Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

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Blu Products just released the Blu Dash 4.5, an unlocked quad core Android 4.2 smartphone for $139.99. For budget devices, it offers great value: The phone features all the components of a modern smartphone, and despite its relatively minuscule 512 megabytes of RAM, it runs pretty smoothly. But was it worth the money and how does it compare to a $350 Nexus 4?

Evaluation Criteria

I purchased the Blu Dash 4.5 for my father. He needed a modern, disposable and inexpensive alternative to a regular cellular phone with a somewhat large screen for his deteriorating eyesight. His requirements were not particularly steep: His smartphone should offer reasonably good battery life, its GPS needs to quickly acquire a signal, it should have reasonably good cellular signal reception and it should have enough storage to handle a small number of essential apps. The Blu Dash appears to fit the bill.

The Nexus 4 in theory beats the pants (or rubber) off the Blu Dash — my goal was to determine whether or not the Blu Dash offered relatively good value compared to the Nexus 4. Could it do the same things at a fraction of the cost? To perform this analysis, I ran the Dash alongside my Nexus 4 through a gauntlet of tests: I went through an hour long GPS-guided bike ride and then scored the device in AnTuTu Benchmark. I also used the analysis app Elixir 2 to breakdown the parts inside of the Dash.

blu dash and the nexus 4   Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

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Internal Components

The internal components of the Blu Dash won’t break any necks, but they’re not bad, either.

  • Android Version: The Blu Dash includes one of the newer builds of Android, version 4.2.1. Although given Blu’s previously track record on devices, the Dash will likely not ever receive a newer version of Android. However, if you get stuck with an OS, 4.2 is a good one to have.
  • Screen: The screen resolution isn’t the highest, although most users won’t notice the difference compared to a higher resolution screen. The Dash has a 480×854 screen with a pixel density of 240 DPI. For most users that’s good enough – higher resolution screens drain a bit more.
  • RAM: The Dash includes 512 megabytes of RAM. A small amount for an Android phone using 4.2. However, throughout tests, the phone seemed snappy and smooth. There was a slight amount of roughness at points, but overall this didn’t detract from its usability. This may have to do with the high quality flash memory used in the Dash.
  • CPU: The Blu Dash uses a quad core Cortex A7 design by MediaTek called the MT6589M. While MediaTek isn’t known for its cutting edge variants on the ARM chip it licenses, it has taken the A7 CPU into territory unheard of. The particular variant on the A7 in the Dash performs quite well, scoring around 6,000 in AnTuTu Benchmark. For comparison, the Nexus 4’s Snapdragon S4 CPU scores around 8,000. The Tegra 3, a popular CPU for tablets, scores around 3,000.

blu dash antutu benchmarked   Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

  • Battery: The Dash’s battery weighs in at 2000 mAh, which for a budget phone is pretty hefty.
  • Sensors: The Dash includes a standard Android smartphone sensor suite: Gyroscopic sensor, accelerometer, magnetic field sensor and more. However, several sensors were broken or defective on my model, including the gyroscopic sensor and the orientation sensor (which was detected, but tests showed it did not work at all).

blu dash sensor problems   Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

  • 3G/4G: The Dash includes a WCDMA/GSM SIM card slot, in addition to a pure GSM slot – WCDMA in many countries, including the US, is used for transmitting 4G signals. Another interesting feature of the Dash is that you can swap your SIM card between both slots, meaning you can alternate between 3G and 4G. 3G offers better battery life, whereas 4G offers faster connect speeds.
  • Storage: There’s 4 gigabytes of storage space available in the Dash. In the tests I performed, it appears to be class 10 memory, which is the highest quality in most smartphones.
  • Camera: The 5 megapixel camera in the Dash isn’t all that great, but it’s not all that bad either.

blu camera   Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

Overall, like many phones in Blu Products’ inventory, the Dash is a well-priced, value-oriented design. It shouldn’t blow anyone away in terms of the hardware, but it still offers all the basic features of a modern Android smartphone for a very low price. Combined with an MVNO (in the US and Canada), the Dash can save its users quite a bit of money.

To read more on how to save money on your mobile bill, check out my article on MVNOs.

Battery Life and Performance

I looked at the Dash’s hardware and performance from several areas, mainly its cellular signal quality, the duration of its battery, GPS performance and its benchmark scores.

  • Signal Strength: Strangely enough the Blu Dash showed better all around signal strength than my Nexus 4. I can’t explain why, either, since both use the same service provider.
  • Battery: How did my phone’s battery handle the stress of a long GPS-guided bicycle ride? Here’s my numbers: After bicycling 1 hour, using GPS to navigate my ride, the battery percentage declined by five percentage points. In comparison, my Nexus 4 declined by 6%, on a slightly larger battery.
  • GPS performance: I stopped at three points along my bike ride and examined the GPS of both devices. At all points, the Nexus 4 showed better GPS signal strength. However, both devices acquired GPS signal quickly and without issue.
  • AnTuTu Benchmark: The AnTuTu benchmark scores the overall performance of a mobile device on the basis of how powerful its CPU, how quickly it writes to flash memory, the quality of its RAM and the power of its graphics processor. Compared to the Nexus 4, the Dash scored about 12,000 compared to the Nexus’s 18,000, making the Nexus 4 roughly 30% faster. However, considering that the Nexus 4 costs 40% more, you’re actually getting slightly better value out of the Dash.

Overall the Dash performed very well, except for the issue with the Gyroscopic sensor. However, if the sensor issues are indicative of a wider quality concern, there may be other problems waiting further down the line.

Build Quality, Warranty and Customer Support

Unfortunately, I received a slightly defective smartphone from Blu. The screen autorotation failed to work and several sensors appeared to either absent or dead on arrival. In particular, the gyroscopic sensor wasn’t being picked up by an Elixir 2 scan. Oftentimes sensors tend to be clustered together, so it’s likely that a single component failed and thus caused several other sensors to go down.

I don’t particularly fault Blu Products for this failing, particularly since many major corporations have produced entire lines of phones with serious problems and then refused to honor their own warranty. In the case of the Blu Dash, the phone carries a full year, standard warranty. You pay for return shipping.

After experiencing problems with the gyroscope sensor, I contacted Blu Products via email and received a response within about ten minutes. After some back and forth diagnosing the issue, four days later (two business days), I was provided with an RMA number. While I will need to return the phone at my own expense, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable a request. However, in the event that Blu’s RMA process proves poor, I will update this article.

orientation sensor   Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4?

For information on the guts of your own smartphone, I strongly recommend checking out Erez’s article on the fabulous Elixir 2, which was used to identify the hardware in this article.

Conclusion

So, is the Blu Dash 4.5 worth the money? Yes it is.

The Dash offers 70% of the performance of a Nexus 4, at 40% of the cost. It also handles normal smartphone operation without any issue.

Even well known manufacturers experience a great deal of issues with quality control. Although a relatively minor part failed, it does not entirely damage my opinion of the phone. From both a technical perspective and a hands-on experience, the Dash feels like it’s worth every penny. I was particularly impressed with the performance of the MediaTek MT6589M CPU.

Does anyone else love buying unlocked Android smartphones? For Americans and Canadians, you can save hundreds by switching to an MVNO.

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20 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Clyde A

Looks like a good deal for a fraction of the price. I might have to get one!!!

Reply

A. Phasia

I bought this phone for my wife. I am very impressed with it. I like it better the my Galaxy S2. Any ideas on a good case for it?

Kannon Yamada

Unfortunately, they don’t have any cases out yet. I was looking at some universal cases, but those just aren’t good enough.

I went ahead and bought a pack of Sugru, the moldable DIY rubber substance. Basically (it hasn’t arrived yet), you simply create your own bumper. :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugru

Reply

Brad

What frequencies does it run on? Most cheap import phones don’t support common US carrier’s frequencies, like T-Mobile.

Often the best you get for data will be 2G or edge speeds which makes it useless as a smartphone.

Kannon Yamada

It’s only quad band, unfortunately, which conventionally means 850/900/1800/1900. So that means “4G” only on T-Mobile and 3G on AT&T. It’s limited to HSPA+, which comes close to LTE in some markets. It uses WCDMA for HSPA+.

About 99.9% of phones nowadays are imports – Blu is a domestic designer, though, so these phones are designed specifically for US networks. AT&T and T-Mo.

A rule of thumb is that MediaTek CPUs need to add a separate LTE chip in order to get LTE speeds and this results in crazy amounts of drain. Only Qualcomm and Tegra 4 have integrated LTE components to my knowledge.

Reply

Michael

Silly idea. I wonder how much for the unit *without* phone capability? It seems it wouold make a great wi-fi tablet for a low price.

Kannon Yamada

That’s not a silly idea at all! Actually, I picked up a defective GooPhone X1 which had a broken cellular radio. I considered keeping it as a tablet, but realized the 4.7″ screen just wasn’t good enough.

I RMA’d it, but they never refunded the money. :-(

Now I wish that I kept it as a tablet. It was super fast, too.

Reply

Joseph Kreifels II

Its ugly. I like my nexus 4

Kannon Yamada

It’s not the prettiest phone ever made. Comparatively, the Nexus 4 is easily the best looking phone I’ve ever handled.

The Blu Dash is pretty utilitarian. Grippy and hard to drop. Ventilates heat a lot faster than the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 overheats like no one’s business, though. Charging and using GPS, it’s practically useless.

Reply

Drew

I have been waiting for a good in depth review of this phone. Thank you for taking the time to publish this review. I think I have found my next phone!

Reply

scott thompson

I’ve had the blu dash 4.5 for a few weeks.I have to say I’m happy with it.The WiFi I’m using is less that. 1meg and the modem is a good 75 ft away.Its still very fast and. I actually dn loaded a movie at over 300 kbs with few seeders.very impressive.The resolution is not the best but still good.Blu dash figured at rightfully so that battery longevity outweigheThe need for virtual HD screen.I can’t wait till I can use decent WiFi and take IG for a test drive.Can someone tell me if can use a external monitor even tho it doesn’t have hdmi?

Kannon Yamada

Hey Scott! I did some research, it appears that the Blu Dash 4.5 supports wireless display output – called Miracast. If you have a wireless display adapter, compatible with the Miracast standard, you can output display.

I haven’t tried it yet, but the feature is available within Settings -> Display -> scroll to the very bottom.

Unfortunately, the adapters are hard to find and, as of yet, not particularly reliable. I did have one working perfectly, though, up until the latest version of Android came out – which broke compatibility.

Reply

Anonymous

Why does my signal have G e on it instead of .. 4G

Kannon Y

I think the E symbols means 2G.

There are two SIM card positions inside the Dash. One slot is 3G and the other provides HSPA+ connectivity (4G). It’s not very obvious how to fit the SIM card into the second slot. You have to read the instruction manual. Or otherwise call up Blu customer service to ask for specific directions.

Reply

Eddie

It is NOT reasonable AT ALL to expect a customer to pay for return shipping of a defective product that was defective from the factory. Any company who makes you pay shipping to return or exchange a defective product doesn’t deserve your business. They should stand behind their phones 100%.

Kannon Y

After some reflection, I agree with you. If this were the Motorola G (which cost more at $189), I wouldn’t have had to pay for return shipping. It seemed to me that because the phone cost so little, and the return shipping was so cheap, that it wasn’t a big deal. But in retrospect, that’s basically a scam used by manufacturers to discourage returns.

Reply

Andy G

Hi Kannon – great review on the Dash 4.5! Did you ever get your free replacement phone from BLU for your Dad?

Have you checked out the Dash Music 4.0 (I like the dual front speakers)

Kannon Y

After speaking with Blu customer support, they agreed to take the device back, but only after I proved that it was actually defective. I then weighed my options and returned the device to Amazon, who paid for shipping.

Blu customer service indicated that this was the first time they encountered this issue, so it was clearly not a production flaw.

Amazon automatically shipped the replacement unit to me and it worked perfectly. It’s still functioning quite well. Something I forgot to mention is the rapid boot times. It boots in about a quarter the time of a Nexus device.

I haven’t checked out the Dash Music yet. Does it really have dual front speakers or is one a microphone? The standard design paradigm for handsets lately has been to use a perforated covering over both the speaker and the microphone. But if someone actually built a device with two speakers, that would be super cool!

Reply

Andy G

I’m assuming you bought the phone originally at Amazon. Was that fully offered by Amazon, or was it sold by “XYZ company” Fulfilled by Amazon kind of thing. If you were within the return period would Amazon just do the return for you, no questions asked? Wondering the same thing since I might be getting my BLU phone from Amazon as well. The Dash Music looks to have a dual front speaker location (Top and Bottom) similar to HTC One, so we’ll see if it’s really dual or one is a mic. The Dash Music is however only Dual Core, and Dash 4.5 is Quad Core. Dash Music also has no front camera.

Kannon Y

At the time, I believe it was sold by Blu, but fulfilled by Amazon. Now I think Blu has a separate label that it sells phones under on Amazon, I suspect.

Amazon has the best return policy in the business. It’s simple, if the product is defective, they take it back via prepaid mailer or in the original box. You just print out the shipping label. If it’s buyer remorse, I believe we pay return shipping. Which is fair enough. But you would need to verify that particular point with Amazon.

It sounds like the Dash Music is custom built as a phone/music box. It’s an intriguing concept for audiophiles.

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