ZTE Blade V first look: Specs & First Impressions

Reviews Paul Briden 09:00, 3 Sep 2013

Paul Briden goes hands-on with the ZTE Blade V, a rapid little £89 budget model with more than meets the eye

The ZTE Blade V is shaping up to be a very interesting proposition from the Chinese manufacturer, which is putting all its efforts into breaking into the mainstream alongside titans such as Samsung and Apple.

What’s so compelling about it? Well ZTE appears to have hit upon that magic combination of a solid smartphone experience in terms of specs and yet the price is incredibly low. The ZTE Blade V is priced at £89.99 SIM-free, which could understandably get you thinking that you’re in for a soupy, muddled experience.

The pleasant surprise is that it’s anything but.

In our hands-on preview, ZTE’s rep was refreshingly up-front about the fact that the ZTE Blade V is a little bit chunkier than its predecessors, but it would appear this is a sacrifice the company is prepared to make in order to offer a well-rounded smartphone experience at a seriously budget price point.

It’s true, it isn’t the best looking smartphone we’ve seen in recent months with its thick plasticky shell. But looks aren’t everything. As well as being compact and reasonably lightweight, if you look beyond the casing there’s a lot to like. Most immediately obvious is, as always, the touchscreen.

ZTE has opted for an IPS LCD for its 4-inch touch panel, meaning visuals are nicely bright and colourful with a full 16 million colours. The sharpness too is very good for this price bracket, it has a 800x480 pixel resolution which should chalk up somewhere in the region of 233 pixels-per-inch on the pixel density front. Not too shabby at all.

The other stand out feature is the combination of relatively up-to-date Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software (with a custom UI) and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 8225Q. The chip is clocked at 1.2GHz and uses 1GB of RAM plus an Adreno 203 graphics processor (GPU), but the really impressive thing is how nicely optimised everything is.

There’s absolutely zero stuttering when transitioning between screens and multitasking, something almost unheard of in budget price models, but better still we were watching a video file on the phone while jumping through the multitasking carousel with no hiccups whatsoever. Even jumping between points on the video is a relatively smooth process.

With the rest of the specs it’s the little things which make a big difference, nice little surprises which you simply wouldn’t expect to get on a phone even more expensive than this one. The 5-megapixel camera is of reasonable quality in terms of image capture but has a few added perks like an LED flash (virtually never found on lower end phones in the £100+ bracket) and panoramic capture mode. A VGA camera sits on the front for video calls.

While there’s only 4GB of onboard space, with 2GB being user accessible, a full 32GB of microSD support should mean you can cram plenty of multimedia onboard and for music playback the speaker offers reasonably robust sound quality. The battery pack is 1,800mAh and the phone features HSPA+ 3G connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.

The lack of 4G makes sense, someone looking for a handset on a budget is hardly likely to want to then go and shell out premium tariff prices for super-fast data when HSPA+ will serve perfectly well. The lack of NFC is a bit of a shame as increasingly making pairing with Bluetooth accessories, such as speakers, is becoming more popular.

I think ZTE is onto a winner here. I for one certainly haven’t seen a device which offers such a smooth Android experience at anywhere near this price point and in that respect it offers better value for money than many more expensive models. Add to that an IPS display and fairly decent camera setup and what’s not to like? Ok, the onboard memory is a bit paltry, but for those who want a decent smartphone experience on a budget, but who aren’t looking to fill it with a shed-load of apps, it’s adequate.

Pairing this handset with a prepay or £15 per month SIM only contract is potentially going ot offer the most bang-for-buck at the cheapest possible price in the current market. Clever stuff.

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