BLU Win HD First Impressions

BLU Win HD First Impressions

An interesting new mid-tier option

Among the many new players in the Windows Phone market this year is BLU, which will field two devices: The mid-level Win HD and the entry-level Win Jr. I've got both in for review, so let's start with the colorful, HD-enabled Win HD.

I'll provide a peek at the Win Jr. tomorrow.

The Win HD combines some vibrant, neon color choices—I love the bright yellow review unit—with an a body style that can be described as "HTCesque," though the device betrays its pedestrian pricing with a plastic body rather that metal. And to be clear, I am A-OK with that: The resulting handset is both thin and light, and best of all the back cover comes off so you can access the SIM cards, microSD expansion and the removable battery. Nice!

Here's what's going on with the BLU Win HD, spec-wise. I see this handset as a potential step up from the Lumia 635 in both price and features. The question is: Is it worth the additional $50?

Colors. The Win HD is available in neon orange, pink, or yellow, or matte white.

Processor. This handset features a fairly low-end quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, which is a step down from the Snapdragon 400 in the Lumia 635. But it's not clear if that matters with Windows Phone, and the bundled Adreno 302 GPU should help with games.

Screen. The Win HD sports a 5-inch screen (the current smart phone sweet spot, in my opinion) and runs at a mid-level resolution of 1280 x 720. This is an improvement over the 635 screen, which is an IPS unit at 4.5-inches with FWVGA (854 x 480) resolution. And unlike the 635, it offers automatic brightness control, rather than manual brightness levels. That said, it's a bit dim from the sides.

BLU Win HD (left) and Nokia Lumia 635 (right, with custom green case)

RAM. The Win HD does provide a full 1 GB of RAM, which is actually great in this price range. By comparison, the 635 only ships with 512 MB of RAM.

Storage. 8 GB of onboard storage with microSD expansion to 32 GB. This is the similar to the Lumia 635, though that device supports up 128 GB microSD cards.

Camera. The rear camera is 8 megapixels with flash, a step up from the 5 megapixels on the Lumia 635. The front camera is 2 megapixels. There is no physical camera button, as with the 635. Unlike Nokia and HTC, BLU does not provide a custom camera app, which is fine: The Microsoft one is quite nice now.

OS. The BLU Win HD ships with Windows Phone 8.1. The version number is 8.10.12400.899. It ships with fewer Start tiles displayed, which I find old-fashioned now, but you can obviously fix that yourself.

Navigation bar. This handset ships with physical (capacitive) Back, Start and Search buttons, and not software buttons.

Wireless. The Win HD supports 4G HSPA/3G cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.

BLU Win HD (left) and HTC One (M8) for Windows (right)

USB. The micro-USB port is on the top rather than the bottom of the device.

Dual SIMs. While I don't see this being a huge deal in the US, the BLU Win HD supports two SIM cards. (The Lumia 635's stable mate, the nearly identical 630, offers this capability too.) I suppose it would be useful for those who travel internationally a lot.

Size: 145 x 70 x 7.75 mm

BLU Win HD (top) and HTC One (M8) for Windows (bottom)

Pricing. At $179 with no contract, the Win HD is affordable and upscale compared to the Lumia 635 (which is $129). It's not available yet, but will be sold soon through Microsoft Store, and some wireless carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile.

More soon. Plus I'll have a first peek at the BLU Win Jr. tomorrow as well.

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