Smartphones with a true infrared camera are a rarity and rugged smartphone amateurs are lucky to have three they can buy, the Doogee S96 Pro, the Doogee V20 and the third we’re reviewing today, the Blackview BL8800. Compared to the others, it is cheap and relatively cheerful once you go past its bland and unassuming design. It is equipped with a big battery, is relatively speedy and its large display is ideal for fun and work.
The lack of a microSD card slot can be problematic though as it only has 128GB storage, which could be a problem if you want to use it as a pseudo night vision CCTV for example. However, this shouldn’t distract you from the real bargain that the BL8800 is. Should Blackview decide to keep its price south of $300 after the promotional period, it should be high on your purchase list.
Blackview BL8800: Pricing and availability
The BL8800 (opens in new tab) is available at the time of writing from Blackview’s store on Aliexpress for as little as $250 (about £200, AU$353) until May 27th with shipping being either free or for a fee, depending where you live. Note that local taxes and fees levied by courier companies are not included.
Blackview BL8800: Design
Nothing shouts “outdoor smartphone” louder than the sort of rugged design that the BL8800 has adopted. I’ve reviewed dozens of such smartphones (opens in new tab) and saying that Blackview played it safe would be a serious understatement. From the obligatory rubber flap (to protect the USB Type-C port) to the four corner protectors and the metal screws for the frame, all the boxes are ticked.
CPU: Dimensity 700
GPU: Arm Mali-G57
Screen size: 6.58
Screen resolution: 2408x1080px
Rear camera: 50,20,8,2 MP
Front camera: 16 MP
Battery: 8.38 Ah
Economies of scale and sticking to what works means that the BL8800 doesn’t diverge much from the common design language that has inspired and influenced hundreds of other rugged and outdoor smartphones. It is available in orange, green and black.
Blackview’s latest midrange smartphone feels hefty in hand, partly because of a heavier cooling technology and a bigger-than-usual 8.38Ah battery. At 365g and measuring 176 x 17.7 x 83.5mm, it is definitely a big phone. The front of the beast has a pinhole camera near the top, a SIM card reader (but no microSD card slot) and a customizable button on one side and the volume rocker and a power button (that doubles as fingerprint scanner) on the other.
The rear is slightly curved to help with grip and is dominated by an octagonal glass surface that protects four camera sensors and a LED light. As expected the phone is rated IP68 and IP69K for water and dust resistance, but it also claims the more stringent MIL-STD-810H (rather than 810G).
Blackview BL8800: Hardware
At the heart of the BL8800 is the popular Mediatek Dimensity 700, a midrange octa-core 5G system-on-chip, which is paired with 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB onboard storage based on the UFS2.1 technology. Other than Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.2, there’s the plethora of camera sensors that equip the BL8800; no fewer than five. The BL8800 is the sixth smartphone that we have tested that contained this system-on-chip.
Elsewhere, there’s a 16-megapixel S5K3P9-SP camera sensor at the front and four others at the back - a 50-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel 117° ultra-wide camera, a 2-megapixel depth camera and a 20-megapixel IR night vision camera. The latter can apparently be used to take out pinhole cameras thanks to the pair of infrared emitters at the rear.
Powering all this is a 8380mAh battery that is fed by a bundled 9V3A (27W) power supply unit. There’s no wireless charging on that one which is disappointing to say the least. You can use it to charge other devices thanks to its OTG functionality; just remember that you will need a Type-C-to-Type-C cable in all cases.
Blackview BL8800: Performance and in use
The BL8800 has its own take on Android called DokeOS 3.0 which is nothing more than a lightly skinned iteration. The phone comes with a bundle of gaming applications but none of the DIY apps we were used to which is a shame given its target audience.
Raw benchmark numbers paint an expected picture with a couple of outliers (e.g. highest overall Passmark score recorded to date) which may be due to software updates/tweaks etc. All in all, a thoroughly capable, albeit lightweight (performance wise) machine; as long as you are aware that this is not a gaming powerhouse, you will not be disappointed.
The display, a 6.58-inch screen, has a resolution of 240 x 1080pixel (18:8 aspect ratio) and can reach up to 480 nits making it a great choice for outdoor usage. General rendering of colors, both indoor and outdoor, are subjectively adequate although that depends on a number of factors. It is covered with what looks like an oleophobic layer.
Should I buy the Blackview BL8800?
Buy it if
You need a night vision camera. The key USP of the BL8800 is a 20 megapixel infra-red camera. If you don’t need it then there’s hardly any reason to buy the BL8800 when there’s so many other choices around.
Don’t buy it if
You need an inconspicuous smartphone. With a screen diagonal that’s close to 7-inch and a weight that approaches 400g, the BL8800 is not what we’d call an eminently portable smartphone. Having a big screen and a massive battery has its pros, but not if you’re putting portability.