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You'd be forgiven for missing the memo that T-Mobile is now selling its own line of smartphones: the 5.5-inch Revvl and now the 6-inch Revvl Plus, which are made by Alcatel. With so many name-brand devices to choose from, though, why turn to a phone that locks you into a specific carrier?
T-Mobile senses your skepticism, which is why the company bundled some premium specs into the Revvl Plus while holding the price at $200. Unfortunately, lackluster implementation means that T-Mobile's hardware won't shake up the industry the way the company's wireless plans have.
Design: Yep, it's a brick
Budget phones have jumped on board with high-end features such as dual-lens cameras and biometric identification. But where phone makers cut costs is typically in design and build quality, and the T-Mobile Revvl Plus is no exception.
This $200 phone is a chunk of black plastic that extends close to 6.5 inches long, which makes it just about impossible to use one-handed. The back is slightly textured, and touching it feels like running your fingers over a vinyl record, which I have to confess is not a pleasant experience. Touching this phone felt weird. You know when you hear nails down a chalkboard and you immediately get the shivers? Gripping this phone was like that, giving me a full-body feeling of ick. Your mileage may vary, but I wish T-Mobile had chosen a different material.
A few not-so-terrible stylistic elements set the back of the Revvl Plus apart. T-Mobile added its signature splash of fuchsia in the form of the company logo and a vibrant pink ring around both the camera and fingerprint sensor, which are stacked on top of each other.
But the Revvl Plus sports a micro USB charger instead of USB-C. That, along with the phone's aging version of Android Nougat, makes this feel like a 2016 phone instead of a device future-proofed for the year to come.
T-Mobile Revvl Plus Specs
Screen Size (Resolution): 6 inches (1920 x 1080 pixels)
Size: 6.49 x 3.24 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 6.88 ounces
CPU: Snapdragon 625
Rear Cameras: 13MP/5MP
Front Camera: 8MP
Battery Life (Hrs:Min): 11:03
Performance: Real power
Forget how the Revvl Plus looks. If all you care about is getting powerful performance without paying a premium, look no further.
Equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, the Revvl Plus scored 3,783 on the Geekbench 4 test of overall system performance, crushing lower-priced competing devices like the Blade Z Max and Moto E4 Plus, which both use lower-powered Qualcomm mobile processors.
Phones under $300 rarely perform this well, let alone phones that barely crack $200.
More impressively, the Revvl Plus even bested the more expensive Moto G5 Plus, which also sports a Snapdragon 625 processor while packing in twice the RAM of T-Mobile's phone. (That said, the G5 Plus and its more expensive sibling, the G5S Plus, are expected to receive the Android Oreo update, while the Revvl Plus will presumably chug along on Nougat for its entire life span.)
When it comes to graphics and gaming performance, the Revvl Plus nips at the heels of the G5 Plus, with a 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark score of 13,759 versus the G5's 13,862. Phones under $300 rarely perform this well, let alone phones that barely crack $200.
The Revvl Plus performed just as well in real life as it did on a spec sheet. I slammed my Ford Focus into other race cars on the streets of Real Racing 3 without any lag. However, the icky feeling of the Revvl's vinyl-esque back was distracting.
The Revvl Plus comes with just one storage option, 32GB, but you can expand that up to 128GB with a microSD card. Six T-Mobile apps take up some of that space out of the box, which is slightly annoying, but to be expected.
Display: Great for games, not outside
The Revvl Plus is a behemoth, and the 6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) LCD panel takes up most of that real estate.
The screen is on par with those of other phones at this price point, such as the Blade Z Max and Moto E4 Plus. Using a light meter, we found that the Revvl Plus reaches a peak brightness of 506 nits, which is higher than the smartphone average of 433 nits.
The Revvl Plus display covers 117 percent of the sRGB color gamut and has impressive color accuracy, with a Delta-E score of 0.32. (Numbers closer to zero are better.) The E4 Plus tops the Revvl Plus, with a 0.26 Delta-E rating, but has a smaller, dimmer display overall.
The Revvl Plus' giant 6-inch screen is perfect for gaming or watching videos of any kind. This experience is not as immersive as streaming content on an edge-to-edge display like the one on the Galaxy Note 8 — which also costs hundreds of dollars more — but I was enthralled by the Black Panther trailer's vibrant imagery on the Revvl Plus.
The Revvl Plus display doesn't fare as well outdoors. Trying to capture photos in daylight was difficult, because the subjects were dimmer on screen than they should have been.
Camera: Two lenses aren't better than one
After the original Revvl shipped with a lone rear camera, T-Mobile upgraded the larger Revvl Plus with a dual-lens camera system. The second lens enables a portrait-mode effect that has become more common on premium smartphones but is now trickling down to budget models, too.
But there's a difference between a high-end phone with dual lenses, such as the iPhone 8 Plus or Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and a lower-priced model like the Revvl Plus. That difference comes down to portrait-mode execution.
The Revvl Plus uses its rear-facing 13-megapixel and 5-MP lenses to create a bokeh effect, in which the subject of a photo is brought into focus and the background is blurred. This effect adds a DSLR-level quality to smartphone photography — or at least it's supposed to. I was unimpressed by the Revvl Plus' version of portrait mode, which was unreliable. In a photo I took of two dogs meeting each other at the farmers' market, both pups were blurred instead of the background.
In a photo of seasonal flower arrangements at the market, the Revvl Plus camera brought some of the background florals into focus, too, while blurring out others. I was unimpressed.
There's a difference between a high-end phone with dual lenses and a lower-priced model like the Revvl Plus, and that difference comes down to portrait-mode execution.
The Plus' 8-MP front-facing camera did a decent job when I was shooting selfies. The phone comes with an optional Beauty filter that could be bumped up if you want to smooth out lines, enlarge the eyes, slim the face or whiten the skin (yes, whiten — really, T-Mobile?).
The phone also attempts to guess your age and offers compliments, but the age was always off and the compliments were bizarre. The Revvl Plus alternately called me a nymph and Mr. McDreamy. Again — really, T-Mobile? I don't like these cameras. At all.
Battery Life: Long-lasting budget device
The Revvl Plus sports a 3,380-mAh battery that lasted an impressive 11 hours and 3 minutes on the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which drains the battery by surfing the web continuously over T-Mobile's LTE. The T-Mobile phone missed out on a place in our list of longest-lasting smartphones by just a few minutes.
But the Revvl comes close to matching rival devices that have larger batteries, such as ZTE's Blade Z Max (11:23). And the T-Mobile phone easily bests similarly priced phones that have smaller batteries, such as LG's K20 Plus (9:43). The Revvl is also on par with some elite company; the much more expensive Galaxy S8+ lasted just a minute longer than the Revvl Plus on our test, for example.
T-Mobile promises that you'll get up to 16.5 hours of talk time or up to 12 days of standby time with the Revvl Plus, which we can't guarantee. However, you will get more than a day of mixed use before needing a charge, which is all we ask for from a smartphone.
Price and Availability
Not surprisingly, T-Mobile's Revvl Plus is locked to the network, which might knock this device out of the running for many smartphone shoppers who don't want to use T-Mobile's wireless service. (They should consider it, though, if T-Mobile provides good coverage in their area. We rank T-Mobile just behind Verizon among overall carriers, and we consider T-Mobile the best value among wireless providers thanks to its fairly priced unlimited-data plans.)
For T-Mobile customers, the Revvl Plus is a great deal: $200 up front or $9 a month on the carrier's Jump! On Demand program.
On paper, the Revvl Plus sounds pretty amazing. It has great specs for a $200 phone, including a powerful Snapdragon 625 processor that makes streaming videos and playing games a breeze.
But the dual-lens camera doesn't quite pull off the popular bokeh effect, and the bizarre Beauty filter fails to impress, even though both modes are optional. Why does T-Mobile offer camera effects that fall short?
Ultimately, the Revvl Plus is a carrier-branded phone competing with other, more-capable budget devices. Whether you buy in depends on how devoted you are to T-Mobile and how much you depend on your smartphone's camera. If the answers to those questions are "not very" and "a lot," respectively, the comparably priced Moto G5 Plus may be a better choice.
The unpleasantly textured backplate, uneven camera effects and T-Mobile tie-in make this device a pass for most smartphone buyers.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide
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Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.