BLU is a relatively small smartphone manufacturer which hails out of Miami, FL. They have garnered quite a bit of attention over the past few years for releasing unlocked smartphones at comparatively low prices. They have a number of smartphones out right now that fit all kinds of budgets and users. The Vivo line has typically been their cheaper line of smartphones, and thus they are usually lower-end. But that’s not the case with the Vivo 5R which the company is launching today for just $199. A smartphone with a 5.5-inch Full HD curved display, fingerprint sensor and an octa-core 1.3GHz processor for $199? Sounds a bit too good to be true. But is it? We’ll find out in this review.
The Hardware on the Vivo 5R is what you can expect from BLU – an aluminum back covers the battery and sports a speedy fingerprint detector. The front, curved glass screen wraps around the sides for a nice almost liquid feel. Up top, there is an 8MP front facing camera with flash and a Sony 13PM sensor on the back. Below the front-facing camera is a 5.5 Full HD 1080p screen with capacitive buttons on the bottom.
On the inside is a MediaTek 1.3 GHz octa-core processor along with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of built-in storage (MicroSD expandable). This phone handles tasks very well. While the 1.3 GHz chip is nothing to write home about, the 3GB of RAM helps this mobile tackle and switch between jobs very smoothly. Apps take a little longer to load than you generally want to wait, but once they’re up, you’re good to go.
Included in the box is a decent pair of ear buds and silicon case to keep the cell phone shiny. There’s also a USB OTG adapter. Not so sure a 3,150 mAh battery warrants the desire to charge other devices, per se, but let ’s talk about that battery.
- 5.5-inch 1,280 x 720-pixel AMOLED display
- Android 5.1 Lollipop (upgradable to Android 6.0 Marshmallow)
- 13- megapixel rear camera, 1080p HD video capture
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera
- 1.3 GHz octa-core Mediatek 6753 processor
- 32GB internal storage, 3GB RAM
- Dual-SIM card slots
- 3,150mAh nonremovable battery
The specs on the Vivo 5R are actually a bit surprising, given how cheap the smartphone really is. But we are looking at a 5.5-inch 1080p screen which gives 401 pixels per inch. There’s a MediaTek MT6753 octa-core 1.3GHz processor inside, along with the Mali-T720 GPU for graphics. This is paired with 3GB of RAM, giving you plenty of RAM for multitasking and such. There is 32GB of storage included with a micro SD card slot (in the SIM card tray) which can support up to 64GB. The Vivo 5R additionally has a 3150mAh non-removable battery which should last you all day long.
As far as connectivity goes, there’s WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. There, of course, is support for 4G LTE here on both AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US. Below are the supported bands:
- GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
- 3G UMTS 850, 1700, 1900, 2100
- 4G LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, 17
Perhaps the most important part of any smartphone is the camera. Here on the Vivo 5R, BLU is using the Sony IMX258 detector on the backside of the device. That is a 13-megapixel sensor that features phase detection auto-focus (or PDAF). This allows for quick auto-focusing, especially in low light conditions. The front-facing camera is an 8-megapixel sensor and features a flash. So you can get some great selfies in low-light as well. Both sensors record 1080p video at 30 frames-per-second.
One of the more surprising aspects of the Vivo 5R was the battery life. At 3150mAh, the (microUSB) fast-charging battery is on the bigger side of your typical smartphone. Standard tests don’t really encapsulate our experience with the apparatus. WiFi video streaming for 30 minutes on 50% brightness dropped the battery 8-9%, and we averaged a display on time of around 3.5 hours. But from a normal day-to-day use standpoint, we often go through an entire day of moderate use (while at work) and often went to bed with 30-35% left in the tank. The surprised us since we’re used to a more typical 15-20%.
Perhaps the lower-end chip chews up fewer cycles and isn’t trying to explode our heads as much as higher end offerings? Whatever the reason, we rarely found ourselves reaching for a battery pack during the day.
The Applications on the Vivo 5R is based on Android 6.0 and is BLU’s custom skin. Gone is the app drawer, so you rollin’ iOS style. And speaking of which, you also have an iOS-like control center which swipes upward from the underside. In the control center are most of the settings you’d anticipate in the notification shade – WiFi, Bluetooth, flashlight, brightness, and the settings button, among others. Swiping down from the top gives you only the notifications, and that’s it. It’s quite the adjustment to make initially, but after some time, it’s a pretty nice system. One of the problems with the telling shadiness has always been having to reach to the top of the phone to do anything. The control center eliminates half of that need.
Powering the Vivo 5R is the octa-core MediaTek MT6753 central processing unit. This really is a 1.3GHz processor that may seem slow on paper, but more than makes up for it in the real world. It’s paired with 3GB of RAM, giving you some power to get things done. There’s enough power here to use your normal apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and even Gmail, without any issues. There were zero problems when it came to lag with the Vivo 5R, and part of that may be due to the rather light skin that is on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. While 3GB of RAM may seem like a small amount of RAM in the fall of 2016, it is still enough to keep the telephone running smoothly.
Another surprise on the Vivo 5R is the fingerprint sensor. Although, it may not be a big surprise to a lot of people, given how popular fingerprint detectors have become in the past year or so. There is a fingerprint sensor on the backside of the Vivo 5R and we have zero complaints about it. The detector works just as it should. Recognizes your finger almost instantly, and has never had an issue in recognizing a finger. Which is additionally a good thing.
Should you Buy the BLU Vivo 5R?
If you’re on T-Mobile or AT&T (or one of their MVNO’s like Straight Talk, or MetroPCS) and you need a new phone under $200, then yes, this is a great smartphone to pick up. It checks plenty of the boxes that users look for when buying a new smartphone, the only downside is the fact that BLU is still a small manufacturer, especially when compared to Lenovo, LG, Samsung, and even HTC.