Over the last year or so we’ve really seen a number of smartphone companies step up their game when it comes to the entry-level and mid-range markets, and BLU, the Florida-based device manufacturer, is no exception to this. Last year BLU really raised the bar across the board, and we expect 2016 to continue this trend.
The latest member of the BLU family sets to bring high-end build quality, great specs to the mid-range, but amid a sea of competitors, does their latest handset manage to stand out from the pack? That’s what we aim to find out, in this comprehensive BLU Vivo 5 review!
It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of a mid-range phone with a premium metallic build would have been absolutely unheard of, but that’s exactly what you get with the BLU Vivo 5. Unlike its big brother, the BLU Vivo XL, the entire back and side of the Vivo 5 is made from metal, with nice chamfered edges. The end result is an excellent feel in the hand, and the metal here will certainly provide the kind of feel and style you’d expect out of a flagship smartphone. The design also looks pretty durable and doesn’t feel like it’s going to get scratched as easily as other aluminium phones.
It can’t be stressed enough beautiful this phone is, especially considering the fact that this is an affordably priced device. The Chic Gold color is certainly my personal favorite, and the one I have in this review, though you can also choose a Liquid Silver version if you prefer.
Like past BLU Vivo phones, these devices remain very thin at a respectable 6.9mm. Combined with its light 141 gram weight, this phone really does feel good in the hands, especially considering this is a big screen device. Part of what helps this great feel in the hand is the ever so slightly slightly rounded back which helps with your grip.
While many phones in the entry and mid-range stick to LCD displays, BLU raises the bar by offering a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display. As you’d expect, colors are very saturated here, and the display’s black color looks great. Of course, whites do appear a bit pinkish, but that’s normal for a lot of Amoled Panels. Overall, the color profiles and features of the Amoled screen should make for a solid viewing experience, though the Vivo 5’s display does have one big weakness: a very low display resolution.
We are only talking 720p here, and for a screen of this size, you will definitely notice some pixelation going on, even when holding the phone a good distance away. A 5.5 inch display at 720p comes to a pixel density of only 267 ppi. Text can be very fuzzy at times depending on it’s size, which is sure to be a turn-off for some folks.
Looking past the low resolution, the mix of this Amoled screen with punched up colors can still make for great video watching, but when it comes to reading text, you may have some trouble. Bottom-line, the display isn’t bad, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed that BLU didn’t spring for a 1080p resolution here.
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 3GB of RAM. While this is the same package used by the Vivo XL, the addition of 1 extra gig of RAM makes a big difference here. When it comes to day-to-day use, the Vivo 5 runs very smoothly, with animation stutters a rarity. Jumping in and out of apps is also a breeze, though there are occasional short pauses when switching things around in the recent apps screen.
For Benchmark nuts, the phone scored just 2,850 on GeekBench, with Antutu giving it a score of 38,009. This numbers certainly won’t blow anyone away, but for most users, the BLU Vivo 5 is more than capable of providing a solid Android experience. Gamers will also find that the phone holds up pretty well here, with a few dropped frames here and there in more graphically intensive games, but really I was pretty impressed with how the phone’s performance here.
Battery life is also pretty great, helped by the phone’s 3,150 mAh non-removable battery. Thanks to the low resolution AMOLED display and a fairly energy efficient processor, I was able to easily make the phone last a full day, and could even go without charging overnight, to find the phone still had some juice left in the morning. Of course, part of this is due to its intelligent standby power saving mode which is on by default. My screen on time for the BLU Vivo 5 averaged about 6 hours of screen which for me is excellent.
Charging the phone is great thanks to the USB Type C connector found on the bottom. Yes, you’ll have to use different cables, but due to USB Type C being reversible, they’ll be a lot less fumbling around, especially in the dark as you charge it up for the night. Type C also results in fairly fast charging times, though not the kind of quick charging speeds you might expect from flagship devices.
The Vivo 5 might be lacking a few extras like fingerprint scanners, or even NFC, but honestly, you can only expect so much out of a mid-range phone and so we certainly won’t hold it against BLU for excluding this things. What the Vivo 5 does have is a dual SIM card tray, with one of these trays capable of serving as a microSD expansion slot. In addition to microSD, you’ll also find 32GB onboard storage here, which is a pretty generous amount for a mid-ranger.
For those wondering about the sound quality here, the speaker is found at the bottom right of the Vivo 5 and actually sounds really good. It gets pretty loud and even at max volume, there seems to be no problem with sound being muffled or even distorted. It lacks a lot of bass, but the mids and highs seem to be mixed perfectly.
While mid-range phones have nearly caught up with many flagships in terms of build qualities and even special features, camera performance is often a weakness. Thankfully, the 13MP camera on the BLU Vivo 5 performs admirably, especially for a phone in this price range. Sure it doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but overall you’ll find that you can get some pretty good shots with this camera, especially in good lighting.
Of course, the camera isn’t without its struggles. The colors aren’t too saturated, and it can be prone to over exposing. It can also struggle with dynamic range in the shadows. HDR can certainly help out, but often times the images it create really aren’t that much more appealing. All this being said, photos still look very good. Like most cameras in this segment, you’ll have some issues with grain indoors, and in some shots the camera’s slower shutter speed can cause moving objects to blur a bit. Finally, as you’d expect, performance in dark areas will be hit and miss at best. It all has to do with how steady you can keep your hand as the camera’s shutter speed becomes very slow to compensate for lots of light. Most of the time, you’re shot will become blurry, but every once in awhile, you’ll capture something perfectly.
Speaking on video quality, you’ll find that the Vivo 5 is decent but certainly not exceptional. You will experience lots of overexposing with constant exposure changes, and it can also be pretty shaky.
On the front, you’ll find LED Flash along with a 5 MP wide angle selfie camera. The front camera performs about how you’d expect and should more than satisfy today’s selfie-loving smartphone owners. Just keep in mind that when you’re not in direct sunlight you will start to notice some grain.
At the end of the day, for the price you spend, the camera package here is more than good enough, and I was actually pretty impressed when I think about its performance versus similarly priced devices.
Depending on the model, BLU’s skins can range from “near stock” to something very different. With the BLU Vivo 5, you’ll find a heavily skinned version of Android 5.1 Lollipop with plenty of extra features and visual changes. Some will appreciate this change, while others won’t.
As you’ll find with many Chinese phones out there, the app drawer is gone with this particular UI, and so all your icons will reside in a single homescreen. That means folders will quickly become your best friend if you’re looking to keep everything clean and organized. The notification menu is very simple and looks very clean, although there is no setting button here. In fact, there’s no quick settings for anything, just a notification panel. If you want to access your quick settings, you’ll have to pull up from the bottom, which is certainly very different from most other skins out there. Honestly, it takes some getting used to and I did find myself accidentally pulling it up accidentally from time to time, or found myself struggling to make it appear.
It’s also important to note that sometimes the phone would refuse to chime when new notifications arrived, making me miss a lot of notifications and even texts. I’m not sure why this would happen but, a simple restart usually fixed the problem. It’s certainly possible that this issue could be with my particular review unit, or it could be something that BLU resolves later with a simple app update.
Turning to the recent apps screen, you’ll find a far more familiar design with little skinning present, which is nice. It’s worth noting that the recent apps button is capacitive, along with the home and back button, although the back button and recent app button have been flipped which can take some time getting use to.
As for the homescreen, you might have all your apps in one place, but widgets are still very much part of the package here, and customizing your homescreen is very simple, with BLU making it easy to allow widgets and transition effects to be chosen. In the theme app you can even change how your wallpaper and apps look with a lot of dark options that really suits this amoled panel.
Overall, not all the reskin is bad, and you’ll find the UI still performs pretty well when it comes to speed. Still, for those in the US, it will take many users some time to get used to some of the changes made with the lack of an app drawer and the unique pull-up method for quick settings, though a 3rd party launcher can resolve at least the former of these issues.
|Display||5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 1280 x 720 resolution|
|Processor||1.3GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6753|
|Storage||32GB, microSD expansion|
|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||151.9 x 74.6 x 6.9mm|
|Colors||White-Silver, Solid Gold|
Pricing and final thoughts
The BLU Vivo 5 is available now through Amazon, priced at just $200, which is pretty impressive when you factor in the specs, performance, and the design.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU Vivo 5! At the end of the day, this is a $200 smartphone that feels like a flagship that costs triple it’s price. The build quality on this thing is incredible, with it’s metal build, thin body and lightweight. For a phone of this price, you’ll be more than happy with it’s camera, it’s USB Type C support, and great battery life. Sure, it’s software might not be for everyone and the low display resolution is a minor turn off, but BLU checked so many boxes with the Vivo 5 that it’s not hard to be at least a little impressed.
If you have a tight budget but consider premium design to be at the very top of your wish list, you won’t find a more premium designed phone for $200 and for that price, you can’t go wrong with the BLU Vivo 5.