Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday September 23, 2013.
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Miami upstart Blu Products has slowly managed to pop up on the radar of smartphone buyers looking for a smarter buy. The company in recent times has focused heavily on introducing Android devices that compete with the wares of bigger brands by undercutting them on price. The phones don't match up on specs, but the aim is that a good phone can still be found at a significantly lower price.
With the Blu Life View, Blu attempts to translate its strategy in a new arena and ride the wave of oversized Android phones that dwarf the displays seen on other devices. It's a category with increased competition and increased difficulty to master. Can the Blu Life View and its 5.7-inch display provide a big screen and still deliver big performance and big savings?
Hardware and Design
Anyone whoever wondered what would happen if HTC and Samsung were to collaborate on a phone could probably guess that the resulting offspring might resemble the Blu Life View. The curve along the back makes it look like a bloated HTC One, and it has a metal plate, though not with the same anodized aluminum treatment. The front and sides contrast that with a white hard plastic. Capacitive buttons for Menu, Home, and Back are on the lower portion of the device's face, and a single rear speaker of average volume handle things on the other side. A micro USB charging port is at the bottom and a removable portion of the metal back reveals dual-SIM slots.
The Blu Life View is a hefty device thanks to its 5.7-inch display. The large bezels on the side stretch the footprint to161 x 82.5 x 9.3mm (6.34 x 3.25 x0.36in), which is larger than the Galaxy Note. The Life View is still comfortable to hold because of its slanted sides and texture make it easier to put a firm grip on the device. The metal back is also comfortable and cool. The phone can be at times unwieldy because of its weight (220g, 7.76oz) and size. Trying to swipe down the notification drawer with one hand is challenging, but the extra weight ironically makes it easier to do than it is on a Galaxy Mega 6.3. Anyone considering the Life View is obviously someone who wants, needs, and loves extra large devices. The trade-offs are sacrificing portability and smooth one-handed usage but gaining a much larger surface area to type on a keyboard, read text, and view videos.
The 5.7-inch display makes it obvious why Blu chose to name this device the Life View. The phone has one of the biggest screen sizes seen this side of a tablet, and only the recently-announced Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Mega 6.3 could be considered comparable. The Life View has a larger bezel than those devices, and it uses LCD rather than AMOLED. Though colors are not as deeply saturated, the display is very bright.
As previously mentioned, Blu's Life series are designed based on the premise that a quality product can still be delivered by making adjustments that can still be good enough despite costing and offering less. The screen takes that approach by having a 720p rather than 1080p resolution. The difference is noticeable on a screen this big. The display is sometimes grainy when you purposely focus and keep the screen close, but the large size means that you can rest the phone far away and still get a clear look at the device. The screen is good enough thanks to its size and relative quality.
One might think that a quad-core processor automatically means that the Blue Life View is a beast, but that's not the case. The Life View has a Mediatek 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. It uses the older ARM A7, a PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU, and only 1GB of RAM. In every day use of browsing, reading, tweeting, and calling, performance is fine. In the first few days of my time with the Life View, I was blissfully happy doing my usual activities. The phone lacks the instant response seen in more expensive devices, but it did not hang or belabor through light activities.
Trying to do anything that is resource intensive, such as some of the more powerful Android games, is painfully harder. I was disappointed by the underperforming GPU that crawled through sessions of Riptide GP2. There's a visual lag that makes the jet skis look like they are riding over static rather than undulating water. There's sadly no fluidity to movement, which is critical for a racing game. Gaming did better when I switched to action shooters like Dead Trigger, though the graphics were just average. Riptide also takes much longer to load than even dual-core devices, reiterating the point that RAM and the quality of cores, not the quantity, is what matters most when gauging performance of a mobile device. The Life View is a midrange performer for regular activities, and it's not geared towards high-end gaming.
Blu Life View Key Specs
- 1.2 GHz quad-core processor (ARM Cortex-A7)
- PowerVR SGX544 GPU
- 1GB of RAM
- 5.7-inch display, 720p resolution (258 ppi)
- 16GB of internal storage (12.83 accessible)
- Dimensions: 161 x 82.5 x 9.3mm (6.34 x 3.25 x0.36in)
- Weight: 220g (7.76oz)
- 2,600 mAh battery
- Bluetooth 4.0, HSPA+
- Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.