Blu Speed review: Blu Speed

The Speed has decent text and multimedia messaging features. You have the option of several input methods--some of them automatically complete the word for you, while some rely on you to spell correctly all the time. There's also a set of template messages for when you just want to send off a quick reply like "Call me now" or "I am busy." We're also happy to see that the Speed lets you have several e-mail accounts, which is again not something you normally find on lower-end feature phones. Simply enter in your own server and log-in information, and you're good to go.

While we hesitate to call the Speed a music phone, it does have a surprisingly full-featured MP3 player. The player interface is predictably basic, with an album art display in the center and the controls along the bottom. Settings include the usual playlist creation, repeat, shuffle, and the ability to set the player to the background while you navigate in other areas of the phone. You can also swap out different music player skins, and if the music file supports it, you can turn on lyrics display too. We're impressed that the player allows you to set different audio effects, from 3D surround to reverb. You can also turn on bass enhancement and fiddle with the play speed.

The Blu Speed has a 2-megapixel camera on the back.

The 2-megapixel camera on the Speed can take pictures in four different sizes and three different image quality settings. Other settings include white balance, color effects, capture mode, a self-timer, and three different shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was decent for a 2-megapixel camera. Images did look a touch blurry and colors could have been brighter, but the overall image still came out OK.

The Blu Speed does take somewhat dull photos, but the overall image is acceptable for a 2-megapixel camera.

You can also choose to take photos with the front-facing VGA camera, but the quality diminishes significantly. There's also a video recorder on board if you wish to record short and simple video clips. The settings are similar to the still camera. You can set different record limits as well. For when you want to watch videos, the Speed has a video player that supports the MP4 video format.

Last but not least, the Speed has a few oddball features that we don't always find on feature phones. It has an FM radio, and, interestingly, an e-book reader. The reader supports the un-DRMed EPUB format that you can get from a few e-book providers online. As for games, the Speed comes with Vitter, Motalk, and Bubble. You can try to load a few more games on here, but you'll have to look around for them on your own without the assistance of a mobile storefront if you live in the U.S. Most any Java game should work.

We tested the quad-band Blu Speed (850/900/1800/1900MHz) in San Francisco using both T-Mobile and AT&T's networks. It also has 3G UMTS bands (850/2100MHz) but only for the SIM 1 card slot. Because of that, the AT&T SIM card should be slotted in SIM 1. For incoming call quality, we couldn't tell the difference between the two networks. Callers sounded a tiny bit fuzzy, but calls came through clearly on the whole. Voice quality was also quite good.

On the other end, callers reported that the call from the AT&T SIM was a tiny bit sharper, but not by much. Calls from both numbers had a slightly muddy quality to them, and background hiss could not be avoided. Yet, they could still hear us despite these flaws, and we could carry on a conversation without much pause.

We tested the 3G speeds on AT&T. Connectivity was rather poor in certain areas of the city, but we did manage to load a couple of Web pages before 3G coverage dissipated. We loaded the CNET mobile page in around 30 seconds, and the mobile ESPN page in around 24 seconds. Speeds seem comparable with other AT&T 3G phones we've tested.

The Blu Speed has a rated battery life of 8 hours of talk time and 33.3 days of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 7 hours and 18 minutes.

The Blu Speed is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. Despite its humdrum looks and cheap construction, it actually has plenty of surprising features for a relatively affordable unlocked phone. It has a dual SIM card slot if you want to maintain two different numbers, and it offers smartphone-like features like e-mail with POP3 and IMAP4 support, Wi-Fi, the Opera Mini browser, music and video players, a front-facing camera for video calls, an FM radio, and of all things, an e-book reader. It doesn't really perform all of those tasks very well, but the fact that you can do them at all on a cheap messaging phone is pretty amazing. The Blu Speed is currently a steal at around $150 if you buy it online, and that's without a contract.

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