Want a rugged phone with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for under $250? Look no further than the Blackview BV7000 Pro. Few smartphones offer this kind of value.
Suspend your disbelief for a minute. What would you say if I told you a ruggedized phone with long battery life, water resistance, and a full HD display sells for under $250? You can buy that device right now for $180 through an importer – or $230 on Amazon. The only downside is that the phone doesn’t fully support some of the faster LTE network bands in the US. But if you can get over slightly slower network speeds, the BV7000 Pro might be the perfect phone for your active lifestyle needs.
Read on to find out what we thought of it.
What Are the Other Ruggedized Phones?
You can find a large selection of rugged and semi-rugged phones on Amazon. However, if you’re looking for a name-brand, only Samsung makes a ruggedized version of its flagship phone: the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, and that costs a fortune. Aside from Samsung, the majority of rugged models out there include such examples as CAT’s $650 S60 and several China-branded phones. Within the sub $250 price point, there are few competitors – and none of these designs come from larger corporations. In fact, even CAT’s model is probably just a rebrand of a white label Chinese design.
The closest competitor is the $190 E&L Proofings W9, which offers 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a similar processor, and IP68 waterproofing. These specifications fall a good bit behind Blackview’s phone. So just going off the hardware alone, it appears that Blackview isn’t just competitive — they offer the best value in their class.
How Does the Blackview BV7000 Pro Look and Feel?
Right out of the box, the BV7000 impresses with its rugged frame and mostly metal construction. It clearly shows strong industrial design on par with the likes Samsung or Apple. Unlike Samsung and Apple, however, the phone costs very little – so even if its ruggedization fails, you could replace the phone three or four times over for the cost of a single high-end phone. That, in my opinion, equals value.
Crash Guards and Ports
On its left and right sides, the Blackview sports two aluminum crash guards, which double as antennas. The top and bottom portions of the BV7000 comes protected by a thick layer of silicone rubber. This leads to relatively deep USB Type-C (abbreviated as USB-C) port design. Unfortunately, this necessitates a USB-C charging cable with a longer than usual plug, so an off-the-shelf USB-C cable won’t work.
At the top of the device sits a 3.5-inch audio jack, again protected by a silicone rubber plug. Just below the plug sits a standard, single speaker for calls.
What’s on the Back?
On the back, you’ve got a fingerprint sensor, a single LED flash, and a 13MP camera (without optical image stabilization). The camera and fingerprint sensor come surrounded by a very thick chunk of aluminum. I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of the aluminum is, but it seems to protect the camera and fingerprint sensor. It doesn’t behave as a heatsink would
The rear housing of the BV7000 comes swaddled in black plastic with crosshatch texturing. The texturing makes the BV7000 easier to hold, while at the same time providing a degree of shock protection. That means the BV7000 is both harder to drop and harder to break. And finally, at the base, there’s a single speaker for audio output. The speaker (listed as 1.5-watts in the spec sheet) is fairly underpowered, like most smartphone speakers, and doesn’t produce much in the way of audio quality or volume.
Despite the weak speakers, overall, the BV7000 looks like an impressive device for its price point.
Don’t let the specs fool you. The hardware inside of the Blackview is mid-range, at best. However, in 2017, even a phone loaded with midrange components can provide a surprising degree of features, battery life, and performance. Out of the parts that go into the Blackview, let’s start with the most important: its processor. In this case, that’s the MediaTek 6750T. Please note, though, that technically what we refer to as a “processor” is actually a system-on-a-chip (SoC).
Blackview BV7000 Pro Processor: MediaTek 6750T
One of the most popular systems-on-a-chip from Taiwan-based MediaTek is the MT6750T. Although a bit older, having been released in early 2016, and using the last generation 28nm production process, it’s still a modern design. It combines an octa-core processor with a Mali-T860 GPU (graphics processor), and a Category 6 (LTE Advanced) modem, into a relatively power-efficient package. However, while Octa-core processors score off the charts on synthetic benchmarks, but their real-world performance often feels sluggish. There’s a good reason for that.
In the world of mobile processors, you have performant cores and power efficient cores. You can’t have both – that is, until ARM published research on its big.LITTLE architecture. The promise of big.LITTLE seems amazing. It uses both power-efficient and performant cores. If a task requires power, it deploys the big cores. If a task can run efficiently on a small core, it schedules accordingly.
However, MediaTek did something really odd with the big.LITTLE concept. Rather than using two dissimilar processor architectures, as specified by big.LITTLE, they chose to use a single processor type: the Cortex A53, a design emphasizing power efficiency. It then designed one core cluster to run at its maximum rated speed and the other cluster to jog somewhat slower.
Why is this important? Basically, you aren’t getting a true eight-core processor. And on top of that, the MT6750’s underlying architecture emphasizes efficiency over power. So, it’s not surprising that the Blackview benchmarks like Usain Bolt, but runs more modestly in the real world.
Other Components: Cameras, Battery, and Speakers
The other components aren’t as interesting as the processor. However, four stand out: the battery, display, camera, and the speakers.
The 4,000 mAh battery ranks among the largest lithium-ion batteries crammed into a phone of this size. For comparison, the similarly dimensioned Google Pixel XL offers a 3,450 mAh battery. Altogether, the combination of a massive battery with low drain components should yield amazing battery life. In fact, it scores in the 93rd percentile using GSam and the Carat battery analysis app. In terms of screen-on time (which varies tremendously), I get around 3 hours with hardcore use — that’s an average number. However, the standby time with poor network connection comes out to around 3 days, which is excellent.
The 1080p 5.5-inch LCD display appears crisp and with decent color accuracy. In all honesty, I can’t tell much difference between the Blackview and the Pixel XL’s AMOLED screen.
On the other hand, the cameras won’t turn any heads. The rear-facing 13MP (1080p for video) lacks Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), though it can record underwater. The front-facing camera shoots 720P video and 8MP for photos. Despite the IP68 waterproofing, it’s probably not worth risking as an actual dive camera. Any depth greater than 3-meters might cause moisture to collect on the camera, which effectively ruins it. However, against rain, the Blackview provides excellent weatherization.
In case you want to see a decent daytime photo (don’t bother taking night-time photos), here’s a good shot of my dog:
Using the Blackview BV7000 Pro
When it comes down to real-world usage and performance, the BV7000 feels about as feature rich as any other midrange or high-end phone that’s out there. It includes gesture support, a relatively new modem, serviceable camera shots, and decent call quality. Although nothing stands out about its performance, nothing really jumps out as deal-breaking or even bad, really. Some of the stand-out features include the software, underwater performance, and security.
Unlock Gesture Support
Unlike Qualcomm Snapdragon phones, the BV7000 comes equipped with gesture support out-the-box. For those unfamiliar with gestures, you can launch certain apps by swiping your finger in a pattern across the screen while the phone is turned off. For example, by drawing a vertical line on the BV7000, I can launch the camera.
You Can Wear Gloves
Even though the BV7000 uses a touch-sensitive screen, it can support unlock gestures even when wearing a glove. Normally, a capacitive screen requires that you touch the screen with flesh (because it runs an electrical current through the water in your finger). Its glove-compatible screen interaction makes it an ideal device for construction crews, first-responders, cold-weather use, and more.
Configurable Hardware Button
The BV7000 sports a fourth hardware button which the user can configure to their heart’s desire. It offers three different functions based on whether you single-tap, double-tap, or press-and-hold the button.
No Security Vulnerability
I threw every Heartbleed, Bluebug, and Android exploit at the BV7000 — and all vulnerability scans came back negative. However, that’s to be expected as the majority of older Android exploits were patched in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Even so, it’s a little reassuring that I can’t find any serious security vulnerability. However, the longer a phone goes un-updated, the more likely that it will develop a security vulnerability. And I don’t expect the BV7000 to receive many firmware or security updates.
Blackview BV7000 Pro Ruggedization
We’ve seen numerous YouTube clips showing the Blackview dropped several floors, frozen in ice, onto pavement. Another clip shows the phone used as a cutting board. An even more egregious – and upsetting – video depicts a BV7000 thrown into a bar-b-que pit and then later completely destroyed using a torch. All of these videos overstate its ruggedization and mislead viewers into believing the phone is impervious to damage.
The reason: both the Lithium-ion battery and Gorilla Glass 3 screen are fairly fragile components. While the BV7000 possesses a strong chassis and superstructure, no amount of design can protect Gorilla Glass 3 from getting shattered. It’s just not designed to withstand shock. It’s not even designed to withstand getting scratched by sand. It will, however, easily stand up to the kind of harsh conditions you’d see at a construction site:
You could take just one look at the BV7000 and know that it could probably take a fall or two. However, there are two certification organizations that provide ruggedization testing. The two standards are: Ingress Protection (IP) and MIL-STD-810. IP covers water and dust resistance whereas MIL-STD-810 is a military certification standard that covers shock and other battlefield traumas. Unfortunately, the MIL-STD-810 rating cannot be applied to civilian consumer products.
Water resistance IP68: The Ingress Protection (IP) 68 means the BV7000 Pro is fully air-tight and can withstand immersion in water of up to 3 meters for an unspecified amount of time. That does not mean water cannot enter the device, however. The IP specification only requires that electronics rated IP68 continue to function after experiencing complete water immersion in three meters of water. Oftentimes that means the device will experience water coming into contact with its motherboard or other sensitive components.
While the Blackview BV7000 managed to take a few solid drops, exposure to water caused minor screen distortion. While everything continues to work, it appears that an airtight phone may end up living with water damage. There’s just no way for the water to exit the phone. Here’s what the screen looks like now, with the water damage:
The water is trapped underneath the screen and is only visible from certain angles. Other than a minor aesthetic blemish, the phone seems to work fine.
Problems with the BV7000
Not everything is perfect with the BV7000. It also suffers from a few minor issues:
Requires long USB Type-C connector: A longer USB-C port means you can’t just use off-the-shelf USB-C cables
Supports PumpExpress+ but comes with a European charger: It’d be nice if the phone came with a PumpExpress+ charger (which charges MediaTek devices very quickly).
Not fully water-tight: As mentioned above, the IP68 rating doesn’t mean water cannot touch its inner-workings. And exposure to water on the BV7000 causes water to leak into the display and probably the motherboard. It continues working, though, which means the motherboard and sensitive electronics received a water-resistant coating.
No screen-off features: Unfortunately, one of the tradeoffs that you make when buying a MediaTek chip is the personal assistant. MediaTek doesn’t support any assistant features that can launch when the phone is turned off. However, if you don’t use a personal assistant, this is a minor issue.
Stock Launcher: The MIUI stock launcher is garbage. There’s no app drawer so it gets cluttered very rapidly. Some might like it. I do not.
Small amounts of lag: As mentioned earlier, you’ll notice small amounts of lag while scrolling and a few dropped frame while playing graphically intensive games.
Blackview’s Other Phones
In case you like the BV7000 Pro, but want a cheaper model, Blackview launched a non-Pro model: the BV7000. It costs less, includes 2GB of RAM, a slightly slower processor, and 16GB of storage. What’s strange, though, is that the BV7000 comes with Android Nougat. And the Pro models comes with the slightly older Marshmallow.
Should You Buy the Blackview BV7000 Pro?
If you’re looking for the state-of-the-art in smartphone hardware, obviously the BV7000 isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a phone that can endure the rigors of the construction site, inclement weather, or an active lifestyle, the BV7000 may impress you at a low price-point. Buy it, if you’re looking for a low-cost, high durability smartphone with good battery life. Those looking for regular firmware or security updates should look elsewhere.
I’d like to note that the BV7000 seems ideal for international travel, particularly to South America or South East Asia. It supports the most common data bands used in both countries and offers dual SIM card compatibility. On top of that, its ruggedized design, while not perfect for swimming, will handle the wettest of torrential storms. But above all else, its price makes it somewhat disposable.
Perfect as a low-cost, disposable, ruggedized phone.