(Pocket-lint) - Phone-maker Blu started making a name for itself in the States for being an affordable Android brand, but it's taken some time for the company to bring its wares to the UK.
In fact, the Vivo 6 is the company's first Blighty-bound device. Having launched in time for a crazy opening-day Amazon discount during Black Friday weekend in 2016, the phone is now back to its full price of £239. So is it worth the cash?
Blu Vivo 6 review: Design
- 154.3 x 74.9 x 7mm; 170g
- Metal body with polished chamfered edges
It's hard for manufacturers these days to come up with a handset design that's unique or even interesting. Although the Blu Vivo 6 is far from groundbreaking, it's good enough.
It's Huawei-esque in a sense, with its metal rear casing and parallel antenna bands running along the top and bottom. Both the front and back feature an attractive, slim and polished chamfered edge, which gives it that classy shine.
- 4G Vs 5G How Much Better is 5G? (promo)
The camera protrusion is circular and placed near the top to the centre, with a simple LED flash next to it. Although the back of the phone is ever so slightly rounded, it's not enough to make it feel particularly comfortable in hand. Combined with the flat edges, the almost flat back makes the phone feel quite block-ish.
On the bottom edge, there's a Type-C port for charging and transmitting data, flanked by two cutouts - one of which lets the sound escape from the single loudspeaker. The power and volume buttons live on the right edge, with the SIM tray on the opposite side, and the 3.5mm audio jack placed in the top edge.
Despite being a sub-£250 phone, Blu has equipped the Vivo 6 with a fingerprint sensor for speedy sign-in, which lives inside a pill-shaped home button on the front of the device. It's click-able, quite spongey in response and sits between the capacitive back and multi-tasking buttons below the screen.
On the whole, the design and build quality is great for such an affordable phone, but along with that spongey feeling home button, there are other questionable choices.
The SIM tray features two slots and, bizarrely, one of them is for a micro SIM, not nano SIM. The other is supposed to fit in a microSD card or a second SIM (this time nano), except, when a nano SIM is placed in the second slot, the SIM tray doesn't fit back into the phone.
Then there's the 3.5mm jack which isn't centred in between the top and bottom chamfered edges, instead, it overlaps the bottom polished chamfer, meaning part of it is angled away. It's not unusual to see a non-flush headset jack, with phones becoming so slim, but it would look better if that was the case here.
Blu Vivo 6 review: Display
- 5.5-inch IPS display
- 1920 x 1080 resolution (401ppi)
On paper, the Full HD display on the front of Blu's latest creation should be great, but it shows signs of being less than a flagship quality panel.
With a pixel density just over 400ppi, most of the content on screen is certainly sharp enough at arm's length. Colours are nice to look at, but not especially vibrant.
Being an IPS panel means it's not quite as lively or full of contrast like an AMOLED panel would be. But viewing angles are good, and being an in-touch display means there are fewer layers between the content displayed and the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 surface. That means you feel close to the action.
On the negative side, there is often a yellow tint when the brightness is low. Whites appear warm, which is really unusual for an LCD panel (which tend to go to the cooler, blue side of the spectrum).
Still, for the most part, media consumption was pleasant enough, especially given the phone's price point. That's where it wins.
Blu Vivo 6 review: Software
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Custom software/apps on top
The Blu Vivo 6 runs Google's Android 6.0 operating system with the company's own custom skin on top.
Like so many third-party versions of Android, the Blu has no app drawer. All of your apps are auto-organised to fill as many home screens as necessary, leaving you with the unenviable task of organising them all into folders. If there's ever a reason needed not to restore a phone from a previous Android backup, it's precisely this. Like with Apple's iOS, you press-and-hold an app icon then tap the "x" to delete it from the phone. Making folders is achieved by tapping, holding and dragging an app icon on to another one.
One element of Blu's software we like a lot is the Edge Bar. It's essentially a quick access panel and you can choose which apps you want to appear there. Kind of like Samsung's software in its curved edge phones, despite the Blu being a flat panel.
A quick swipe across the home button brings the menu up and allows you quickly get to those apps that you really don't want to have to hunt for. There's enough space for six apps. It's feels invaluable when you can't remember where you put Shazam and absolutely have to tag a song to find out what it's called. Or it is for us, anyway.
However, there's plenty of bloatware installed on the Blu Vivo 6. Not all of it is redundant though. There's an interesting app called Chameleon that allows you choose two colours from a scene and then cretes a live wallpaper to match. For those who care that their gadgets match their outfit, you could point the app to your coat and fingernails, or hoody and jeans, and the wallpaper and theme will go with what you're wearing.
Despite the added bloatware and no app drawer in Blu's software skin, the overall Vivo 6 experience is clean and doesn't negatively impact overall performance.
BLU Vivo 6 review: Performance
- Mediatek Helio P10 processor
- 4GB RAM; 64GB storage (microSD expandable)
As specifications go, the Blu Vivo 6 has the numbers to match the best of them. There's 64GB of storage under the hood, sitting alongside 4GB of RAM. Rather than have a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, however, the company opted for MediaTek's Helio P10 processor which, while powerful, isn't quite on par with the high-end Snapdragon chipsets.
Still, day-to-day performance is good enough that you won't be hankering too much for a more expensive phone. Although there was minor stuttering and frame-rate dropping in some mobile games during our testing period, it wasn't anything different to what we experience with many (often more expensive) handsets. For the most part, regular transitions and animations like app switching, scrolling through lists and opening app folders were smooth.
Blu Vivo 6 review: Battery Life
- 3,130mAh battery
- No fast charging
The Vivo 6's battery is capacious enough to get you through a work day, no matter how busy you are. In our testing we got to late evening/bed time without it reaching the dreaded 15 per cent level. It did get close on particularly active days, though, so it's nowhere near being a two day battery.
With its 10W supposedly "rapid" charger included, the phone doesn't top-up anywhere near as quickly as Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 would. We expect faster charging times, but getting from dead to full in less than two hours isn't the worst that we've ever seen.
Similar to other Android phones, the Blu Vivo 6 comes with some enhanced battery optimisation. That means it kills apps running in the background if they're using too much juice. That can mean some annoyances if you have apps like Strava which need to run in the background in order to track your runs or bike rides. Thankfully, you can manually whitelist apps to be non-optimised.
Blu Vivo 6 review: Camera
- 13-megapixel Sony sensor
- f/2.0 aperture
- 1080p video
The 13-megapixel camera built into the Vivo 6 has a plethora of features to keep any snapper avidly occupied. As well as the regular automatic mode it has HDR (high dynamic range), night, panorama, time-lapse, slow-motion, smart scene, text recognition and macro modes (among others).
While shooting you can add guidelines, change the picture size, capture mode and add filters, as you can with most camera phones. Sadly, the results left us a little disappointed.
In automatic mode, even with lots of available light, the images came out looking noisy and lacking in detail. The only time images looked close to good was outdoors in daylight - and even those weren't fantastic.
As you'd expect, the lower the light levels are, the worse results get. Not even the professional mode that gives you more manual control could save the quality of the photos.
Interestingly, the night mode shots we captured came out pretty well, especially considering how unimpressive the regular automatic shots turned out. Still, there are many better cameras out there, even at this price point.
For its price point, the Blu Vivo 6 boasts a handful of great features and an impressive specification. It's pleasant to use but does have its flaws.
The camera is disappointing, even for a mid-range device. Despite its many shooting modes, just taking a plain old photo almost always results in excessive image noise and limited sharpness.
The phone's display is fine, while build quality and design are certainly more premium than the Moto G4 (and not too far off the quality offered by the more expensive OnePlus 3T).
Blu's main competition at this price point is the Honor 5X (and possibly Honor 8). Which you go for depends on whether you'd rather have clean software or a better camera. Blu's phone may have no app drawer, but it has fewer annoyances than Huawei's EMUI software.
Blu Vivo 6: Alternatives to consider
While not as small as its predecessors, the fourth-gen Moto G continued the trend of offering a lot of performance for your money. There are still very few devices that offer as complete an Android experience as the Moto G for under £200. It's stock Android, has a big screen, and will cost you less than the Blu Vivo 6... but it has considerably less storage and RAM.
Like the Blu, the Honor 5X has a 5.5-inch Full HD resolution screen and comes in a similar glass and metal package. It doesn't have as much storage or RAM as the Blu, but it's £40 cheaper and offers a great experience for that price.
For those wanting a more powerful device, the Smart Platinum 7 has a higher-resolution AMOLED screen which looks fantastic, alongside a pair of front-facing speakers to make your media that much more immersive. It costs more, but it's worth it in our opinion.