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Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn’t hurt the budget

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

BLU Products, an American-based company, recently unveiled the Windows Phone 8.1 powered device called the Win HD. First introduced during Computex 2014, the Win HD is a fantastic 5-inch Windows Phone device tailored for the mid-tier market but comes packed with high-end features.

But, we live in a world full of choice, especially with smartphones. What makes the Win HD from Blu stand out over its competitors? What does the Win HD have that makes you want to buy it right now? Let’s take a look at the Win HD to see what it’s all about and hopefully we can answer these questions.

Display

The Win HD from Blu Products features a 5-inch HVGA 720×1280 display that makes colors vivid and clear thanks to Blu’s Infinite View and Nex Lens technology. This means no matter what colors are shown or what angle you have the handset, your eyes will enjoy the screen.

To put things in perspective, in terms of display, the Lumia 635 features a 4.5-inch 480×854 display, while the Lumia 520 features a 4.0-inch 480×800 display and the Lumia 925 features a 4.5 inch 768×1280 display. Clearly the Win HD offers a better display choice with the 5-inch 720×1280 display.

While the colors are vivid and the brightness is fantastic, I only have one major gripe about the device. Swiping on the screen is a bit rough. When swiping or scrolling down a list of apps, I tend to accidentally launch an app. It seems like the responsiveness of the screen is a lot more sensitive than what I am used to with a Lumia device. Is this a software bug? Perhaps. 

I’ll give you another example. When scrolling down the news list in the Converge app, I keep tapping on a news story inadvertently. I’m not doing it on purpose — I am simply trying to scroll down the list of news articles. This can get annoying quickly.

The Win HD does not feature Gorilla Glass, so be cautious. If you drop the device, you may end up with a nice little mark on your display.

The screen real estate is plentiful, so you can type a text message, watch a video, or surf the internet with ease. The device isn’t too wide or too tall, it seems to be just right.

Taking the Win HD outdoors during a bright, sunny day to check Twitter feeds or listen to some Spotify works as expected. I had no issues seeing the screen with the brightness set to high. I remember having issues with the Lumia 630 outdoors was it was difficult to see the screen in bright environments. I had no similar issues with the Win HD.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Hardware Overview

The Win HD features a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 1.2GHz Quad-Core processor and a gorgeous 8MP rear camera (2MP front) for those of you who love taking photos with your smartphone. Best of all, the 8MP camera features auto-focus. The Win HD comes with Dual SIM support, so you can have two phone numbers on one device allowing you to roam freely in any country.

The device also features 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage space (MicroSD up to 32GB), so there is plenty of power to keep you going. The device also features Bluetooth 3.0 support, WiFi, Hotspot, and MicroUSB 2.0 connectivity. There is also a 1950 mAh battery that promises up to 10 hours of talk time.

When you first open up the retail packaging, you will notice that the phone comes with a removable battery. The Win HD features a removable back cover that allows you to insert or remove the battery, as well as the two SIM slots and microSD slot. The back cover is relatively easy to remove and clicks back into place with ease. The package also comes with a charger, data cable, user manual, stereo earbuds (iPhone-esque), screen protector (with one already pre-installed), and a protective silicone case that matches the color of the phone. 

The overall design of the device is amazing. I like the HTC-esque feel to it. The removable back-cover clicks into place and reminds me of the Samsung Galaxy S5 back cover. The bright color of the device fits perfectly with the black screen and edges. 

The Win HD only features two buttons on the sides of the device — the power button on the top-right and the volume rocker on the top-left. Both of these buttons match the color of the black screen. At the very top of the device, you have your audio jack and mini-USB port. The front of the device has a proximity sensor, the front camera, a speaker, and a mic. The rear of the device has an LED, rear camera, and a loud external speaker.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Software Overview

Powered by Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box, your experience with the Win HD will be fantastic. You will get to experience the latest and greatest in Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

Bringing Cortana, an Action Center, and much more on board for the ride, Windows Phone 8.1 offers a fantastic alternative to Android and iOS. Microsoft has its sights set at dethroning both rival platforms at all costs, which makes Windows Phone a promising operating system. It can only get better with Windows Phone.

The device also sports an on-screen navigation bar that responds to your touch. This means you do not have the physical back, Windows, and search buttons, however, there is a portion of the device dedicated to the touch variants of these buttons. Newer Windows Phone devices nowadays will feature an on-screen navigation bar that responds to your touch, or a navigation bar within the operating system that responds to your touch, which is absolutely fine in my opinion.

Since the Win HD features dual-SIM cards, I had two SMS tiles and two phone tiles on the home screen. Both tiles are clearly labeled with a ‘1’ or ‘2’ to signify which tile corresponds with which SIM card. Really simple stuff.

In our particular review unit, we did not have any pre-installed ‘bloatware’ apps. After connecting my Microsoft Account credentials (which by the way, was probably the most tedious part of getting the Win HD up and running), I went to the Windows Phone Store and downloaded a few essential apps. To me, essential apps include the new MSN app suite, Tweetium, the Converge app, and Spotify.

The device comes packed with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, so I wasn’t hesitant to download apps and games to give the phone a run for its money.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Performance

Let’s begin by looking at the battery life of the Win HD. First of all, I was impressed with the battery life of this device. I was able to go a few days without worrying about plugging it into the outlet — if I seldom used the device. However, with moderate to heavy activity, I went from 100% to 35% in a matter of 8 hours. This was not bad at all, considering Blu promises up to 10 hours talk time.

But, keep in mind, no matter what device you own, if you tend to utilize a smartphone by playing games all day long or watching videos all day long, expect to see a reduction in battery life.

The 1GB of RAM on this device is a welcomed feature. In my opinion, having 512 MB of RAM on a Windows Phone device is a waste if you plan to play a game or two, or install and run several apps. With the Win HD, I had no performance issues playing any game from the Windows Store.

The Win HD features a fantastic speakerphone and awesome call quality — I have no complaints there. I was able to make calls with ease and listen to the party on the other end of the phone without any issues. It doesn’t appear to have the noise cancelling feature that most higher end phones have, but this is not a big deal.

I conducted a few benchmarks of the Win HD using Basemark OS II to get an idea of where the device ranks compared to rival Windows Phone devices. Basemark OS II is a system-level all-in-one benchmarking tool designed for measuring overall performance of smartphones and tablets from all platforms, including Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 8.

We ran this benchmark and achieved an overall score of 395. Memory topped out with a high score of 626, while System game us a score of 590 and Web gave us a 374. The lowest score was Graphics, with a score of 177. What does this mean? It means the RAM is the strong point of the device, while the graphics is the weak point.

Comparatively, the Lumia 820 has an overall score of 475, while the Lumia 720 has an overall score of 281. The Lumia 620 has an overall score of 284, while the Lumia 625 has an overall score of 359. The Lumia 520 and 521 have an overall score of 319 and 264, respectively. So as you can see, the Win HD sits in between the 700 and 800 range of Lumia smartphones when it comes to performance. Not bad at all.

Overall, I was happy with the performance of the device. The only issue I had was the display responsiveness, which I have already touched on. Other than that, fantastic device.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Camera

The Win HD comes with an 8MP Autofocus camera and does not feature a dedicated camera button on the device. We tested the phone’s photography capabilities with the built-in Camera app that comes with Windows Phone 8.1. There were a wide variety of settings, including the ability to use Lenses.

While the picture quality is fantastic for a mid-tier smartphone, not being able to manually zoom is a downfall. You can easily enable or disable flash if you so desire, something that is standard on all phones. Flash, by the way, is very bright, so make sure you warn whoever it is you plan on taking snapshots of. Regardless, it makes for one heck of a flashlight. There is also touch to focus. Snapping photos is a breeze, so no complaints there.

The camcorder, on the other hand, can easily be accessed via the Camera app and features 480p video recording. We’re not sure if this is some sort of software limitation, but the highest resolution we could use for recording videos was 864×480.

The 2MP front-facing camera works as intended, but don’t expect much from it. The whole purpose of the front-facing camera is for you to take a quick selfie and send it to your bestie. Don’t expect amazing quality from it though.

Take a look at the first two sample pictures below, taking during the early part of a bright, sunny afternoon. The picture quality is fine but you can clearly tell it was bright outside. Then take a look at the second set of pictures, taken in an indoor environment. The close-up shot of the belt buckle looks great in my opinion. The last picture with the remote was taken in a dark environment with flash.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budgetBlu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

The 8MP camera is excellent as it takes fantastic pictures at high resolutions. However, don’t expect to take low-light pictures with this smartphone. If you are looking for a cheap priced Windows Phone device that has a fantastic camera, don’t get the Blu Win HD. However, if you are looking for a mid-range smartphone that has a decent camera, then by all means, purchase the Blu Win HD.

Blu Win HD review: A 5-inch Windows Phone 8.1 device with 1GB of RAM that doesn't hurt the budget

Final Thoughts

The Win HD is available at a decent price of $179 via Amazon or the online Microsoft Store and comes with a variety of color choices. As you can already see, I have the yellow colored handset, which has a bit of a neon green twist to it and looks gorgeous. The device is also available in neon orange, pink, or matte white.

You can use the device on AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Straight Talk, and other carriers, as long as they support HSPA+. The Win HD does not support LTE, so you wont be able to use it on Verizon.

As I asked in the opening of this review, what makes the Win HD stand out over its competitors? What does the Win HD have that makes you want to buy it right now? Well, I believe the Win HD is a fantastic and affordable mid-range Windows Phone device. It looks and runs great, and it wont hurt your pocket. 

The Nokia Lumia range of Windows Phone devices is known for its beauty and design quality, but I am giving Blu some credit here by stating that they are catching up to that quality level. This small little company based in Florida sure does know how to create some beautiful devices.

Here is my recommendation. Head over to your local Microsoft Store and check out one of these devices in person. If you want a 5-inch affordable Windows Phone device, with a decent camera, and 1GB of RAM to play games and run apps, buy this phone.

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