- Premium design elements
- Value for money
- Clean UI
- Poor camera in low light
- Weak viewing angles
- Chunky design
Bush Spira E3X review: Bush might not be your first choice when looking to pick up a competitively priced smartphone, but the Spira E3X packs a surprising amount of punch for its sub-£200 price tag.
The E3X looks like a fairly premium, well put together phone, with its thickness really being the only visual indicator of its more affordable nature. It's solidly built with 2.5D glass on the front, a finely polished and chamfered metal frame around the edge, complete with metal hardware controls and a black plastic back that resembles the sandstone effect used by the likes of Wileyfox.
In truth, the backplate offers some grip, but the texture and finish aren't all that pleasant to touch, with a fine grit that feels like it's simply covered in dust and grime, that said, it does repel scratches and stains well. It also accommodates the phone's primary camera, along with a centrally positioned fingerprint sensor that is convenient, although perhaps not the most reliable offering on the market.
The phone also feels reassuringly current thanks to the inclusion of a reversible Type-C USB port on its base, which is seeing fast-growing adoption, along with a hybrid dual microSIM slot on the side that allows for two SIM cards or one SIM and one microSD memory card.
The 5.5-inch Full HD display feels great to use thanks to the pillowed, toughened Dragontrail Glass protecting it, with perfectly crisp imagery and nice colour reproduction. Colour distortion is minimal and head-on it offers respectable overall brightness too, however, drop-off can be quite severe at more extreme angles.
It’s no coincidence that the Android 6.0 Marshmallow-based experience found on Bush’s phone bears a striking resemblance to the one offered up by Archos' Diamond 2 Plus (underneath they’re practically one and the same).
Fans of stock Android or those looking for a clean and clear user experience should feel right at home on the E3X, but there are some smart additions worth noting. You can hide the reconfigurable on-screen navigation keys from anywhere, the notifications panel features an audio profile switcher for added convenience and you can schedule when the phone powers itself off and on.
For all intents and purposes you could also call the E3X the ‘Argos phone’ as it’s exclusive to the retailer in the UK, made most evident by the two pre-loaded Argos apps, one of which lives on your homescreen by default, however, neither is invasive enough to be considered bloatware and if you really don’t want them taking up space on the device, they can be uninstalled.
The MediaTek Helio P10 chip is a smart choice for an affordable mid-ranger like the E3X, offering plenty of power for everyday smartphone usage; from emails and web browsing to HD video playback and gaming. 4GB of RAM also ensures multitasking and the like remain fast and fluid, whilst 64GB of internal storage (expandable by a further 32GB) should satiate most users looking to store a ton of pictures or carry videos on the go.
The 3000mAh battery should see you through a day and some too. And if needed, there’s the option of a battery saver that you can choose to kick in at 15 per cent to extend longevity even further.
On the back of the phone, you’ll find an impressively large 20.8-megapixel primary snapper, backed up by a dual-tone LED flash and a laser autofocus array. In well-lit environments, be it natural or artificial lighting, the E3X’s camera takes great snaps that are well exposed, sharp and don’t look too washed out.
You can see full resolution photo samples from this article here.
Shooting in HDR results in considerable shutter lag, so it’s only suitable for still subjects, whilst the camera’s f/2.4 aperture and lack of image stabilisation tech mean that it lags behind in low light, with flash shots turning out a little blurry more often than not.
The camera interface does offer plenty of control, with filters and manual tools on hand, as well as an 8-megapixel front-facer, which also boasts a flash and an obligatory beauty mode.
If you’re looking for an affordable unlocked SIM-free smartphone, the Bush Spira E3X actually makes for a surprisingly good alternative to the likes of the Moto G4, with double the internal storage and some other smart features.
It’s a little bulky and the camera experience could be tighter, but the user experience is fast and clean and Bush even throws in a case and screen protector. What’s more, you can pick it up right now for £199.95, exclusively at Argos.
- Full HD (1920x1080)
- 193 grams
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 8-megapixels w/ LED flash
- 2GHz/1GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB. Expandable via microSD up to 32GB
- Fingerprint sensor, hybrid SIM tray, scheduled power on/off