A Mostly Brilliant Mid-Range Throwback
Blackview’s latest mid-range handset - the Blackview P6000 - is a throwback to flagships of years past. That, of course, means that it won’t be the flashiest or fastest Android smartphone on the market today originating from the company’s home region. In fact, the relatively unknown Chinese company has so far also avoided taking the now well-worn path toward a bezel-free design. However, the Blackview P6000 boasts several high-end features, a positively massive battery, and a mostly stock AOSP software environment. So, while this is one handset that isn’t looking to set trends in aesthetics or break new ground with its components, this is one offering from Blackview that is definitely worth looking into.
In terms of specifications, the Blackview P6000 rests firmly in the mid-range portion of the Android spectrum, although its pricing is currently at the lower end of that. It’s available in Black or Blue, for around ¥1847 - or around US$278, €232, or £207. That’s going to feel like a steal since the device ships with a full 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage expandable up to 128GB, backing up MediaTek’s 64-bit octa-core Helio P25 SoC. The chipset is configured with four of its eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz, while the remaining four are clocked at 2.6GHz. The onboard GPU is an ARM Mali-T880 MP2 and all of that drives Android 7.1.1 (Nougat). Blackview also says its device featues a dedicated encryption chip for added security. For power, the P6000 utilizes a 6,180mAh non-removable battery. All of the modern sensors or radios to be expected from a 2017 device are present - including a compass and both GPS and GLONASS.
That’s all packed into an aluminum and glass casing, with a 5.5-inch screen and round chamfered edges on both front and back. Along the right-hand edge are a volume rocker and power button, while the bottom edge only features a USB Type-C port and microphone. The left-hand edge contains a single SIM drawer with two SIM slot and the second slot also serves to hold a micro SD card if one is needed. The front of the device also houses a single 8-megapixel selfie-camera and associated sensors along the top, with a fingerprint scanner and dedicated capacitive home button underneath. Turning to the back of the Blackview P6000 reveals a 21-megapixel dual camera array and a single rear-firing speaker.
In the box
Cracking open the Blackview P6000’s box for the first time reveals everything a buyer would probably want to ship alongside their smartphone. The device itself is already protected by a standard film screen protector, with the user simply needing to peel away the protective outer covering. Underneath that, the handset arrives with a slim-fitting TPU case to prevent dings and chips to the P6000’s metal covering, while only adding negligibly to its size. That fits snuggly with easy port access and also has a reasonably sized front lip to it, which should prevent the majority of screen damage from drops. A second screen protector is included in the box, in case the pre-installed one was damaged at some point during shipping. Beyond that, the company has included a Blackview-branded metal-ring clip which can be attached to the case for extra grip or to serve as a stand.
Since there is no 3.5mm headphone jack on this handset, Blackview includes a USB Type-C to headphone adapter and a decent set of wired earbuds. There’s a USB Type-C to standard USB A female adapter and a USB Type C to USB cable included for charging. That’s accompanied by the standard two-prong Type C wall adapter, as is fitting the device’s typical sales region. Of course, that means that some users, depending on region but particularly in the U.S., will need to locate an appropriately-rated 12V/2A wall adapter for charging purposes. Finally, a SIM tool and manual are also included.
The Japan Display Inc.-made IPS LCD display on this device is somewhat better than what might be expected in its price range. For starters, the curved 2.5D glass is comfortably sized at 5.5-inches and features a resolution of 1920 x 1080 - as well as a pixel density of around 480 ppi. Brightness and contrast ratio are not going to compete outright with modern flagships, but Blackview’s P6000 should hold its own with those device’s it is intended to compete with and several that are well above its price point. The inclusion of Gorilla Glass 3 means that it will be quite a bit less prone to damage than smartphones it competes with. However, it isn’t the most modern display either since it still features a square display ratio compared to even some more budget-friendly handsets - at 16:9. Color saturation appears natural and touch interactions are rapid and responsive.
In terms of other display features to be found on this Android device, Blackview has equipped the P6000 with the adaptive display software many users have come to expect from a modern smartphone. That means brightness can be set to auto-adapt to keep things visible and save battery, font sizes and overall display size can be adjusted as needed to keep everything reading clearly, and that multi-touch has been utilized to allow for some gesture controls. However, the company has also included a feature called LiveDisplay, which will automatically adjust the color temperature of the display in correspondence with the time of day at a given location. The point is, of course, to limit exposure to blue light, which can have negative impacts on eye health. Upon setup, there are plenty of manual adjustments that can be made to the overall screen or to the auto-adjustment features as well - providing users with a custom experience for the light cycles of their own location and their own preferences.
Hardware & Build
The hardware and subsequent build-quality of Blackview's P6000 can be described summarily as well-rounded. It doesn't feel like it is built to draw attention but it does feel solid. By way of comparison, from the front, this particular device bears a striking resemblance to the HTC U11 flagship, at first glance. In fact, for anybody who happens to have held that other device, its overall shape would feel exceptionally familiar in the hand. Moreover, the placement of its very responsive and ultra-clicky volume rockers and power button, as well as its quick-firing fingerprint sensor are nearly identical. That's certainly not a bad thing since that means the Blackview P6000 feels very well-built. There's no sign of looseness in the USB Type-C port, SIM drawer, or other components. On closer inspection, however, that feeling of familiarity quickly gives way to something new. From a perspective of size, there are definitely some differences.
Dimensions are set at 154mm tall x 76mm wide, and 10mm thick - compared to that other device’s 153.9mm x 75.9mm x 7.9mm. Weight falls in at around 230g, giving users something that feels premium despite its understated looks. Meanwhile, the lustrous metal back and edges of the device contain no glass aside from what covers a dual-sensor camera at the top right and there is a single rear-firing speaker near the bottom. Despite being made of metals, the back doesn’t feel too slippery, either, though it may slide if placed on certain surfaces. It will attract fingerprints and it will almost definitely become obvious that is has been dropped if it does get dropped without a case on. Camera bumps are also nearly non-existent and the fingerprint scanner is quick - although its forward facing design may take some getting used to since most manufacturers have moved to a rear placement.
Performance & Battery
As shown in the initial breakdown of this device's specifications, the performance from Blackview's P6000 is certainly respectable. In fact, this handset makes good use of MediaTek's 2016 flagship SoC, the Helio P25, with substantially more available RAM and storage than it would have had at its disposal when it first released. As a result, our test showed that this mid-range smartphone could hold its own alongside the Exynos-powered variant of Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge for some tasks. There are certainly more powerful devices available today, but it isn't likely that they'll be found in the price range. Only a percentage the most intensive games, apps, or multitasking are likely to hold the Blackview P6000 back or cause a noticeable drop in performance.
However, the real showstopper in all of this is the handset's battery. With battery benchmarks showing an exceptional score and a real-world tested screen-on time of more than 7 hours, there's not a whole lot any user could do to completely drain it within a single day's use. In fact, after 11 hours of slightly above average usage that included simultaneously listening to music, gaming, editing documents, browsing, and more, our test unit still sat at over 56-percent charged. That's without the dedicated battery-saver feature turned on, which would presumably improve battery life further. The only downside is that this smartphone is mostly able to accomplish that feat because the battery itself is rated at a massive 6,180 mAh. Unfortunately, that means that despite the inclusion of what Blackview calls quick charge 2.0 and charging at 12V/2A, it can take up to 3 hours or more to fully charge the P6000.
Connectivity & Audio
In terms of connectivity options, this review unit was tested on h2O wireless. That allowed for up to a 4G LTE connection, although our device remained on 3G for the duration. Call quality was not exceptional - though that could be down to the network itself. The radios performed well and calls were clear on both ends. There was some difficulty in downloading MMS messages in particular, but that was likely due to the network environment as well. Prospective buyers in the U.S. will want to check that their network will support the Blackview P6000 before making a purchase. This dual nano SIM sporting device will work on GSM networks at 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz while WCDMA is supported at 900MHz and 2100MHz, respectively. 4G FDD LTE is supported on bands B1, 3, 7, 8, and 20. Wi-Fi is provided via the older 802.11 b/g/n standards.
Unfortunately, audio quality is one area where the Blackview P6000 does leave something to be desired. While Bluetooth 4.1 is part of the connectivity package and provides a significant boost to the range, the single rear-firing speaker is not very high quality. The sound is noticeably tinny, with nearly all bass being lost among highs and mids. That’s despite the inclusion of a robust built-in equalizer which does seem to perform very well, seemingly indicating that problems in audio are a result of the hardware rather than software. Headphones provide some respite from that as well but because the rest of the device is built so well, the contrast presented by the less-than-premium onboard speaker is stark.
On the software side, the Blackview P6000 ships with a custom build based on the AOSP variant of Android 7.1.1 (Nougat). That means that, aside from a few basic Google and essential AOSP apps, the phone doesn't come with any bloatware to speak of. In fact, the only application that probably wouldn't be expected with a stock version of Android is the included Compass app.
Having said that, special features have been added by Blackview. For starters, the device does include a number of built-in gesture and secondary button controls, in addition to allowing users to swap around their on-screen navigation buttons. Double tapping the home screen or a long-press on the same can be set to perform custom actions. The same can be done with the power button, with a double tap capable of launching the camera application and a long-press - when the screen is turned off - being custom-assignable. Gesture navigation through the fingerprint scanner is also available. The notification shade hides some secrets too. In fact, there is both a screenshot tool and a video screen capture tool which can easily be toggled from the notification pull-down, as well as a cast option for easy device mirroring. Finally, for security, a fingerprint is not the only way to unlock the device thanks to its built-in face recognition software. The security doesn't stop there, either. By enabling a function called "Shadow Privacy" the user can effectively keep the phone from prying eyes even if somebody else gets into it. Once toggled, any sign in with an unauthorized fingerprint or face will result in user-selected apps and data becoming hidden until an authorized face or fingerprint is detected.
Unfortunately, this device also seems to have a few issues with Google Play services. Although the phone only includes a few Google applications by default, one of those applications - namely, Gmail - doesn't quite want to work. It force closes almost constantly and the only way that seemed to stop was if the application was completely disabled. It isn't really clear if that problem is unique to Gmail since it didn't show up again in any other applications. However, that might be a problem for any user that only uses Google's email services.
The cameras on this device are serviceable but fail to impress, when taking into account the rest of the Blackview P6000. That’s a bit surprising, with consideration for their specs. On the front is a single 8-megapixel camera sensor with face tracking. The rear camera is a dual-sensor setup of a primary camera built on Sony’s IMX230 Exmor RS sensor platform with an f/2.0 aperture and a secondary 0.3-megapixel, 2.25μm Sensor GalaxyCore GC0310 sensor for phase detection and other dual-sensor features. The main camera is rated at 21-megapixels. That’s backed up by a dual-tone LED flash, autofocus, digital zoom, face detection, HDR mode, manual adjustments mode, a dozen or more real-time filters, and the ability to shoot continuous photos - as well as having the capability to shoot RAW images via a settings toggle.
In fact, these cameras are really only disappointing because it seems to be so good on paper and seem to clash with the overall design of the rest of the handset. The specifications seem to add up to a top-of-the-line camera. However, in terms of real-world use, the camera performs adequately enough in most circumstances and usually captures well with good lighting. With that said, the shots can still be inconsistent in quality and some of the more standard modern features, such as software-created bokeh effects, don’t work as well as they do in more expensive handsets. Shooting in HDR mode creates a substantial amount of lag between shots. There’s no optical image stabilization to be found on Blackview’s P6000 and, although not a dealbreaker for most users, no slow-motion capture in video mode. Meanwhile, video footage is also only shot at 30 frames per second.
The Good & The Bad
Even without many of the features found on modern premium flagship phones, the Blackview P6000 stands out precisely because it doesn’t. Although that may seem like a negative point, the truth is that the design of this device is just exceptionally well-rounded. It doesn’t feel designed to go above and beyond what users typically expect from a flagship. The smooth, feature-rich software and specs residing at just above the majority of flagships from 2016 will, however, support a user experience that feels decidedly top-notch. Meanwhile, Blackview’s decision to include such a massive battery can keep that experience going for more than 24 hours between charges. That will go for much longer for users who don’t spend an inordinate amount of time playing high-end mobile games or taking on more intensive tasks.
On the other hand, the sound quality and cameras of this handset are a disappointment primarily because the rest of the device is so well thought-out. Small problems with some of Google’s software and some aspects of the hardware will take away from that further for some users. Specifically, the lack of a headphone jack means that users won’t be able to listen to music and charge at the same time, while fast charging simply doesn’t feel fast with such a big battery. Some users may also disapprove of the handset’s lack of a higher resolution display featuring the latest 18:9 ratio. The included cameras fall well-short of what a first time user of this device might expect, with consideration for how well the rest of it works. Finally, there is no mention of any kind of ruggedization against water or dust to be found, which is a significant omission for any modern handset.
With consideration for the fact that the Blackview P6000 is technically a mid-range smartphone with a lower than average price, it certainly feels like it belongs higher up the Android ladder. That doesn't mean that it isn't without its drawbacks or issues, as noted above. However, this is a handset that takes itself seriously without trying too hard. Best of all, its performance doesn't sacrifice on the number of hours it can stay awake and working. So while it isn't likely to turn too many heads, it is definitely a device worth checking out for anybody looking to upgrade to something new.