Equipped with a Qualcomm processor, a Sony camera sensor, and 4G LTE connectivity, the $229.99 Nuu Mobile X1 has all the trappings of a legitimate budget-friendly Android contender—it matches up beautifully with the Motorola Moto G$149.99 at Amazon, the de facto choice for high-quality, low-cost Androidsmartphones. And with Motorola dragging its feet on a 4G LTE variant, phones like the X1 start to look even more attractive. Design execution and software polish both come up short of Motorola, but the X1 also offers more internal storage and a bigger battery than the Moto G. One caveat: 4G LTE speeds are limited to T-Mobile’s network in the U.S. For wider coverage, you’ll have to pony up some extra cash for the ZTE Nubia 5s mini$188.99 at Amazon or the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G, both of which are great performers for the price. All told, though, the X1 is an excellent value for unlocked Android phones, and a worthwhile alternative to the Moto G, especially for T-Mobile subscribers.

Design, Features, and Network Performance

With a wide back that tapers in toward the display and a sloping camera hump, the X1$199.99 at Amazon reminds me a lot of the HTC One X. But with hollow-feeling plastic and quirky design choices, it feels more like a cheap knockoff. It’s not poorly constructed, though, and it’s a good size at 5.8 by 2.8 by 0.38 inches (HWD) and 5.15 ounces. The headphone jack and micro USB port are on the top, while Volume and Power buttons are on the left and right edges, respectively. I personally think the grilles on the X1’s face are pretty ugly, and it doesn’t help that they’re not even for front-facing speakers—they simply hide the earpiece and mic, as far as I can tell. The 5-inch, 720p IPS LCD looks great, right on par with the Moto G’s display. Colors look accurate, if somewhat muted, but contrast and viewing angles are good considering the price. I noticed a few backlighting hotspots, and it’s pretty clear that Nuu didn’t use any oleophobic coating—the screen is an absolute grease and oil magnet, which degrades the viewing experience. Below the display are three dated capacitive buttons for Menu, Home, and Back navigation.

Unlocked, the X1 supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), WCDMA (850/1900MHz), and LTE (Bands 4 and 7). In the U.S., that means HSPA+ 21 speeds on AT&T, and LTE connectivity on T-Mobile. I tested the phone with both an AT&T and T-Mobile SIM card; the X1 struggled to break 5Mbps (down) on AT&T, but easily eclipsed 10Mbps (down) on T-Mobile. Call quality was mostly positive, with a slightly underpowered earpiece, but relatively clear and natural transmissions through the mic. On a few voicemail tests the mic added a good deal of static, but things were still easy enough to understand. In louder environments, call quality suffered thanks to ineffective noise cancellation that does more harm than good—voices sounded wobbly and indistinct, and outside noises were still distracting.

Rounding out the connectivity options are 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC. Wi-Fi is limited to the slower, more crowded 2.4GHz band.

Performance and Android

While competitors like Blu and Verykool use off-the-shelf parts from Chinese companies like MediaTek, Nuu sticks with the more recognizable and reliable Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. It’s the same setup you’ll find on the Moto G, and as expected, performance is pretty comparable across the board. Real world performance matches synthetic benchmark results, and we saw the same smooth performance we’ve come to expect from Snapdragon 400-powered devices.

Camera and Conclusions

With a genuine 13-megapixel Sony BSI IMX135 image sensor, expectations were high for the X1—it’s the same sensor found in the LG G3Free at Amazon and the Moto X (2014)Free at Amazon. Unfortunately, software tuning obviously makes a huge difference, and Nuu unsurprisingly lacks the experience of those larger companies. Image quality in bright outdoor lighting is actually quite nice, with sharp details, lifelike colors, and reasonably good dynamic range. The X1 tended to overexpose shots, but was able to retain some details in highlights like bright blue skies, without sacrificing shadow details. But as soon as the light dims, image quality drops off a cliff. Details become a waxy, over-processed mess, riddled with grainy image noise and compression artifacts. The camera tries to overcompensate with long shutter speeds, which inevitably produces blurry images. Video quality tops out at 1080p and largely mimics still image quality, but at least frame rates hold steady regardless of lighting. I still prefer the output here to the Moto G’s, but neither is anything to write home about.

Nuu is a relative unknown in the mobile world, which should give some pause—there’s no telling what kind of customer support, if any, to expect. But in terms of pure value and performance to price, the X1 deserves consideration in the $200 price range. It matches the Moto G’s hardware, spec for spec, and even outperforms it in many areas. Most importantly, the X1 has the 4G LTE connectivity that the Moto G sorely lacks, albeit limited to T-Mobile. The bland, uninspired design is tolerable, and there are still some rough edges to the overall experience, but the X1 is a nice low-cost option on the unlocked Android market.

original post by Eugene Kim from PCmag.com

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