This past week I shifted from my Nokia Lumia 1520, which I have been using since last February, to the BLU Win HD LTE. My goal was to see how the device would perform under my typical daily use regimen.
The Win HD LTE is an updated handset recently released by BLU, a Miami based company, and at $199.99 it is a very reasonably priced unlocked LTE phone. You can read more details about the handset in Rod’s First Look: BLU Win HD LTE and BLU JR LTE from last month.
The Win HD LTE uses a Micro-SIM while my Nokia Lumia 1520 uses a Nano-SIM so my first challenge was to either get a Micro-SIM from my carrier, AT&T, or an adapter for my Nano-SIM. AT&T was more than willing to let me swap back and forth between two different SIMs but each time I wanted to move the card between devices it would require a phone call with them to change over.
That meant a SIM adapter was the path of least resistance to testing on handsets with Micro-SIMs. After much discussion on Twitter with folks who have used them in the past I decided on the MediaDevil Simdevil 3-in-1 SIM card adapter kit. Since I already had the smallest sized SIM out there, a Nano-SIM, this kit easily lets me upsize that to a Micro-SIM. It only cost $7 so it is also an inexpensive investment for the time savings it would produce over time by not having to get on the phone with AT&T to swap/activate SIMs.
The biggest piece of advice I received for using an adapter was to make sure the Nano-SIM stayed in the adapter and did not come lose as that can make it difficult to remove the adapter from the SIM tray. The Simdevil adapters come with sticky tape in the adapter to hold things in place and it works well as I have already moved the Micro-SIM adapter with the Nano-SIM out of the Win HD LTE into a Galaxy S4 without any issues.
So now that you know how I got my AT&T SIM into the phone how about the experience of using the Win HD LTE full time?
I have to start by being up front that my experience using the Win HD LTE is compared to the 1520 in many aspects. Of course, one is a flagship phone and hardware while the other is a solid mid-range Windows Phone with decent specs so some difference are to be expected. That does not diminish the Win HD LTE itself as it simply cannot beat the 1520 on specs and performance. However, it is a good mid range Windows Phone option that can bring some users a solid upgrade.
Setting up the Win HD LTE for my daily use was simple as all I had to do was reset the phone and then restore a recent app and settings back up from my 1520. This is all possible because of using a Microsoft Account. Once the reset/restore was completed the phone downloaded my apps apps, added my various email accounts and laid out the Start Screen just as it was on my 1520. This makes moving to another handset a pretty painless evolution and anyone who still refuses to use a Microsoft Account is missing out on not only this but a lot of functionality across their Windows Phone.
So once the device was setup I laid aside the 1520 and kept the Win HD LTE alongside using it for my normal daily things like using social media, catching up on news with Nextgen Reader, syncing my Microsoft Band which is connected by BT, playing a few word games, etc. I am probably on my phone 2-3 times per hour on a weekday while at my desk working and double that on the weekends.
My Windows Phone has become a real consumption device and it is rarely used as an actual phone – just 2-3 calls per day - but I do quite a bit of texting with family. My phone also pulls double duty as a hotspot when I do not have good connectivity for getting online.
So my performance demands on a phone are pretty straight forward and nothing outrageous. In all of the above areas the Win HD LTE performed well and, while it did lag occasionally as I opened apps or moved between screens, it was very functional.
If someone picked up this phone coming from a low end device it would be a good upgrade in performance and capability. For someone like myself, looking on this from my 1520 experience, it is going to seem less than stellar.
That of course, is not the phones fault but it is my perspective. It is with this point of reference I give you the feedback below after using the device daily for the past week:
- No physical camera button. You never know how much you use the actual camera button on a phone until you do not have one. Instead of pressing a button on the phone to open the camera app I had to unlock the screen, tap the Camera App tile I had placed on my Start Screen to take pictures. This easily added several seconds to the process of taking photos and, while I did not miss any photos due to this, for me it cements the fact that I always want to have a physical camera button.
- The phones 8MP rear camera took good images using the default Microsoft Camera app but many appeared less sharp and at times washed out compared to those using the 1520. The Lumia camera hardware is top notch stuff and it is very easy to be spoiled by the shots it can obtain. See below for two side by side comparison images using default settings on each phone.
- The phones 5 inch 1280 x 720 HD screen is very bright and vibrant although it does lack the outdoor clarity of the 1520 and its sister Lumia devices. I needed to duck into a shady spot if I was outside to see the screen. I wear progressive eyeglasses and I did find the text in some apps to be quite small and this resulted in some eye strain for me – that is something I do not normally experience using the 1520.
- The size of the Win HD LTE was quite nice after being on the six inch 1520. I bought the 1520 for its screen size since I use the device more for data than phone calls but I have also realized that it is just a bit too big. The Win HD LTE was easier to use one handed and it slid into my back jeans pocket comfortably and did not stick out like the 1520 does.
- The Win HD LTE’s 2500 mAh battery easily lacks a third of the 1520’s massive 3400 mAH battery’s storage however, it survived my long days, typically 5 AM to 11 PM, except for one day of exceptionally heavy use.
- I am on AT&T and have the Family Shared Data plan which allows me to use my phone as a hotspot. The Win HD LTE did this just fine and I was able to get good throughput speeds to my test devices. Windows Phones tethering settings are very easy to use and for me this is a necessity.
- There is plenty of storage for the everyday user on the Win HD LTE with 8GB of system memory and even with my hefty app list I still had over almost 2GB of space left on the phone. However, for those of you with higher storage requirements the device comes with a Micro-SD slot where you can add up to 32GB of additional storage.
- The Win HD LTE comes with dual SIM slots and you can use either one with your own SIM card. There main use case for a dual SIM phone is for work and personal. Having used a company issued phone in the past and carrying around two devices the ability to have both numbers on one phone would have been awesome. Windows Phone lets you configure which SIM is primary and the default for cellular data so you can keep work/private info/use separated.
- This device also recently got the Windows 8.1 Update 2 software which takes it beyond what my 1520 has received. This update adds bug fixes, performance enhancements, support for MKV video and a categorized layout of the Settings page. The Win HD LTE will support Windows 10 once it is released. I plan to try Windows 10 on this hardware as soon as I can.
If you are looking for a phone that is in the middle tier of devices then the BLU Win HD LTE is a viable option and should be considered as you shop for a device. Its current price of $199 is excellent for the hardware and capabilities you get plus the phone is unlocked although it is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.
Side by side camera shot comparisons:
BLU Win HD LTE
Nokia Lumia 1520
BLU Win HD LTE
Nokia Lumia 1520
Have any of you tried the BLU Win HD LTE? What did you think of the device and its performance/capabilities?