Do you remember the last time you looked at a phone display and picked up what turned out to be a display unit? Rather than the actual device, merchants often put out fake phones which – from a distance – look real. These often use the same chassis, but contain no components on the inside, so they’re super light, and their screens are a glossy picture rather than an actual display. That was our first impression of the BLU Vivo Air, luckily that impression was quickly replaced with respect.
The Vivo Air is thin, it’s light, and it looks a lot like an iPhone 6. Beyond first impressions, how does the BLU Vivo Air measure up? Let’s jump right in to our review video!
BLU Vivo Air review
Who is BLU, you ask? BLU is a consumer electronics company founded in 2009 and headquartered in sunny Miami, Florida. So far the company has reportedly shipped over 10 million BLU-branded devices. Newest in the lineup, thanks to a CES 2015 release, is what some are calling the “thinnest phone in the States”, the Vivo Air.
The first thing you’re going to notice is how light (97g) and thin (5.1mm) the phone is – it really does feel like it could be a display unit. Thin means it doesn’t have a huge battery in it to weigh it down, it’s just 2100 mAh (non-removable). What’s surprising is just how much time we got between charges. After 1 day and 6 hours of moderate use, we still had 70% left.
The next thing you’ll notice is the bold, bright screen. It looks fake, but it’s not. It’s a 4.8-inch SuperAMOLED panel with a resolution of 720 x 1280, which puts it at a very respectable 306 ppi pixel density. Colors are hyper-bright and a bit oversaturated, but blacks are deep and text is crisp. Video streams tremendously well, and watching Serenity was more detailed and crisp than we’ve ever seen. Whether this is thanks to codec magic (h.265 Ultra HD video is supported by the SoC) or courtesy of the Mali 450 GPU driving the pictures, we don’t know.
Under the hood you’ll find 16 GB internal storage (regrettably with no sdcard expansion), and a solitary gig of RAM. The processor, however, is a little bit surprising: a MediaTek Octa-core clocked at 1.7 GHz – based on ARM’s Cortex A7. This isn’t a dual quad-core configuration, either. MediaTek describes the MT6592 chip as “true octa-core”.
Though the screen is made of Gorilla Glass 3, the Vivo Air comes with a screen protector that you can apply, and a lightweight case as well. We opted to go without either, and other than the fairly slippery back, we’re happy with that choice.
In the days of nanoSIMs, the Vivo Air takes the micro version. (We’d like to thank Eric at the Syracuse T-Mobile store for helping us out with this!)
Calls were acceptable, but not great. Our callers noticed a slight delay (more than usual on the T-Mobile network), but that wasn’t a deal-breaker. Audio was strong, but the speakerphone was muffled and muted thanks to the away-facing speaker.
The MediaTek chip powering the Vivo Air is capable of LTE on paper, but BLU opted to go with HSPA+, but it’s calling it 4G (both on the box and on the carrier icon in the status bar. Upload and download speeds were disappointing, even for HSPA+. On the WiFi side, only 2.4GHz is supported on 802.11 b/g/n (no a or ac), and performance was only “acceptable” at best.
In everyday use, the Vivo Air performs well. Heavy apps hang up a bit, but we’d expect that with only 1GB RAM. Benchmarks didn’t always want to complete, we suspect due to “special considerations” with the MediaTek chip.
The Vivo Air uses a very heavily stylized build of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. It will run all the apps that you’re used to, and they’ll look like they do on any other Android, but everything else is different from the lockscreen to the launcher – which lacks an app drawer, opting instead for infinite, unorganized, scrolling homescreens.
It’s an interesting take on Android, that’s for sure. You might love it, you might hate it, but you’ve got to give it to BLU for going out on a limb. Alas, it looks like the heavy customization is already delaying OS updates, with no timeframe when Android 5.0 Lollipop will be arriving – if at all.
Unlike some other smartphones, BLU doesn’t cheat by saying their phone is thin, then bumping the camera module out the backside. The Vivo Air’s camera sits flush with the back of the phone. Sure, it’s only 8MP, but it still shoots video in 1080P at 3ofps using that h.265 Ultra HD video codec.
Pictures were acceptable, video was decent. You’re not going to win any contests here, but those aren’t the contests BLU is trying to win with this thin, lightweight, eight-cored beast, is it?
If you’ve got Amazon Prime you can pick up the white edition of the Vivo Air for US$199, unlocked. For a device with these specs, as long as you don’t live and die by LTE, and if you want bragging rights of owning one of the slimmest phones around, you can’t go wrong with the BLU Vivo Air.
Looking for more BLU Vivo Air coverage to squeeze its way into your newsfeed? Check out our additional coverage and thoughts on using one of the slimmest smartphones around!