BLU VIVO 8 Review: A Surprisingly Good Camera For Under $300

BLU's VIVO 8 wow's users with more functions for less cost, displaying it's still possible to get a great device for not a lot of money.

BLU might be well-known recently for the issues it had with a few of its older phones concerning software and personal data, but there’s certainly more to BLU, the Miami, FL-based smartphone brand, than just those issues. In fact, BLU’s new phones like the VIVO 8 are aiming to please consumers in more ways than one. The VIVO 8 is BLU’s latest offering, and it comes sporting some rather decent hardware, it has a polished design, and a general good feel to it when it comes to the build quality. Best of all, since BLU is based out of Miami this is a phone which works in the U.S. without any issues, and it’s unlocked so it will work elsewhere outside of the U.S. as well. I was even able to use Project Fi with this device, so that was a plus. Let’s dig deeper into this review of BLU’s new phone and see what it has to offer.

Specs

The BLU VIVO 8 was just released this past week, so it should come as no surprise that it has some new hardware and an overall well-rounded set of specifications, though this isn’t a major powerhouse so consumers shouldn’t expect the hardware to be on par with top-tier flagships like the recently launched Galaxy Note 8 and newly announced LG V30. Still, the phone has held up well over the past week or so for us.

The VIVO 8 is working with a 5.5-inch Full HD screen, which is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It’s powered by the MediaTek Helio P10 processor, which is definitely a mid-range processor, but that likely wouldn’t have been hard to pick up on considering the retail price of the phone is $299. The Helio P10 is paired up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which is also expandable via microSD card if you need it. For the cameras, the VIVO 8 is working with a single rear camera sporting a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensor complete with LED Flash, f/2.0 aperture, ⅓ inch sensor size, real-time HDR, and phase detection autofocus as well as laser autofocus. The front camera meanwhile is a 16-megapixel selfie camera also with an f/2,0 aperture and a front flash with both bright and soft flash features to ensure you get better lighting that’s fit for the job.

The VIVO 8 doesn’t have Quick Charge 3.0 or anything like that, but BLU is boasting an “ultra-quick” 9V/2a charger for the device, which should be handy seeing as the battery is pretty large at 4,010mAh. The size of the battery will also help as it won’t drain as fast thanks to the larger capacity. The VIVO 8 is dual SIM if you need to use two SIM cards, with one SIM slot being nano size while the other is fit for a micro SIM. It’s also got a fingerprint sensor on the front for unlocking the device, but unfortunately this is all it does as there is no NFC, which means no mobile payments. For charging it uses a micro USB port, and it's running on Android 7.0 Nougat, albeit with BLU’s custom UI on top, which, was a bit weird at first and took some getting used to.

In The Box

BLU has packed the VIVO 8’s box with a few goodies which is always nice to see when you purchase a new device, especially when that device is something that doesn’t cost more than few hundred dollars. Inside the box along with the phone you’ll find a clear silicone case, a screen protector (there’s also one already applied to the display), an OTG cable, a set of earbuds, and of course the micro USB charging cable and wall adapter. Definitely a nice little collection of extras for a device at this price range, giving it some extra value.

Hardware & Design

BLU hails its VIVO line as one of its most stylish, and it definitely is a stylish phone. That said, there are phones out there with better designs, so if aesthetics is the most important factor to you then you’ll want to consider that. The VIVO 8 comes in two different colors, Black and Gold, with a Black front on the Black model and a White front on the Gold model. BLU has used 3D glass for the display so it has slight curves just at the edges, and the left and right edges offer some pretty minimal bezels, with more substantially sized bezels for the top and bottom parts of the front panel. The bottom bezel holds the fingerprint sensor as well as two capacitive keys, and the top bezels is where you’ll obviously find the earpiece, as well as the front camera, front flash, and ambient light sensors. Both the speaker and charging port are bottom-mounted, with power and volume buttons on the right, and the SIM card tray on the left. There is also a 3.5mm audio port included here so you can plug in those earbuds that came with it, and of course on the back you’ll have the rear camera sensor and flash in the middle.

For the most part the VIVO 8 is designed pretty simply. It’s minimalist and pretty well polished, it feels good in the hand when holding it, and it just feels like a solid device. While it’s not necessarily built to be a rugged phone, should you accidentally drop it will likely be fine and it doesn’t feel cheap or poorly made, so those are both noticeable benefits worth mentioning.

Display

This is a Full HD display, while the resolution may not be high enough for some consumers, the screen is nice as it gets plenty bright, picture quality is sharp, and the digitizer under the screen is very responsive. The colors on the screen also don’t seem too washed out or oversaturated, but the nice part is that if you feel like the color of the display is a bit off, you can simply adjust the tone by going to display settings and changing the LCD effect. Neutral is what is enabled by default, but there are also options for cool color and warm color. This is a pretty common feature on a lot of the phones coming out of China, though it is missing the option to adjust the tone manually as here there are just three predefined options.

One thing I always seem to struggle with is how high or low to set my screen brightness. I usually settle on just a little above the lowest setting unless I’m outdoors and need it to be up higher, but I am constantly changing it regardless. The VIVO 8 has a few brightness settings to help with this like adaptive brightness, which is available on virtually every smartphone running on Android, and there is also an option called Economical Backlight, which is aimed at helping you save battery power. This was on by default as well and it does seem to help extend the battery life, so it’s definitely recommended to keep it on as the screen still was able to look plenty bright with it enabled. Overall, nice display but nothing earth shattering. It looks good, functions as intended, and it’s bright when you need it bright.

Performance

The VIVO 8 is a mid-range smartphone so I expected it to perform like a mid-range smartphone. It certainly did but it was still a smooth experience for the most part. Running multiple apps wasn’t an issue for me nor was playing games. The VIVO 8 seemed to glide along without stuttering or lagging during my time with it, and this is always refreshing to see if you use your device more than just a little bit. Whenever I opened up Never Gone to play it, which is a side-scrolling action RPG beat em up style of game, with gorgeous graphics mind you, everything ran fine even after extended play, and the device never felt like it was getting too hot to the touch to where I had to put it down. That said it did get a bit warm from time to time but never to the point where it was really uncomfortable.

The only thing I seemed to have any performance issues with were the capactive keys. These do not respond well to touch, and I’m not entirely sure if this was intended or not as they will respond to pressure. You simply have to press a little harder on either key to get them to operate as opposed to simply touching them like you would most other phones that still use capacitive keys. This wouldn’t really be an issue if this was an intended design choice, except for the fact that I was never used to having pressure sensitive keys, so I would often find myself going to use one of them and remember that I needed to give it a little pressure. Also worth mentioning is that it felt like I had to press these keys exceedingly hard, harder than I should have. There’s also the possibility that they simply don’t work as well as they’re supposed to. In any case, it was an unpleasant experience with the device performance that BLU might have been better off not implementing, and instead choosing to use on-screen navigation keys.

Battery Power

With a 4,010mAh battery inside expect it to last a while. It’s not going to be your three-day phone that doesn’t need a charge for that amount of time, but it certainly has no problem running for a full 24 hours and then some. This isn’t to say you can use it continuously for 24 hours of course, but it will definitely last you from the time that you get up to the time that you go to sleep.

When we put the BLU VIVO 8 through the PCMark battery test it lasted about 7 hours before it was finished and needed to be recharged. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this particular test stops when the battery hits around 15-20 percent, so it wasn’t completely dead after that time. The exact time was 6 hours and 47 minutes, and during our time of use naturally it got about 6 hours and 15 minutes of screen on time before we plugged it in. I thought it might be a little bit higher with a 4,010mAh battery, but there are definitely things on the phone to help the battery life last longer too so if you’re finding it is coming up a little short, playing with the battery saving settings is a good place to start if you’re looking for ways to extend its life.

Benchmarks

The VIVO 8 is a mid-range device so it shouldn't be expected to hold high scores that match up with this year's top flagships, but the device does do pretty well for its tier and in everyday use it holds up pretty well. We ran it through three different benchmark tests to see how it stacks up, and this included 3DMark for graphics, as well as Geekbench 4 and AnTuTu. If you're interested in seeing the results from those you can view them in the gallery just below.

Phone Calls & Network

As mentioned in the beginning of this review the BLU VIVO 8 is a phone made in the U.S. and so it works in the U.S. as well. It’s an unlocked device, meaning it can be used with T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as other GSM carriers. When using this phone for its voice calling capabilities, phone calls I was told sounded rather clear with no issues with quality regarding the sound of my voice, and it seemed to operate just fine on mobile data when I was using it for browsing the web, social media, and watching videos or streaming music. Using my Project Fi SIM card I wasn’t sure if things would work completely or not, if at all, but I didn’t have any real issues and I was able to get 4G LTE in most or all places I could get it with my Pixel. For the supported network frequencies, you can view the list below.

2G: 850/1800/1900
3G: 850/1700/1900/2100
4G LTE: Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17

Fingerprint Sensor

The fingerprint sensor on this device may not be usable for mobile payments, but it does still do more than unlock the device thanks to a swipe gesture that BLU designed for it. This can be enabled in settings, and when you have it turned on swiping either to the left or to the right will bring up the edge bar feature, and place it on the side of the display that sits in the direction you swiped. As far as the fingerprint sensor actually reading my fingerprint, it worked well and didn’t really have troubles recognizing the print I put into the device, and it seemed to unlock pretty quickly too. It might not be the fastest fingerprint sensor on the market but it’s plenty quick and it functioned as intended.

Sound

The BLU VIVO 8 is working with a single bottom-firing speaker. While the sound is pretty decent thanks to having the Maxx Audio technology, having just one speaker and having the placement of it on the bottom can make it a little bit easier to cover up when you hold the phone in landscape mode and this makes the sound a little muffled at times, though not entirely in my experience. On the flip side if you hold it right the sound ends up amplified a little bit instead as it gets a little louder from cupping your hand, so as long as your hand isn’t sitting directly on top of the speaker then the audio is actually really good. This might prove to be a little bit of an annoyance for some users though, so it’s something to keep in mind. All that aside the audio is quite loud and though at higher volumes it can get a bit tinny it’s really not bad at all. For those who do use phone speakers for audio when watching videos, listening to music, or playing games, you shouldn’t be disappointed, and for anyone else who wants a little bit better of an audio experience you can always plug in headphones or connect a pair, or connect a Bluetooth speaker.

Software

BLU’s software is like many other OEMs in the sense that it comes with its own design and user interface style on top of the Android software, but not in the sense that it looks or feels like UIs from other brands. It has a look and feel that seems unique and all its own. Part of this uniqueness is also the features and functionality though and not just the way that it looks, but the design is definitely going to be a big part of it. For starters, the VIVO 8 doesn’t have an app drawer which means all of your installed apps end up on the home screen, and once a page fills up a new home screen page is created to accommodate more apps. This is very much like what you’ll find with a lot of Chinese brand Android smartphones, and it’s not typically what I’m personally used to so I wasn’t fond of it. That said it wasn’t hard to become familiar with it.

Design aside BLU’s software has quite a few different perks and various features that you won’t find in other software, namely stock software, and despite the different home screen style the extra features might be enough to entice people. For example, the VIVO 8 has a feature where you can swipe to the left or right on the fingerprint sensor to bring up the Edge Bar, and this essentially acts as a bar full of quick shortcuts that allow you faster access to a number of apps of your choosing. This can be for adding extra apps that you can’t fit on your main home screen or if you simply want to keep the main home screen free this can be a way for you to quickly get to those apps without having to scroll to the page where they normally reside. One aspect of the UI that I found strange was that BLU decided to split up the notification shade and quick settings panels. The notification shade is still accessible by dragging down from the top of the display, but the quick settings have been moved to the bottom edge. So instead of dragging down again on the notification shade, you drag up from the bottom of the screen. This took me a little while to get used to because there has never been another phone that I’ve used which implemented this feature.

The VIVO 8 also has a suspend button which looks like a little dot that sits off to the edge of the display. When tapped, it opens up a handful of functions, each with their own button, including a button that takes you back to the home screen, a back button, a lock button, and a button which shrinks the screen down to a more manageable size for use with one hand. If you want to hide the suspend button but not turn it off completely it’s possible to do this just by long pressing on it which will make it retreat to the notification shade. This is a persistent notification so you can go back to it any time and tap on it again and it’ll open it back up to being visible on the edge of the display. The phone also features a number of smart gestures like Smart Dial, Smart Answer, Black Screen Gestures, Smart Bright Screen and more. Overall the software experience was a little unfamiliar at first but it wasn’t too far removed from standard Android software, and the device is running Nougat so you get all of the benefits that most other Nougat devices have as well. When it comes down to it the software is just fine even if it doesn’t look or feel like stock Android, and some might actually prefer what BLU has done with the software here.

Camera

The camera on the VIVO 8 is actually quite packed full of features, including HDR and Auto HDR, a panorama mode, a Slow Motion Video recording mode, and even a Pro Mode which lets you adjust things like ISO, White Balance, Shutter Speed, Exposure Compensation and more. For a phone that costs just about $300 at retail, BLU has given consumers quite a lot to work with when it comes to the main camera on the VIVO 8, which is not only surprising considering its cost but a nice refreshing change of pace as phones at this price usually don’t have this many extras.

All told there are 17 different modes for the camera. From the viewfinder screen you’ll find the video mode, the Face Beauty mode, the normal Photo mode, the Panorama mode, and the Professional mode. On the left side of the UI you’ll see a little button made up of four colored squares, and this is the menu for the other modes which includes a Translation mode, a Card Scanner mode, Mood Photo, Time-Lapse, Smart Scene, PicNote, Night, Slow Motion (video), GIF, and there’s even another button for Professional mode here. Modes aside, when it comes to the actual camera quality of the device the pictures came out pretty detailed with good color reproduction and sharp, crisp details. Nothing seemed too washed out or oversaturated with color, and things like zoom and focus seemed to operate rather quickly which made taking pictures a lot easier than some of the devices I’ve used in this price range. It was a pretty good camera experience and one that would actually probably surprise a few users, while making a majority of consumers happy. Granted this may not be the best smartphone camera on the market but it does a pretty good job and it’s one that I wouldn’t be disappointed with if it was the camera I was using on my daily driver. All in all BLU has done a good job with the camera and it’s a point which deserves to be celebrated.

The Good

Pretty good camera

Big battery

Big screen

Long-lasting battery life

Affordable mid-range pricing

Unlocked and works in the U.S. with 4G LTE

Good performance

Gesture on the fingerprint sensor for opening up a quick shortcut/quick launch bar

Fingerprint sensor

Good build quality and nice design

The Bad

Capacitive keys instead of software keys, which seemed to be more pressure sensitive or just weren’t working properly.

No NFC

No mobile payments

No USB Type-C

Wrap Up

BLU may have had a little bit of a bad rep because of a couple of their older phones having issues with a particular software that was installed on them, but the VIVO 8 is actually a great little device which comes in at a good price point and is an especially good value for what you’re getting. This is something that all consumers who are looking for a good smartphone and are looking to keep the price around $300 should consider.

Should you buy the BLU VIVO 8?

In most cases, yes. The BLU VIVO 8 is a good phone with plenty of features to make it interesting, functional, and it’s stylish. Plus it works in the U.S. on GSM networks and it supports 4G LTE, and I was even able to use my Project Fi SIM card in it which means you should have no issues getting it to work with any GSM carriers in the U.S. Unless you want something with the most high-powered specs out there, this is a pretty decent phone that is capable of doing what many consumers will need, and it won’t cost a lot, and it has a good main camera and a good front-facing camera. If you aren’t worried about the lack of NFC and mobile payments, this is worth considering as BLU's VIVO 8 wow's users with more functions for less cost, displaying it's still possible to get a great device for not a lot of money.

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About the Author
2015/07/13-1.jpg

Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.
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