For as long as we’ve been involved in the mobile technology industry (check your calendars – it has been a really long time), there has been one constant. Processors, screens, RAM, have all been steadily improving and gaining ground until we’ve reached a level of literally carrying around a computer in our pockets. But the one thing that has remained consistent from the first time we powered on our Pocket PCs has been the necessity for power; as in actual power to make our devices work.
That power source hasn’t really changed all that much in a very long time. But as our technology has increased, our need for more juice has increased with it. Our old phones used to be gigantic monsters because of this. Our old Palm Treo 650 was as thick as a Samsung GS3 and a Lumia 920 stacked on top of each other. And still, one-day battery life has been our bar. Well, folks, the bar just got raised.
We’d like to introduce you to the BLU Studio Energy 2, and that is a well-earned name. The Energy 2 has a ton of energy, and it wants to share it with you. So come along with us and let’s take this 5,000 mAh baby for a spin.
We used the BLU Energy 2 on AT&T’s LTE network for just over one week. During that time, we plugged it into the charger twice. That’s right, twice. That’s because the most prominent feature on this bad boy is a 5,000 mAh battery contained within its aluminum and plastic walls. For reference, 5,000 mAh is about half the size of our normal external battery chargers we carry in our bag. This phone is not screwing around.
The rest of the phone is on the ok-but-not-great side with a 5-inch Super AMOLED panel coming in at 1,280 x 720 pixels (~294 ppi) covered by Gorilla Glass 3. Beneath the surface resides a quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor running at 1.3 GHz with 1.5 GB of RAM. The phone comes with 16 GB of on board storage (a little more than 11GB is user-accessible) and is expandable up to 64 GB via MicroSD card. Overall, the phone is not that impressive, but there are a few highlights.
First, this phone does support LTE and dual SIMs, so if you’re a fast browsing double threat, you can definitely get your freak on with this phone. The phone costs less than $180, and oh yeah, did we mention the battery? 5,000 mAh. Spolier alert – we’re going to talk about that a lot.
The phone has a premium look with aircraft grade aluminum around the sides and plastic on the back. There is a rear-firing speaker that is loud and clear. The phone is a hefty 176 grams which feels solid in the hand. You’ll know this phone is there, but in a reassuring kind of way.
The BLU Studio Energy 2’s skin is built on top of Android Lollipop. Like the Xiaomi Mi devices we’ve reviewed the most noticeable software differentiation from Android is the lack of app drawer. All of your icons reside on your home screens. One neat part of the software is you can configure that home screen in a variety of ways. You’ve got your normal apps and widgets, but you also get to choose the type of animation the phone uses when scrolling from screen to screen. Moving from page to page can be a fly-in, cube rotation, or any other effect. It’s a little fun. Beyond that, BLU has more pleasant software surprises in store for you.
If you like the double-tap to wake concept of other phones, BLU takes it a step further. A variety of “Black screen gestures” make it possible to quickly launch an app, call a contact, play media, you name it. There are a lot of options here. You have control over what gesture is used to launch what action.
The phone is not equipped with NFC coils, but BLU does package a file transfer solution called HotKnot. This is a data-transfer solution that uses the capacitive touchscreens of two HotKnot enabled phones to pass information from one phone to the other via the screens. Think of it like (as our Editor-in-Chief likes to call it) “bumping phones”, but using the screens instead of the backs of the phones. Both phones need to be HotKnot enabled (there is no app – it’s a function of the hardware) so its use might be more on the limited side, unless of course all of your friends are rocking cheap, MediaTek phones overseas.
The Energy 2 comes with a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera and a front facing 5 megapixel shooter – both are becoming the accepted minimums in today’s smartphones. The rear-facing camera is something of an enigma capable of producing really great shots, and other not-so great shots. The color reproduction is very close if a little bit warm. At full resolution, the darks tend to be a bit on the grainy side, and some odd artifacting occurs if your subject is moving – such as a flower blowing in the Windy City wind. So, if you’re a social media maven the rear-facing camera will take some great looking shots – on Instagram. As long as you don’t plan to blow them up to poster size prints, the camera on the phone is somewhere between adequate and good, but more toward good. Overall, this camera is a mixed bag, but we’d feel more comfortable using it as a daily driver than some others we’ve tested in this price range.
As for the front facing camera…we’re going to go ahead and call it a cost-saving move. The front facing camera is adequate at best for video conferencing and the like. Unless lighting conditions are perfect, the resulting photo will be blurry, grainy or both. In one case, the front facing camera ended up showing a mirror image, instead of the correct orientation. But it only happened once.
Also, if you happen to have an awesome hat, then you’ll be better off. Not because it makes the camera better, but because awesome hats are awesome.
The somewhere-between-low-and-mid range specs on this phone give you the performance you’d expect. Graphic intense games like Asphalt 8 will be laggy and take a long time to load. Game play is actually harder because of intermittent lag in the game. It’s not impossible to play, but it’s also a less-than-ideal experience. Lighter games like Sparkle perform just fine, if a bit slow to load. If you’re the patient sort, none of this will really bother you. We can certainly think of worse things to complain about. But it all is done to support this battery.
You see, 5,000 mAh of juice is great, but with lower-powered hardware it becomes obscenely great. Turning the screen to full brightness, streaming movies, and playing games all around a day-job schedule will get you a solid 36 hours of battery life with roughly 5.5 hours of screen on time. Recharging is slow, but then it takes a lot of time to fill up this proverbial gas tank.
You can also treat this phone like a normal 9 to 5’er. This includes phone calls, texting, minimal video streaming, web browsing, a little tethering – typical day-to-day stuff. This type of activity will keep you going for just over 61 hours, or almost three days of use. In this case, the screen on time will be closer to 3.5 – 4 hours, but come on. Three days!
Naturally the battery life impressed us. While most phones can squeeze out 16-20 hours of battery life, this phone hasn’t even hit 50% yet after the same duration. This phone is a picture of durability. Going camping for the weekend? No problem. Geocaching for an entire day? Easy peasy. This phone handles the most rigorous durability stress tests with aplomb, barely breaking a sweat by the time you’re exhausted from a full day of using it.
Put simply, this battery is no joke. Oh, did we mention that the phone comes with a USB OTG adapter so you can charge other phones? Yeah, it does that too.
+ Impressive battery life
+ Low price
+ Good camera
+ Useful software enhancements
Pricing and Availability
The BLU Studio Energy 2 is on sale at Amazon.com. The price is a measly $179.99. There are other phones available with better specifications at this price point. But there is nothing even close to this battery performance. Let’s be clear here – if you are buying this phone, you are doing so for the battery. Overall, we feel this is a good price for this kind of performance, especially if you’re not the “charge every night” type.
Overall, considering the price point, we came away impressed with the BLU Studio Energy 2. We expected great battery life, but we underestimated what we would get. Make no mistake, this phone is mostly about the battery, and that’s perfectly ok. We can think of a number of markets that would be very well served by a low budget phone like this.
The rest of the phone hits all the right notes, especially the camera. We were happy with the camera’s performance in relation to other similarly spec’ed phones. If you are looking for a good phone at a good price, and you don’t get heavily into gaming, this phone is worth a first and second look. If you live in an area without reliable power or you travel a lot, look no further. Given a choice between this phone and other phones in this price range, this is our favorite so far. It’s about time a company said, “Screw this thin and light trend. Let’s build a phone that just keeps going.” BLU did just that, and it nailed it.