Positives

- Stylish design
- Vibrant Super AMOLED display
- Fluid performance
- Good battery life
- Affordable price tag
- Super thin profile
- Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch

Negatives

- Camera is poor in most conditions
- No stabilisation in the camera
- No NFC
- Unlikely to get future OS updates
- Custom skin requires adjusting to

Rating
Battery
8.0
Display
8.5
Camera
7.0
Performance
8.0
Software
8.3
Design
8.3
Bottom Line
8
8
Pure XR
by BLU

The BLU Pure XR offers a fluid performance and good battery packed into a body just 7mm thin but, a poor camera, heavily-customised Android skin and potential lack of future Android updates affect the overall experience. If you don't mind these, the Pure XR is a compelling purchase but most customers will probably prefer one of several alternatives at this price point.

Over the past couple of years there has been a surge of emerging tech companies creating mid to high-end devices, at a lower price than ever before. The competition in the market has resulted in more options and price points for purchase, and nowhere is the competition more evident than at the affordable flagship price point of $299-$399.

American phone-maker BLU isn’t new to this market, having previously launched the BLU Pure XL at this price point, but what of its latest affordable flagship? The BLU Pure XR looks appealing on paper but has BLU delivered? Join us as we find out in this, our BLU Pure XR review.

Design:

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In the Pure XR, BLU has done a great job of designing and building a product that is affordable but still looks and feels premium. The BLU Pure XR’s housing is a solid piece of 7000 series aluminum, with chamfered edges and a matte finish. Along the back border of the device you will find the antenna band that’s used for wireless connectivity and unlike other devices, it blends in really well.

Moving to the front of the device you will find a 5.5” display wrapped in Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with a slight curve around the edges. Also, on the face of the phone you can see the speaker grill along the top between the front facing camera and proximity sensors.

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Beneath the display is the home button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner and is flanked by the back and multi-tasking capacitive touch buttons. On the bottom of the handset, you’ll find the USB Type-C port,  headphone jack, single speaker grill and microphone.

Moving around the rest of the phone and on the left of the BLU Pure XR, you have the SIM and microSD card tray that can be ejected with the included tool. On the right is a volume rocker as well as the power button and BLU’s choice of having the chamfered buttons rest in a recessed trench definitely adds to the allure of the phone.

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On the back, the BLU Pure XR sports a 16MP camera and single LED flash in the top left corner, as well as BLU logo in the middle of the phone. The rest of the design is clean and serves to show off the aluminium finish, which looks and feels great in the hand. Despite the slim 7mm profile, there’s no camera bump which means the device won’t rock when placed flat on its back on a table, a condition other phones do find themselves afflicted with.

Like other phones of this size, the BLU Pure XR can be difficult to use one-handed but BLU have reduced the overall footprint as much as possible. In particular, the slim design coupled with a large display (and a wholesome profile at 75mm wide and 154mm tall) make the Pure XR an excellent device for media consumption and two-handed use.

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Of course, BLU isn’t the only phone maker in this market and the Pure XR design seems to be on par with the likes of OnePlus 3 and ZTE Axon 7. It’s not the most inspiring but it’s definitely stylish for the price tag and when you use this phone, you get the feeling that it was worth the money you paid for it.

Display:

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As a media consumption device, the BLU Pure XR definitely delivers on the display front, with the 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display offering 1080p resolution, which results in a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch. The display may not quite be on par with Quad HD panel – although this is IPS and the handset costs more – but it’s more than acceptable for the Pure XR.

As we’ve seen from other Super AMOLED panels, the display offers good color reproduction and great viewing angles. When watching movies or reading text, the screen offers vibrant colors, deep inky blacks and a surprisingly high max brightness, which means it’s comfortable to use, even in direct sunlight. Overall, the screen is definitely pleasant to use and on par with anything else available at this price point.

Performance:

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In the past, BLU has traditionally been one of the few OEMs to bring MediaTek powered smartphones to the US, even though almost all companies opted to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset. The BLU Pure XR is no different, arriving with MediaTek’s Helio P10 processor in tow backed by 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a Mali-T860MP2 GPU.

The 64-bit Helio P10 features four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.9GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.0GHz, arranged in a big.LITTLE formation. The clock speeds of the Helio P10 do seem lower than other chipsets but nonetheless, in actual performance, there’s very little lag. During general use and when gaming, there were no noticeable performance issues to note.

How does it stack up in the benchmarks however? Well the results are definitely less than impressive, as an AnTuTu score of 50789 is considerably lower than the Snapdragon-backed OnePlus 3, which scores 140288 but it is on par with other Helio P10 devices, which average a score of around 51000.

Moving onto GeekBench 3 and the BLU Pure XR scores 839 in the single-core test and 3290 in the multi-core test, which is definitely not the best score but more than acceptable. By way of comparison, last year’s Snapdragon 808-backed Nexus 5X achieves a multi-core score of 3538 while the Moto G4 Plus – which costs $249 and is powered by a Snapdragon 617 processor – scores 3150.

Overall, there’s no noticeable lag or lack of fluidity when using the phone for general purpose and when gaming there weren’t any glaring issues that compromised the experience. Game load times were a bit longer than we’d have liked, but when the game gets going there aren’t any noticeable issues. The performance scores might not be the highest but the actual experience is smooth and polished.

Hardware:

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On the hardware front, the BLU Pure XR comes with 64GB of internal storage and offers micro SD expansion up to an additional 64GB. The storage is certainly higher than more smartphones and the expansion means there should be enough storage for most users, although power users who need over 128GB of storage might want to look elsewhere.

Along the bottom the Pure XR does feature a single speaker, which produces loud audio while preserving clarity without distortion. The only downside to the speaker is its placement, as when holding in your hand, it was surprisingly easy to cover the speaker which results in muffled sounds. Of course, front facing stereo speakers would have solved this problem but you can’t have everything so if you plan on watching videos, we would recommend getting a stand or using headphones.

The BLU Pure XR is powered by a 3,00mAh battery, which provides good battery life. During our testing, the battery delivered around 4 hours of screen on time and we were comfortably able to get a full day of usage out of single charge. For reference, this includes streaming on YouTube, playing games, general communicating and web browsing. For the times when it is running low, the included quick charger makes it quick and simple to get fully charged up again.

Camera:

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One of the most important parts of a smartphone is the camera and the BLU Pure XR seems to tick this box with a 16MP sensor of f/1.8 aperture, phase detection and laser autofocus and a single LED flash. There’s not a lot of other noteworthy camera features but on paper, the camera should be good enough to get the job done.

Like most smartphones, the Pure XR can take really sharp images in perfect conditions but it’s rare to actually be shooting in ideal conditions so you need a smartphone that can adapt and still capture an excellent picture. Sadly, this isn’t the case with the BLU Pure XR, which does seem to struggle when conditions aren’t ideal.

One of the issues is with HDR as using the feature outdoors results in highlights that were often over exposed and blown out, while in low light, using HDR results in discoloration in the shadows and an increase in overall noise. A key use-case for HDR is to prevent blow outs within photos but the Pure XR definitely fails to deliver and we wouldn’t recommend using the feature unless absolutely necessary.

In low light, pictures don’t seem to offer as much detail as with other phones and while there’s both phase detection and laser autofocus on the Pure XR, they don’t appear to be too effective at preventing noise. Furthermore, in general use, we found that the Pure XR doesn’t focus properly when manually setting the focus in the viewfinder: the handset doesn’t seem to respond to the selected focal point and resulting images are focused on the centre of the frame, with the edges blurred out.

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On the video front, the BLU Pure XR is capable of shooting Full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second and like photos, the results can vary significantly. For instance, the Pure XR can take decent video in good lighting (just like the camera) but when transitioning from dark to highlighted areas, the camera noticeably shifts ISO, adjusts exposure and isn’t able to handle any lens flare caused by direct sunlight. The lack of any form of stabilisation also shows as video footage can be shaky and generally, we wouldn’t recommend relying on the Pure XR camera for videos or photos.

Software:

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Out of the box, the BLU Pure XR runs the Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS with BLU’s own custom skin on top and given BLU’s track record, we’re not holding out for an upgrade to Android 7.0 Nougat any time soon.

The interface does move away from conventional Android by omitting the app drawer and moving system toggles to a swipe up from the bottom, in a similar way to iOS 10 on the iPhone 7. If you’re accustomed to the traditional Android experience, you’ll find this takes some getting used to but I did find that the it feels more intuitive to have the toggles at the bottom rather than the top, especially as it helps with overall one-handed experience.

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One of the selling points of the BLU Pure XR is that it comes with a pressure sensitive offering called 3D Touch, which is similar to the Force Touch feature on the Apple iPhone. Essentially, the screen can register the amount of pressure you apply which gives you additional functionality like being able to preview content, jump straight to taking a selfie and compose a text message when applying additional pressure to the home screen. It works surprisingly well and seems to be on par, at least performance wise, with the feature found on Apple’s flagships.

The Pure XR also comes with a variety of smart gestures including being able to double tap the phone to wake it, raising the phone to your ear to answer a call and flipping the phone over to silence an alarm. These features aren’t new but work well enough and help to make the experience a little better.  Overall there’s not a lot of bloatware – which definitely aids the slick performance – and while the skin will definitely require acclimatising to, it’s not the most gharish out there. If you’re willing to get used to the different experience, it definitely gets the job done and you can always install an Android launcher for an alternative experience.

Specifications:

Display5.5inch Super AMOLED curved display
1080p resolution, 401 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass, 3D Touch sensitive panel
Processor1.9GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P10
Mali-T860MP2 GPU
RAM4GB
Storage64GB
expandable via microSD up to 64 GB (uses second SIM slot)
Camera16 MP rear camera, f/1.8 aperture, PDAF, Laser Autofocus, LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0, A2DP
GPS + GLONASS
USB Type-C
Dual SIM Card
Battery3,000 mAh
Quick Charging
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions154.3 x 74.9 x 7 mm
147.2 grams

Gallery

Final thoughts

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When considering a phone, price is often one of the biggest factors and the BLU Pure XR comes in at only $300 giving wallet-conscious customers a great offering. However, the poor camera and the questionable future upgrade plans might mean handsets such as the LG Nexus 5X and OnePlus 3 could be great alternatives if these are important concerns to you.

All in all, this phone definitely delivers a great experience that is reliable and slick and considering the price, it’s definitely a worthy contender if you’re shopping on a budget. What do you think of the BLU Pure XR and would you buy one? If not, what would you buy instead? Let us know your views in the comments below!