Review: Microsoft Windows Phone BLU Win HD LTE

 It used to be that budget smartphones were a serious compromise on many levels. Often, they were glitchy, slow and generally unpleasant affairs that may as well have been dumb phones because the only thing they could do with any consistency was make calls. If they weren't frozen at the moment. Not today. With phones like the BLU Win HD LTE, running Windows 8.1, the compromises are few but the upsides are plentiful.


Hardware Overview

The BLU Win HD LTE is a great looking phone right out of the box! With the colors and styling, you wind up with a handset that looks like the love-child of an HTC One (M8) and Nokia's Lumia line and that isn't a bad thing. On the front of the phone you'll get a 5" IPS 720x1280 display with approximately 294 ppi (sans Gorilla Glass), 2 megapixel front-facing camera, the usual array of sensors and a speaker. Around the back you'll get an 8 megapixel camera, LED flash, speaker, noise canceling microphone and some BLU branding. Up top you get a standard 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB charge port. On the bottom is where you'll find the microphone. The volume rocker is on the side of the phone right above the power/sleep/wake button. A feature that those of you with multiple lines, and who travel outside the country may love, dual SIM slots. This a dual SIM phone with one tray supporting micro-SIM and the other, mini-SIM. You'll also get a microSD slot that supports up to a 32GB card.

The display is vibrant and readable at maximum brightness outdoors but could use a bit of a boost in touch sensitivity. It's responsive, when it's responsive but there were times that I was using the swype-style keyboard and when typing out long words, it would break them up into two words as if when I swiped across the screen the screen lost track of my finger. I learned that if I consciously applied more pressure as I swiped, that problem went away. As is the hallmark of the Windows Phone UI, tiles on the homescreen are bright and vibrant with information from the live tiles easily legible even with my dark, Marvel Black Panther background image. Though this display is of the HD variety, I have to say that the blacks aren't quite as deep as competing Windows phones, though for many users it won't be an issue. Still, the IPS panel on this BLU handset is no slouch and will serve you just fine in day-to-day use and during multimedia consumption.


Daily Use

Internally, the BLU is running a quad-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor with 64-bit architecture which handles whatever Windows 8.1 can throw at it with aplomb. Flipping between apps, speaking to Cortana, streaming music and playing games are all done without lag or stuttering. Your gaming life will be managed by the Adreno 306 gpu with 1GB or RAM and 32GB of ROM to hold those games and any other media. The camera launches fast and snaps off pics pretty expeditiously. The processor and GPU are pretty efficient when it comes to power management. The BLU with its 2500mAh battery lasts me a full workday, into the evening with an hour and a half gym session of streamed Play Music (third-party app) without me sweating that battery redlining. That's text messaging, a few email accounts, a few social channels and very few actual phone calls. Though it's tough to make comparisons and tell you how much life you're going to get because we all use our phones differently, I'm confident in saying that this phone should easily get you through your "day." If we're talking "daily use" we can't forget about those camera pics. Since I can't upload the full-size photos here, I'm going to link you to a Google+ photo album of images taken with the phone. They're pretty much what you'd expect. You get really nice outdoor photos in direct sunlight and middling photos indoors. There are things you can do to take better photos indoors but most people don't take the time to put that camera into a manual mode and adjust the settings accordingly so I generally work with auto mode for the sake of testing.

What's most impressive to me is the fact that, given its specs and price point, this is a solid device. As a father, this generation of devices makes my heart happy because there are parents of tweens who benefit so much from having solid options like today's entry and mid-level phones that are available at affordable prices minus the sub-par experiences. The primary issue I have with this mid-range phone would be their choice not to include the ability to add visual voicemail. I've been testing this handset on T-Mobile's network and the experience here in Los Angeles is solid, except for the ability to add visual voicemail. First world problem, I know, but the VVM feature is so convenient, I've come to expect it on all the handsets I've purchased. This omission is especially frustrating considering there are Windows Phones at similar price points that include the functionality.


Final Thoughts

Overall, the BLU Win HD LTE is a great phone at a good price and one that won't slow you down as you move through your day, unless you're checking voicemail. It's an especially good deal if you're buying for teens as you get some great parental control software features baked into the Windows Phone OS and great battery life means that when you're trying to get in touch with your teen and they tell you, "I didn't answer because my phone died," you'll know they're up to something (I kid, kind of). You can purchase the BLU directly from Microsoft online or in store right now, unlocked for use on T-Mobile, AT&T and other compatible GSM carriers. It will not work on CDMA carriers like Sprint and Verizon.



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