Large vibrant display
Excellent battery life
Brushed aluminium design feels great
Outdated software with customisations
Average camera performance
American company BLU certainly has a pedigree for offering smartphones with flagship specs at an affordable price and with its latest smartphone, the BLU Energy XL, the company is hoping to continue this trend.
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On paper, a 6-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display and 5,020mAh battery seem like a great combination for just under $300, but does it actually deliver? Is the BLU Energy XL an example of what an affordable flagship should look like? Let’s find out in this, our BLU Energy XL review.
The Blu Energy XL has a premium metal design with the edges rounded off and will be available in a silver or a gold version. The handset has a very thin profile coming in at 8.4mm thin and the uni body housing is made of aluminum, making it supremely comfortable in the hand.
Traditionally, large smartphones don’t necessarily feel great in the hand but thanks to a high quality finish and thin profile, the BLU Energy XL is surprisingly ergonomically friendly. This is no doubt due to the rounded back, which also provides some welcome grip when you have it in your hands.
In the home button beneath the display, BLU has embedded a fingerprint scanner which, unlike many other smartphones, isn’t a touch-based sensor and instead requires a swipe of the finger. As we’ve seen with other smartphones however, a swipe-like sensor isn’t the best implementation and it does mean an extra step between waking the phone and actually unlocking it.
On the bottom, the BLU Energy XL sports a USB Type-C port alongside the 3.5mm audio jack, while on the right, there’s a microSD card slot, power button and volume rocker. The left of the handset features a dual SIM card slot and this helps set the Energy XL out from most US handsets, which don’t feature dual SIM capabilities.
Overall, the chamfered edges and slim profile mean a quite large handset is surprisingly easy to hold and there’s nothing of note worthy of complaining about with the BLU Energy XL.
One of the key features of the BLU Energy XL is definitely its 6-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, which offers vibrant colors and deep blacks like most Super AMOLED displays. The display offers an acceptable density of 368 pixels per inch which might seem a little on the low side but doesn’t detract too much from the overall viewing experience.
Full HD resolution certainly isn’t the highest we’ve seen around this price point – BLU’s own Pure XL offers Quad HD for just $50 more – but it is more than acceptable. Overall, the Super AMOLED display offers enough quality to be satisfactory for most needs and with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, it should be able to offer that little extra ruggedness compared to other smartphones at this price.
Under the hood, there is a MediaTek 6753 chipset, which is coupled with an octa-core 1.3GHz processor and 3GB RAM. The phone runs very smooth even with the custom animations for the home screen and you can switch apps instantly with very little, if any, sign of lag. During gaming, the Mali-T720 GPU seems to handle most current games with no dropped frames and an overall positive gaming experience.
One of the biggest selling points to this phone is the battery, which has a capacity of 5,020 mAh and offers up to 3 days battery life. With medium to heavy usage, we found we could get to the end of the day with around 50-60 percent remaining, and it’s likely that most users will find themselves with enough juice to last a full two, three or even four days (for the light user).
The Energy XL comes equipped with 64GB of internal storage which can be expanded by a further 64GB using a microSD card. Unlike many other dual SIM devices, you can actually use the microSD card slot while having two SIM cards inserted so for the dual-SIM wielding smartphone user, the Energy XL definitely has a major benefit over most dual SIM devices.
Similar to the BLU Vivo 5, the company has opted to stick with Android 5.1 Lollipop on the Energy XL, but has promised an update to Android Marshmallow before the end of the year. Unlike some of its other handsets that run stock Android, the Energy XL comes with a few modifications, not least of which remove the app drawer. If you want an app drawer, you’ll have to resort to a third party launcher.
App drawer aside, BLU’s software does bring a few neat touches, including an option to customise the notification menu with what you want to see. Pulling up from the bottom brings up a tray of quick functions such as using your flash as a torch, accessing the calculator and camera and the infamous button that allows you to fake a call.
The Energy XL also comes with capacitive keys that flank the home button rather than on-screen keys, which provides less flexibility but they do work as expected. Other software options include the ability to customise your homescreen with different themes and create custom animations as well. Overall, like every OEM that chooses to customise the software, BLU’s interface won’t appeal to all users but is rather easy to get accustomed to.
BLU has equipped the Energy XL with a 13MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus and a single LED flash while the front camera is a 5MP unit for those selfie lovers. The camera itself is definitely not something to be wowed about as it is adequate at best in good lighting but does struggle in poor lighting. Overall, pictures are not too exposed or overly saturated but definitely don’t stack up to other smartphones at this price.
The front facing camera actually does quite well in good lighting conditions but like the rear camera, it struggles with low light conditions. Video recording itself is adequate yet not exemplary, with constant exposure changes providing good quality but the lack of stabilisation resulting in quite shaky videos.
In the camera app, features include HDR, various filters, a Pro mode that offers manual control over images, Face Beauty for selfies and a night mode for lowlight shooting. Overall, the camera certainly isn’t the best on a smartphone at this price and although it does take adequate photos, you’re likely to be disappointed if camera is one of the primary reasons you’re buying this smartphone.
At a cost of $300, the BLU Energy XL certainly isn’t the cheapest smartphone on the market but is still targeted towards the budget consumer and for the most part, BLU has created a good smartphone. A large display, excellent build quality and one of the largest battery capacities we’ve seen this year mean we have a smartphone that has a lot of things going for it.
Unfortunately, like most devices, the BLU Energy XL does have a few compromises, not least in the camera quality, the processor choice and the software experience. With Marshmallow expected before the end of the year – by which time the latest Android Nougat OS will out – the handset is always going to be lagging behind in the software department.
With all things taken into consideration however, the BLU Energy XL will appeal to those who want a large display and excellent battery life. Make no mistake about it – a 6-inch display and 5,020 mAh battery in a $300 smartphone is something worth shouting about and if the display and battery are the most important things for you, the BLU Energy XL is probably worth considering.
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What do you think of the BLU Energy XL and do you plan to buy one? Let us know your views in the comments below!