• Our Blu Win HD LTE review


    Last year, one of my favorite lower cost phones was Bluís 5.0C HD. It combined Ďgood enoughí specs with an interesting, eye-searing neon pink case. It targeted the ďI want a decent phone thatís also funí segment and came through in spades.

    Of course, the 5.0C runs Android so if you were looking for something of the Windows Phone persuasion there was the Blu Win HD. Now itís been updated with the added goodness of LTE, letís check it out:
    Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3:

    If you can swing it, the Idol 3 costs $50 USD more. If youíre a budget, this is a lot of dough. Still, I suggest you double and triple check your sofa crack for any extra change. The Idol 3 is worth the extra dough.

    Unless you need dual SIMs or Windows Phone, the Idol 3 one or two-ups the Blu across the board. The display, performance, storage capacity, camera, speakers are all better.

    ZTE Grand X Plus:

    In Canada, another competitor is the ZTE Grand X+ which you can pick up on Fido for $199.99 CDN locked.

    On paper theyíre quite similar: 5Ē high def IPS displays, 8GB of storage, 8MP cameras, LTE, etc.

    The Grand X+ has double the RAM while the Blu counters with a slightly larger battery, space for 2 SIM cards and a newer Snapdragon 410 SoC (ZTE has a 400).

    Nokia Lumia 635:

    If youíre looking for a Windows Phone and are on a budget, you might consider the Nokia Lumia 635. Specs-wise, the Blu is one class ahead of the 635. It has a newer processor, larger higher resolution display, more RAM and more megapixels, a camera flash, dual SIM card slots.

    However, for the money, the 635 is a pretty competent phone. While itís cheap thereís nothing inherently terrible about it. Itís just a well rounded package - just make sure you pick it up when itís on sale. They go on sale for a wallet friendly $99 - $109 unlocked every now and then.

    Specs:

    5Ē IPS LCD display
    1280x720 resolution
    Quad-core, 64bit 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC
    Adreno 306 GPU
    1GB RAM
    8GB storage
    MicroSD
    8MP rear facing camera with autofocus and LED flash
    2MP front-facing fixed focus camera
    2500mAh battery
    Dual MicroSIM
    5.71 x 2.83 x 0.32 inches (145 x 72 x 8.2 mm)
    5.15oz, 146g
    Windows Phone 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10)

    Body:

    The front of the phone really reminds me of a Blackberry Z10.



    I really love how Blu makes their phones available in crazy colours like neon yellow.



    Itís also great that they bundled a matching clear yellow TPU case and a screen protector.



    Unfortunately, I wasnít able to photograph the brushed metal look on the top and bottom of the front of the phone.



    Thereís a soft touch finish on the removable back cover. If youíre planning on putting the Blu in the back pocket of your jeans watch out, the dye in the denim will rub off onto the phone and is very difficult to remove so make sure you use the included case.



    I wish the rear cover required just a tiny bit more force to take off. While I wouldnít go as far as to say it feels cheap, I found that removing the case often caused the back cover to come off too.



    Taking the cover off reveals that the battery is actually TAPED in place. Note the 2 MicroSIM slots along with the MicroSD.



    Notice the interesting finish on the buttons.

    While I wouldnít say the the Blu looks cheap, aside from the terrific colour, it doesnít look terribly special either. I think a lot of it has to do with the thick black frame around the screen. I upsets the design a little.

    Display:

    Thereís something funny about about the screen, when you scroll the screen slowly, it stutters. The fact that Windows Phone requires a lot of scrolling up and down exacerbates this issue. Iím not sure if itís a wonky digitizer or maybe a function of the poor oleophobic coating but the problem is really noticeable.

    If you pick one up, for the love of God, donít put the included screen protector on, it makes the stuttering much worse. I found this out the hard way, because before I started using the Blu I thought Iíd put the screen protector on.

    If you do decide to use it, make sure your screen is very clean before once you put it itís very difficult to remove without causing bubbling.

    This happens because the oleophobic coating on the screen is not very effective. You wonít be able to use tape to take it off to remove pieces of dust after the fact without having to lift it with your fingernail first and creating a spot where it wonít stick. This happened to me on the top right corner of the screen.

    The screen is an absolute fingerprint magnet. Since the coating isnít up to snuff, cleaning the screen is not a trivial task. Youíll need to apply a lot of pressure when wiping it or youíll have to use a liquid cleaner.

    As far as resolution goes, Iíve tested a couple of 5Ē Android phones with HD (1280x720) displays and Iíve always said that theyíre plenty sharp. Most people wonít notice that their 290PPI is just short of the 320PPI or so that you need for a really sharp display.

    However, in the case of the Blu I do notice the jaggedness more. Windows Phoneís skinny white text on a black background is really brutal for screens and makes the steps in the letter ďAĒ and ďVĒ more noticeable.

    While the Blu has an IPS display, itís more of a midrange panel. It looks fine straight on, but it loses a bit of light off-angle.

    All in all though, aside from the lousy coatings, the Blu offers a decent display for the money.

    Input:

    I donít normally say much about input. These days, itís very rare to find a phone with a bad on-screen keyboard. The default iOS/Android/Blackberry and Windows Phone keyboards are all excellent and itís been a long time since Iíve had any reason to complain.

    However, while the default Windows Phone keyboard is awesome, for some reason it works horribly on the Blu. I think the source of this problem is the same as why the Blu screen stutters when you scroll.

    If youíre a slow typist you probably wonít notice it but if youíre typing really quickly, half your key presses donít register. Itís bad enough that the normally very capable Windows auto-correct canít work its magic with the Blu.

    Camera:

    It used to be that all Windows Phones came with a dedicated camera button. It never occurred to me how important this feature was until models that lacked this started to hit the market. On Android and iOS this isnít a big deal because both allow you to launch the camera quickly - even when the screen is locked.

    However, in the case of the Blu, youíll need to turn the phone on, unlock and and then look for shortcut to the camera app to launch it. This is really, really annoying and I suspect it may even be a deal breaker for some Windows Phone users who are used to this.

    Otherwise, itís relatively fast for a Windows Phone in terms of both launch time and capture speeds.

    To be honest, I wasnít expecting much from the camera, Bluís known for making colourful, affordable phones that donít take themselves too seriously, not for packing incredible cameras.

    As it turns out, I was completely wrong. While it doesnít compare with a flagship I was shocked by how capable the Bluís camera is.

    It canít freeze action indoors but if you hold it very still youíll get pretty decent results. The software is smart too so it knows when to push the sensor and when it doesnít need to. For example, when lighting is really bad it will max out the ISO but since the sensor is decent, it doesn't always need to do this indoors.

    Noise is nicely controlled so that it balances colour, detail and grain.

    I donít have the Idol 3 around right now to compare with but the Blu camera blows the Motorola Moto G 2nd genís camera out of the water.

    Video quality looks good but there doesnít appear to be any image stabilization (digital or optical) so you have to hold the Blu really, really still. The microphone sounds alright but it picks up a lot of handling noise so again, you have to be really careful how you hold it.

    Software:

    The last few Windows Phones that Iíve tried were all Nokia/Microsoft Lumia models, all of them came with Nokiaís exclusive extras like their Pro camera along with a bunch of camera related apps, Mix Radio and a few others.

    You might miss them if youíre coming from a Nokia Windows Phone and use them regularly.

    Itís worth mentioning that the Blu is not able to download these apps from the Microsoft Store either.

    Still, the only really important apps that arenít pre-installed are Here Maps and Here Drive which you CAN download from the store.

    Otherwise, Microsoft doesnít allow OEMís much latitude when it comes to customizing the software on their Windows phone so in that sense, the Blu is just like any other Windows Phone.

    This also means that the Blu will receive timely updates Microsoft when releases them. This is very different from Android where you typically have to wait and see if youíll get updates if ever.

    Performance:

    I already mentioned this earlier but itís worth repeating. The Blu has a strange problem where it stutters when you scroll. This makes for a really bad first impression.

    I usually run the Peacekeeper benchmark in Chrome on Android and iOS to compare different devices across the 2 platforms. Since Chrome isnít available for Windows Phone Iím stuck using Internet Explorer. Since weíre not doing an apples to apples or should I say, an Apple to Android comparison, I wouldnít make any buying decisions based on the results.




    Still, Iím a bit surprised at the Bluís poor showing. Does it mean that it ships with a really slow browser? I didnít do side-by-side comparisons but I do find myself waiting more than Iím used to.

    Recently, I noticed that GFX bench, one of my favorite graphics benchmarks for iOS and Android is also available for Windows Phone. However, while the iOS and Android versions use the OpenGL API, the Windows Phone version uses Microsoftís Direct X.



    For some reason the Windows Phone DirectX scores are drastically lower than the OpenGL scores on an Android phone with similar hardware. Is this because DirectX for Windows Phone isnít as mature as OpenGL is on and Android? Possibly. Does the DirectX test have higher quality? Maybe. Is GFX Bench not as optimized for Windows Phone as it is on iOS or Android? Perhaps.

    Anyways, I hate to say it but Windows Phone isnít the greatest choice if youíre a gamer. Sure, they have a few titles that integrate with the XBox but overall, youíre better off on iOS or Android if you game a lot. In general, it feels like gaming titles come to iOS and Android first. Windows Phone only gets it after Microsoft pays the developer to port it.

    In that sense, the gaming benchmark scores are more of a curiosity than anything else.

    Media Capabilities:



    The built-in speaker It has limited range and distorts when you turn it up. Itís one of the worst I have tried in recent years.

    The headphone jack has slightly boosted bass. Audio isnít terrible but itís not as clear and crisp as most other phones Iíve tried. That said I think most will find the headphone jack to be adequate.

    You get 8GB of storage which can be expanded using MicroSD cards.

    As a Phone:

    the speakerphone is pretty loud but it sounds over-driven so it sounds pretty annoying when you turn the volume up.

    The earpiece is also pretty loud and fortunately, sounds much better than the speakerphone.

    I tested the Blu on TELUS and found that its HSPA performance was below average.

    The 2500mAh battery is well sized for the screen and SoC and should last most users a day.

    Conclusion:



    If youíre looking for a fun Windows phone that doesnít take itself too serious you should take a look at Blu Win HD LTE. The bright case is interesting and unique plus its display and camera are both surprisingly good. If the bright colour isnít enough, the fact that itís only available at the Microsoft store means thereís a good chance youíll have something different.

    That said, it has some significant drawbacks; the built-in speaker is mediocre at best and the display has some strange problems which cause it to stutter when you touch which also makes the keyboard difficult to use.

    The Blu faces some stiff competition both north and south of itís $199 USD/$229 CAN price tag. If youíre looking for a Windows Phone then the Blu is well priced but if youíre willing to consider an Android competitor then there are better options.

    2.5 Howies out of 5.

    Pros:

    • Camera
    • Display
    • Available in bright colours
    • Dual SIM cards


    Cons:

    • Back cover should be more secure
    • Speaker sounds horrible
    • Screen stutters
    • keyboard has problems
    • RF performance
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Blu Win HD LTE review started by howard View original post
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Opps posted this in the wrong forum.
    1. damba98's Avatar
      damba98 -
      Just wondering if this was an oversight, or an actual comparison to a Lumia 830(?)

      cheers
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Quote Originally Posted by damba98 View Post
      Just wondering if this was an oversight, or an actual comparison to a Lumia 830(?)

      cheers
      I was comparing it with the Lumia 635. I thought about comparing with the 830 but the 830 costs nearly 2x as much as the Blu unlocked so I didn't mention it.
    1. Ten Four's Avatar
      Ten Four -
      Probably a closer comparison would be the Lumia 640 that has just become available on Cricket for $130. Personally, I would miss the Lumia camera apps quite a bit--they are excellent. I wonder if ProShot would work with the Blu phone? That is a great app too. I have read other reviews that were not so enthusiastic about the camera, indicating overexposure and blown highlights in bright light. The stuttering issue sounds like a bit of a one-off, again in comparison to other reviews only, but that could be a deal breaker too. I think overall the Lumia 640 would be a much better phone. I own a 635 and really like it and probably won't be changing for awhile--I don't want anything bigger!
    1. Steven Hurdle's Avatar
      Steven Hurdle -
      I have a Blu Win HD LTE Howard, and in general agree with your review. A couple of thoughts, and one outright correction:

      However, while the default Windows Phone keyboard is awesome, for some reason it works horribly on the Blu. I think the source of this problem is the same as why the Blu screen stutters when you scroll.

      If you’re a slow typist you probably won’t notice it but if you’re typing really quickly, half your key presses don’t register. It’s bad enough that the normally very capable Windows auto-correct can’t work its magic with the Blu.
      Your review is quite correct here. It's worth adding, however, that those that prefer to use the gesture feature on the keyboard (Microsoft's swype-like option) are not having this problem. That's what I've been doing with the Blu Win HD LTE and I've been unable to swype ahead of it.

      However, in the case of the Blu, you’ll need to turn the phone on, unlock and and then look for shortcut to the camera app to launch it. This is really, really annoying and I suspect it may even be a deal breaker for some Windows Phone users who are used to this."
      Microsoft Lumias without dedicated camera buttons, by default, have the camera as one of the quick-launch icons in the notification centre. For some reason the Blu Win HD LTE doesn't. By changing it to one of the four default quick launch icons, you can launch the camera app that way. You can do this without unlocking the phone, too: swipe down from the top of the lock screen to open up the notification centre, then tap the camera button. That's a worse number of steps than a Windows Phone with a dedicated camera button, but I believe that's an equivalent number of steps as it is on Android and iOS.

      One criticism not mentioned in the article is that, in addition to not having Lumia-specific apps, it also doesn't have Lumia-specific OS extensions such as double-tap-to-wake, and Glance screen. Glance screen was a killer for me, a feature that my iOS-owning friends are rather jealous of, so I imported onto a dual-SIM Lumia 640 which is a very similar phone to the Blu

      One final note about the Blu Win HD LTE. It is dual-SIM which is a cool feature, but one SIM is 2G/3G/LTE, the other is 2G-only. This is fine if the second SIM is on Rogers, and all you want is talk and text from it. That second SIM is useless on Bellus, Wind, etc., because only Rogers Communications operates a 2G GSM network in this country. This is true of most Android dual-SIM handsets too, so this is less a criticism but just a buyer beware about the category in general. It is worth noting that dual-SIM Lumias, like my Lumia 640, are dual-3G or dual-LTE (depending on the handset) if you need two SIMs of which neither is Rogers (or you need data on the Rogers SIM) then be very careful which one you pick up.
    1. darkesha's Avatar
      darkesha -
      Thanks Steven for your clarification of dual SIM capabilities.
      I wasn't aware of this and I almost purchased phone for this particular reason (to ditch second phone but to keep both numbers active).
    1. Steven Hurdle's Avatar
      Steven Hurdle -
      Quote Originally Posted by darkesha View Post
      Thanks Steven for your clarification of dual SIM capabilities.
      I wasn't aware of this and I almost purchased phone for this particular reason (to ditch second phone but to keep both numbers active).
      You're welcome. In most countries, the HSPA providers also have 2G GSM. Canada is different as our CDMA2000 providers all transitioned to HSPA by 2010 (unlike in the U.S. where most CDMA2000 providers waited until LTE to begin the transition to the global standard). These former CDMA2000 providers in Canada didn't bother rolling out 2G as HSPA doesn't need it, and they'd never sold 2G-only handsets so had no legacy concerns. In the U.S., Europe, etc., this doesn't matter as the HSPA carriers all also have 2G.

      You might prefer to get the dual-SIM Lumia 640 LTE. It's a very similar phone (5" screen, similar CPU, same amount of RAM, etc.), but it can do HSPA and LTE on both SIMs. I got one of Expansys and loved it. I wish I'd got the 640 XL, as apparently the ones they're selling are dual-SIM (despite them not being advertised this way).
    1. JSH1's Avatar
      JSH1 -
      It is disappointing that BLU didn't fix the screen issue. I played around with the 3G only version in the Microsoft store last year and it also had a noticeable stutter to the screen.
    1. sbeam2's Avatar
      sbeam2 -
      This phone do not support 4g?
    1. Nokia69's Avatar
      Nokia69 -
      Does anyone else happen to own a Blu Win HD LTE? It is on sale @ Amazon for $49.99 {originally $199.99}. I am considering getting 1 as a backup phone. I had a 521 & liked Windows but had to switch back to Android bc I needed certain apps. I have also had another Blu phone that worked fine so this seems like a really good deal ... ?

    1. SnowyWhite's Avatar
      SnowyWhite -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nokia69 View Post
      Does anyone else happen to own a Blu Win HD LTE? It is on sale @ Amazon for $49.99 {originally $199.99}. I am considering getting 1 as a backup phone. I had a 521 & liked Windows but had to switch back to Android bc I needed certain apps. I have also had another Blu phone that worked fine so this seems like a really good deal ... ?

      I'd jump on this deal if I didn't already have the Blu Win HD.

      It should be able to upgrade to Windows 10.
      My Blu Win HD upgraded over a month ago.

      Sent from my Dainty Little Moto E
    1. chuck336's Avatar
      chuck336 -
      I ordered this phone at the $49 price from Amazon this past Sunday, too good to pass up, then after placing the order the prices went up 10 bucks, (its amazon how this happens often with Amazon from what I have seen) but it sure beats Microsoft store's $149 price.
    1. SnowyWhite's Avatar
      SnowyWhite -
      Quote Originally Posted by chuck336 View Post
      I ordered this phone at the $49 price from Amazon this past Sunday, too good to pass up, then after placing the order the prices went up 10 bucks, (its amazon how this happens often with Amazon from what I have seen) but it sure beats Microsoft store's $149 price.
      Great deal!

      Yes I've noticed that with Amazon.
      I'm glad they didn't jack the price before you ordered it.

      The upgrade to Windows 10 should be ready now.
      I didn't have any problem with the phone after I upgraded.
      I did have lots of problems with my Lumia 640 after upgrading.
      It's all fixed now after a factory reset.

      Good luck with your new toy!


      Sent from my lovely LG Optimus L90
    1. Nokia69's Avatar
      Nokia69 -
      I noticed that the prices were starting to yo-yo (as high as $92) & the blue even went out of stock so as soon as it came back & went down to $49.99 again, I ordered & got it last week. Installed a tempered glass cover since it did not come with Gorilla Glass. Perfect timing bc all of the colors went up in price but the blue color is the most expensive bc it looks like the seller DealFisher is out of that model.

      I really like the phone, especially for the price. The color is not quite what I was hoping for but oh well. Upgraded to Windows 10 and it has worked mostly well. It does miss some taps & I do wish that the email background was black instead of white but so far only little gripes.

      Do not understand why the Windows Phone market share has dropped so low as this is really not a bad OS. Hopefully it sticks around unlike my previous Symbian & Meego phones.

    1. chuck336's Avatar
      chuck336 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SnowyWhite View Post
      Great deal!

      Yes I've noticed that with Amazon.
      I'm glad they didn't jack the price before you ordered it.

      The upgrade to Windows 10 should be ready now.
      I didn't have any problem with the phone after I upgraded.
      I did have lots of problems with my Lumia 640 after upgrading.
      It's all fixed now after a factory reset.

      Good luck with your new toy!


      Sent from my lovely LG Optimus L90

      Thanks! Expecting it to arrive on Friday. I do have two AT&T 640s, both unlocked but they still have the some AT&T bloatware.

      I'll post after about 30 days of usage.
    1. chuck336's Avatar
      chuck336 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nokia69 View Post
      I noticed that the prices were starting to yo-yo (as high as $92) & the blue even went out of stock so as soon as it came back & went down to $49.99 again, I ordered & got it last week. Installed a tempered glass cover since it did not come with Gorilla Glass. Perfect timing bc all of the colors went up in price but the blue color is the most expensive bc it looks like the seller DealFisher is out of that model.

      I really like the phone, especially for the price. The color is not quite what I was hoping for but oh well. Upgraded to Windows 10 and it has worked mostly well. It does miss some taps & I do wish that the email background was black instead of white but so far only little gripes.

      Do not understand why the Windows Phone market share has dropped so low as this is really not a bad OS. Hopefully it sticks around unlike my previous Symbian & Meego phones.

      I went with the gray color.
    1. SnowyWhite's Avatar
      SnowyWhite -
      Quote Originally Posted by chuck336 View Post
      I went with the gray color.
      I would have gone with the hot pink.
      It would have matched my hot pink purse.

      I have a neon yellow Nokia Lumia 1020 and a neon yellow Blu Win HD.

      Sent from my lovely LG Optimus L90