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Blu Life 8 XL review: really cheap, but that comes at a price

Does the latest budget-friendly offering from Blu do enough to stay ahead of the competition? We find out, in this Blu Life 8 XL review!
By
June 10, 2015
While the Blu Life 8 XL is great for those on a tight budget, those with a little more to spare can find some arguably better options out there.

While more and more budget-friendly offerings in their unlocked iteration are making their way to the US, one company that definitely stands out in this category is Florida-based Blu, with their diverse portfolio of devices that cover the entry-level and mid-range segment. The latest addition to their lineup is another such budget-friendly offering that falls in the sub-$150 price range. Does this device bring enough to the table? We find out in this Blu Life 8 XL review!

Design

As the name suggests, the Life 8 XL is essentially a larger version of its older sibling, the Life 8, featuring a 5.5-inch screen, compared to the 5-inch display of its smaller namesake. The design language is very similar, and other than the size, the only noticeable difference is in the navigation keys, with the Life 8 XL favoring on-screen soft keys, as opposed to the capacitive buttons found with the Life 8.

The Life 8 XL is available in  five flashy colors, and is also quite thin, with a thickness of just 7.7 mm. The 8 MP camera unit at the back does end up protruding a bit as a result of the sleek profile though, which may be a point of contention, given that the phone tends to wobble a bit when set on a flat surface. The matte plastic back cover offers a nice feeling in the hand, and the back cover is also removable, despite it wrapping around to the chin of the device. Removing the back cover gives users access to the dual microSIM card slots, a microSD card slot, and the battery.

The faux metal band around the device isn’t all that convincing, and there are noticeable parting lines on both the top left and top right corners of the band. The power button and volume rocker, found on the right side of the device, are placed within easy reach and offer a decent tactile feedback, but they do rattle if you shake the device.

Maintaining the design language of its namesake, the Life 8 XL comes with a significant chin below the display, which ends up looking out of place and barren with the move away from the capacitive keys that would have otherwise been housed there. Above the display is an orange notification LED at the top left, which unfortunately isn’t bright enough to see unless you are in a poorly lit environment.

Display

The Blu Life 8 XL comes with a 5.5-inch display with a 720p resolution, with a resulting pixel density of 267 ppi. The lower resolution and pixel count does take away from what could otherwise have been a great media-consumption experience with a display of this size. Brightness is of no issue though, but outdoor visibility is surprisingly poor, and viewing angles could have been better as well. Overall, there are certainly better displays out there, even in the budget-friendly category, but this screen certainly isn’t the worst of the lot either.

There isn’t any Corning Gorilla Glass panel to help protect the display, but at least the device comes with a screen protector pre-installed, along with a spare that is included in the box.

Performance and hardware

Under the hood, the Life 8 XL packs an octa-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and backed by the Mali-450 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. This processing package, released in late 2013, is certainly starting to show its age, and while day to day performance is decent, it’s nothing to write home about. Multi-tasking is also a tough ask with the 1 GB of RAM unable to handle running more than a few apps at once. The stock Android software does help keep things smooth though, and the average user shouldn’t have any problems with getting things done. The device also handles gaming quite well, and even with the graphic settings set to high, the Life 8 XL did not drop frames as easily as a few other budget-friendly devices out there.

The Blu Life 8 XL comes with 8GB of on-board storage, further expandable via microSD by up to 64 GB. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options and sensors, with the exception of 4G LTE support, which is quite unfortunate. You do get full support for AT&T’s HSPA+ network, but only partial support for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, dependending on your location.

The single speaker unit at the back gets very loud, but the audio quality isn’t the best, with the sound quite tinny. As is the case with any device with a speaker placed at this location, the sound also gets muffled easily when the device is placed on a flat surface.

The device packs a 2,920 mAh removable battery, and with the lower resolution display and power-frugal processing package, one of the highlights of the Life 8 XL is the battery life it provides. The device can comfortably last a full day and possibly longer, powering through a day that started at 7 AM and lasted till about 1 AM the next morning with just over 4 hours of screen on time.

Camera

The Life 8 XL comes with an 8 MP rear camera that takes some average shots. The camera did have some issues with focusing on closer objects, and the overall quality is unfortunately just not very good. That said, this holds true for most devices found at this price range, and isn’t just an issue with this particular camera unit.  The camera application is quite simplistic, but you do get some manual control over aspects like white balance and ISO.

Software

The Life 8 XL runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, and with the exception of a few pre-installed apps, that can easily be removed, this is a completely stock iteration, which is quite refreshing coming from other devices. An update to Android 5.0 Lollipop is also in the works, and should make its way over the device by the end of July.

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Blu Life 8 XL will be released on the 22nd of June for $129 via Amazon, but for the first week, you will be able to pick up the device for as low as $79. This offer is available just for the first week though, so it will be a good idea to move fast if you do decide to get it.

So there you have it for this closer look at the Blu Life 8 XL! The device does get some things right, especially with regards to the battery life, but the outdated processor, mediocre camera, and lack of 4G LTE support may be hard to ignore. All said and done, this is a good option for those on a tight budget, and the $79 price point is impressive. When it does go up to $129 though, there are some arguably better options available that will set you back only an additional $30 to $80, which isn’t that much more for a better experience.