn’t room available or enough memory for them to function properly.

There’s room for a MicroSD card and any purchaser of the phone would be well advised to fill that slot with a 16GB card right from the start. My test device came with a 4GB card that I used to move software off the hardwired memory to the SD card, an uncomplicated process that you can handle in the Applications subsection of the Settings app.

The Blu Studio 5.3 may be underpowered, but it can do almost anything you need it to if you manage your apps carefully and don’t expect quad-core performance from a more humbly outfitted phone.

Yes, the phone is really big. That makes it almost a tablet in a way that’s quite different from the more svelte profile of Samsung’s One Note device, but definitely more pocketable than something like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, also a phone but one that won’t fit the pockets of anything less than a trenchcoat.

Blu’s effort with the Studio 5.3 is a commendable one, but the device definitely isn’t for every user. I like the heft of it and the heads-up information display on the home screen. It fills my hand the way a phone should, the screen is readable and although the icons are hideous, you’ll won’t be staring at them for long anyway.

Addendum: Just twelve hours after I filed this column with the Guardian, I turned on the Studio 5.3 and got no response. I removed the battery, replaced it and put it on charge. Nothing.
The night before, I’d had some curious screen flickering while checking voice mail with it, but thought nothing about it, particularly after loading the device up with more software than it was probably designed to handle.
TSTT has been notified about the issue and promises to investigate the issue with Blu and will let me know what they find after a forensic review of the device.
blog comments powered by Disqus