Unlocked phones are all the rage lately, thanks to aggressive pricing and tempting no-contract plans. Nuu's X1 is an LTE smartphone that costs $200 unlocked and features a 5-inch display, stock Android (albeit the older KitKat) and NFC support. But that's where the fun stops and the "meh" begins. With an unexciting design, short battery life and underwhelming performance, the X1 isn't a good deal.
At first glance, you might mistake the Nuu X1 for the handsome HTC One, but you'll know the X1 is a phone of a different breed when you touch it. While it has the same curved top and bottom edges around a black, rectangular panel as you'll find on the One, the Nuu's white-plastic body makes it look and feel bland.
On its white-plastic back sits a 13-megapixel camera and an LED flash at the top, with the Nuu logo stamped on the bottom. A groove on the bottom left lets you pop open the back cover to access the micro SIM, SIM and microSD card slots, as well as the removable battery.
The top edge of the phone houses its micro USB port and headphone jack, while a volume rocker and power button sit on the left and right sides, respectively.
At 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.38 inches, the X1 has a sleek profile but is bigger than the 2015 Motorola Moto E (5.1 x 2.6 x 0.49 inches), which packs a smaller, 4.5-inch display. The X1 is smaller than the 5.5-inch OnePlus One (6.0 x 2.9 x 0.35 inches).
The 5.15-ounce Nuu is also lighter than the One (5.7 ounces) and just a feather heavier than the Moto E (both 5.1 ounces).
Dual SIM Support
Under the rear cover sit two SIM slots — one for micro SIM and one for regular SIM. The cards support LTE and 2G separately, so you'll need both cards for calls, text and data. The slots are numbered; SIM 1 (micro SIM) is for LTE, and SIM 2 (regular SIM) is for 2G.
The Nuu X1's display didn't fare as well as its competitors on various screen benchmarks, but I still enjoyed watching a 1080p trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service on the X1's 5-inch, 720p touch screen. Colin Firth's lux red robe and Eggsy's gold, patterned jacket looked bright and colorful, while details such as pinstripes on Firth's suit and Samuel L. Jackson's eyebrows were clear. Viewing angles were generous, with colors staying true as I tilted the screen away from me.
Registering 314 nits on our brightness meter, the X1 is dimmer than the average smartphone (371 nits), the 4.5-inch Moto E (341 nits) and the 5.5-inch OnePlus One (432 nits). The latter two have sharper 1920 x 1080p displays, while the Moto E has a lower-res 960 x 540p panel.
The X1 also fell short in color reproduction. Displaying 88.2 percent of the sRGB gamut, the X1 lost to the average smartphone (116.5 percent), the OnePlus One (92.7 percent) and the 2nd-gen Moto E (101.3 percent). Closer to 100 percent is better, if not beyond.
Although the volume was on the quiet side, I was impressed with the X1's speakers, which delivered crisp sound. Taylor Swift's voice rang out clearly against the background instruments when I played "Style", while Ellie Goulding's haunting voice was distinct in "Love Me Like You Do."
Measuring 78 dB on Laptop Mag's audio test, the X1 is softer than the average smartphone (80.9 dB), the Moto E (second gen) and the OnePlus One (both 86 dB).
Powered by a 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM, the X1 delivered mostly smooth performance. I played a few rounds of Spider-Man Unlimited without significant lag, while apps such as Gallery and Play Store, and a video in Chrome ran in the background. While going back and forth between apps and the home screen felt zippy, the camera was often slow to start and snap a shot.
The X1 took a whopping 35 seconds to load the taxing first-person shooter N.O.V.A. 3. That's more than twice the time it took the OnePlus One (15 seconds) and the average smartphone (15.5 seconds), and much longer than the 2015 Moto E (19 seconds). The One has a 2.5-GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU and 3GB of RAM, while the Moto E (second gen) sports a 1.2-GHz Snapdragon 410 CPU with 1GB of RAM.
In synthetic tests, the X1 did not measure up to the competition. Its Geekbench 3 score of 1,108 was well below the smartphone category average (2,070), the 2015 Moto E (1,282) and the OnePlus One (2,504).
On Laptop Mag's video-editing test, the X1 took 12 minutes and 39 seconds to transcode a 204MB video from 1080p to 480p. That's much slower than the average smartphone (7:25), the OnePlus One (5:58) and the 2015 Moto E (4:27).
The X1 also did poorly on graphics benchmarks. Notching 4,575 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the X1 lost to the average smartphone (13,334) and the OnePlus One (18,399). However, it fared better than the 2015 Moto E, which scored a mere 4,492.
The X1's 13-megapixel Sony camera snapped sharp, colorful pictures. My shots of Main Street buildings and parade floats in Disney World were vibrant and clear, as I could make out individual light bulbs on a store sign. Red flowers and buildings looked true. The camera had trouble dealing with bright light, though — some building edges were overexposed and lost in the sky.
The X1's camera performed well in low light, shooting vivid, clear pictures of the iconic Spaceship Earth golf-ball-like structure in Epcot at night.
My full-HD recording of the Disney parade looked smooth and had similarly vibrant colors and clear detail.
Up front, the 5-MP wide-angle camera performed inconsistently. Selfies were frequently blurry and often over- or underexposed. Even in a well-lit, nonshaky situation, they turned out somewhat dull. My brown hair was accurately captured, but my white top appeared gray.
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Software and Apps
Running an almost-clean version of Android 4.4 KitKat, the Nuu X1 packs a few additional apps from Qualcomm, including File Explorer, Sound Recorder, Videos, World Clock and FM Radio. You'll also get your standard set of Android apps, such as Phone, Messaging, Google Drive, YouTube and Play store.
The X1's 2,400-mAh battery is supposed to last up to 11 hours of talk time and 192 hours on standby. On Laptop Mag's battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing over LTE (on T-Mobile) at 150 nits, the Nuu lasted a mere 5 hours and 12 minutes. That's well below the average smartphone (8:08) and the 2015 Moto E (8:32), and far shorter than the OnePlus One (13:16).
It's hard to get excited about Nuu's X1. Sure, you get an unlocked LTE Android phone with a very capable 13-MP camera for an affordable $200. But otherwise, it's an underwhelming 5-inch Android handset with middling performance and short battery life. Even the supposedly cool dual-SIM feature works only in a limited manner. The older version of Android doesn't help, either.
We recommend the OnePlus One instead. For just $100 more, you get a sharper display, more powerful performance and a super-long-lasting battery. It also runs CyanogenMod, which is a more open version of Android that offers better security and customization options. Shoppers on a budget will prefer the Moto E (second generation), which has a smaller display but zippier performance and longer endurance, for $100 less.
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Cherlynn Low is a Staff Writer at Tom's Guide. When she's not writing about wearables, cameras and smartphones, she's devouring old episodes of Torchwood or The X-Files. Or taking selfies. Follow Cherlynn @cherlynnlow . Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.