-Surprisingly good camera
-Exceptional storage options
-Excellent build quality
-High quality rear speakers
-Subpar battery life
-Limited 4G LTE support
-Bugs are still present in production firmware
-Inconsistent software design
BLU, the Florida-based company, has largely focused on solid, extremely affordable smartphones, but their latest offering is definitely an exception. Featuring flagship-level specifications but an affordable price point as well, does this new device from BLU prove to be a compelling choice? We find out, in this in-depth BLU Pure XL review!
With a large 6-inch display, the BLU Pure XL is undeniably a huge phone, with dimensions quite similar to the Nexus 6. This size will certainly taking some getting used to, depending on which device you are switching from, and while the curves on the back do help with the grip and overall handling experience, the size does put it outside the realm of comfortable one-handed use.
Also helping with the grip is the matte finish of the plastic back cover, which also makes it resistant to fingerprints. The cover did collect scuffs in unexpected circumstances however, which was definitely odd and surprising. The back cover is also removable, allowing for access to the dual micro-SIM card slots and a microSD card slot, even though the battery is not user-replaceable.
There is an aluminium band that runs along the edges of the phone, resulting in a premium look and feel, while also making the large device easier to hold on to. The angular design of the phone makes for corners that are quite sharp however, and had an unfortunate tendency of digging into the hand. The Pure XL is also on a thicker and heavier side, with a thickness of 9.6 mm and weighing 202 grams, but some heft isn’t a bad thing with a large smartphone, allowing for a very substantial feel while holding the device.
Taking a look around the device, the power button and volume rocker are towards the top on the right side, positioned to be within easy and comfortable reach, and also offer excellent tactile feedback. There is also a dedicated camera shutter button on this side, which lets you launch directly into the camera application with a press, even when the device is locked. The headphone jack and the microUSB port are found up top and at the bottom respectively, and on the back, below the camera setup, is a fingerprint scanner. Up front, you will find three lightly outlined capacitive keys, and there is also a notification LED above the display.
The BLU Pure XL features a 6-inch Super AMOLED display with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 490 ppi. Everything that we love about AMOLED displays is to be found here, including saturated colors and deep blacks. The display is as sharp as expected given its Quad HD resolution, but the brightness isn’t great, making visibility in direct sunlight a little difficult.
The color temperature also does lean towards the cooler side, but you do have the option to adjust the setting to better suit your tastes. All said and done, you will be hard pressed to find a smartphone with such a high resolution display in this price range, and the screen is easily one of the biggest selling points of this affordable smartphone.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the BLU Pure XL comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6795 Helio X10 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the PowerVR G6200 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Performance is another area in which the Pure XL really shines, with rarely any instances of stutter or lag. The device flies through the elements of the user interface, opening, closing, and switching between applications is a breeze, and overall, everything remains smooth and snappy. The device also handles gaming very well, which hasn’t always been the case with other smartphones with similar processing packages.
Performance is another area in which the Pure XL really shines
The Pure XL comes with 64 GB of on-board storage, which should be enough to cover the needs of most users. Power users will appreciate the availability of expandable storage via microSD card as well, for an additional 64 GB. The device comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including 4G LTE support in the US, but is missing support for band 5 for AT&T and band 12 for T-Mobile, which could prove to be an issue for some users, depending on your region.
The Pure XL features Hi-Fi audio and DTS Surround Sound when using the device with a pair of headphones, but while the audio does sound good, there wasn’t a noticeable bump in quality when compared to some other smartphones. The device also comes with a dual stereo speaker setup on the back, which gets plenty loud, and with almost no distortion. The rear-facing placement is unfortunate, but the overall quality of these speakers is definitely above average for the price.
The Pure XL also comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back, which is of the touch type variety. While it was possible to setup the scanner to read the fingerprint, and also use it to encrypt individual files, it unfortunately never worked when attempting to unlock the device. This may be the case only with this particular review unit, and is definitely an issue on the software side, as the scanner works perfectly fine in every other situation, so hopefully BLU has a fix in the works.
The Pure XL packs a 3,500 mAh non-removable battery, and while that capacity would suggest an impressive battery, this is unfortunately not the case. With the display brightness set to 50% and Wi-Fi off for the majority of the day, the device lasted up to 15 hours, with around two hours and forty-five minutes of screen-on time. While these aren’t terrible numbers, we were certainly expecting a little more out of this battery.
On the camera side of things, the BLU Pure XL comes with a 24 MP rear shooter with optical image stabilization, phase detection auto focus, and a two-tone LED flash, along with a 8 MP front-facing unit. Of course, megapixel counts isn’t necessarily a good indicator of image quality, but the good news here is that the camera of the Pure XL does perform extremely well, at least in good lighting conditions.
It may not be at par with the high standards set by devices like the Samsung Galaxy S6, but this camera is a really good performer when compared to other devices in this price range, with sharp images with lots of detail and good color reproduction. As expected however, the quality deteriorates considerably in poorly-lit situations.
As far as the camera application is concerned, it may look quite simplistic on the surface, but opening the Modes menu and switching to the Professional mode is where a lot of features pop up. Using this mode allows for manual control over aspects like exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and focus settings, all packed into a single menu. Overall, it is a very nice app that allows for quick and easy capture when in automatic mode, but also includes more granular control over the settings for those who want it.
As far as the software is concerned, the BLU Pure XL runs Android 5.1 Lollipop with BLU’s CareFree launcher on top. There are some aspects of the user interface that feature familiar Material Design elements, as seen in the lock screen, volume controls, notification center, and multi-tasking screen, but there is a sharp departure from stock Android in other key areas.
For starters, this launcher does not feature an application drawer, leaving users dependent on folders to keep the homescreens from getting too cluttered. The default TouchPal keyboard is unfortunately not an impressive performer, and most system applications and the Settings menu have seen complete re-designs. It is quite difficult to gauge the direction that BLU is taking with their software, with each of their devices seemingly offering entirely different experiences. Of course, there are some interesting and useful additions here as well, including some nifty features like smart gestures, app permissions, and a few general setting options for adjusting things like the notification LED.
The big concern with Pure XL, and any smartphone offering from BLU, is with regards to updates to future versions of Android, such as the recently-released Android 6.0 Marshmallow. BLU has claimed to have made software updates a priority, but have failed to deliver on this front, despite promising official Lollipop updates for their last two releases. The Pure XL is certainly one of the best smartphones that BLU has released till date, and can be considered the company’s flagship, which is why there is some hope as far as updates are concerned, but for now, the jury is still out on whether BLU will able to deliver.
The Pure XL may not ever see Android 6.0 Marshmallow
|Display||6-inch Super AMOLED display
2560 x 1440 resolution, 490 ppi
|Processor||2 GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 processor
PowerVR G6200 GPU
expandable via microSD card up to 64 GB
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
GPS + GLONASS
|Camera||24 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera
|Software||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||164 x 82.2 x 9.6 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The BLU Pure XL is priced at a very reasonable $349, with the available color options including black and gold.
So there you have it for this comprehensive look at the BLU Pure XL! While the Pure XL is not without its flaws, including limited 4G LTE support, disappointing battery life, and a software experience that may never be updated, the device does manage to go beyond what its price point would suggest, with its beautiful, large, Quad HD display, excellent performance, and a very good camera. However, this price category is far less forgiving than the sub-$200 range that BLU is usually a part of, and there are some great options out there, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, ZTE Axon, and the Moto X Style or Pure Edition.