Rugged design, rich features, fast experience
Blackview’s mantra is simple: provide a great looking, feeling and performing phone for significantly less than the big brand names. While many of its well known phones look similar to more expensive flagships, there are some truly original designs and concepts from the company in the form of their rugged line. The Blackview BV9000 Pro is one such phone, with a rugged design that’s built to withstand even the most treacherous of adventures, all while providing the necessary speed and a low price of around $300 or so. In the market for an extremely rugged phablet? Let’s see if this is right for you.
Specs and What’s In The Box
As of this review, the Blackview BV9000 PRO retails for around $320/€270/£240 on Gearbest, putting it squarely in the mid-range segment. All variants come in the black rubber casing, but have three colors to choose between for metal accents: Gold, Silver, and Grey (our review unit color). On the front is an 18:9 (2:1) 5.7-inch 1440 x 720 pixel IPS LCD screen, with an 8-megapixel camera above. Along the back are dual cameras: a main 13-megapixel shooter and a 5-megapixel secondary camera for depth effects, as well as a rear-facing fingerprint scanner and speaker.
Inside is a MediaTek Helio P25 SoC (MTK6757CD) octa-core 2.6GHz processor and Mali T880 GPU, alongside a whopping 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Dual-SIM cards are supported, or a single SIM with microSD card instead in the same tray. A non-removable 4,180mAh battery is inside, and Android 7.1 Nougat runs the show. A single USB Type-C port with quick charging capabilities is on the bottom, but no 3.5mm audio jack. The phone measures in at 162mm high, 81.1mm wide and 13.4mm thick, with a hefty weight of 254 grams.
Blalckview typically packs a lot of value into the box, and that doesn't just mean the phone. Since it's already a rugged phone, there's no need to pack in a case to protect it, but it's got a film-type screen protector included in the box for extra screen protection. A 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter is included since there's no built-in 3.5mm audio jack, and you'll also find the power brick and USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable in the box as well.
Hardware and Display
Blackview’s design language on the BV9000 Pro screams awesome in almost every way. The thing just looks cool; from the angular edges to the metal accents all around, it’s a unique phone in every aspect. Blackview’s use of a taller 18:9 screen gives the BV9000 Pro smaller bezels than most rugged phones, and their use of software navigation buttons over hardware is different from many other ruggedized phones out there. The only buttons on the phone are a bit of a mixed back. Metal sides break up the design, which is mostly a rubber casing, and all the buttons are found on the right side. These small buttons are all well labeled with the exception of the programmable button, which can be set to do anything you’d like on the phone. These buttons are a little too recessed though and are difficult to press with gloves, as there’s little tactile feedback.
These metal edges make the phone feel tougher and more rugged, but they also add a possible slip point if the metal is cold or wet. On that back you’ll also find a large metal plate surrounding the camera and fingerprint scanner module, while the Blackview logo at the bottom also features a metal plate. The round fingerprint scanner is in an excellent location and is recessed just enough so that it’s not tough to find at all. Being this rugged makes it very heavy, and even though the 18:9 screen makes it easier to fit a larger screen in a smaller body, the BV9000 Pro is both very large and very heavy in general. Thankfully it’s drop tested to drop on concrete from several feet up, something we confirmed in our testing on several different types of surfaces.
The only openings on the phone are covered with flaps; the USB Type-C port on the bottom, and the SIM/microSD card tray up top. In fact the USB Type-C port on the bottom is so recessed into the phone that no normal USB Type-C cable would fit inside. Thankfully Blackview ships the phone with an elongated plug at the end, but this could cause issues with accessories down the road. The display itself is pretty good, with adequate resolution to make it sharp, and good enough brightness to be visible in most situations. It could definitely be a bit brighter though, and being an IPS LCD means that most things are pretty middle of the road quality; in this case black levels, viewing angles and color accuracy.
Performance and Benchmarks
Blackview is using the MediaTek Helio P25 SoC inside, which definitely makes the phone feel fast in every way. It’s super responsive, almost never slows down, and can play most intensive 3D games with little problem. This is a big step up from many rugged phones out there, which often skimp on the processing power to focus on other parts of the experience. Blackview is definitely going for the opposite model here in that they’re focusing on the speed and daily experience far more than most. Aside from having a powerhouse processor, Blackview has packed an epic 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage inside, meaning incredible multi-tasking performance, and the likelihood that you’ll never again run out of space.
Performance overall is also enhanced by the fact that the screen is only 720p+ (1440 x 720) resolution, which keeps processing to a minimum for any task, versus a screen with a significantly higher pixel count. As a result you can expect very smooth operation at all times, and great split-screen performance both thanks to the processor and the aspect ratio of the screen. It holds a respectable standing in benchmark scores, but processors in this price range never sit near the top anyway. Still it’s plenty of horsepower to get the job done and never feel slow. See the benchmarks we ran below, including GeekBench 4, AuTuTu V7, 3DMark Slingshot and PCMark internal storage test.
Connectivity, Sound and Battery Life
Blackview primarily sells and markets the BV9000 Pro to European and Asian markets, as as such you’ll find connectivity is best in those regions. Folks in the US will likely only ever see 2G speeds from the phone, as the supported bands are not compatible with every GSM carrier nationwide. 4G LTE with VoLTE works great in areas with supported 4G signals, but there’s no WiFi Calling options on this phone. WiFi 802.11 up to AC speeds is supported, and Bluetooth 4.1 is available for both audio and peripheral connectivity.
There’s no advanced codecs supported for Bluetooth audio, so just basic SBC quality is available. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack here unfortunately, but a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter ships with the phone, giving audio output to 3.5mm devices. Digital high-res audio is supported through the USB Type-C port for headphones and peripherals that support it. The external speaker is only a single speaker on the back though, meaning listening to audio with just the phone is a bit awkward.
Battery life is phenomenal overall, easily lasting a full day with even the heaviest of use. Some users may be able to eek 2 days out of the battery with light use, but standby could be better in these situations. Charging the the USB Type-C port on the bottom is extremely quick thanks to MediaTek’s quick charging solution, but the port is deeper into the phone case than most, meaning most USB Type-C cables will not fit all the way into the phone, so you’ll have to stick with the cable that ships with the phone.
Blackview ships with BV9000 Pro with Android 7.1.2 Nougat. While some of Blackview’s phones ship with very stock looking and feeling versions of Android, the BV9000 Pro is slightly more visually modified, and features a large number of additions to Android’s base feature set. Blackview has a large number of gestures available to users, including lots of screen off gestures, which allow users to draw a set range of letters and symbols to instantly launch apps or actions without having to first turn the phone on. A number of multi-finger gestures, including swiping three fingers down to take a screenshot (among others), litter the options menu.
A unique trait for the BV9000 Pro is the programmable button located on the right side, towards the bottom. Blackview calls this the Smart Key, and has actions for single click, double click and long press, all of which can be used to choose an app or action, like launching the camera or toggling the flashlight. Such a hardware key can be invaluable when you need to quickly launch the flashlight, or use Zello as a push-to-talk solution directly without having to unlock the phone. It’s this latter function that might be the single best for construction workers or other similar jobs that might need constant PTT functionality without having to go through the hassle of unlocking the phone first.
Blackview’s skin on the BV9000 Pro is unique looking, and while I personally don’t care much for its looks, it’s not necessarily a bad looking skin. Icons have a metal finish to them and look very different from the standard icon look on most phones, which at least fits with the unique stylings of the phone anyway. Blackview also offers the option to stretch apps that aren’t yet made for taller 2:1 aspect ratio screens, zooming in on the app just a tad to fit it in the full size of the screen.
A particularly interesting gesture system is the one that utilizes the fingerprint scanner to perform a number of actions. The fingerprint scanner can be used in place of the back button, to pause or play music, or even to go back to the home screen or launch the Overview screen for multi-tasking. Blackview has a rather interesting SOS feature that will automatically call for help or send an SMS automatically if the user is in danger, which can be activated by any press of that special programmable button.
Blackview’s camera interface is the same here as it is on the rest of their latest phones. A very iOS-inspired interface is navigated through by swiping left and right to move between modes, which encompass the following: video, photo, aperture, beauty, panoramic, mono, and pro. Modes can be jumped between quicker by clicking on the name of the mode itself. Pro mode doesn’t offer quite the large amount of options as other true pro modes do; there’s only adjustments for white balance, ISO (100-1600), manual focus and exposure (-3 to +3).
Auto scene detection can be toggled in the settings, and the BV9000 Pro offers up to 13-megapixel 4:3 picture quality, as well as 4K recording quality on the rear camera. The overall quality is good, although there are other phones at this price range that will offer better photo and video quality under some circumstances. Still the combination of good quality camera with the build of the phone helps even things out a bit. 4K video at this price range is still fairly uncommon though, and it’s certainly the cherry on top of what’s a generally good camera experience.
It’s also a pretty fast experience, especially for the price. Launching the camera from cold boot takes a second or two at the max, and focusing and taking the shot are very quick. Overall quality is generally good, with decent dynamic range, good color reproduction, and crisp photos in general. The front-facing camera is equally good, sporting the same quality for the most part, despite being a lower megapixel count. Video uses a slightly more compressed codec than most smartphones, although it’s not uncommon to see the 3gp codec used on less expensive phones out there. As a result 4K video is crisp, but could suffer from some minor compression artifacts as a result. Check out our gallery below to see the sample shots taken during the review process.
Great looking design
Big screen, small bezels for a rugged phone
IP68 waterproof design
Super long battery life
Fast fingerprint scanner
Lots of useful gestures
Programmable side key
No 3.5mm audio jack
Many cables don't fit in the USB Type-C port
No LTE in the US
Blackview has put together a fantastic package in the BV9000 Pro, and with very few negatives, it's certainly pinning itself as a serious contender in the rugged phone space. While the camera is largely average at best, everything else on the phone feels simply great. From the quick and speedy performance, to the long battery life that could easily last into two days, the BV9000 Pro is an excellent all-around choice at around $300. It's not often you can drop a phone from 6ft or handle it as roughly as the BV9000 Pro can handle, but this combined with the rest of the package certainly spells an excellent choice for folks looking for a rugged device without needing an expensive case, or an overly expensive phone.