The Chinese smartphone market is flooded with manufacturers and the competition is really strong. While we can call the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo “first class” Chinese smartphone manufacturers, the likes of Bluboo falls in the “second class” category. Bluboo tried to do something spectacular with the Bluboo S3 as it combines a massive 6-inch display (almost 91% screen-to-body ratio) with a monstrous 8,500 mAh battery. After the initial announcement of this device at MWC 2018, this smartphone hit the market on April 18 and I have now received a Maple Gold unit for review.
Bluboo S3 – Succinct Specs
|Processor||MediaTek MTK6750T Octa-core processor clocking 1.5GHz|
|Display||6-inch 1080 x 2160P 18:9 FHD+ Display|
|Operating System||Android 7.0 Nougat (Android 8.0 On its way)|
|Cameras||21MP/5MP Rear Cameras, 13MP Front|
|Battery||8,500mAh 12V/2A fast charge|
|Physical Dimensions||157.8 x 75.5 x 1.1 mm, 282g|
Bluboo S3 – What’s In The Box
The box of the Bluboo S3 is quite rich and it has multiple interface options such that you wouldn’t need to buy a connecting medium. The box itself looks quite matured and the unit I received has a black box with “Bluboo 8500 mAh” written in the top left corner which is advertising the huge battery of this smartphone. “S3” is stylishly written at the bottom of the front surface of the box. In the box, we can find the following
- 1 x Bluboo S3 smartphone unit
- 1 x Power Adapter
- 1 x USB Cable
- 1 x USB 3.0 Type-C to USB 3.0 Type-A connector
- 1 x USB 3.0 Type-C to Headphone port cable
- 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A to USB 3.0 Type-C/Micro USB 5 Pin/Apple Lighting connector
- 1 x Screen protector
- 1 x phone pouch
- 1x Sim Tray ejector pin
- A user manual in multiple languages
Bluboo S3 – Design & Appearance
At first glance, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the design of the Bluboo S3. However, a closer look gives a different idea. The rear has a skid proof texture design which gives some sort of friction between the palm and the device thus preventing easy falls. The rear is molded from a golden plastic material which flexes when a small force is applied, however, I can only hope that this beautiful Maple Gold colour doesn’t wear off easily. Its rear is curved on all four edges for a better grip and handheld feel though the sides have more curvature than the top/bottom. The sides are molded from a zinc alloy using the time-consuming CNC laser process.
When you pick up this smartphone, you can’t help but notice its massive 282g weight which is not surprising given its huge battery. The fingerprint sensor is lodged in the back just beneath the vertically aligned dual rear cameras and the LED flash lies astride them to the left. The fingerprint sensor is quite good, it is well positioned and it unlocks the phone even while in sleep mode. There were a few times where I needed two scans for the fingerprint sensor to respond but overall, it responds at first touch. We have the SIM tray on the right side and the power/volume button to the left. Thus there is nothing out of the ordinary here. The only port on this phone is a USB-Type-C port which doubles for charging and for headphone. Generally, the design of the Bluboo S3 is good especially the rear design which compliments its weight.
This smartphone supports two nano-SIMs and an SD card. However, it should be noted that the two SIMs and SD card cannot be used simultaneously. You have two options, either you use two SIMs with no SD card or you use one SIM and the SD card. Be careful with the SIM tray as you pull it out, it is quite fragile and I almost destroyed it.
Bluboo S3 Hardware & Performance
The Bluboo S3 is powered by a MediaTek MTK6750T processor which certainly has its shortcomings. One thing I noticed is that within a short time of usage, the zinc alloy sides of the Bluboo S3 becomes so hot (definitely above 40 degrees) and the company did not include an option to cool down the phone when overheating but thanks to the heat absorbing pouch, this shortfall can be curtailed. This phone comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage which can be expanded up to 256GB. The RAM makes multitasking great and it is just sufficient because there is barely anyone that needs more than 4GB in a smartphone. Enough storage means that you are safe from downloading fears.
The graphics are handled by an ARM Mali T860 GPU @650MHz which falls short of requirements for graphically demanding games. I tried it with City Racing and Asphalt 8. It could barely display the proper colours of sections of the game and it was a bit slower than usual. For its current $150 price tag which could rise to $200, this will be a gamble for gamers.
The operating system of Bluboo S3 looks just like stock Android but the company has added a few tweaks which allow you to update the app icons, themes, and wallpapers. This smartphone currently runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box but the Android Oreo update is coming. Well, the Face ID will be supported when the device is updated to Android Oreo. Since the Oreo update is not currently available in my region, I have to exercise some patience.
Generally, the operability of this device is seamless but I noticed some bugs in the Bluetooth where it would turn on automatically and attempt to connect with my Xiaomi Mi AI speaker. However, when the speaker is turned off, the Bluetooth seems to behave better. Unfortunately, I NEVER turn off my speaker so it was quite annoying. In addition, when the phone is put on flight mode and returned back to normal, the Bluetooth automatically turns on. These bugs can be easily fixed with an OTA so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Bluboo S3 is not left out in the current 18:9 aspect ratio trend which recently penetrated the smartphone manufacturing industry. You wouldn’t need more than 70% brightness even in outdoor environments which is great. However, the colours are not very saturated and it seems a bit whitish. Nevertheless, this smartphone is equipped with MiraVision which significantly enhanced the image quality. Touch sensitivity and viewing angle are perfect. Generally, it was absolutely fun to fiddle this smartphone. This 6-inch phone with 2160 x 1080 display resolution comes with a screen guard on the display and in the box, you also find an extra screen guard.
Bluboo S3 sound quality is not the best in the smartphone industry but it is fair enough for the price. Its got a lot of treble with little or no bass. Its speaker volume needed about 70% for effective hearing. However, calls via headphone are far better and online audio/video calls ran smoothly since it supports VoLTE. Overall, the sound quality is acceptable.
The Bluboo S3 comes with Samsung made camera sensors. On the rear, we have a 21MP+5MP dual cameras while in front, we have a 13MP shooter. I took the joy of taking some images with these cameras to assess their performance.
Dual Rear Cameras
The 21MP+5MP dual cameras actually did not disappoint in a bright light environment. However, the same can not be said for low-light situations. Its images during the day are quite good and you can see the colour saturation in most of the green photos. There is no noise and the image details are well captured. The background blur feature works quite well and the PIP mode (lets you capture an object and your face simultaneously) is also another interesting feature.
During the night, the situation changes. The images are just average and you can see a significant amount of noise in the background. Interestingly, the rear camera captures moving objects (cars, animals, etc) with high precision which is quite cool but it is not equipped with anti-shake so you can’t be jittering while you take photos.
The selfie shooter did not fall short of my expectation of a 13MP camera. Its images have good details and colour saturation during the day but at night, the situation is similar to what I observed in the rear camera. When indoors (daytime), a bit of noise comes into the image but generally, it is impressive.
Overall, I can not say that the camera department of Bluboo S3 is excellent but I can confidently say that it is well above average.
Poor CPU Affects Camera
This sub-section became very necessary because of what I observed as I went on a photo taking spree. I never put off my data connection, I’m always on my phone so you can call me a heavy user. The Bluboo S3 was pretty worked up when I started taking my last set of images. It was freaking hot (many thanks to its highly insulative pouch and plastic rear, I didn’t notice the rising temperature) and I got this error message
“Device is too hot. Camera will exit in 30 seconds. Please try again later.”
At this point, I still kept shooting photos but the camera collapsed after 30 seconds as warned. Being a stubborn phone user, I was curious so I kept bringing up the camera each time it went down. After a while, it couldn’t shoot decent images anymore and I had to wait for about 20/30 minutes before it came back to normal. This is caused by the uncontrolled heating of the processor. In addition, I couldn’t delete images from the camera when the error message popped up. I had to wait till the phone cooled to perform the function.
Battery – Save The Best For Last
For the Bluboo S3 Review, I saved the best for last. This is the ONLY section of this smartphone I can score 100%+ without hesitation. The Bluboo S3 has a monstrous 8500 mAh battery with ultra-fast 12V/2A charging and 1A output reverse charging function. It gets to full charge in about 2.5 hours. I carried out a couple of tests on this battery and the results were EXCELLENT. On moderate usage, it can last for 6 days while on standby mode, you get 42 days.
I charged the Bluboo S3 to 100% and set the brightness and volume at 70%, my data connection was on and I connected the volume output to a Bluetooth speaker. After one hour of watching an FHD+ video at 2160 x 1080 resolution, I had 99%. After another 30 minutes, I had 96% and after another 30 minutes, I had 93%. This means that only 7% power was lost in 2hours of video time. With this performance, the Bluboo S3 will conveniently give you 18 hours video time.
This consumes more power than any other aspect of this phone. The phone was set as described in the video test. The hotspot and data were put on. After one hour of usage, I had 93% power remaining. With this, the Bluboo S3 will deliver 14 hours of constant hotspot/internet browsing time. However, if you just put on the hotspot but you are not fiddling the phone, the battery lasts much more (over 20 hours)
I set the Bluboo S3 as described in the video test with an active data connection and played City Racing. After one hour of gaming, I lost only 1%. After another one hour, I lost 2%. Doing the math, this smartphone delivers nothing less than 50 hours gaming time (may vary with the game demands). But gamers may not appreciate this power capability because the gaming graphics loses colour in some sections as stated earlier and the phone gets quite hot too (you will definitely need the pouch to prevent the heat).
Using the USB 3.0 Type-C to USB 3.0 Type-A connector, I was able to charge my No. 1 D7 Pro W smartwatch phone to 100% with the Bluboo S3 within 4hours. It also charged my feature phone but when I tried it with my Mi Note 2, it didn’t add any percentage to the battery but the Mi Note 2 didn’t lose power.
- Excellent battery
- Good Design
- Fair display and sound quality
- Acceptable Camera
- Wonderful Accessories in the box
- Poor processor and GPU
- A few bugs which need an update
- Quite heavy
For my final verdict, I will start with the negative. Bluboo selected a woeful choice of processor and accompanying GPU for the S3. The CPU heats to high levels (so it’s probably not for gamers) and the company made another mistake by using zinc alloy for the sides. The glass screen and the plastic rear experience little or no heat but the zinc alloy sides get hot. Zinc is a perfect heat conductor so if the CPU loves to bake, a plastic side would have been excellent. Now, without the pouch, you might have a little difficulty in holding the sides of this phone when it heats up.
If you don’t mind its 282-gram weight, then you have a wonderful battery right in your hands. Personally, I think this phone is PERFECT for movie lovers. You’ve got the storage space and you got the power. Display, camera, and sound are above average so I will give it a pass. The numerous accessories in the box are added icing on the cake. If this smartphone meets your daily needs, use any of the links below to make a purchase
- Design & Appearance
- Software & Performance