Blackview BV9500 Pro rugged smartphone review

More of a 4G multi-tool than a rugged smartphone

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Our Verdict

It’s pricier than a lot of the rugged Android smartphones coming from China, but the Blackview BV9500 Pro possesses all of the key features in an almost indestructible design which makes it the most useful of the lot.

For

  • Long 10Ah battery life
  • Fast and wireless recharging
  • Walkie-talkie style comms
  • Rock hard build quality

Against

  • Very heavy and bulky
  • Calls sound robotic

Blackview has a range of rugged IP68 certified Android phones available and they tend to be both tough and affordable, if a little light on features. This latest model, however, comes in at a considerably higher price point and it has all the bells and whistles including PTT (push-to-talk) for walkie-talkie style communication. 

Where to buy?

Online Chinese retailer, Gearbest sells the Blackview BV9500 Pro for $430 at the time of writing but you can get it from AliExpress on 11.11 for as little as $386.99(just over £300). Note that, while this price includes delivery, it is exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.  

It’s also the largest rugged handset we have yet tested because it’s packing a huge 10,000mAh battery. With it’s solid aluminium sidebars and chunky polycarbonate casing, this brute of a smartphone looks hard enough to hammer in nails. Blackview calls it tri-proof because it is resistant to water, dust and knocks and claims it is the ‘most indestructible smartphone on the market’.

You can find this model available for import including shipping for $487 (around £380 or AU$690) currently, which is a big jump from the bargain Blackview BV5800 Pro at just $190 (£145, AU$260). The entry-level phone impressed us, so let’s find out what you get at the premium end of the market. 

Phone with box contents

Design

The Blackview BV9500 Pro is a seriously looking handset. From its solid aluminium side cheeks to the fourteen visible screws that bolt its rugged shell together, this looks and feels like a phone that won’t fail if you drop it in a puddle. The IP68 certificate confirms that it will survive for two hours in 1.8-meters of water and Blackview says it is drop-proof to 1.8-meters too. 

Phone side angle

The 5.7-inch screen is made from Gorilla glass and it is protected by rubber bumpers at the four corners and more rubberised polycarbonate at the back. Unusually, for a rugger phone, there are five fairly buttons buttons on its left and right sides, two for volume, one for power, an assignable function button and one marked PTT (push-to-talk). The fingerprint reader is at the side too, but there are none of your usual rubber seals concealing the ports and SIM card slot. 

Sim slots

The USB-C port is open, but nonetheless impervious to water and dust and the dual nano SIM slots are hidden behind a screw-down hatch on the back panel. You can slide a microSD card in there too. 

Phone with antenna

Apart from its obvious size (this phone is almost 2cm think) the other physical thing that literally sticks out about the Blackview BV9500 Pro is its antenna. This bundled accessory screws into a sealed port at the top so that you can use the phone like a walkie-talkie to communicate with anyone else on the same frequency, while the button is held down. Our sample has yellow plastic detailing, but black and green are also available. 

Phone with antenna outdoors

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the Blackview BV9500 Pro:

CPU: Helio P23 Octa-core 2.5GHz

GPU: ARM Mali-G71 MP2 

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB 

Screen Size: 5.7-inch 

Resolution: 1920 x 2160 

Weight: 376g

Dimensions: 165 x 82 x 19mm 

Rear Camera:  16MP + 0.3MP 

Front Camera: 13MP 

OS: Android 8.1 Oreo   

Battery: 10Ah

Specifications and features

The Blackview BV9500 Pro has specifications in line with the other budget rugged handsets with a Helio P23 octa-core processor backed up by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of ROM. This combination scored well against the rest of the rugged set in our bench tests, but it didn’t run rings around them.

Despite the higher cost, it isn’t much more powerful than the BV5800 Pro. The screen is a better size though at 5.7-inches and it manages Full HD quality with 500NIT brightness. Where this smartphone really justifies its higher price, is in the features department. It matches all of its competitors and raises the stakes with functionality that is geared toward delivering a phone that will serve as a tough tool in adverse conditions.

There’s the enormous battery of course. With 10,000mAh, you can be fairly sure that the Blackview BV9500 Pro will work for five days of average use without a charge. And when it comes to charging, you can either use the USB-C port to fast-charge, or buy a QI wireless charger and forget the cable. This is a real asset when you have a wet phone and don’t want to mess around with electric cables. 

The PTT button is perfect for teams working outdoors too. Even with gloves on you can press the big yellow button and Digital Intercom app and simply hold the button down to talk to anyone else with a similar device on the same frequency. The assignable function button is another big bonus because you can, for instance, instruct it to open the torch app with one press.

The fingerprint reader, face unlock, NFC etc are all welcome features, but expected on an Android at this price. The package also includes in-ear headphones and a tiny screwdriver for unscrewing the rear panel that has to be removed to insert your nano Sim card. 

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Blackview BV9500 Pro performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Geekbench: 909 (single-core); 4,111 (multi-core); 3,254 (compute) 

Antutu: 91,731 

PCMark (Work 2.0): 5,115 

Passmark: 5,008  

Passmark CPU: 115,529 

Androbench (sequential): 288 (sequential read); 239 (sequential write) 

Androbench (random): 61 (random read); 14 (random write) 

3DMark Slingshot: 749 

3DMark Slingshot Extreme: 488 

3DMark IceStorm: 12,375 

HWBot Prime: 4,524 

In use

At 376g, the Blackview BV9500 Pro is without doubt the heaviest smartphone we have lifted onto the test bench and its bulk takes some getting used to. It’s probably not going to fit into your pocket, so the inbuilt lanyard clip at the bottom of the phone is an asset. It means you can have the phone swinging from your belt when you’re climbing a ladder, for example. 

The PTT button is a great feature in an outdoor smartphone, even though the only other phone we could find with a compatible frequency channel in Blackview's portfolio was the BV5800 Pro.

But don't fear, any walkie-talkie that operates in the UHF 400-470MHz range should be compatible with it, even low costs ones.

If a whole team, or workforce are equipped with a phone like this, however, it is easy to see how time and call costs can be saved by communicating via PTT.

We linked the other physical function button to the torch app, which is another feature that you tend to need when you don’t have time to negotiate a touchscreen interface. The camera app also comes on immediately with a double press of the power button, making this a great phone for gloves-on usage.

The Blackview BV9500 Pro runs Android 8.1 Oreo smoothly and every app we tried worked without incident. Only the more graphics-heavy games caused the system to slow down noticeably. The camera app is very basic and the bokeh effect is rubbish, but regular pictures and 1080p video taken in natural light look very crisp. 

Call quality sounded a little robotic, but fine and the external speaker is not as loud as you might expect from such a large device. In all other respects, the Blackview BV9500 Pro is very easy to use and the battery just goes on and on, however hard you try to drain it.  

Final verdict

The Blackview BV9500 Pro might have all the elegance of a house brick, but that build quality is reassuring and the big battery will make sure you are never caught out when you really need a working phone. The Full HD display in 18:9 ratio is bright enough to be visible in full sunshine, while the Helio P23 CPU is enough to make Android Oreo look great on this generous 5.7-inch screen. 

What makes the Blackview BV9500 Pro stand out above the rest of the rugged set is its comprehensive list of features that make it ideal for outdoor use. In short, this is one of the toughest and certainly the most flexible multi tool that you can sling into your toolbox.