Blu G90 Pro review: A Surprise Inside!
I'm going to throw some true facts at you. I was skeptical about a gaming phone with a paltry 4gb of ram. Like, you're kidding me right? And the RAM is not the only place where this phone falls short, but it's also a $250 phone, so yeah. It's gonna fall short somewhere. The thing is, aside from one glaring omission which for me is more of a niche case anyway. the BLU G90 Pro is a damn fine phone. Not only that it is a gaming phone, no doubt about it. This is our full review of the Bl G90 Pro.
Starting out with hardware, this is a well-built solid phone that is quite attractive. Uou've got a 6.5" FHD+ LCD Display. The waterdrop notch at the top of the screen accommodates a 32 MP wide angle selfie camera. The phone is powered by a Mediatek Helio G90T processor built on a 12nm process and the aforementioned 4GB of RAM. You've got 128GB of storage with microSD expansion and all of this is powered by a beefy 5,100 mah battery. There's a headphone jack on the bottom because this phone costs less than $500, so of course it has one. There is a single bottom firing speaker that sounds like absolute tinny garbage, and that's the first downside of the phone. Most phone speakers are bad, but this one just gives me shivers. But it is loud and ear piercing. So there's that.
The phone comes in a purple haze colorway and I think Jimi might approve. It's a really physically attractive phone, no doubt. The colorway is interrupted by a quad camera setup and fingerprint sensor, plus some obligatory BLU branding. Overall this is a beefy beautiful phone and there's very little not to like about the hardware, except that one speaker. But that's not it.
This phone does not have NFC. It's 2020. This isn't wireless charging or an IP rating we're talking about. This is NFC. I mean I was just boggled when I tried to pay at a store with Google Pay and it just wouldn't work. I am me, and I use my phone to buy darn near everything, so this was an absolute deal breaker for me. Maybe it won't be for you. NFC payments and bluetooth pairing aren't exactly commonplace yet, nor are they really rare though, so it's hard to imagine why the hardware simply got left out but sure enough it did.
Oddly enough, this phone comes with wireless charging. It surprised me when I basically stumbled across it a week into my review period. I mean I probably knew that it had it, but once I found out there was no NFC, there definitely won't be wireless charging. Holy crap! There's wireless charging. Personally I'd say leave out the wireless charging coils and instead put in NFC, but whatever I guess.
So one night five years from now if you're in a bar and feel like winning some cash, your trivia question is - What flagship phone from the year 2020 excluded NFC but included wireless charging. You'll go home with at least twenty bucks in your pocket. Granted you'll have to be at a really nerdy bar, but it's a good question.
This phone also does not support 5G at all. I don't know if you consider this an oversight, but it doesn't. Considering that 5G still isn't there yet despite what the carriers tell you, that's not a priority for BLU at this time who sells their phone on Amazon, so carriers can go suck a fat one. Being the second phone in a row I reviewed without 5G, that's no big deal at all.
BLU includes a case in the box which is designed for gaming. The case adds several millimeters to the already thick phone, but four air vents help keep the phone cool even during long periods of gaming, which we will talk about in a bit.
Before we get into software, we need to take a few minutes to talk about the display, which is pretty good. It is an LCD panel, and it's only 60 hz, but after each point I make in this review you need to mentally insert "$200 phone". You don't get the deepest blacks, you don't get an always on display or even double tap to wake, which i really miss when i'm on a phone that doesn't have it. But the screen is responsive and vibrant and has really wide viewing angles, so overall I can't complain. The screen tends to be a little on the cooler side, but I gotta be honest with you folks. My eyes suck, so take that for what you will.
On the software side, this is a very close to stock Android 10 that ships with the phone. There are a couple of quirks in here that we will dive into and the first is the Google feed page that sits off to the left. Until I reviewed this phone, I thought that Google News Feed was fairly straightforward. But this phone fumbles on a couple of points here.
The first is the hamburger menu that you get in the bottom right corner of each story in the feed - you can use the three-dot menu to help customize your Google feed by eliminating interests, or publications, etc. But 50% of the time I tried to use the Google feed, that button simply did not work. There was no rhyme nor reason to it. Just tap and nada. That was a bummer if I'm honest. I use that hamburger button frequently while browsing Google feed and great, now i want hamburgers. But seriously 50% of the news stories I report on for the podcast come from that feed, so being unable to customize it not only was a bummer, but it harmed my workflow.
The other weird thing about the software lies in the settings menu, most of which is laid out in a straightforward manner, comparable to the Pixel 4a. But there are a few options, like battery life that are tucked away in odd places. For example, to report on screen on time, you don't go to battery settings, you go to the apps list. It's just weird.
The only other real software tweak is a smart touch button which is a button that floats on top of your screen, like a chat head or message bubble in Android 11. This button is configurable for single press, double press and long press to perform a very limited number of actions like go back to the previous page, go to the home screen, lock the screen, take a screenshot, etx While I can see that being handy for some people, I turned it off because that floating button on top of everything got in the way while I was gaming, and this is a gaming phone, so just no thank you.
So there's one other little software thing that dovetails nicely into our performance segment. For the BLU G90 Pro I continued my use of Android's gestures since I'd gotten used to them on the Pixel 4a. The only real hiccup I noticed was when trying to exit a landscape game like Fortnite or Call of Duty, the phone lagged quite a bit, making it difficult to actually leave the game. Maybe that's why BLU calls it a gaming phone? Who knows?
So let's go ahead and talk about performance, and we'll start with the raw numbers that reflect why I actually don't like benchmarks all that much. This phone's Geekbench scores are 419 single core and 1580 multicore. The single core score is about on pace with a Poco F1 which had a snapdragon 845, and the multi core score is on pace with a Xioami Redmi Note 8 Pro which had a Helio G90T. So, that's not surprising.
The phone performs a little worse than the Pixel 4a in the single core test and a little better than the multicore test. Just for giggles, I also tested the LG V60. It won't surprise you to learn that it's not even close. The V60 ran the race, collected its trophy and was already ordering a drink at the bar by the time the G90 Pro crossed the finish line.
But, raw numbers are not the whole story here. Because I threw Call of Duty Mobile at this phone. I threw Fortnite at this phone. I threw Asphalt 9 at this phone. And in all cases, this phone just giggled and said what else ya got. To be totally honest, loading games is a bit on the slow side compared to the LG V60. But once loaded, these games just fly through, no hiccups or stutters. The only real issue I ran into was the aforementioned swipe up gesture to dismiss the app.
But is that all a gaming phone needs to do? The answer is yes and no. To expand upon that answer, we need to dip back into the software on the phone a little bit.
One thing that was noticeably absent in this gaming phone was a gaming mode. The kind of mode that kicks in automatically and turns off notifications and whatnot while you're in game. Distraction can mean the difference between a 80th place finish in Battle Royale and 1st place. Well that and not being an idiot, which i frequently am, but that's a different conversation. That's a disappointing miss. But then again, in home screen options you can opt to turn on Google's At a glance widget that I got used to on the Pixel 4a, but on the BLU phone that makes no difference whatsoever on my home screen. So, software seems to be a bit of an issues across the board.
But is this a gaming phone? It's liquid cooled and while I played, I never felt the phone get hot, which is a very good thing. The thick rubber case that comes with the phone has four vents built into it to help keep the phone cool as I mentioned before. I appreciate details like that. Also missing are accessories that enhance the gaming experience, or touch areas on the shoulders for triggers. It's easy to call this a gaming phone, but it would be more accurate to call it a phone you can game with.
What I can say is this phone is a good flagship phone in terms of performance. But a gaming phone? Perhaps, I wouldn't go that far. And that's ok, because this phone is $250, so just stop complaining, Adam. I get that. Is this the best gaming phone you'll find at this price point. Most assuredly.
And BLU backs that up with a 5,100 mah battery which makes this not only a good gaming phone, but it makes it a two-day phone. During my review period of about 2 weeks, I consistently got around 6 hours of screen on time, with much of that going to gaming. A typical day saw me play around three and half hours of Call of Duty mobile, around an hour of Clash Royale, and a smattering of other games. I mean that's just a beast, and since I started reviewing phones, that's easily the best battery life I've seen thus far. But it's also the largest battery I've reviewed thus far as well.
Moving on to the camera...well, let's just say they had to cut corners somewhere, and NFC was not the only casualty. Normally, I would say something here like the camera setup here is "social media good," but it's not even really that. Under perfect circumstances - good light, absolutely no moving subjects, you can get good shots. But if there's anything going on in that photo, it's not going to be pretty. The 48 megapixel sensor main camera is a good sensor, so maybe it's BLU's AI, or something, but even during the day - which is literally the best circumstances where you can take photos - a good photo almost seems like an accident.
Now, when those photos are good, they're pretty good. Color representation is very reliable. There's no oversaturation on reds or greens and browns have a good tone. It's like letting a professional artist paint a beautiful portrait while that artist is trying to fend off a four year old at the same time. The idea is there, and the building blocks are good, but the result is not good at all.
At night, lights are basically just splotches of white. There's no real detail anywhere. Focus is tricky and photos are just generally bad, I'm sorry to say. As for the selfie camera, same story, but a different ending. The main problem with the selfie camera is the focus. It's really soft, which again probably looks ok on a phone screen, but once you put it onto a computer it's kinda gross.
That being said, there are a couple of factors to consider here. First of all, this review comes at the tail end of me revamping my camera evaluation technique. Going forward, I hope to have much more informed opinions on similar photos taken by various cameras under the same circumstances. So this phone didn't make the cut, because frankly it's a $250 gaming phone and I wasn't expecting any miracles.
Second, and please do keep this in mind, my last phone review was the freakin' Pixel 4a, so I'm probably a little biased. Actually scratch that I'm definitely a little biased. Actually scratch that i'm definitely a lot biased.
Of course, there is one more thing to talk about when it comes to BLU, and I'm sorry for this but it needs to be said. A few years ago, BLU phones were found to contain back doors that sent data back to China. BLU denied any wrongdoing and very quickly patched existing phones to get rid of the spyware. But that did harm Blu's reputation at the time.
That being said, it's been three years, and I just loaded all my information on here for the past few weeks and didn't give it a moment's thought. But it's worth mentioning just in case you were worried that yeah, this may not be the most secure phone you've ever used. I have no reason to think it isn't, but as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
And now, before we wrap things up, here's our YouReview segment.
Herb asks "I don't game, is screen quality good enough for media consumption?"
Fair question. I didn't really spend much time on this review talking about non gamers, but that's because BLU positions this as a gaming phone. It's fair to say that any screen designed for games is also going to do a great job with media consumption. This is a 6.5 inch screen which is good. It's also only FHD+ which might not be so good. The screen has a notch, which is not awesome, but it is in the center and the more I think about it, the more I agree with one of the Android Central crew who tweeted the other day that a punch hole should only ever be in the middle of the screen. When it's off to the side it just looks weird. It's also an LCD screen, so you're going to miss out on those super deep blacks, and dark mode won't help your battery life at all. But all that being said, I watched quite a few Netflix and other streaming shows on here, in addition to cinematic clips from various games and I was not disappointed at all.
Darren asks "Is the Blue G 90 Pro a good phone for a everyday consumer that doesn't use their phone much?"
Put simply, yes. I think in that case, it's probably going to be great for you. Especially if you don't use your phone much. On low usage, I would not be shocked to see this phone go an easy two days if not more. THat being said, this phone is heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 ultra, so it's not a light boy. If you're only using your phone sporadically, maybe also consider a Pixel 4a which is smaller, lighter and is as much of a battery champ. Plus Android is becoming more and more about anticipating your needs so you can use your phone less, so a pixel might be a good route for you. But it's also at least $100 more, so there's also that.
So let's wrap this all up. What are you getting for your $250 phone? You're getting a lot. You're getting gaming performance, and a gaming experience for just a couple of benjamins. You're getting a very capable phone that will get you through a day and a half or maybe even two days of light usage. And you're getting a phone that's cheap enough that you can buy a Pixel 4a along with it and still not pay as much as a OnePlus 8T. If the Pixel 4a and this phone had a baby and sold it for $450, that would be an amazing deal.
And at $250, if you just want a portable Fortnite box that you can throw around and it looks good besides, there are worse ways to spend your money. Just please don't ever ever take a photo with it - or at least not a photo that you want to show to anyone, ever. But again, $250 people. Now, if you were to ask me if i would buy this phone, personally, probably not because for $100 more i can get a Pixel 4a, which is still my favorite phone of the year.
But for right here and right now, this phone absolutely delivered on what it promises, which is actually kinda rare in a phone these days. BLU promised a great gaming phone, and this is exactly that. But it's absolutely nothing else.