The BLU Pure XL is the most powerful smartphone BLU has ever released. It packs a monster-esque QHD display, a snappy Octa-Core processor, 24MP main camera sensor, a fingerprint scanner, fast charging, and all-day battery life. Arguably, its best feature is its $349 off-contract price, making it compete directly with the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Style or Moto X Pure Edition. So let’s take a step back and take a look at the hardware.
The Pure XL features an aluminum metal design with polished chamfered edges that measures in at just 9.6mm thick. The metal sides of the device blend seamlessly with the plastic back cover to create a sort of uni-body aluminum feel in the hand. The plastic back cover can be removed providing access to the dual SIM card slots, a microSD card slot for expandable storage and NFC. Take that OnePlus 2. The microSD card slot is to expand the storage on top of the already large 64GB internal memory.
One critic I have with the hardware is that the front capacitive touch navigation buttons don’t have any backlight LED. You’ll probably end up memorizing the layouts but I often forget which is which because they’re not in the standard stock Android layout. I also sometimes just miss the buttons themselves because I can’t see them. So it’d help if the buttons were backlit.
One of the more unusual design features of the Pure XL is the rear-facing fingerprint scanner. Actually, you can configure it in the settings. All you need to do is unlock the display by placing your finger on the rear-facing sensor and the device will unlock. When it works, it unlocks the device extremely quick. It’s one of the best sensors out there in my opinion. It seems to work and competes directly with the iPhone 6s Plus or iPhone 6s. However, it is a bit buggy in that if you power on the display without using the fingerprint scanner, you just press the power button on the side of the device; the scanner itself will be disabled and you’ll be forced to enter in a password or a PIN. This was a problem prior to launch and it’s still a problem after launch with no software update from BLU.
The display is a 6-inch 2560x1440 resolution QHD Super AMOLED display and it’s absolutely beautiful. It has great viewing angles and colors are crisp and vivid. It is a very large display but it’s easily one of the best features of the device in my personal opinion.
Here in the US, more so in any other place across the globe, we’re accustomed to Android devices running Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. The BLU Pure XL is one of the first smartphones to bring the MediaTek Helio X10 Octa-Core processor to the US. It’s a 64-bit chip paired with 3GB of RAM and it’s far comparable to the Snapdragon 810 Octa-Core processor. In fact, Geekbench 3 gives it a single-core near 1000 and a multi-core score near 5000. So not the absolute best scores we’ve seen but the multi-core score is near the top of the pack. What this translates to in terms of real world usage or performance is a fast smartphone. No matter what I throw at it, I couldn’t really get this device to slow down or show any signs of lag or stutter.
Actually, the major complaints I have of the device is centered around the BLU software. There’s no app drawer for example so all of your apps will be placed on the home screens out of the box. The slide-down notification panel resembles stock Android Lollipop so that’s good. But the settings are very much different. Some of the animations and the effects that BLU has on the device are a little bit funky as well. My advice is to install a third party launcher as soon as possible and just make yourself familiar with the settings drawer and where everything’s located.
If we go into the Smart Gestures section in the settings, you’d think this were a Samsung Galaxy device. There’s a ton of gesture-based features here. Some of my favorite include the Double Tap to Wake feature, a black screen gesture which allows you to draw a shape to activate a certain function; both of which you can customize. The Touchless Unlock and Air Gesture features are also pretty neat as they allow you to wave your hand over the device to wake it from the sleep mode. Some of these features will have a bigger impact on battery life but overall, it’s nice to see them here.
As for the camera sensor, it’s a 24MP f2.3 camera sensor with a sapphire cover and 6P lens. I found the images on the Pure XL look incredibly vibrant in contrast because of that beautiful AMOLED display. But when viewed on an accurate color monitor, the colors appear to be a bit more muted, a hair under-saturated. The Depth of Field is good, the detail and exposure is great. I was able to capture some pretty good results just from using the auto mode. But since the sensor does feature an f2.3 aperture, it’s going to fall behind some of the competition in terms of low light so you will start to see more noise in photos captured with inadequate lighting.
I do want to take a quick look at the camera software because it’s pretty advanced. There’s a professional mode which lets you change the focus, shutter speed, white balance, ISO and the exposure. You don’t see that every day. And beyond that, we have some other modes like Beauty Face, HDR, Magic Focus, Panorama mode, Ultra Pixel mode; a lot of modes we’ve seen on other smartphones. But once again, I think it’s really nice to see all these modes included here.
There is also an 8MP front-facing camera sensor which can capture some pretty good looking selfies, but that depends on your subject matter. I guess in which case, it captures terrible results as you can see here.
Battery life on the Pure XL should in theory be great as it features a 3500mAh battery. You can already start to see where this is going. It’s a non-removable battery and it is large. But with the QHD display and the Octa-Core processor, it only lasts me around 4 hours of onscreen on time which is pretty good, don’t get me wrong. But don’t expect the battery life to really wow you. What is kind of neat is the fast charging capabilities with the included quick charger. You can charge the device up to nearly 45% in about 30 minutes.
Speakers? Well, I saved the worst for last. They deliver audio and they get loud but they’re on the back. And the quality of sound isn’t the highest. In a perfect world, there would be front-facing stereo speakers.
So the BLU Pure XL can be summed up in a very similar manner as the OnePlus 2 or the Moto X Pure Edition. It’s not a perfect device. It does have its flaws, which overall are pretty minor. I think BLU had an idea to give this device as many high end sounding specs as possible to attract as many customers as possible. The large 3500mAh battery and 24MP camera sensor is really an example of impressive specs but average performance.
With that said, the partial metal build construction of the device which includes dual SIM card slots and a microSD card slot for expandable storage, the 6-inch QHD Super AMOLED display, the Helio X10 Octa-Core processor with 3GB of RAM—they are all great and they all really add to the experience. The major concern I have going forward with this device is the support or their lack of. Given BLU’s track record, they don’t have the best record for sending timely updates to the devices. But for only $349 off-contract, the BLU Pure XL should be taken seriously in your consideration for a budget smartphone with flagship-like specs as it is a valid competitor to the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Pure Edition.