Despite the insistence from the wireless carriers over the last few years, we’re just now getting to a point where 5G is truly worth considering. Networks are finally coming into their own with ultra-fast connections available in many parts of the country.
As a consumer I have not exactly shied away from 5G and its capabilities but I’ve certainly not made it a priority; 4G LTE speeds are plenty fast enough for me.
On the hardware front the first few generations of 5G phones were incredibly pricey. You’d have to spend approximately $1,000 for the privilege of owning a phone that was capable of 5G. Moreover, it also cost more on your rate plan as carriers charged a premium for access. Indeed, you could cough up a bunch of money for a feature that you never even took advantage of over the last few years.
As 2022 gets into full swing, the 5G landscape has settled down and it now makes sense to consider it as a selling point. Phones with 5G support now cost a fraction of what they did a couple of years ago.
Miami-based BLU is no stranger to the concept of creating phones with price tags that come in a fraction of what other brands command. And at long last it is ready to dip its toes into the 5G waters. Its latest phone, the F91 5G arrives as a low-cost unlocked option for GSM carriers.
When it comes to BLU phones I often find that it has to cut corners in order to keep prices low. That is to be expected, of course, and many entry-level devices makers do the same. To me though, the corners aren’t so much cut as gently trimmed and in areas that tend to go unnoticed by the masses.
Think about features like high refresh rate and touch sampling rate, reverse charging, and super-fast wireless charging. They’re certainly nice to have, and you’d miss them once you take them away. But there’s a huge segment of user who have yet to rely on those features.
BLU loves to play in that sandbox. With its phones you tend to get all of the things you want or need with none of those aforementioned frills. That means a giant screen, a battery that’s good for about two days at a time, and respectable performance. And now you also get 5G support.
The F91 5G comes in just one color, Oceanic Blue, and it has the familiar design language found in other BLU phones from the last few years. That is to say it has a gradient-like color that dances from blue to grey and it seems to like sunlight.
The 6.8-inch display has a 1080 x 2460 resolution with a hole-punch camera located in the middle. It’s not quite an edge-to-edge screen but there’s not all that much wasted space or bezel. The 20:9 aspect ratio makes it easier to hold and operate with one hand.
Although the brightness and color do pop quite a bit, I did find the phone struggled a little bit in direct sunlight. It’s not terrible, but you may find it difficult for quick glances at notifications in the right conditions.
Similarly, the color was generally balanced but did feel a touch oversaturated. Sometimes it works to its benefit, such as watching a video, but staring at white screens of text seemed just ever so “off”. Don’t read too much into this here as I have seen considerably worse things, sometimes at higher prices.
The fingerprint reader is located in the side-mounted power button; the F91 5G also allows for facial recognition to unlock as well. Both were relatively impressive in my time with the handset.
The upper left corner of the rear houses a quad-camera system that includes a 48-megapixel main shooter. It’s complimented by a 2-megapixel macro camera, 2-megapixel depth camera, and a 5-megapixel wide-angle (115-degrees) camera.
A 3.5mm headphone jack is present, something that I’m always happy to see. Sure, it’s less important than ever, but I appreciate that BLU hasn’t thrown that towel in just yet. Also worth pointing out, there’s a pair of wired earbuds included in the box. Oh, and there’s also an 18W charger, tempered glass screen protector, and a protective case.
Surprisingly, the BLU F91 5G runs a pretty barebones Android 11 experience. With Android 13 just about to make its public release this version is “behind the times” but maybe more so on paper than in practice.
The average user likely doesn’t know which specific version of Android is on their phone, let alone understand how old it is. Further, they would be certainly be hard-pressed to name some of the differences.
There are a number of pre-loaded apps on the F91 5G, some of which are pretty popular downloads.
BLU has done a respectable job of providing security updates and major patches but that’s becoming more of a diminishing need as Android matures. Typically, I think of its phones as being “as is” when it comes to the overall software experience and one might not want to hold their breath over a major upgrade. This is just one of the corners that BLU cuts for its phones and it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.
A MediaTek Dimensity 810 2.4GHz octa-core processor, bolstered with 8GB memory, powers the show. Benchmark-wise, the phone should hang with the like of the Motorola One 5G Ace (2021) and Samsung Galaxy A13 5G. These two phones are priced the same, if not higher, than the BLU F91 5G.
With 128GB of internal storage capacity and a microSD expansion card slot (up to 256GB) you should have no problems storing apps, games, downloads, and other media.
A 5,000mAh battery is fast becoming the norm for devices as it tends to deliver 1-2 days of usage on most devices. When dealing with a handset such as the BLU F91 5G you might expect something a little closer to 2-3 days as the processor is more efficient. Mileage varies based on a user’s needs, of course. You’re not talking about a high-end gaming experience here so the mid-range processor doesn’t need to work quite as hard as those found in flagships.
The phone does allow for wireless charging, a feature that’s not quite make-or-break for a lot of folks. With that said, credit is due here for BLU not leaving it off. The 18W fast charging is decent by today’s standards and the Power Share tech lets you charge up other devices. Again, a nice feature that could have been omitted.
BLU has done an increasingly better job in the area of cameras for its phones. Not only are there four cameras present on the F91 5G, they fare admirably, too.
There are a number of shooting modes to choose from, each supported with little AI enhancements and adjustments to the image at the time of capture. It can intuit whether you are taking a picture of a dog or a sandwich, treating things a little differently for better results.
I don’t often tinker too much with settings outside of the early testing and exploration phase of a new phone. More often than not I use the camera to get candid shot of friends and family or pics of food. That’s pretty much just a point and click deal. Given that, I do like that the AI is always there, helping me when and where it can.
If you like to play around with your camera and dive deeper into settings, you’ll like the Pro Mode which also allows for Raw files. Similarly, the Advanced Night Mode lets users grab pictures that weren’t previously possible at this price point.
The BLU F91 5G continues BLU’s legacy of offering high value proposition devices with budget-friendly prices. As an unlocked phone that works with AT&T, T-Mobile, and their respective MVNOs and prepaid brands, it’s compatible with a large number of carriers.
I’ve had great experience with the 5G speeds and connectivity in areas where I spend my time; things are largely the same as what I get from my Pixel 6 on most days.
For your money you get more than enough hardware to last most users the next two years. It doesn’t approach flagship-level performance and it doesn’t have all the fancy accoutrements that come with such phones, but if you’ve never had them, you don’t know what you’re missing.
I suspect the target audience will be very happy with the big screen, long-lasting battery, and numerous camera modes. And adding in small things like a headphone jack, NFC, wireless charging, and an intentional design make the F91 5G even more compelling.