ZTE Blade Vec review: A serious budget contender

All the right ingredients

ZTE Blade Vec
  • ZTE Blade Vec
  • ZTE Blade Vec
  • ZTE Blade Vec
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Big and bright display
  • Dual-SIM
  • Well priced

Cons

  • Uninspired, plastic body
  • Limited 1GB RAM

Would you buy this?

The budget smartphone scene is dense in population. Currently more sub-$300 smartphones are on sale in the market than we can count on two hands. The Blade Vec needs to be memorable for the company to have any chance.

And parts of it are, such as the screen. It has a 1280x720 resolution spanning across 5-inches in a body marginally taller than Apple’s iPhone 6. Each inch crams 294 pixels — just as Motorola’s fantastic Moto G — except it is capable of exceptional levels of brightness. Screens of this calibre are a rarity at the Blade Vec’s price, and its inclusion enriches every facet of this smartphone’s experience.

Further separating the Blade Vec from the budget pack are its two cameras. The rear 8-megapixel and front 5 megapixel cameras are above par on the colour and clarity front, while the inclusion of a clever panorama mode and HDR make it that much easier to memorialise moments.

Neither of the cameras are perfect, with handicaps including a primitive user interface and a slow autofocus. These drawbacks are minor and don’t thwart the Blade Vec’s overall imaging.

 Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec with HDR enabled
Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec with HDR enabled

Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec
Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec

A 100 per cent crop of the photo above - Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec
A 100 per cent crop of the photo above - Taken with the ZTE Blade Vec

Tucked into the left side of the Blade’s all-plastic body are trays good for two SIMs and a microSD card. The first tray is compatible with HSPA Internet speeds, and will work with the 850MHz network used by Telstra and Vodafone, along with the 900MHz of Optus’ network. The second tray is reserved for voice and text over 2G alone.

Dual-SIM smartphones can be geared to save money. A SIM attached to a cheap data plan can be used in the first tray, while another competitive on voice rates can be used in the second. The Blade Vec has software that automates which SIM is used for calls, texting and data.

The operating system is a near-vanilla version of Android 4.4 KitKat. Changes are limited to the lock screen, the appearance of icons and a small number of settings. Some third-party applications are added for flavour. Otherwise, that’s about it.

The software is clean and uncluttered. Running a near-stock version of Android is a win for the ZTE in our perspective as overlays can be inconsistent and inefficient. We only hope the company goes the extra mile by delivering timely software updates.

The app drawer, dialler and messaging app
The app drawer, dialler and messaging app

Read more: Grab a $49 Android tablet with your grocery shopping

The notification blind, dual-SIM settings and individual SIM settings
The notification blind, dual-SIM settings and individual SIM settings

Sifting through the software is a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. More often than not the hardware delivers a brisk experience, but from time to time you will see the seams, where the limited RAM is straining to keep everything quick, and noticing the hiccups does make this smartphone feel cheap.

Further dampening the experience is the fact the Blade Vec doesn’t support microSDXC, which means it will only work with cards 32GB in size or less.

Read more: Oppo breaks into Australian retail stores

The ZTE Blade Vec has a non-removable 2300 milliamp-hour battery, which we found will last 22 hours with moderate use before needing a charge.
The ZTE Blade Vec has a non-removable 2300 milliamp-hour battery, which we found will last 22 hours with moderate use before needing a charge.

Adding insult to injury is the texture of the ZTE smartphone. Every panel save for the screen is cheap plastic; it’s liberal use makes the smartphone feel cheaper than its $249 price would have you believe. Other smartphones make use of plastic, including the Moto G and Nokia Lumia 635, but these mould the material to ergonomic and inspired shapes.

The Blade Vec is not the best nor the worst of phones. ZTE has made a solid alternative to the champions of the budget market, and the company has gone one further by undercutting Motorola and Nokia on price.

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Read more on these topics: Android, ZTE, 4.4 KitKat, Blade Vec
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