I had a hands-on with a pre-production unit of the Blaze+ a couple of months ago. A production unit is now in my hands and here is my take on the device.
– Dimensions: 127×66×12mm
– Weight: 150g
– 1 Ghz Processor
– 4.3 inch multi-touch screen, with 960×540 pixel resolution
– Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich
– Dual SIM card, GSM & WCDMA network
– 8MP camera, with LED flashlight
– Support dual SIM cards at same time
– Support for 3G WCDMA (HSPA) network up to 42MBPS
– Dual SIM dual standby, WCDMAGSM+GSM
– HDMI port
– 4GB internal memory
– 512MB RAM
– 2000mAh Li-on battery
The Blaze+ is a sturdy device. It looks good and feels good in the hand too. It seems to be well put-together and gives the impression that it will last with use.
At 12mm, it isn’t exactly thin, but it is certainly not a brick or uncomfortable. There’s an 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED lights at the back, power button and 3.5mm slot at the top, HDMI and micro-USB ports on the left, volume and hardware camera buttons (yay!) on the right, and nothing at the bottom except for the slot that lets you open up the back.
And, it opens up in a rather unconventional way. When opening, the display/front part pulls out from inside the back casing. Did i describe that well? See the picture below. It should speak a thousand words 🙂
While different, it feels very robust.
Software: Pure ICS experience
The Blaze+ runs on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), so it is bang up to date. Only a very few number of Android smartphones have anything more recent – version 4.0.4 or even 4.1 (Jelly Bean) outright.
This baby is the pure Android ICS experience. I have reviewed a handful of Android ICS smartphones, but this is the first pure ICS experience. No TouchWiz, Sense or other custom interface on it.
So, what is my opinion of ICS? Well, its better than GingerBread. But I still find it ugly. Subjective, yes. But that’s my opinion of it. I know there are people who will swear and die insisting that it is beautiful. Let’s hope that Jelly Bean is even more beautiful in my eyes. I miss the Sense customisation on the HTC One X that hides all the ugly Androidness.
4.3 ” Display is good
The Blaze+ has a 4.3 inch multi-touch screen, with 960×540 pixel resolution. It is a very good display and responds to touch really well.
Images are displayed clear and crisp. Sunlight legibility is not so good, but passable if you pump up the brightness.
The dual SIM, dual standby functionality of the Blaze+ is top notch. Both SIMS are active at all times and you can select a default SIM to use for voice calls, text messages, video calls and mobile internet. However, when initiating a call or sending SMS, you can swipe down the notification bar from the top of the display to select the SIM of your choice.
For mobile internet usage, the option to attach 3G service to either of the SIMs is there. Both cannot use 3G at the same time, though both are data-enabled.
Web, Gmail and Email
These are standard Android fare as well. The web browser interface is different now, courtesy of ICS. There is a tab button to the right of the address bar. Everything else is hidden away. One nice feature is the “Save for offline reading.” True to Android, you can share the URL of the page you are viewing, as well as modify various settings to suit your requirements.
There is a “Labs” feature that provides the option to use quick controls or hide the status bar. The screenshot above shows how the “Quick Controls” appear when you slide your finger from the left or right edge of the display.
Web browsing is snappy and smooth on ICS.
The Gmail experience on the Blaze+ is standard Android ICS too and very nice, with lots of rich functionality, as well as a better looking interface. The standard Email app is there too.
Everything here is stock Android too. The music player is nice and has all standard controls. Audio quality of music playback is nothing to get excited about. Volume isn’t great either. There is a menu setting for sound effects. It lets you use an equalizer to modify bass boost, 3D effect and others.
There is video codec support for MKV files, alongside MP4 and 3GP. That is superb. Watching video on that display is really nice too. As far as video is concerend, the Blaze+ is a winner.
The Blaze+ tots an 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash. However, real-life performance does not quite measure up to what is obtainable from other 8 megapixel cameras that I have reviewed. Focusing is a bit slow (reminds me of the waiting on the Samsung Galaxy S II).
In close-up shots, especially where the flash comes into play, colour reproduction is poor and pictures tend to look faded or washed compared to those taken with other shooters. Take a look at the following close-up pictures for an idea. The upper one if from the blaze+ and the lower is from Blackberry 9320:
While the 9320 is a lowly 3.2 megapixel camera, it does a better job of colour reproduction. Is it a case of the dual LED flash on the Blaze+ being too bright? Not sure.
No; the camera is not terrible, but its no top snapper either.
The Blaze+ runs smoothly for the most part even on its 1 GHz processor. Where I had issues with serious lag is in the Contacts application. I load the app, hit the search icon and type out a name – and the app displays that spinning circle with the message “Loading.” At times, that lasts ten seconds. At other times, it goes on frustratingly for much longer, and I wanted to make a quick phone call or send a quick SMS.
I don’t know what is responsible for that, because I do not experience that kind of lag even in loading images in Gallery, where serious muscle is needed because of the size of pictures.
Besides that, performance is quite good.
Battery life is good. The 2000 mAh battery gets through a day of moderate use.
In addition to its unique dual SIM, dual Standby offering, the Blaze+ offers you all the standard Android ICS capabilities, including access to the deluge of apps that are available in the Google Play Store. There’s also FM Radio and Torchlight functionality, and an app that lets you pair the device up with a wireless keyboard.
It is a bit weak in the camera department but holds its own in almost every other area.
The Blaze+ is a very good offering from Pliris Mobile. At N50,000 only, it is amazing value for money.
Class: Middle class smartphone. Score: 8.5/10