ZTE Grand X review

3 Aug 2012

Strong competition on affordable monthly deals scupper an otherwise capable budget handset

4

ZTE isn’t a well-known name on these shores, having previously concentrated on churning out OEM handsets for the likes of Orange, but the Grand X is sure to turn a few heads – after all, there’s plenty to like about a 4.3in, Nvidia Tegra-toting smartphone that costs less than £200.

The budget price means the Grand X can’t compete with the big boys on looks, and its glossy plastic finish doesn’t help either. Sony’s Xperia P and HTC’s One S are both more distinctive, as well as being sleeker – the ZTE’s is 9.9mm thick. The one consolation here is the build quality, which is impressively stout and sturdy considering the ZTE is 10g lighter than the HTC.

The budget also means that ZTE can’t quite stretch to the latest Tegra 3 silicon, but Nvidia’s older dual-core Tegra 2 chipset is still a capable choice. A score of 2,638 in the Quadrant benchmark puts the Grand X behind a couple of its mid-range rivals: while the Sony Xperia P scored only 1,716 in that test, the HTC One S registered a result of 4,717. The Grand X lagged behind a little in SunSpider, too: its result of 2,205ms puts it almost half a second behind the 1,824ms of HTC’s One S.

ZTE Grand X

It might not top the performance tables, but the Grand X feels spritely in everyday use. Android itself was smooth and slick to navigate, and it was only during Shadowgun’s more raucous moments that the mid-range hardware exhibited the occasional judder.

The screen is altogether more impressive. Its 540 x 960 resolution and 4.3in diagonal are in line with the HTC One S, and while the 256ppi density means it doesn’t approach Retina levels, it’s still extremely sharp. Quality is reasonable, too: its 239cd/m2 brightness level can’t compete with the 311cd/m2 of the HTC, but the 1,199:1 contrast ratio lends images and videos a bold, punchy look.

The Grand X is perfectly usable, and we were happy to find that ZTE hasn’t sullied Ice Cream Sandwich with any of its own applications – the only third-party software installed is a selection of games designed to show off Tegra’s abilities. The only real disappointment came from the battery, which retained 40% of its juice after our 24-hour test – a little below the norm, with most good phones retaining 60%.

ZTE Grand X

ZTE has equipped the Grand X with a 5mp camera – three fewer megapixels than the HTC – and it’s nothing to write home about. Close-up shots are far more washed out and exhibit more grain than those from the One S, and long-range snaps suffered from the same blurring of fine detail. Video recording is restricted to 720p, too, rather than the 1080p we’re now seeing on most handsets, and performance was sluggish: the camera takes too long to capture images, and auto-focus is similarly unresponsive.

ZTE makes great play of the fact that its Grand X is available, SIM-free, for less than £190, and for that money it’s easy to overlook its shortcomings – this is a solid all-round handset that will better HTC’s and Sony’s low-end devices.

It isn’t quite as compelling when bought on contract, though: the £20 a month, free-handset deals on offer bring the ZTE head to head with the One S, and the HTC handset offers better performance, a slightly improved screen and a superior camera. So right now we’d stick with the HTC, but if the contract prices tumble in the coming months, the Grand X may prove to be the budget Android phone many have been waiting for.

Details

Price inc VAT SIM-free, £190; Free, £20/mth on a 24mth contract
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £20.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider Phones4u
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 127 x 65 x 9.9mm (WDH)
Weight 110g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 512MB
ROM size 4MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.3in
Resolution 540 x 960
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android