The Blaze -- also known as the Ideos X3 -- is Chinese manufacturer Huawei's most concerted effort yet to break into the rapidly expanding budget smart phone arena. It offersand a capacitive touchscreen at a competitive price, but is held back by a weak processor.
The Huawei Blaze is available from Phones4U and Tesco Mobile for around £100 on a pay as you go contract.
Should I buy the Huawei Blaze?
Bearing in mind our feelings about the Ideos, you might imagine we’d give the Blaze an unreserved recommendation; yet that’s not quite the case. The Blaze is undoubtedly a fantastic budget phone, cramming Android 2.3 and a capacitive 3.2-inch touchscreen into a seriously appealing case design -- but there are caveats.
Firstly, the processor just isn’t powerful enough in this day and age. The Blaze may not be the only cheap Android device out there with a weak CPU, but with 2012 looming on the horizon, we’d like to see 1GHz processors becoming the norm in this kind of handset.
The Blaze’s 3.2 megapixel camera is also something of a letdown, as it lacks an LED flash and is rubbish at close-up shots due to the lack of autofocus. As frustrating as these issues are, the fact remains that for around £100, the Blaze represents astonishing value for money.
The competition in this sector has really intensified over the course of 2011 and shows no sign of letting up. While the Blaze makes a slightly less striking impression than the Ideos did, it’s still worthy of investigation if you’re having to watch those pennies.
The Huawei Blaze is one of an increasing number of budget Android phones running version 2.3 of Google’s popular OS -- otherwise known as Gingerbread.
Offering Android 2.3 for £100 is impressive in itself, but what is even more encouraging is that the Blaze is equipped with an updated iteration of the OS which supports face-to-face video chat via the phone’s front-facing camera.
Huawei has cooked up its own ‘skin’ which sits on top of Google’s Android software. Taking a pinch of inspiration from Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, the Blaze has a vertically-scrolling app drawer, bold and colourful icons and a unique Huawei Social Club widget, which aggregates updates from popular social networks.
Another neat embellishment is the shortcut dock at the bottom of the screen. It comes with shortcuts to text messaging, telephone calls and Internet by default, but you can customise it to your own personal taste. To the left of the dock is the link to your app drawer, while on the right is an exposé button which zooms out to show all five of your home screens, allowing you to jump quickly between them.
The Blaze's 3.2-inch touchscreen has an overall pixel resolution of 480x320, which sounds underwhelming but isn't all that noticeable due to the small size of the display. It has a pixel density of 180 pixels per inch, which is not a patch on the 267ppi offered by the similarly priced
The good news is that the TFT-LCD tech provides a bright, colourful picture, although it only supports 262,000 colours, rather than the 16 million we've come to expect from top Android phones.
Not so long ago, budget touchscreen phones would invariably be lumbered with unresponsive resistive displays which relied on pressure to register user input. Thankfully, times have changed. The Blaze boasts a more responsive capacitive screen, meaning that even slight touches are picked up.
Because the screen is capacitive, multi-touch 'pinch-to-zoom' gestures -- which allow you to use two fingers to zoom in and out of Web pages, images and maps -- are supported. We did, however, experience a noticeable degree of latency on some inputs, and the Blaze's screen sometimes took a couple of pokes before it acknowledged we were actually tapping it.
Considering the Blaze's humble price point, we were really surprised at how well made the phone is. The front of the device is all glossy surfacing and rounded edges, while the back is a single piece of rubberised plastic.
This ensures the phone has plenty of grip when it's in your hand. We also like the fact that the battery cover extends around the front of the phone ever so slightly, covering the entire bottom edge of the device.
Physical inputs on the Blaze are thin on the ground. Aside from the power button and volume rocker, the only other key on the phone is the 'home' button. Instead of being in line with the rest of the Android commands, this sits below them.