Tech buyers of a certain age will most likely recoil in revulsion upon hearing the name Bush, a company which is perhaps best known as a purveyor of cheap and often not-so-cheerful electronics during the 1980s, and is now owned by the parent company of Argos.
While this might make the Bush Spira E3X sound like a telephonic disaster waiting to happen, the phone confounded our expectations of what a sub-£200 Android handset can offer.
This can be explained by the fact that while it has the (in)famous Bush brand embossed on its rear, in reality the Spira E3X is the handiwork of French firm Archos, and is better described as an "Argos Phone". But does the E3X live up to its surprising specs? Or is it less than meets the eye?
- Great quality screen
- Lots of storage and RAM
- High-spec but disappointing camera
The days of low-end smartphone owners missing out on new tech are long behind us, and as such we're seeing phones which boast features which were, not long ago, exclusive to top-tier devices.
The Bush Spira E3X is an excellent example of this gradual evolution in the marketplace. Its 1080p 5.5-inch screen is bold, colourful and pin-sharp, and it's also incredibly responsive when it comes to touch interaction.
The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner might not be the best in the business, but it works well enough and offers an additional level of security – it also allows you to unlock the handset with a touch, rather than having to input a passcode or pattern.
Dimensions: 148.5 x 74 x 8.8mm
OS: Android 6
Screen size: 5.5-inch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Rear camera: 21.5MP
Front camera: 8MP
Storage is another area where the Spira E3X is particularly noteworthy – it has 64GB of memory, in which you can deposit apps, photos, movies and music. There's also microSD support, so you can augment this already impressive total, should you feel the need.
Space is something you might need if you want to fully exploit the Spira E3X's 21.5MP camera, which can take quality shots when conditions are optimum. Though it’s not as hot in darker locations, and the sluggish focus and lack of image stabilization mean blurry shots are commonplace.
Elsewhere, 4GB of RAM keeps things moving – an uncommonly large amount for a phone in this price bracket.
Design and display
- Large and sharp display
- Premium metal frame
- Unappealing back panel
Unlike other budget Android smartphones with their bland plastic bodies, the Spira E3X has a metal frame, which gives it a premium feel. It possesses a fair degree of heft and feels sturdy in the hand, with no unfortunate creaking noises to be heard when gripped tightly.
Given that the E3X has a 5.5-inch display, it goes without saying that it's a bit of a stretch to use one-handed; unless you have gigantic mitts you’ll really need both hands to fully interact with this device.
It's only when you flip the device over that its low-rent background is betrayed; the weird sandpaper-like plastic panel feels and looks rather nasty, and that Bush logo is a one-way ticket to zero street credibility.
Sandwiched in between the 21.5MP camera and the Bush branding is the phone's fingerprint scanner, which appears to be fashioned from plastic.
While it doesn't have the same success rate as the one seen on the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 – we'd say it unlocks on the first touch 70% of the time – it's better than many of the scanners we've seen on other budget options, which often take many more stabs before recognising your digit.
On the right-hand edge of the phone there's the volume and power buttons, while the opposite side houses the SIM card and microSD tray. On the top, there's a 3.5mm headphone socket – what a novelty – and on the bottom you'll find a fancy new reversible USB Type-C port, which supports fast-charging.
The screen is one of the E3X’s strongest points, as it offers excellent brightness, contrast and rock-solid viewing angles. The 1080 x 1920 resolution also puts it on par (at least in resolution terms) with the much more expensive iPhone 7 Plus, which also has a 5.5-inch screen.