Tired of your phone dying before the day is even over? Well, I bet with the BLU Energy XL, you could make it at least two days without charging. This phone is a battery beast, and at only $300, it’s less than half the price of most flagship smartphones.
With pretty decent hardware specs, amazing battery life, and a low price, is there anything the BLU Energy XL can’t do? Definitely. The camera isn’t great, and the software is outdated and heavily modified (and BLU’s reputation with software updates isn’t the best).
Still, if you’re in the market for a budget device, you’ll definitely want to check out this phone.
- Chipset: Octa-core 1.3GHz MediaTek 6753 Processor with Mali-T720 GPU
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 64GB
- Cameras: 13MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing
- Size: 160.9mm x 81.2mm x 8.4mm (6.33in x 3.20in x 0.33in)
- Weight: 208g (7.34oz)
- Screen: 6.0″ Super AMOLED 1920px by 1080px with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Expansion: microSD card slot up to 32GB
- Battery: 5,000mAh
- Operating System: Heavily customized Lollipop 5.1
- Extra Features: FM Radio, Fingerprint sensor, LED notification light
BLU is known for making cheap, plasticky phones that you can tell right off the bat are budget devices — but not with the Energy XL. This device is made of nice, sturdy aluminum. There are plastic caps around the top and bottom to house the antennas, but they offer a nice accent to the phone. The curved glass even makes the edges feel smooth and much nicer in the hand than you’d expect for $300.
The power button, volume rocker, and microSD card slot are on the right side. Storage-wise, the Energy XL has a massive 64GB inside, and the microSD card allows you to expand that up another 32GB officially, though some people have reported getting 64GB microSD cards to work as well.
On the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C port and headphone jack. The left side has the dual SIM card slot, and the top is bare. You’ll notice there’s no removable back here, and that means the giant battery is non-removable — but given how much juice it holds, I doubt you’d ever need to replace it.
The most noticeable thing about this device is how huge it is. The 6″ screen doesn’t have a ton of bezel, so it’s not impossible to hold in one hand, but it’s certainly a challenge. This thing eclipses other modern “large” phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 7 Plus. It’s heavier and thicker as well, but not by much. Whether or not it feels good in your hand will really just come down to personal preference.
And while the screen might make it a little difficult to hold, it sure is a good quality. It gets reasonably bright, and the fact that it’s Super AMOLED instead of LCD means darker blacks and brighter colors. Sure, it’s “only” 1080p, but you really can’t see any pixels at all.
At the bottom of the front, you’ll find a physical home button along with two capacitive keys for Recents and Back. The home button is also a fingerprint scanner, though it’s just a hair slower than most other fingerprints scanners, like those on the iPhone or Moto phones. It’s enough to make it inconvenient to use, in my opinion.
With a rear-facing 13MP camera and a front-facing 5MP camera, the BLU Energy XL looks pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, its photos don’t quite live up to the specs.
The dynamic range is poor (as you can see in the sample photo below where the top of the photo is blown out) and the photos are just less crisp than what you’d get out of high-end smartphones. That said, taking into account its $300 price, it’s really not bad. It’s usable.
The software interface itself isn’t bad. There are a bunch of fancy modes for filters, HDR, improved selfies, professional controls, and so on. There’s even a burst mode if you hold down the shutter. But at the end of the day, you’re only going to be able to squeeze mediocre photos out of this thing.
The rear-facing speaker on this device is pretty loud, but it’s biggest flaw is that it’s located on the back. You can cup your hand around it while watching videos, but it’s still not an ideal placement. Plus, any audio that comes from it sounds a good deal more tinny to me than it does coming from other smartphones I’ve tested.
Powered by a 1.3Ghz octa-core MediaTek processor, you really shouldn’t expect the Energy XL to be a processing beast. MediaTek processors are known for being weaker, cheaper chips, and this one is no exception.
That being said, the difference seems to be getting less noticeable. In past BLU devices, I’ve encountered severe lag to the point of getting frustrated using the device at all, but with the Energy XL, that didn’t happen. Sure, apps open marginally slower than on competing devices, but for the amount of money you’re saving here, it’s not a huge sacrifice. Multi-tasking and pulling down the notification shade all happens quickly enough.
Also, 3GB of RAM really isn’t a bad deal for a phone at this price range. It’s not the 4GB that most Android flagships are shipping with (and it’s definitely not the OnePlus 3‘s 6GB), but it should be good enough for most people.
BLU’s heavily customized version of Android 5.1 Lollipop is probably the most disappointing thing about this phone — unless you want an iPhone clone, that is. The software here takes a lot of cues from iOS, including not having an app drawer and having a “control center” if you swipe up from the bottom.
The notification shade lacks any settings or shortcuts to your settings — that’s all accessed by swiping up, which can take some getting used to if you’ve used any other Android device.
Plus, the very fact that it’s based on Android 5.1 Lollipop is disheartening, given that 6.0 Marshmallow has been around for a while and 7.0 Nougat is slowly rolling out. And BLU has a terrible track record with updates, so I wouldn’t hold your breath for a Marshmallow update, much less a Nougat update.
The built-in apps are colorful and have a very distinct feel to them, including the Notes and Gallery shown above. The overall design seems to be soft, bright, and simple — but it does feel cartoonish at times.
Some other little tweaks have been added too. Notifications no longer show on the lockscreen (you’ll need to swipe down from the notification bar to see them), and BLU has thrown some “smart gestures” and other possibly-gimmicky features into the settings.
A few of the changes are genuinely useful, like having a battery percentage in the notification shade and using double tap to wake, but for the most part, they feel like the kind of confusing features Samsung likes to pack their devices with.
Overall, I’d say that Android purists would hate this software. On the other hand, if you like a more iPhone-esque design, you might appreciate it.
Battery life is really the Energy XL’s biggest selling point. The 5,000mAh battery lasted me two days of heavy usage, and could last even longer with light usage. 5,000mAh is almost double the capacity of many modern smartphones, which usually fall somewhere between 2,500mAh and 3,500mAh. But BLU just went and smashed them all out of the park.
It also uses USB Type-C for quick charging, which allows this massive battery to fill up ridiculously fast. There’s no wireless charging here, but it does get fully charged in around 2 hours.
$300 for this phone does seem like a great deal to me. You are making some sacrifices, but you could buy two of these in the place of one Samsung Galaxy S7.
However, it’s also worth mentioning that BLU includes a lot of extras in the box: headphones, a screen protector, a case, and a USB OTG cable. In terms of bang for your buck, BLU is way ahead of the game.
Should You Buy It?
The pros and the cons of the BLU Energy XL seem pretty clear cut to me. It has great battery life, a good screen, good build quality, and a low price. That’s countered by a weak camera, a mediocre processor, and sloppy software.
Your only other consideration might be the enormous size, but some people like giant phones while others don’t.
If your main concern is price and battery life, get it. If you’d prefer a phone with a better camera and a nicer operating system that will receive updates, look elsewhere.
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