-Nearly full US 4G LTE Support (with band 12)
-Wonderful battery life
-AMOLED display offers punchy and saturated colors
-Software is an improvement over previous implementations
-USB Type-C charging port
-Camera is mediocre
-720p is a notably low resolution for the display, even for the price
-Occasional performance hiccups
BLU, the Florida-based device manufacturer, boasts a robust smartphone portfolio with a common aspect all these phones share being their budget-friendly nature. Continuing to add to their lineup, BLU unveiled two more affordable smartphones last month at CES 2016, with the cheaper of the already low-cost phones being the BLU Vivo XL. Of course, very affordable devices has been the point of focus for a lot of Android OEMs over the past year, so does BLU manage to stand out with their latest offering? We find out, in this comprehensive BLU Vivo XL review!
The Vivo XL is certainly one of BLU’s flashier options to date, with a patterned finish on the removable back cover, with gold being the color version of this particular review unit. Whether you like the look depends entirely on your personal opinion, and there is another touch more subtle color option available as well, but it has to be said that the glossy plastic backing and matte finish edges allow for an excellent feel in the hand. However, the plastic rear cover does seem to be prone to scratches, so you may have to depend on a protective case to keep the device in a pristine condition. Luckily, the Vivo XL does come with a case in the box.
Taking a look around the device, the power button and volume rocker are on the right side, and all the buttons offer a reasonable amount of tactile feedback. Capacitive navigation keys are found below the display up front, but in a rather strange move BLU switched the positions of the back and the Recent Apps keys. This might take some getting used to depending on what device you’re coming from. There is also a multi-colored LED at the top left above the display, and the headphone jack and USB-Type C port are found up top and at the bottom respectively.
BLU has also done a great job with keeping the bezels around the display and the top portion and bottom chin quite thin, making for a more manageable handling experience than its 5.5-inch display would suggest. Build quality hasn’t always been particularly good when it comes to devices that fall in the sub-$150 category, but that is also something that is slowly changing, especially with the Vivo XL. Despite its plastic construction, the device certainly doesn’t feel cheap, and the solid construction allows for a great feel while holding the phone.
The Vivo XL comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 267ppi. The pixel count may not be the highest out there, and while a higher display resolution would have been nice, 720p does make sense at this price point – the main advantages of the display are clearly shown off in the battery life department. The display experience is actually also really good as well, with the AMOLED panel allowing for high contrast and punchy, saturated colors. Overall, the display of the Vivo XL is certainly one of the best we’ve seen in this price range, despite its lower resolution.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the Vivo XL comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3GHz and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The performance of the Vivo XL has been good for the most part, with the device handling tasks with ease the majority of the time. However, there were some instances where the phone would generally feel sluggish, particularly when opening or switching between applications via the Recent Apps screen.
As far as gaming is concerned, the device is able to handle casual games with no trouble, but you will see some frame drops with more graphically-intensive games. That said, the Vivo XL is still a decent option for mobile gamers on a tight budget.
16 gigabytes is the only in-built storage option available with the Vivo XL, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to 64GB to alleviate any concerns. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, as well as dual-SIM capabilities. You also get full 4G LTE support on the T-Mobile network, and nearly full support on AT&T. We were able to test this review unit on T-Mobile’s extended range LTE network (band 12) and experienced excellent connectivity. If you are on AT&T however, you may be missing out on LTE coverage in some rural areas, with the device lacking band 5 support.
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The single rear speaker of the device offers a decent audio experience, but a bump in volume and a reduction in the distortion would have certainly been appreciated. That said, it is still about average for the price, and will certainly get the job done in most situations. BLU made the switch to USB Type-C with the Vivo XL, which is a very welcome, but slightly inconvenient move. You will now have to remember to carry around the charger if you need to top up the battery on the go, but the adoption of the latest standard is certainly good to see, especially with a budget smartphone.
The good news is that having to carry around the charger may not be required at all, with the 3,150mAh unit of Vivo XL offering excellent battery life, aided by the lower resolution display and power-efficient processing package. On average, the device would comfortably last a full day of use, if not more, with around 5.5 hours of screen-on time, and that can also be pushed to up to 6 hours with slightly lighter usage. Of course, if battery life does prove to be a concern, the battery is removable, and you always have the option of carrying around a spare.
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The BLU Vivo XL comes with a 13MP rear camera with phase detection auto focus and an LED flash, along with a front-facing 5MP unit. The camera performs just about as expected from a device that falls in the price range, and does quite well in ideal lighting conditions, resulting in images that are very sharp and with a lot of detail, as well as with a respectable amount of dynamic range. However, with noticeable aliasing in some images, occasional color reproduction errors, and poor low light capabilities, this camera certainly won’t outperform those found on more expensive smartphones.
As far as the camera app is concerned, the interface is quite simplistic, with ease of use being the focus here. There is a Professional Mode available though, that allows for more granular control over aspects like ISO and shutter speed. There are also a slew of other modes and features built in, but taking pictures in the normal Auto Mode is what works more than well enough in most instances.
On the software side of things, the BLU Vivo XL is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, with a custom skin on top. The software experience BLU offers with their smartphones has been quite fragmented across the board, but in the case of the Vivo XL, a much improved and more polished iteration is to be found. Of course, staple Android features like an app drawer and lock screen notifications are missing, but the overall experience still feels much better than what is seen with some other devices BLU’s portfolio.
In other changes from stock Android, the Quick Toggles in the notification dropdown have also been completely done away with, in favor of an Apple-esque Control Center. Many of the system UI elements are also strong deviations from stock Android, which may be disappointing for some enthusiasts. There are a few third-party apps pre-installed as well, but all of these can easily be uninstalled.
As far as software updates go, BLU has been attempting to do a better job in offering timely updates for their smartphones, but we’ll have to wait and see if and when an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be made available for the Vivo XL. That said, if running the latest versions of Android is important to you, BLU smartphones may not be the way to go anyway.
|Display||5.5-inch AMOLED display with 1280 x 720 resolution
|Processor||1.3GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6753|
|Storage||16GB, microSD expansion up to 64 GB|
|Camera||13MP rear camera
5MP front camera
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth v4.0, Hotspot, Type C-USB, FM Radio, VoLTE|
|Software||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||155.2 x 76.6 x 7.5mm
|Colors||Solid Gold, Chrome Silver, Midnight Blue, Rose Gold|
Pricing and final thoughts
The BLU Vivo XL will be available for $149 from Best Buy, with the color options included being Solid Gold or Midnight Blue. If you have made up your mind about picking up this device, you may want to do so before January 31st, with BLU running a three day sale that brings the price of the device down to just $99.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU Vivo XL! The Vivo XL may have its issues low-end processing package, and mediocre camera. The device does also get a lot right though, with AMOLED technology more than making up for the low resolution, its excellent battery life, and the fact that users will have access to the 4G LTE networks in the US, which are all great reasons to pick up this budget-friendly phone. As mentioned, you also get to take advantage of a sale following its launch, so if you have decided to to buy this phone, now would be the best time to do so. What are your thoughts? Is the Vivo XL worth the money? Let us know what you think in the comments.