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Featured Review: BLU Vivo Air

January 31, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Smartphones are getting thinner, thinner and thinner. We are now at the point where phones are becoming so thin, that they aren’t even comfortable to hold and use. The BLU Vivo Air is the thinnest smartphone in North America at just 5mm thin. To keep that in perspective, the headphone jack used on every smartphone is 3.5mm. So it’s pretty darn thin.

BLU is a smartphone maker based in Florida. They make, essentially, dirt cheap smartphones. They also come out with about 20 new smartphones each year, or more. The majority of them run Android, while some do run on Windows mobile platform (whatever they are calling it these days). They make smartphones ranging from $50 all the way to $300, and these are all unlocked smartphones. Today, we’re taking a look at one of their newer models, the Vivo Air.

Hardware

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Back at CES earlier this month, BLU tried to steal some headlines with their BLU Vivo Air smartphone. It’s a very thin smartphone, at just 5mm thin. But it also features an octa-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and an HD display. So the hardware isn’t super high-end, but I wouldn’t expect that for the price of $199, unlocked with no contract.

The build of the BLU Vivo Air, kinda reminds me of the iPhone and Sony’s Xperia smartphones. So you’ve got a glass front and back, and gold trim along the edges. It’s curved a bit like the edges on the Sony Xperia Z3 as well. On the left side there’s the power button and  volume rocker. On the bottom is your 3.5mm headphone jack, along with your micro USB port for charging the thing. And the right side houses your SIM card slot. On the back there’s the 8MP camera – which is pretty decent but not mind blowing – and a flash. The front has your Super AMOLED screen, and three capacitive buttons. There’s the menu, home and back. Which I’m not a fan of capacitive keys, but especially not a fan of these as they are almost impossible to see. Once more when you press them, there’s no type of feedback at all.

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As far as how it feels in the hand, I don’t really like it. Why? Because of the thinness. It’s just too thin to be comfortable. Once more, I almost dropped it about 5 times. Which is very uncommon for me, as I’ve only dropped a phone once in the past year. And considering how many smartphones I use and review, that’s amazing. I could definitely get behind BLU using this same build, but making it thicker, and adding in a bigger battery and a better camera. Even at $249, it’d be a much better phone I think, and better seller.

Performance

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We’ve heard all the stories about how MediaTek chips are not that great. I’ve used them in a variety of smartphones and tablets, and this is the first time I’ve used the MediaTek MT 6592, and I’m quite impressed. I haven’t had any issues with lag or stuttering when using the BLU Vivo Air, which is running on Android 4.4 KitKat. In Gaming, it does quite well. It’s not going to blow you away, but remember this is a $199 smartphone, kinda not fair to compare it to a $700 smartphone. The one thing I wish it had, was a Quick Charge feature. It seems as if Qualcomm is the only one with that feature lately, which kinda sucks, but I guess that’s how they stay at number one.

Display

The display is actually pretty good. It’s an AMOLED display, which I’m not normally a huge fan of, but it does pretty well with the BLU Vivo Air. It’s a 4.8-inch 1280×720 resolution Super AMOLED panel. It gets pretty bright and colorful as well. Which is shown with the colorful wallpapers that BLU puts on by default. Overall, no complaints with the display on this one.

Software

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The software really is no different than the BLU Life Pure series. Although there are a few new tweaks that are included. It is running on Android 4.4 KitKat. One of the big things you’ll notice with their skin is the fact you are unable to add widgets. Unless you install a third party launcher like Nova Launcher. Also, now you have the weather in your notification panel, and it does not go away. If you swipe over to the quick settings, you’ll see the memory boost icon there, which also shows you how much RAM is left, and what percent is used. Below that there’s all your quick settings including the Alarm, Auto Rotate, Volume control, GPS, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, and plenty of others. These are customizable. At the bottom there is the brightness slider, which is nice to have there.

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Also, there is no app drawer. Unless, again, you install a third-party launcher. Which is typical with phones from China. Kinda interesting to see it on skins from phones made here in the US. There really isn’t a whole lot of bloat here with this phone. You get your usual apps for camera, calculator, calendar, clock, weather, etc., along with your Google apps. Although there is a Color app that lets you customize the wallpaper, scrolling effect and theme for your phone which is pretty neat.

All in all, the software isn’t terrible, but it’s not my first choice. Hopefully we see an update to Lollipop soon, but with BLU’s past, that might be a while.

Battery Life

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The battery life here isn’t amazing, but it should get you through a day or so of usage. We’re looking at a 2100mAh battery here. So battery life is about the same as the Galaxy Alpha (which had a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display and a 1800mAh battery). If you’re a heavy user, you’ll want to look elsewhere, though.

Benchmarks

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The benchmarks are actually a little higher than I expected. AnTuTu gave it 32k, which is just below the LG G3. But as we always say, benchmarks don’t really equal real world use. I’ve used phones that have totally bombed out with the benchmarks and still performed fine. So take that with a grain of salt.

Camera

So that camera. It’s good, but not great. For a 8MP shooter, I think it holds up quite well. But when you compare it to other cameras on the market like the Xperia Z3, or the Droid Turbo, it’s not so great. One of the issues I had with it was, that it was a bit slow to take a picture. The time from tapping the shutter to it actually taking the picture was a bit longer than I’d like. But it did get the pictures, and you can see them in the gallery below.

 

Final Thoughts

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So the BLU Vivo Air, should you buy it? Well first answer these questions. Is it for your parents or teenage kid? Then yes, it’s a great phone, and it won’t cost much to get it replaced. But if you do more than the occasional web surf, texting and calling people, then you’re going to want something with a bigger battery. Not to mention it doesnt support LTE, so we’re looking at HSPA+ only here with the BLU ViVo Air. Most of their smartphones are without LTE, there are a small handful from the Studio line that do have LTE though.

So in closing, it’s a great phone, but not a phone for everyone. Which is one of the great things about Android. Choice.