Hands on: ZTE Light review
18th Mar 2011 | 16:09
Face time with the budget Android tablet
Hands on: ZTE Light review
ZTE might not have much of a brand in the UK, but it sold over 90 million devices in 2010, making it one of the top five mobile manufacturers in the world.
The ZTE LightPad range sees its first foray into the tablet market: with a 7-inch touchscreen running Android 2.2 it's not exactly at the top end of the scale, but ZTE has never been about being the technological best but about value for money.
Value still indicates a need for quality though – we spent some time with the ZTE Light to find out if it's worth your money, however little it may be.
The first thing to note is that we played with a device that was not the final hardware, so changes may be made before it hits retail. The other thing to take into account is that there are several versions of the tablet; this is the ZTE Light with a capacitive screen.
There's also a resistive screen version (why? We've no idea) and an upcoming ZTE Light 2 which will feature a more powerful processor.
The tablet isn't a bad looking device – the screen is large and bright but we can't fathom why the bezel is so asymmetrical.
There aren't many buttons present, mainly what you'd expect: lockscreen and volume keys on the edge of the tablet. It's a bit of a funny place for the lockscreen button to sit as we automatically went to the top of the device every time, but if you're using it predominantly in landscape it may not be such an issue.
The ZTE Light features two cameras – a front-mounted one for video calling and a rear-mounted one for taking snaps.
There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is always a welcome addition.
Charging and syncing is done using the microUSB port which sits alongside the external speaker.
The 7-inch screen means this is a little on the unwieldy side, but you can just about hold it in one hand and operate it to a certain extent - realistically, you need to get both hands involved.
It's a fairly light tablet to hold and the build quality isn't bad although we're not sure that all of the buttons are as sturdy as they could be – again, this could be due to being an unfinished build.
Hands on: ZTE Light review: Interface
On to the interface – the ZTE Light capacitive runs Android 2.2 and the company hasn't said whether there are plans to update it to any newer versions or the tablet-specific Android 3.0 as yet.
The locked screen features a handy at-a-glance (or it would be if it showed up) view of your unread messages and emails.
The capacitive touchscreen is fairly good; swiping through screens was no problem at all, but we did find the screen a little slow to respond to jabs.
This may have been down to slow loading times rather than screen responsiveness, however. It was only a difference of maybe a second, but in that second we found ourselves impatiently tapping the app icons again and ending up closing the app or launching something we didn't mean to.
Given the issues we had with the screen in menu mode, text input was surprisingly painless. In portrait mode we could just about stretch our thumbs across the pad to type one-handed, but with two it was much more comfortable.
The landscape keyboard is much more spacious.
The ZTE Light comes with call-making capabilities, if you fancy looking like a complete moron talking into a 7-inch device. The dial pad is comically huge in portrait:
And utterly ridiculous in landscape set up.
We weren't too impressed with the ZTE Light's rear-mounted camera; although still shots were okay quality, it was slow to focus and slow to take the shot, meaning you have to keep still for quite some time.
The video recording was abominable: full of noise, jerky, pixellated – it felt as if we'd gone back in time to 2005.
The software doesn't vary much from the regular Android 2.2 set up, so contacts, messaging inboxes and media players are all much as you'd expect.
Unfortunately we had no data connection so we couldn't try out web browsing or any video content that wasn't recorded by the terrible rear-facing camera.
But despite a couple of niggles, we didn't have a bad experience with the ZTE Light. It won't be the tablet for everyone, but if you're happy with an aged version of Android or strapped for cash but desperate for a tablet it could be just what you're looking for.
That said, ZTE is keeping schtum on pricing for now – but we can bet it won't be up in the realms of the iPad 2.
The ZTE Light capacitive model should be hitting the UK in the second half of the year, possibly under another name licensed to a network – at which point we'll bring you a full review.