BLU (Bold Like Us) is a fairly new smartphone manufacturer. Well, they’re really a white-label manufacturer, meaning that they often rebrand phones made by other manufacturers in order to sell them in different markets. They’ve been mainly targetting the low-end with inexpensive yet interestingly innovative Android and Windows Phones. They’ve only been around since 2009 though and are based in Miami Florida. Back in February we looked at the BLU Vivo Air, and now we’ve got the new BLU Win HD LTE to try out. While the BLU Vivo Air had the stylings that were very reminiscent of the iPhone, the BLU Win HD LTE looks alot like the HTC One brand of smartphones, especially if you get it in the silver/white color option.

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Specs · Hardware · Software · Camera · Performance · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me

Specs

The BLU Win HD LTE has the Snapdragon 410 1.2Ghz Quad-core 64-bit processor along with a 5″ high definition 720×1280 pixel IPS screen and an Adreno 306 GPU powering the display. In terms of radios, it’s got 4G LTE bands 4 (1700Mhz), 7 (2600Mhz), and 17 (700Mhz) plus 3G bands 850/1700/1900/2100. That means it will support a wide range of GSM providers including T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and AT&T in the United States. Oh, and there are two SIM card slots in there, which means you can activate it with two different GSM services at the same time. Both accounts can have separate phone dialers if you want, but you have to choose one or the other as the primary data-connection provider (which you can change manually at any time.)

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It’s got 8Gb of internal storage and 1GB of RAM. About half of that is taken up by the operating system, bundled apps, and your synced email accounts data. That’s not a lot of room for very many 3rd party apps, music, pictures, and videos, so thankfully a Micro SD slot is under the battery cover. You can add up to 128 GB of storage that way and what’s excellent about Windows Phone 8.1 is that you can now move or install apps to the SD card.

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The phone’s size is a respectable 145 x 72 x 8.2mm and its weight is 136g. That’s thinner and lighter than the new Lumia 640 from Microsoft. You’ve also got the 8 megapixel rear camera and a 2 megapixel front facing camera along with a 2500mAh battery which is oddly not removable even though you can take the back off and see it right there.

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What’s in the box is actually pretty impressive. Normally, unboxing new phones has become pretty boring.  All you get is the phone and a charger.  Not so with BLU. The BLU Win HD LTE came with a screen protector, charging adapter, MicroUSB cable, stereo headphones, and even a matching protective case. Yeah, all of the important accessories that you might need come with the device for the same low price. The only thing missing is the SIM card for your service and a MicroSD card for your storage expansion.

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Hardware

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At first glance, the hardware is really beautiful. We recieved the flourescent yellow/green color, but it’s also available in black, white, and orange.

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While your color preference may vary, the flourescent yellow is extremely eye catching. Here on the back you can see a speaker slit, the 8 megapixel rear camera, with small LED flash, as well as some branding logos. If you look closely, there’s also a tiny spec near the camera on the back. It’s not a piece of dirt, but a hole for a microphone.

 

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The 3.5mm headset jack and Micro USB ports are on the top of the device.

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Here’s where the BLU Win HD LTE looks alot like an HTC one. The front has a speaker grill at the top with nice rounded corners, along with a 2 megapixel front facing camera and some ambient light/proximity sensors.

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There is not secondary speaker grill at the bottom though. You’ve got a simple sheet of colored plastic there below the back, start, and search buttons.

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On the right edge, you’ll find the volume up/down toggle button along with the power button. There is no dedicated camera button unfortunately. The buttons have a nice feel to them and offer a distinct click when pressed even when covered by the included protective case. Those are all good things.

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On the bottom, you’ll find a thin slit in the covering. You can use a fingernail to pry the backing off of the phone in order to access the SIM card slots and Micro SD slot.

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Oddly the battery is not user-replacable and your warranty will be void if you remove that sticker covering it.

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Here you can see the two SIM card slots and the Micro SD card slot.
The dual SIM support is great if you have a personal phone number and a work phone number and don’t want to carry around two phones. It’s also great if you’re a frequent traveller and want to have reception on a different network as soon as you land in a different country.

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Software

BLU has done absolutely nothing to customize the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system other than including a colorful default lock screen image and that is totally fine with us.  You can read more about the operating system in our Windows Phone 8.1 review as well as our Windows Phone 8.0 review.

The BLU Win HD LTE does not have any carrier related bloatware, it doesn’t have a custom camera app, it doesn’t have any extra navigation programs that you have to subscribe to, and it doesn’t have any special features to configure in the settings. It’s completely bare-bones Windows Phone with the default Windows Phone apps like Skype, OneDrive, Office, MSN News, etc.

The nice thing about that is that it will be very easy for BLU to release a Windows 10 upgrade for this phone. No crazy customizations means no crazy bug fixes and do-overs for Windows 10. And that’s something BLU is advertising for this phone; it’s Windows 10 ready. In the meantime, of course you can still install custom camera apps and whichever GPS navigation program you might like from the Windows Phone store.

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Camera

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Now when you hear 8 megapixel camera; as a Lumia Pure View or a Nokia user you’ll probably consider that to be pretty awful. As an iPhone user, you’d probably consider that to be the best that there is. On the BLU Win HD LTE, 8 megapixels isn’t that great.

While the camera launches very quickly and there is practically no shutter lag between taking photos, there are often major focusing problems. I like to use touch to capture, which is supposed to focus on the focus point from where you touch the screen and then save the photo once the focus is set. This camera doesn’t seem to do the focusing first. It usually just takes the picture whenever you press the button or touch the screen. It’s as if priority is not given to the focus. Sometimes that’s a setting that I want in my high end digital cameras with manual focusing capabilities, but on a phone, I want it to autofocus first. The image quality tends to be on the low-end too when you do get it to focus correctly. You’ll see lots of noise, compression artifacts, and software-sharpened edges.

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Index

Performance

The BLU Win HD LTE has been just about exactly as responsive as any of the more-expensive higher-end Windows Phones. The interface is just as smooth and quick. The camera launches in about 1.5 seconds, though if you quickly scrub the programs listing up and down, up and down, you might notice a very subtle studder. Overall, the Win HD LTE should handle things quite smoothly though.

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Pros

  • + Great specs for a great price
  • + Dual SIM card slots gives you two phone plans in one phone
  • + Eye catching color options
  • + LTE support on a wide range of bands with support for a wide range of networks.
  • + Great looking screen

Cons

  • 8 megapixel camera has focus and image quality issues
  • No wireless charging option
  • No NFC
  • No glance mode
  • Non-removable battery

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Pricing and Availability

The BLU Win HD LTE is now available from the Microsoft Store with no contract and unlocked for $199. You should be able to order it online as well as find it in the retail Microsoft Stores located around the country.

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Conclusion

At $199, the BLU Win HD LTE Windows Phone is squarely in the low-end to mid-range area of the smartphone market, but while other phones close to this price range tend to skimp a lot on the hardware… with really bad screens, no flash, no front-facing camera, no LTE, etc., the Win HD LTE actually covers all the basics and covers them pretty nicely. If Microsoft’s $399 Lumia 830 is the “affordable flagship”, then the Win HD LTE is the even-more affordable flagship.

That is unless you’re a camera snob like me. The 8 megapixel rear camera on this phone is the biggest disapointment for me, though you certainly can’t expect Nokia PureView quality imaging at this price point. The rest of the device is pretty impressive. The flourescent yellow version we tested was quite the head-turner and it performs quite well with normal day-to-day smartphone functions.

Index


Scored For Me

Nokia Lumia 521 review

 

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