16
May
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In the past, Blu has offered budget-friendly phones with mid to mid-high end specs. The biggest issue that most power users have had with the company's handsets is a simple one: MediaTek processors. While these particular chips offer good bang for the buck, they are still mostly underpowered for heavy multi-taskers or anyone looking for lightning quickness from their handset.

It looks like we may be getting into a new era for Blu if the new Life Pure XL is any indicator of what to expect moving forward. This device is a fairly drastic departure from the company's previous devices, as it's packing some of the most high-end specs we've seen from them yet. Right out of the gate, you know this is going to be a completely different experience than anything Blu has ever offered.

Let's dig in.

Specs

  • Display: 5.5-inch 1920x1080 with Gorilla Glass 3
  • Processor: Quad-Core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • RAM: 2/3GB (depending on model)
  • Camera: 16MP rear shooter, 8MP front
  • Storage: 16/32GB (depending on model)
  • Ports: microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Wireless: GSM HSPA+ 42 Mbps, 4G 850/1900/2100; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • OS: Android 4.2.2
  • Available colors: Black, White, Red, Blue
  • Price: $400 (3GB/32GB), $350 (2GB/16GB)

The review unit used for this hands-on is the model with 32GB of storage and 3GB RAM.

wm_IMG_2098

Pros

Cons

  • Crazy fast
  • 3GB RAM on the high-end model
  • Excellent display
  • Good camera
  • Very light
  • Good battery life
  • No LTE
  • Still on Android 4.2.2
  • Slightly uncomfortable corners

As you can see, this is a premium handset. Blu is promising the KitKat update for next month (June), so the only thing it's really missing is LTE, which is in my opinion a coin toss for most people. I personally don't notice much of a different between HSPA+ and LTE in most places, but that could be because I live near the DFW Metroplex, which makes for a heavily congested network. Or it could because I don't generally use my mobile connection for anything super heavy, either (aside from streaming music from Google Play All Access). Either way, I found the HSPA+ connection on the Life Pure XL to be quite good for most uses. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's talk about the device's form factor first.

Appearance and Build Quality

wm_IMG_2073 wm_IMG_2081

Right out of the box, the Pure XL looks like a svelte, premium handset. It's crafted from a single piece of polycarbonate, which gives the unit a very cohesive, seamless look. The top and bottom ends are curved, though they connect with the sides very abruptly, creating sharp corners that can be slightly uncomfortable. It's also worth mentioning that the material used on the back of the phone is kind of slippery. It looks great, but it definitely makes me fear dropping the device pretty often. It doesn't help that it's a pretty large handset and I have these tiny hands, either. Also, it's a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Fortunately, like all other Blu phones, it ships with a lightweight plastic case.

There's also a little suction cup tool thingy in the box. Guess what it's for? It's a prop! Stick it to the back of the phone for an instant, removable kickstand. Can't say I've seen this solution used before, but it works, so I guess that's all that matters.

wm_IMG_2089 wm_IMG_2105

The bottom of the phone features the speaker, microphone, and microUSB charging port; the microSIM slot is on the left, headphone jack and power button on the top, and volume rocker on the right side. A pretty standard layout.

wm_IMG_2099 wm_IMG_2101 wm_IMG_2102 wm_IMG_2096

Like with most Blu phones, the Life XL features capacitive keys for OS navigation: menu, home, and back. It's still strange to me that a menu button exists in an Android 4.0+ world, but alas...here we are. While single tapping each button performs the expected action, the home button works triple duty: long-pressing it launches Google Now with search open, and double-tapping it brings up recent apps. Personally, I'd much rather have the menu key open recent apps instead of menu, and launch Google Now by double-tapping the home key. Ideally, I'd love to see a way of customizing these buttons in the settings menu. Perhaps something to consider for the KitKat OTA, Blu?

The back of the unit is where you'll find the massive 16MP camera. This is actually one of the stars of the show for the Life Pure XL, as the camera is quite good. It not only captures good-looking images right out of the box, but it also has a slew of advanced settings under "professional mode" for those who like to fine tune their camera experience.

Screenshot_2014-05-14-13-46-31 Screenshot_2014-05-14-13-46-50

IMG_20140516_114503 IMG_20140516_114632 IMG_20140516_114637

IMG_20140509_212945

Indoor, low light

Finally, there's the display. I've personally had nothing bad to say about Blu's displays in the past, and the Pure XL does nothing to change that. Colors are bright and vibrant without being oversaturated, text is crisp and easy to read, and the viewing angles are very good. It's a very nice display, and I'd be willing to put it in the ring with the current crop of flagships. It may not be better than all the others, but it can definitely hold its own.

Software and Performance

Like the other devices in the Pure series (the Life Pure and Life Pure Mini), the Pure XL runs a heavily skinned version of Android with a very simplified MIUI-like interface. While this makes OS navigation a breeze, it also severely limits some of the things that makes Android so good (like widgets, for example). Fortunately, third-party launchers like Nova make this a non-issue, and unlike the Pure/Pure Mini, the XL doesn't have an always-blurred background. So if the stock launcher isn't your cup of tea, toss another one there.

Screenshot_2014-05-16-09-35-32 Screenshot_2014-05-16-09-35-41 Screenshot_2014-05-16-09-35-50

As stated earlier, the Pure XL is running Android 4.2.2 right out of the box. Fortunately, Blu is promising the update to KitKat next month, which is good news. I'm not going to deny that this device should've probably shipped with KitKat, but considering we're only a couple of weeks away from June already, this is the next best thing - the sooner it hits, the better.

In the performance department, the Life Pure XL is stupid-fast. The Snapdragon 800 hums along under this device's hood at lightning speed, and the 3GB of RAM makes sure you're never left wanting. Hands down, this is one of the fastest devices I've ever used - it handled everything I threw at it without a single issue.

Lastly, there's the debate between LTE vs HSPA+. There is no argument here: LTE is faster. It's a fact. However, when doing things like surfing the web, checking social networks, and light stuff like that, I don't personally notice much of a difference between the two. I do feel it, however, when looking at image-heavy sites (like reddit, for example), streaming video, or tethering. If you don't do a lot of those things, you may not feel the need for LTE. That said, if you're an always-connected internet-streaming junkie when away from the keyboard, HSPA/HSPA+ probably won't cut it for you. I do think the lack of LTE is an oversight on Blu's part, but I don't think it's enough to call it a dealbreaker. That's just my two cents, of course.

Conclusion

wm_IMG_2107

The Life Pure XL sits in an interesting position: it's a $400 flagship-quality phone, so it's essentially in direct competition with the new OnePlus One. While I realize there's a lot to like about the One from a user's perspective, that doesn't automatically mean there isn't a lot to like about the Life Pure XL. They're both pretty evenly matched, though the One does have LTE and Android 4.4.2 out of the box. But it's also on an "invite-only" list for the time being, and the Pure XL easily has a better camera.

Ultimately, they're both good phones, and there's one point to be taken out of all this: if you're sick and tired of paying $650+ (or signing a contract) for a new handset, the $400 flagships are here.

Buy: Amazon

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    SUDDENLY MASSIVE LENS BULGE

    • Da Fuq

      Is that a lens in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

  • http://androidhackbr.blogspot.com/ Jonas Henrique (joheraga)

    Lg, learn about system design with Blu, please

    • John Lord

      Lol I had a g2 for less than a week because of this same issue,LG's UI design looks terrible In my opinion,and they say touchwiz is bad....

      • Theromz

        It's cause LG copies Samsung but are always a few years behind.

  • jamesfuston

    How good is "good" battery life? 30ish hours?

    • Chris

      Probably 3-4 hours screen on time like every other crap battery.

      • [A]dri[A]n

        Wrong, I've gotten almost 6 hours of on screen time with this phone. This phone has very impressive battery life when you consider the screen size and battery size.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Around 4-5 hours of screen-on time.

      • jamesfuston

        Nothing to sneeze at.

      • Theromz

        I think thats becoming standard these days, my nexus 5 pulls 4 hours, but my gfs M8 gets 7hours, I would rank 5-6 hours as good and 7+ as great.

  • ProductFRED

    Add "No AWS" to the list of Cons. Let's face it, most people bring their unlocked phones to T-Mobile. While some of their network is refarmed, even here in NYC my experience is a lot of places are not, leaving you with EDGE. I don't know why they don't just add 1700 MHz, since the 2100 MHz part is already there...

    • Tracy William

      my&nbspr­ο­­ο­mate's&nbspstep-sister&nbspΜ­­­­­­а­­­­­­K­­­­­­е­­­­­­ѕ&nbsp$­­­­­­­85&nbspհ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rly&nbsp­ο­n&nbspthe&nbspl­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ρ.&nbspShe&nbsphas&nbspbeen&nbspwith­ο­ut&nbspW­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­r­­­­­­K&nbspf­ο­r&nbsp8&nbspΜ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ­­­­­­ѕ&nbspbut&nbsplast&nbspΜ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ&nbspher&nbspρ­­­­­­а­­­­У&nbspcheck&nbspwas&nbsp$­­­­­­­17008&nbspjust&nbspW­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­r­­­­­­King&nbsp­ο­n&nbspthe&nbspl­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ρ&nbspf­ο­r&nbspa&nbspϜ­­­­­­е­­­­­­W&nbspհ­­­­­­­ο­­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rs.&nbspRead&nbspm­ο­re&nbsp­ο­n&nbspthis&nbspѕ­­­­­­і­­­­­­τ­­­­­­е,...&nbsphttp://Profitbeatsnow&#x32&#48&#x31&#52advanceyay2ehl0B...

      ✒✒✒ �✒✒✒ ✒✒✒ ✒�✒✒ ✒✒✒

    • Ryan Olivas

      It's accutaly a good thing that it doesn't have 1700 MHz because now all of T-Mobile's LTE network for right now is on the 1700 and 2100 MHz band. Meaning that the hspa+ on T-Mobile is very slow becuase it doesn't have top priority on the 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz network like LTE does. So most of the Hspa+ is now moved to 1900 MHz spectrum which is what this phone has.

      • Andrew

        I have AT&T so will I get 4g hspa+ speeds or will I only get 3g edge speeds. I read a pc mag review and that guy said if you have AT&T you will only get 3g and hspa+ would only work if you have t-mobile. So is that true or not.

        Thanks

        • lalog83

          you will get H+. I have a Life Play with an AT&T sim and that's what I get.

          • Andrew

            hmm ok wonder why the PC mag review said you would only get 3G speeds on AT&T.

            Thanks for that info

  • psychoace

    Still nothing on 4.4? Blu promised it would be here by now.
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2650154

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Next month for the Pure XL and some of its other new devices.

      • psychoace

        Did they announce a delay? I'm only seeing the announcement that they published on Facebook for May 1st.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

          Hrm, not that I'm aware of. Last I heard they were shooting for a June/July release date for several KitKat updates.

          • Tommy Pearson

            June

        • Kai O

          I think I saw a post from BLU saying they pushed back because they had been working hard to bring new devices to the consumers. It was on their facebook.

        • Kai O

          here it is

      • psychoace

        NM I see it. I wonder why they haven't given a list of devices being updated

  • Kai O

    Not a fan of BLU, but it's nice to see something like this coming from that company. $400 is pretty good for something like this. The camera samples don't look very good to me (maybe I need to try to to tell), and the design does look like it's gonna feel like crap in the hand. Who the hell came up with with the curved top and bottom and flat sides? xD
    Anyway, the only thing I'm curious about this Pure XL is its build quality comparing to phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, or Nokia. Several smartphones from BLU had really bad build quality and quality control.

  • David Li

    IMHO it's so ugly and not really better than a nexus 5

  • http://www.animenews.biz Humberto Saabedra

    There's a good reason that the Life Pure XL doesn't have LTE on it. They're buying the ELife E7 from Chinese OEM Gionee and doing a minor rebrand job.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0AcAIyv9gc

    While Gionee sources the Snapdragon 800/801, they buy them without activating the LTE baseband, which makes them cheaper than usual. The biggest dealbreaker for me is the lack of a microSD slot, but Gionee's devices are shipping without them now, so that's something to keep in mind if you do decide to buy from BLU in the future.

  • [A]dri[A]n

    I have this phone and it's probably my favorite device I've ever had. Everything about it is pretty great. I guess launching with 4.2.2. is a "bad thing" but when the OS is so heavily skinned, does it really matter? It's not gonna be nearly as noticeable as it would be on the Nexus 5 or other devices, unless BLU intends on making visual changes to the OS. Also, the battery life is definitely great on this phone. Surpassed my expectations. Under the right circumstances, you can get between 5-6 hours of screen-on time which is absolutely fantastic given the screen and battery size. I would definitely recommend this phone.

    • YanYanKong

      Where did you buyyour phone? I would like to buy one too, but am delaying because I want the blue coloured one. Blu's site tskes me to amazon which only sells the blk and wht. I've tried searching for other places, but e bay and bestbuy is no different. Can you or anyone help me find the blue version if the phone?

  • Rafael Dib

    Hello friends of BLU! I am an enthusiast of the brand and just buy the new BLU XL PURE LIFE! I would like to inform some problems I'm having, to facilitate your work:
    - When the switch-smart gestures, by sliding the unlock command does not work right. You turn on the screen and it does not respond to the command; the second time we turn it responds.
    - The lack of a menu with all the apps is terrible! The screen is polluted, full of apps!
    - No one can change almost anything on the screens of blu and that's not cool. The apps are in certain places and we can not arrange them as we like.
    - The camera flash does not detect automatically. Now appears the flash, sometimes not.
    - There is no rapid change in brightness intensity of the screen, for example, BLU LIFE PLAY.

    FORGIVENESS FOR MY BAD ENGLISH!
    Bye!

  • Diego Paiva

    Hi, I'm having problems to connect my Life Pure XL to my car (GM - Cobalt) by Bluetooth. Can you guys help me? What's the procedure?