The emergence of different Chinese smartphone brands has greatly helped the industry. The companies might not see it that way due to the intense competition, but it sure is healthy for the consumers.
So as a newcomer, we welcomed Bluboo with arms wide open. The addition of another player will provide consumers with more options to choose from when getting their next smartphone. However, from what we’ve seen with the Bluboo S8, it feels like the company is just like any other emerging Chinese brand that we have seen.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Bluboo S1. Just by the looks of it, the device already feels old news, familiar, and unexciting. But let’s give it a chance, shall we? Read on our full review to find out what it has to offer.
Bluboo S1 Specs
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- Dual SIM, hybrid
- 5.5-inch FHD IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
- Corning Gorilla Glass 4
- 2.5GHz MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- Mali-T880 GPU
- 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 256GB
- 8-megapixel front camera
- 16-megapixel + 3-megapixel dual rear cameras, dual LED flash
- Fingerprint scanner
- 4G LTE, Cat. 6
- WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- USB Type-C
- Colors: Pearl White, Piano Black
- 3500mAh battery, fast-charging
Design and Build Quality
There’s no denying the Bluboo S1’s strikes a resemblance to the Doogee Mix. While they might look the same at first look, they feel surprisingly different when you get to hold the S1 in the flesh.
To detail it out, the Bluboo S1 is made of plastic while the Doogee Mix is a combination of glass and metal. Personally, I don’t see this s a shortfall as it made the device really light. And considering its odd, boxy shape, and lightness take my head off of its unergonomic form in my hands.
One of the staple features of the Bluboo S1 is its ultra-thin bezels in the sides and the top. The upper part was so thin that they had to relocate the front-facing camera at the bottom right of the device — prompting you to flip the handset upside down each time you take a selfie.
I’m pretty sure this kind of design would not go on for long. The Bluboo S1 took some inspiration from the Doogee Mix — which Doogee got from the Xiaomi Mi Mix. However, Xiaomi did instantly drop that design choice when they came up with the Mi Mix 2.
Consider me unimpressed with the Bluboo S1’s design. It’s just a weird thing to look at. Its wide but stout body doesn’t define sleekness, despite its ultra-thin bezels. I’m not saying its bad, but it’s just not my cup of tea. And besides, your design preference might not be too different from mine.
Taking a short tour we have the 5.5-inch Full FHD screen on the front, with the earpiece and sensors on top, and the fingerprint scanner and 8-megapixel camera at the bottom.
On the left side, there’s a hybrid SIM card slot, while on the left you can get a hold of the volume controls and lock/power switch. The buttons are also made of plastic but they were still able to provide decent tactility when pressed.
The top of the Bluboo S1 is clean, while the bottom houses the USB Type-C port. The holes on the right contain the built-in mic, while the one on the left is the actual speaker grill. As expected, the loudspeakers aren’t the best. The volume is just enough to fill an empty, quiet room. Furthermore, the sound quality has decent treble, but almost non-existent bass.
If you haven’t noticed it by now, the Bluboo S1 doesn’t have a headphone jack. Well, maybe Bluboo is just as forward thinkers as Apple and Google. Or they removed it to cut the production cost. Thankfully, they have included a USB Type-C to headphone adaptor in the package to help users adjust to it.
Bluboo S1 uses a 5.5-inch FHD IPS screen, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and a total of 401 pixels-per-inch. The front is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 which ensures that its ready to take bumps and what not.
The colors look a little plain, not dull, but a little muted. Blacks are deep, and the whites stay white — no yellow-ish tone that we see in other screens. The contrast is a bit on the low side, and the saturation is just right in the middle.
And of course, since it is a 1080p panel, the sharpness is really on point. The details in pictures and videos look spot on, and reading small texts is a breeze in the eye.
It also beams decent screen backlighting so it’s still usable outdoors. Meanwhile, the wide viewing angles make it visible from wherever angle you’re looking at it from.
Performance and Hardware
Under the hood, the Bluboo S1 sports a MediaTek Helio P25 — a chipset that we commonly see in most budget smartphones today. It has a 2.5GHz octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM, a Mali-T660 GPU, and a generous 64GB of expandable storage. Not a bad configuration for a device with this price.
However, the overall experience didn’t feel as smooth as what I’m expecting. The 1080p screen is probably giving the processor hard time, or the Bluboo S1’s custom interface might be slowing things down. But still, it’s relatively fast for a device on this price range. I just think that it could have been better.
You can feel it struggling just by browsing your Facebook and Instagram feed. On the other hand, switching between apps is surprisingly seamless thanks to its spacious 4GB of memory.
The gaming experience on the Bluboo S1 was also mediocre. You can play titles like NBA Live and everyone’s favorite — Rules of Survival. However, it doesn’t offer the smoothest frame rates. It might feel a little laggy at times, but it’s still playable nonetheless.
Benchmark test results
The Bluboo S1 runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with some bizarre skin on top of it. While it might look different on the surface, digging in further reveals that it isn’t too far from Android’s stock look.
For one, the lock screen looks exactly the same. The notifications tab and control center is also the same, as well as the Settings menu. Furthermore, the UI utilizes stock native apps, keyboard and more.
What’s different here is the home screen which makes me believe that it’s just a well-planted launcher. In all fairness, the app icons look neat, and they all have an identical look. However, for everyone’s sake, you might want to turn off the transition effect everytime you move around the home screen as it gets annoying as time goes by.
But other than that, the Bluboo S1 packs all the usual features you’d find on an outdated Android 7.0 software. Let’s just hope that Bluboo would send a newer Android OS update. But let’s be honest here — it’s probably not coming.
Since it’s only a budget smartphone, the Bluboo S1 doesn’t have facial recognition security or even an Iris scanner. For its price tag, we’re already lucky enough that it has a finger scanner.
And during my time with the Bluboo S1, the fingerprint sensor worked well. It had an 80% success rate of recognizing my fingerprint correctly, which means that 1 out of 5 times, it only needs a retry once. It might not be the fastest of all, but at least it works.
But in rare times that it insists in not working, the automatic on-screen pattern/passcode is a handy replacement.
See also: Huawei Nova 2i Review
Besides its almost bezel-less screen, Bluboo also relies on the S1’s dual-camera setup as a source of their marketing shenanigans. While having two sensors at the back might look enticing, they don’t necessarily translate to extremely good photo quality.
There’s a 16-megapixel shooter at the back that’s accompanied by an extra 3-megapixel sensor. The lower resolution camera is only meant for depth analyzation for the Bokeh effect. The 2x button on the app will only enable digital zoom, rather than an optical zoom capability that other dual-camera smartphones have.
With that said, the 16-megapixel camera of the Bluboo S1 can only take decent-looking photos. The picture quality it produces is only acceptable to justify the price tag. The colors look plain and slightly washed out, the contrast might need some fixing in editing, the saturation looks fairly clean, while the dynamic range is unsurprisingly disappointing.
Enabling the Bokeh mode fires up the secondary 3-megapixel sensor. And despite having two cameras working side-by-side, the depth-of-field effect is still unsatisfactory. It can fully isolate the subject from the background, but in oftentimes, it provides a cutout-like look.
On the other hand, the 8-megapixel selfie camera can only provide mediocre performance. Anyway, they are still worth posting online if you’re not too finicky about it. The images taken has muted colors, soft details, and bad contrast. On the flip side, taking selfies in low-light scenarios aren’t so bad either. Compared to other selfie smartphones, though, it’s very far off when it comes to quality.
And of course, the front camera of the Bluboo S1 also has the Beauty Mode feature. Evidently, it’s not as good as what the other midrange devices have. But if you’re really into it, you just have to be patient on playing with it to get the best possible result.
With the Bluboo S1, you’re getting a quite substantial 3,500mAh battery — a capacity that will power the whole device, mainly its Full HD screen and octa-core processor.
While it might look larger when compared to the competition, our tests showed that its performance isn’t exceptional. But then again, for what you’re paying, it isn’t so bad.
After a day of casual use (SMS, casual web browsing via WiFi) the device still left me with around 15% to 20% of charge before the day ends.
And as a standard, I also ran PCMark’s battery test (WiFi on, brightness and volume 50%) and the device got a score of 5 hours and 16mins before reaching 20%. For a perspective, the average result that we normally get on smartphones is around 7 hours.
Bluboo equipped the S1 with 4G LTE Cat. 6 connectivity so you can stay connected even without WiFi. And during my time with it, I didn’t experience any signal issues when browsing on mobile data. The speeds will still vary depending on your location, but for as long as there’s LTE coverage, you’re good to go.
The Bluetooth v4.0 also worked well. Connecting to wireless headphones or speaker was seamless with good signal range. Maybe not as good as the others, but since it only has Bluetooth 4.0, I’ll give it a pass. Playing music to our Sembrandt SB750 soundbar is flawless and it rarely had problems when going too far from the speaker.
Just by looking at the specifications list, you can easily assume that the Bluboo S1 is an appealing smartphone for the price. For less than Php8,000, you’re already getting a smartphone with a 1080p screen, octa-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, dual rear cameras, and 3500mAh battery.
However, after spending time with it, the device didn’t feel adequate enough despite having big numbers on its spec sheet.
Sure, the 5.5-inch Full HD screen looks amazing to look at, especially when you add that almost bezel-less form factor. However, the interface kind of made it look cheap in my opinion. Also, for some reason, I feel like the processor’s overall power wasn’t fully utilized here.
I am expecting more from its battery and the images you can get from its cameras could have been better. But then again, at the end of the day, it all goes down to the price. And for what the Bluboo S1 offers, it’s hard to find anything like it out there.
Pricing and availability of Bluboo S1
Bluboo hasn’t penetrated the physical stores in shopping malls just yet. So in case you want to buy it, the only way you can purchase the Bluboo S1 is via their Lazada page. As of writing, the device retails for a price of Php7,999. Check out the official listing here.
- Sharp, almost bezel-less screen
- Appealing design
- Cheap price tag
- Underwhelming performance
- Photo quality could be better