Nuu X4 review: Low-end, even by low-end standards
After all, we're talking about a market in which devices from two companies—Samsung and Apple—make up the bulk of all smartphones sold, with companies like LG and HTC fighting for whatever's left. So, if you're a newcomer like Nuu, you have to stand out.
At first glance, the Nuu X4 is nothing special. It looks like any other budget Android phone and it isn't especially powerful. Its feature set doesn’t offer anything particularly innovative, either, but at this price ($170 on Amazon), the X4 is one of the more affordable Android devices you'll find. Should that rock-bottom price sway you, though If decent performance and battery life matter much to you, the answer is a solid no.
I typically don’t expect much in terms of build quality when it comes to low-end devices. And while the X4’s build quality and design isn’t spectacular, it gets the job done. The X4, which measures 5.6 inches tall, 2.8 inches wide, and .31 inches thick, is a little bulky by current standards, but its tapered edges make the phone appear more streamlined than it is. This design detail also makes the X4 feel better in the hand than other phones in its price range.
The X4’s display is also protected by the customary slab of glass, while the rest of its outer shell is plastic. The plastic back is a little slick, and it flexes a bit as you apply pressure to it, especially toward the top of the phone. However, the back cover is removable, allowing access to the battery—a feature that’s been gradually disappearing from other Android phones over the years.
Aside from the back cover, the X4 as a whole feels reasonably solid, without any significant flexing or creaking. There’s a single speaker on the bottom edge, too. It works, but it sounds like the speaker on an alarm clock radio.
The X4’s 5-inch, 1280 x 720 display draws your eye as soon as you turn on the phone. It’s bright, and with a pixel density of 294 pixels-per-inch (ppi), it’s reasonably sharp. Colors appear rich and accurate, with no noticeably faded colors, and its IPS LCD panel allows for good contrast levels and a wide viewing angle.
Nuu’s designers placed a black border around the screen itself, which makes the screen look larger when it’s off, but wake the phone and the black border makes itself known. As a result, using the X4 feels a little like using an old-school CRT monitor, and it looks, for lack of a better word, chintzy. Nuu isn’t fooling anyone here.
Flip over the phone, and you’ll find a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. The camera app includes all the customary features, like HDR and panorama modes, but the camera itself is of middling quality.
Photos lack the detail of those taken with the OnePlus X, but they’re less grainy than those taken by the Moto G. Colors appeared washed-out and muted and there was often a delay after pressing the shutter button. There's also no option to use the volume rocker as a shutter button.
The Camera app includes all the basic features you’d expect, including a panorama mode and a selection of filters. Overall, the X4’s camera will do the job just fine if you’re looking to share photos of your cat on Facebook, but don’t expect super-crisp shots.
You don’t typically expect a low-end smartphone to blow you away with its performance, and the X4 lives up to that decidedly low expectation. Benchmark scores lagged behind many of the smartphones we’ve tested over the past year, but more troubling is the fact that the X4 failed to complete some of the benchmark tests we ran.
Unlike the bulk of smartphones out there, which typically feature processors from Qualcomm, the X4 is built around a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek processor. You’ll also find 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. The storage and memory specs are on the low end as far as current smartphones go, but the X4 includes a microSD slot, which enables you to add up to 32GB of removable storage.
In the PCMark Work Performance test—a benchmark that tests how well a phone can handle common productivity tasks—the X4 achieved a score of 3519, which puts it behind the similarly-priced Moto G and OnePlus X.
Geekbench single- and multi-core tests were equally lackluster, and were among the lowest we’ve seen among recent smartphones we’ve tested. As for graphics benchmarks, the X4 failed to complete both the 3DMark and GFXBench Manhattan tests—the latter of which resulted in an “out of memory” error, suggesting that this phone simply doesn’t have enough on-board video memory to complete certain tasks.
Despite its low scores, you might not notice any issues if you don’t push your phone too hard: YouTube videos streamed smoothly, and the phone seemed generally responsive as I used it.
The X4 comes with a standard 2250mAH battery and, like other budget smartphones we’ve tested, it devours battery power rather quickly. It managed to eke out about 5 hours and 27 minutes in the Geekbench battery test, and about 4 hours and 14 minutes in the PCMark battery test.
In casual use, the battery seemed to drain just as quickly as the benchmarks suggested: At one point I managed to drain the battery by a full 12 percent with about 30 minutes of light, intermittent use. A quick game of Threes! Free drained the battery nearly 10 percent in 10 minutes.
You shouldn’t expect incredible battery life from an entry-level smartphone, but it isn’t unreasonable to demand a phone that will get you through your day without recharging. Fortunately, you have the choice of purchasing a second battery pack.
The X4 ships with about as close to stock Android as you can expect to find on a non-Nexus device. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, but Nuu kept it as close to stock as possible. Still, it's worth noting that you won't be running the latest version of Android if you buy this phone.
There’s also a bundled file manager that lets you browse files stored on your phone, and an FM Radio app, which you’ll need to plug in a pair of headphones to use because it uses the headphone cable as an antenna.
Ultimately, Nuu’s entry-level phone is just that—another entry-level phone. It doesn't impress on performance, though its display is about what we’ve come to expect on modern budget smartphones. But even if you can comfortably watch movies on the train home, the battery life might peter out on your halfway through your show. And Nuu’s decision to use an older version of Android won’t do its users any favors.
Still, that price tag is an inviting number, and if you’re a light smartphone user, the Nuu X4 might offer just enough to satisfy your needs. Maybe. But considering you can find more powerful Android phones for less coin and more frequent software updates, you shouldn’t have to settle for less.