Last week a friend popped into town and after dinner in Bellevue we stopped by the Microsoft Store. I walked out with a $199 BLU Win HD LTE and spent a week testing it out.
The statement I made a couple of years ago that low cost Windows Phone devices offer more than iOS and Android remains valid and today there are even more choices for consumers.
As a smartphone enthusiast, I am disappointed Microsoft took the year off with Windows Phone. It's likely that we will finally see a flagship Windows 10 Mobile device later this year, but as I discovered with my Lumia 830 you can actually get most of what you need at a fair price.
It turns out with the BLU Win HD LTE, that you can get what you need at half the price of what I paid for the Lumia 830 too. I never paid much attention to BLU, but it turns out that BLU Products offer compelling Windows Phone and Android products at a fair price. Let's take a closer look at my week with the BLU Win HD LTE.
I honestly had no intention of picking up a new Windows Phone device while browsing the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square, but the BLU Win devices felt great in my hand, the display looked fantastic, and the device was very responsive. Microsoft had three models on display; the BLU Win HD LTE, BLU Win HD, and BLU Win JR LTE. Prices ranged from $199 down to just $99, respectively. All of these are no-contract, SIM-unlocked devices that work on AT&T and T-Mobile.
As a T-Mobile customer, my first concern was the support for T-Mobile's 1700 MHz HSPA+ and LTE bands. The BLU Win HD LTE specs state 3G support for 850/1700/1900/2100 bands and LTE support for 700/1700/2600 frequencies. This means LTE support for Band 17 and Band 4 so that AT&T and T-Mobile are both supported.
The BLU Win HD LTE is available in gray, white, and yellow (highlighter yellow/green). I picked up the gray one since it works best at the office, but the yellow one is fun too. The gray one has a full soft touch removable back cover and dark gray front.
You will find a 5 inch 720 x 1280 IPS display with 294 ppi, Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB integrated storage and microSD card slot, dual SIM configuration, 8 megapixel rear camera and 2 megapixel front facing camera, and 2500 mAh non-removable battery. The device is 145 x 72 x 8.2 mm and 146 grams.
The hardware doesn't feel cheap at all and performance was impressive. The dual SIM support was interesting and allows people to pop-on both work and personal SIM cards. BLU does a great job making it clear which SIM is being used for phone calls and text messages. I am not provided with a work phone and had no international travel over the past week so did not test the dual SIM capability.
The 8 megapixel camera does a fair job and will likely satisfy most people for social networking. However, as you can see in my embedded image gallery below, other flagship smartphones beat the BLU Win HD LTE for photos. Then again, you could purchase at least three of these devices compared to one flagship smartphone I used for taking those photos.
I used the BLU Win HD LTE exclusively with my T-Mobile SIM for several days and was able to get through most of the day on a single charge.
An update popped up while I was using the BLU Win HD LTE so that the software on the device was Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2. BLU has stated the phone will be upgraded to Windows 10 later this year. I did not test out the early beta of Windows 10 Mobile on this phone.
The Update 2 version of the software was minor, but did significantly change the Settings area of the device. It also added an All Apps button at the bottom of the Start screen, along with other bug fixes and tweaks.
The BLU Win HD LTE performed very well with all the apps I installed, but keep in mind I am not a gamer and did not test out any processor-intensive games on the phone. The app gap continues to dissolve with Windows Phone and I did not find anything lacking while using it daily, especially when I moved to using my Microsoft Band instead of my Apple Watch for a week.
Cortana, Word Flow, Action Center, and Live Folders are all found on the BLU Win HD LTE and all work well. Those who give Windows Phone 8.1 an honest look will discover it is a very powerful operating system, designed to be great without the need for thousands of apps. If you are at all interested in checking out Windows Phone, a BLU Windows Phone is an inexpensive way to test out the operating system.
Daily experiences and final thoughts
The BLU Win HD LTE impressed me at the Microsoft Store and lived up to the promise all week. I ended up returning it since I already paid double that for a Lumia 830 that has a better camera and removable battery. However, the rest of the specs are very comparable and you really can't go wrong with the BLU Win HD LTE.
I honestly never paid much attention to non-Lumia devices and it turns out that was a mistake. There are other vendors out there making solid Windows Phone devices and the BLU products let you try out Windows Phone for a minimal cost of entry. The BLU Win HD LTE is the top-of-the line model with the highest level specifications, including LTE support, so if you have $199 and are at all interested in testing out Windows Phone I highly recommend you give it a try.