What if you could get a brand new phone for a little over $100? That’s a fraction of the price of today’s flagship devices, and these phones have gotten significantly better over the last couple years.
The Blackview R6, which is currently on sale for $113 at AliExpress, is probably the highest-end phone you’ll find in this price range. Its specs are nothing to sneeze at, but obviously it does have to make some compromises to be so cheap.
So let’s take a closer look in this review of the Blackview R6.
- Price: $110–$150
- Chipset: 1.5 GHz Quad-Core MediaTek MT6737T
- RAM: 3 GB
- Storage: 32 GB
- Cameras: 16 MP rear-facing with Optical Image Stabilization, 5 MP front-facing
- Size: 152.3mm x 77.1mm x 10mm (6.00in x 3.04in x 0.39in)
- Weight: 160g (5.64oz)
- Screen: 5.5″ 1080p LCD
- Expansion: microSD card slot up to 128 GB
- Battery: 3,000 mAh
- Operating System: Skinned version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Extra Features: Fingerprint scanner, dual SIM support, microSD card support, FM Radio
For most cheap phones, the first thing to go is build quality. I don’t feel like that’s the case with the R6. The back is plastic, but it’s sturdy, doesn’t creak if you put pressure on it, and even looks like aluminum. It also has a metal frame with chamfered edges that make it feel a lot more high-end than it is.
There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back in the same position as on the Google Pixel. The speaker is located on the lower corner of the back, the micro-USB port is on the bottom (no USB Type-C here), the headphone jack is up top, and the volume rocker and power button are on the right side.
Though you can’t access the fingerprint scanner while the phone is resting on a table, it does make it easy when you’re holding it. There’s no swipe action available to pull down the notification shade like on the Pixel, but it is reasonably fast. No as fast as the Moto G4 Plus, for instance, but much better than how these scanners used to be.
That plastic back pops off, revealing the two SIM card trays and the microSD card tray. All together, it’s a bit of a thick phone, measuring in at 10mm. Otherwise it’s a pretty average size for a 5.5″ device.
The 1080p screen isn’t the greatest. It does get relatively bright for outdoor use, which I appreciated, but the color calibration just seemed off, and the colors in general felt washed out. The worst part was probably just the viewing angles — colors get significantly warmer or cooler depending on what angle you hold the screen at.
But, the 1080p resolution at least means that it’s all crisp. We’re past the days of budget phones being terribly pixelated beasts. The 2.5D glass actually feels really nice around the edges where it slides off smoothly, allowing for slick swiping gestures.
Oddly, Blackview has stuck with the Options button rather than the Recents button in the row of three capacitive keys along the bottom. Since Android is made for using Recents now, it’s a bizarre layout for a new phone. Most of the time, the Options button is useless unless you’re in a very old app or the Blackview’s default homescreen. To access your recent apps, you need to press and hold the home button, which is a good deal more time consuming.
The Blackview R6 does also come with a few goodies, including a screen protector, a clear case, and a pair of headphones. Obviously, these are all pretty budget items, but it’s nice to get them in the box so you can protect your device right away and at least have a backup pair of headphones.
The R6’s cameras pack the same megapixels as many other phones: 13 MP on the back and 5 MP on the front. That rear-facing camera even has Optical Image Stabilization, which isn’t even present on some higher-end phones. That’s meant to help with low-light performance and allow videos to be less stuttery.
In my testing, I couldn’t tell that it was doing much. The resolution may be high on these cameras, but the photos won’t blow you away. Though at this price point, I don’t think they’re meant to.
However, the interface is especially off-putting. Instead of keeping the stock Android camera, Blackview gave the buttons some shading, giving it an outdated appearance. At least it has standard features like the panorama and beauty modes.
Being placed on the back of the device isn’t exactly ideal placement for the R6’s speaker, but it still manages to get reasonably loud. Compared to other modern smartphones I’d say that it sounds a good deal more tinny.
It won’t be crystal clear audio, but it should be fine for blasting a YouTube video every once and awhile.
Though it is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Blackview has tweaked the software quite a bit. The interface is much more iPhone-like, with no app drawer and rounded, colorful buttons. Apps that don’t have a custom button designed for them just have a rounded orange background behind their default logo. You could change this with an alternative launcher, of course.
Other tweaks are less heavy-handed, like the light blue accents and modified icons in the notification shade, and the colorful icons in the Settings menu. There are also a couple of pre-loaded apps like Xender, Email, and Music, that you won’t find in stock Android.
One of the strangest changes is a persistent notification if you have App Permissions enabled. In Android 6.0, permissions switched to being approved on a case by case basis, which is smart — you get to control what permissions your apps have access to. But on the R6, if that is enabled, you’re stuck with a persistent notification. If you disable it, allowing all apps to have any permission they want without asking (which obviously is less secure), only then will the notification go away.
That change is puzzling since in stock Android you can’t even disable the App Permissions feature, so why would Blackview incentivize disabling it with an annoying notification?
Blackview did add some handy features, though, including the ability to double-tap the screen to wake it, as well as a few other on-screen gestures and even some motion-activated non-touch gestures — like waving your hand over the phone on the lockscreen to unlock it.
MediaTek isn’t exactly known for powerful processors, and the R6 is no performance beast, but it’s certainly good enough. There’s very little lag when navigating around menus and switching between apps.
Sure it will start to struggle if you’re using lots of intensive, demanding apps at once, but in average usage, I don’t think you’ll notice a slow down. That’s a big departure from how budget devices like this used to be.
However, there is one big caveat for American buyers: the Blackview R6 does not have the proper bands for 4G LTE data in the US. AT&T and T-Mobile, the two largest GSM wireless carriers, use 700, 1700, and 1900MHz — but the R6 has bands for 800, 900, 1800, 2100, and 2600MHz. If you’re in the UK or elsewhere, this shouldn’t be a problem (double-check your carrier’s bands, though), but it’s a major letdown for Americans who will only be able to get 3G data speeds.
With a 3,000 mAh battery, you might expect some solid battery life out of the R6, but sadly, that’s not the case. While most smartphones struggle with battery life, you can get a solid 5–6 hours of Screen on Time (SoT) on a good device, and closer to 8–9 on a great one. For me, the Blackview R6 generally gave out at around three hours.
It did well on standby, not draining too much with the screen off, but its weak system on time is disappointing. Since the basic micro-USB doesn’t offer any kind of fast-charging capabilities, you’ll need to be prepared to wait a couple hours or more for it to charge up fully.
Should You Buy It?
The Blackview R6 has a very specific market: folks outside the US who need the cheapest quality phone available. If you’re in the US, the lack of 4G LTE is a real dealbreaker. But if you’re outside the U.S., the R6 offers some really great specs at a low price. It feels and looks higher end than it is — for the most part.
Buy the Blackview R6 at: AliExpress
American buyers should pass due to the lack of LTE support, but it’s not a bad choice for budget-hunters outside the U.S.