Monday, September 2, 2013

Hands-on review: ZTE Blade V

Hands-on review: ZTE Blade V

Hands-on review: ZTE Blade V

The ZTE Blade V is a phone that will both perplex and amaze you in equal measure; it's not the most auspicious opening for a new handset, but it's one that had us scratching our heads a little.

For on the one hand, you're looking at a phone that can be had for as little as a shade over £70, and it comes with a, frankly unbelievable, quad core Qualcomm processor, clocked at 1.2GHz and backed by a solid 1GB of RAM too, which means it should fare pretty well in the speed stakes.

However, on the other hand, you're seeing a 4-inch WVGA screen, only 2GB of user-accessible memory, a bog-standard 5MP camera, and a battery that's only got 1800mAh -worth of power on board.

ZTE Blade V review

So the headline CPU is going to grab some attention, but what about the rest of the phone?

Well, the ZTE Blade V is easily the best phone to come from the Chinese brand, with a speed under the finger that actually represents the processor and RAM combination.

ZTE Blade V review

With only an Adreno 203 GPU on offer there was a suspicion that this could be all power and no trousers, but in reality there's a real step up in terms of quality from the other Blade phones in the range.

While ZTE hasn't put too much emphasis on the Android skin, the phone still packs enough animations to make it look d istinctive, with the unlock screen coming with a cool glowing ring when opening up your handset.

ZTE Blade V review

It's the same as used on the others in the Blade range, but all animations and screen transitions are faster than before.

ZTE Blade V review

This could also be down to the Blade V running Android 4.1, which should help make elements like this run a little faster, but whatever the reason the latest handset from ZTE ticks all the boxes in terms of speed.

ZTE Blade V review

Every thing from opening and closing applications to running through the web happened as quickly as we were hoping, and the phone itself never seemed to warm up or get overly tired from such exertions.

ZTE Blade V review

However, that's pretty much where the fun ended, with not much else really wowing with the Blade V. One of the capabilities of the uprated CPU was the improved video handling, with scrolling described as smooth and seamless through a movie.

ZTE Blade V review

This was mostly true (although not the fastest we've seen), but it was nullified by the fact we wouldn't recommend the Blade V as a handset to be using if you're somethin g of a video warrior on the commute.

The WVGA is far from high quality, meaning that everything we watched was either too washed out or nowhere near as clear as on other devices.

It seems funny to be saying this just 20 months after WVGA screens being the norm for high-end smartphones, but in that time we've come to expect anything from qHD to 1080p screens in our pockets, so something at this level just doesn't cut it.

The overall design of the phone is in the same vein: with a larger chassis, you can't help but feel like you're getting a cheaper device, and the 4-inch screen actually feels a little smaller thanks to the expanse of bezel all around. The Blade V feels slightly weightier too, despite only coming in at 130g, which is testament to a lower focus on the overall design.

ZTE Blade V review

But once again it's worth mentioning here the fact that this is one of the cheapest phones on the market, even before you realise it runs a (fairly) up to date version of Android and comes with that impressive CPU, so it still is ahead in terms of value for money despite the design issues we've mentioned.

There is one issue we can see on the horizon: the lack of internal memory. It's an issue that's constantly rearing its head with phones at the moment since the issues with the Samsung Galaxy S4, and is clearly going to be an issue here.

While there is a microSD card slot under the battery cover, the Blade V only has 2GB of addressable memory, which means any large app is going to be a no-no, even if you throw all video, music and photography onto an external card.

With apps increasingly munching down space within phones, it won't be l ong before the dreaded 'internal storage insufficient' notifications start appearing, forcing you to head into the file system and work out what's going on.

ZTE Blade V review

It's another consideration you'll need to take on before buying this phone - sure, it's really rather cheap, but does that mitigate the fact you won't be able to do a lot of the things your friends with fancier phones will be able to do?

ZTE Blade V review

We assume elements like camera quality and screen clarity are areas to skimp on, but most people think apps should just work, no matter the phone.

Early verdict

When you first pick up the ZTE Blade V, you'll pr obably dismiss it as another handset from the Chinese brand with a range of fairly run-of-the-mill specs. Then you'll hear about the CPU, and an eyebrow might flicker.

Then comes the price, and you'll be bowled over. Metaphorically, of course... the phone doesn't have enough kinetic energy to achieve that.

But is a super cheap price enough for us to be excited about this handset? In a word: no. It's not really got much going for it beyond 'it's really rather cheap for a quad core device' and that's not enough to warrant a purchase.

Most users won't ever get the most out of having such power under the hood, and with the low-end GPU on board, combined with smaller battery, we can see the Blade V chewing through your power faster than a greyhound gunning for the fake hare that it mistakenly believes killed its mother.

We're ready to be proved wrong when we subject the Blade V to our in-depth review process, but we get the feeling this could be all headli ne price and no substance underneath.


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//PART 2