[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]
The BLU Vivo 6 is an excellent value device that crams mid-tier hardware into a surprisingly cheap package.
BLU is an American smartphone manufacturer which was first established back in 2009, having begun life producing budget phones aimed at low-income households. Over the past few years, the company has gradually expanded their line to introduce new handsets, notably the ‘Vivo’ and ‘Life’ series which target mid-range and high-end markets respectively. The BLU Vivo 6 is their newest mid-range device, coming in at £239.99 on Amazon (with an introductory launch price of £184.99 on launch day) and offering some decent hardware for the money. Initial impressions show that it certainly looks the part, but can it keep up with the leaders? Let’s find out…
OS Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
Processor MediTek MT6755 Helio P10
Screen 5.5 inches
Resolution 1920 x 1080(401 PPI)
Memory 4 GB RAM
Micro SD compatible Yes, up to 256GB
Rear camera 13MP
Front camera 8MP
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3G, 4G LTE
Dimensions 154 x 75 x 7mm
Battery 3,130 mAh
[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]
First off, we should really commend BLU for the amount of accessories you get included in the box. You’ll find everything from USB-A to USB-C adapter, USB-A to USB-C cable, screen protector, case and a solid pair of headphones crafted from metal. As far as bundled equipment goes, you really are getting quite a bit for your money here… and we haven’t even got to the handset yet.
BLU has crafted a very pretty device in the Vivo 6. There’s a sense of high build quality in everything from the materials to the design. Crafted in metal with a glass front, it definitely exceeds most other devices you’d usually find at this price-point.
On the front, things are incredibly neat and symmetrical. Above the screen is a camera sensor and light sensor either side of the call speaker for symmetry, while underneath a fingerprint sensor is flanked by two capactive touch buttons. Interestingly, these are mirrored like what you see on Samsung handsets which can take a bit of getting used to (this can however be altered in the settings menu quite easily).
On the sides you’ll find volume controls and a power button, all of which are crafted in high-quality metals. There’s also a dual-SIM tray, with one of them doubling up as a microSD slot. On the bottom you’ll find a USB-C jack, which is always a welcome addition at this price-point, plus two speaker grilles either side. As far as we can tell, only the right one actually outputs audio, with the left purely there to make things look prettier. The built-in speaker is nice and loud with decent quality, though things can get a little tinny with some material.
On the back of the device, things are once again premium and minimal. Two colour coded antennas wrap around top and bottom, while the BLU logo stands proudly in a reflective chrome finish just below the camera sensor. The sensor protrudes a couple of millimetres from the device itself, which helps to maintain stability when you place it on a flat surface.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]
The rear camera on the BLU Vivo 6 is a 13 megapixel Sony sensor, which means that the technology should be there for a solid shooter. In testing, we found it to be acceptable though lacking compared to the competition. Daytime shots were okay with good levels of detail but colours felt rather washed out and dull. There was also a noticeable cold hue to the majority of our images, giving them a slightly blue tint.
The Vivo 6 camera also struggled to expose difficult scenes, often blowing out highlights and/or leaving the shadows too dark. We tried HDR mode in an attempt to improve things but it made little difference, with the sky still dominating the image and leaving buildings underexposed and dark.
Testing the handset in low-light was a little better, capturing a reasonable amount of detail from our little mascot. It managed to claw a fair amount of detail from the dark image and bettered several of the cheaper handsets we’ve tested in the past.
Macro photography was another area where the Vivo 6 did a letter better than other budgets we’ve tried in the past, managing to get quite close before the device succumbed to focusing issues. That said, we still think things could’ve been a little sharper and there was some noticeable noise in the image which took away from the finer nuances.
The camera application on the Vivo 6 is a mixed bag, having no true manual mode but plenty of other features instead.. Individual options for night and macro modes will help novice users, while the ability to record GIFs and apply filters makes it feel a bit more complete. The 8 megapixel front camera surprised us, with a very clear image and plenty of detail. Colours are bit washed out but honestly, this is one of the better selfie cams we’ve seen on a mid-range handset.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]
The screen on the BLU Vivo 6 is a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, which equates to a pixel density of roughly 400 pixels-per-inch. This means that individual pixels should not be visible on the Vivo 6 panel, yet we did see a few rough edges on some of the icons. This could be a result of the software post-processing, as everything else about the display is very good. Viewing angles are solid without any colour deviation at extreme angles, while the colours are nice and vibrant.
Calibrating the panel showed that factory settings were far from perfect. By default, there’s a noticeable blue cast and less contrast than expected. The maximum brightness of the display is pretty high but falls behind other panels. That said, it’s still good enough for typical outdoor use. Contrast ratio came out at 823:1, which is a reasonable result but behind leaders. It managed to fill 73.7% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut and 99.4% sRGB, which are both good scores for a conventional mid-range smartphone panel.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]
Shipping with the ever-so-popular MediaTek Helio P10 alongside 4GB RAM, the Blu Vivo 6 has enough performance to tackle most day-to-day tasks. Browsing the UI, writing emails and opening apps was all fairly zippy, with only slight delays when opening large games or files.
Benchmarks show a strong result from BLU Vivo 6, beating other Helio P10 equipped devices such as the Umi Super. Scoring 681 for single-core and 2633 for multi-core on Geekbench 4 puts it in the same sphere as handsets equipped with the Snapdragon 805 and a few using the 810, which is a pretty admirable result. AnTuTu benchmarks were less impressive but still strong. The BLU Vivo 6 managed a result of 46,496 which is about on a par with the Umi Super and up there with the upper tier of Helio P10 handsets. We have no doubt that the 4GB of RAM helped with these strong results.
The included Mali-T860 is a very capable mid-range GPU that is both powerful and energy efficient. With a score of 414 on 3DMark, it comes out practically identical to the UMi Super but behind other devices such as the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 which use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652. Gaming performance was good,with Asphalt Xtreme largely playable on optimal settings. There were occasional frame drops here and there but nothing distracting. Crank up the settings to maximum and things get a little more jumpy, though we were still surprised by how well the phone handled such a modern title.
The data speed rating of this handset is CAT6, which is very good and nice to see for a relatively inexpensive handset. This offers a theoretical max download speed of 300Mbps and should be able to take advantage of faster network speeds offered by carriers such as EE. Call quality on the BLU Vivo 6 is perfectly acceptable. The speaker is loud enough to hear and things are quite clear, with no interference or annoying earpiece placement.
The BLU Vivo 6 runs on Android 6.0 with the ‘Carefree’ UI overlay that is quite far from stock. The first thing you’ll notice is that the app tray is now missing entirely; there’s no hidden gesture to reveal one either. For those who use a lot of applications, things could get a little cluttered on the home scree, though it does encourage you to clear those lingering apps which never get used.
The company has also included a few subtle enhancements to the software which are worth noting, as they give it a little extra flair over the standard Android interface. You’ll notice that the quick launch section is missing from the drop-down notifications menu. To access it, you’ll need to swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen in a similar vain to iOS. This brings up the usual array of quick icons plus a brightness meter, which has a handy auto toggle next to it.
Another cool feature of the Vivo 6 UI is what they’re calling the ‘Edge bar’ and yes, it’s very similar to what we’ve seen on the Samsung Galaxy edge handsets. A quick side-swipe of the fingerprint sensor will reveal a hidden bar which can be used to pin your favourite apps. It’s a useful addition that feels just as elegant using the fingerprint sensor as it did using the edge panel.
Bloatware on the BLU Vivo 6 is fairly light, with the Amazon suite pre-installed as well as some BLU developed applications. The former can be uninstalled without any problem, while the latter can’t be removed. This isn’t much of an issue, as a good amount of the BLU apps are fairly useful and serve as good alternatives to the other third-party versions available on the app store. This includes a couple of wallpaper apps such as Chameleon, which uses the camera to pick colours that will ultimately make up a background theme for your device.
Included in the BLU Vivo 6 is a 3,130mAh battery, which is above the average capacity found on most handsets (including flagships). We found it to easily last a day of moderate use and regularly made it to two days when being more frugal. If you’re the average user, you should be seeing around a day-and-a-half of overall usage. On the AnTuTu battery test, it scored an excellent 10,015, which puts it very high on the list. Being a unibody device, the battery is non-removable, so you’ll need a powerbank if you’re outside for long periods.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Conclusion[/highlight]
A fairly complete handset that ticks boxes in all the right places. While it never really excels in any particular area, it nonetheless keeps up with similarly equipped handsets and delivers a good user experience. We were especially impressed with the design, CAT 6 speed and large battery, which helps to make it stand out above others in the market.