ZTE Grand X

1st Aug 2012 | 16:00

ZTE Grand X

ZTE impresses with a dual-core stock Android 4.0 device for the masses

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

An early winner for ZTE that has sunk to less impressive depths given how long it's taken to release.

Like:

Cheap; Pure Android 4.0; Dual-core Tegra 2; Fast browser;

Dislike:

Plastic feel; Low quality screen; Average media; Nexus clone;

Introduction

ZTE has big ambitions to join the likes of HTC and Samsung at the top of the Android pile, and the ZTE Grand X is the company's biggest statement of intent yet.

With stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, the Grand X sets out to give you a lot of bangs for not a lot of bucks.

If the ZTE Grand X heralds anything, though, it's the emergence of a new Android middle-class.

We can say that because, while the handset performs admirably, it's clearly not in the same league as the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the HTC One X.

ZTE Grand X review

That's apparent from the first time you hold the Grand X in your hand. The words solid and functional come to mind, but definitely not premium or even attractive.

It's a well-built, chunky phone in a way that reminds us of a previous-generation HTC handset like the Incredible S - but without that device's classy unibody design.

Indeed, because of its smaller dimensions and thicker 9.9mm chassis the ZTE Grand X actually feels heavier than the likes of the massive HTC One X, even though at 110g it's lighter by 20 grams.

ZTE Grand X review

The Grand X is an all-plastic affair with a decidedly traditional design. The battery cover is made from matte plastic with a heavily textured feel - rather like the Samsung Galaxy S2's.

ZTE Grand X review

It peels off at the lower-left corner via a handily-placed ingress, offering up just enough resistance without making access to the battery too awkward.

ZTE Grand X review

This is also the way in which you access the Grand X's microSD slot, which sits above the battery and to the right of the regular SIM slot.

ZTE Grand X review

The fact that you can access this memory expansion slot without removing the battery isn't just a matter of convenience - the Grand X lets you hot swap microSD memory.

That means you can remove and replace memory without turning the handset off, much like you would on a computer.

It's a good job too, as left to its own devices the ZTE Grand X's 4GB of internal storage will soon fill up once you start taking pictures, installing apps and putting your music onto it.

It's a shame there isn't an external port for this purpose, as with the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, but at least this way there are no untidy flaps.

While it's together the Grand X feels secure, with an acceptable level of flex and minimal creaking.

Overall, despite picking up a number of design cues from Samsung (head-on it almost looks like a Nexus device) and HTC (see above), we wouldn't call the Grand X a looker.

ZTE Grand X review

But then, the key selling point of the ZTE Grand X is its near-top-end performance at a sub-£200 price. Something had to give, and that something appears to be in the design department.

Boot the Grand X up and you'll see the first of its upper-mid-level components in action - a 4.3-inch qHD LCD display.

It was only around a year ago that this kind of screen was considered to be top-of-the-range in handsets such as the HTC Sensation, so it's good to see something similar in such an affordable phone.

Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has since moved the Android display game on to the tune of 4.7-inches and 720p, but that's evidently not the fight the Grand X is looking to pick.

We have to say that the display lacks something alongside the same-sized Samsung Galaxy S2, even though at 960 x 540 pixels it's a fair bit sharper.

That's mainly down to a relative lack of brightness and vibrancy even at the top setting - there's a slightly washed-out feel evident in pictures and videos that had us hankering for the AMOLED alternative.

The screen's responsiveness also isn't quite up to scratch, with the odd command requiring a second or even third firm stab of the screen to initiate.

Underneath this 4.3-inch screen you'll find a row of four capacitive buttons for menu, home, back and search. It's arguable that the search button isn't strictly necessary, but we'll come to that in the Interface section.

Along the left-hand side of the Grand X you'll find the volume buttons, which fall nicely to finger or thumb, depending on which hand you hold the phone in.

Further down this left-hand edge you'll find the standard microUSB slot for charging and computer hook-up purposes.

ZTE Grand X review

The 3.5mm headphone jack and power button are exactly where you'd expect them to be - on the top-left and top-right edge of the Grand X respectively.

ZTE Grand X review

While some bigger devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, have wisely moved the power switch to the right hand edge to avoid over-stretching your forefinger, the smaller ZTE Grand X remains small enough that the top is still the optimum position.

ZTE Grand X review

For all these cosmetic concerns, one of the big things that makes the ZTE Grand X more desirable lies hidden from view.

Lying at the handset's core is a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. What sets this apart from the vast majority of mid-range Android handset processors is the fact that it's dual-core.

Not only does the current Android OS take advantage of dual-core architecture to boost intensive tasks like HD video and web browsing, but app and game developers are also making use of it too.

As with the ZTE Grand X's display, this is a component that could be associated with high-end Android devices just last year, so its presence in a £189 handset is highly impressive - even if it's no longer cutting edge.

'No longer cutting edge' is the most that could be said for the ZTE Grand X's camera. At 5-megapixels, and with video recording set to an inexplicably low 720p, this particular component falls some way short of last year's top-end devices.

ZTE Grand X review

Along with the overall design, this is the single biggest indicator that we're dealing with a device that's been compromised to reach a price point.

One final, slightly troubling point to make about the ZTE Grand X in general use is that we had the device crash on us on three separate occasions over the week we had it. On each occasion it happened while the phone was asleep, and we could neither wake it nor restart it without removing and replacing the battery.

Of course, Android isn't known as the most stable of mobile operating systems, but stock Android 4.0 has seen a big improvement on other devices. It's something to bear in mind when considering a purchase.

Interface

For our money, the biggest selling point for the ZTE Grand X relates to its interface.

ZTE Grand X review

The fact that it ships with Android 4.0 is nice, but that's becoming increasingly common among even mid-range devices now (just as Android 4.1 shows up on high-end devices, but that's a grumble for another time).

No, what really floats our boat here is that the Grand X comes with stock Android 4.0. This means that you're getting pure, unadulterated Ice Cream Sandwich the way Google intended it.

Can you name a high-end Android device that can boast this? There's the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and, umm, that's it.

The reason this is such big news is that stock Android 4.0 is one of the nicest mobile operating systems to use. It's the first Android OS to feel unified, distinctive and classy.

ZTE Grand X review

It's got its own original font, called Roboto, which gives the OS its own strong identity, while improved widget support means you can easily resize them according to your needs.

Apps can now be dragged on top of each other to automatically create folders - perfect for keeping all your games or social media apps in one place.

The notification menu, accessed as ever by dragging down from the top, is as useful as it is slick.

Emails, calendar entries, Dropbox uploads, update notifications - you name it, all are handled with distinctive but never in-your-face icons, and each can be dismissed from the menu with a swipe of your finger.

ZTE Grand X review

As can recently used apps held in stasis, which can be accessed at any point from the multitasking menu.

The way in which this is accessed on the ZTE Grand X - by touching and holding the Home key - is actually a little unintuitive, and we wonder why ZTE didn't implement a dedicated control in place of the search button.

It's far more useful than either, and it would bring it more in line with the Galaxy Nexus, which, after all, was designed in conjunction with Android 4.0.

Regardless of these niggles, the fact remains that stock Ice Cream Sandwich is an astonishingly good mobile OS, and it gives the ZTE Grand X a massive advantage.

ZTE Grand X review

Other Android manufacturers have generally attempted to enhance or differentiate the Android 4.0 OS for their own handsets, but their efforts invariably end in an inferior product.

Yes, we include the very latest versions of Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense UI in that description, regardless of the improvements both have made.

This leaves us to make the following startling statement: the £189.99 ZTE Grand X has a nicer user interface than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X, which retail for more than twice the price.

Of course, we're not saying that it necessarily feels better than these Android titans.

Our main gripe with stock Android 4.0 on the ZTE Grand X is the phone's qHD screen - it's simply not sharp enough to show Ice Cream Sandwich at its best. The latest Android OS was designed with 720p displays in mind.

This is most apparent when you initiate the multitasking function or viewing preview thumbnails in the Gallery. Text here appears fuzzy, indistinct and really quite ugly, whereas on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus it remains perfectly legible.

ZTE Grand X review

Otherwise we have all the benefits of stock Android 4.0, and it runs almost as well on the ZTE Grand X as it does the Google flagship.

That it's not quite as fluid is likely down to the relatively inferior Tegra 2 SoC, while the fact that it's backed here by half the amount of RAM doesn't help either.

Contacts and calling

Contacts

As with the rest of the ZTE Grand X's interface, contact information is handled in much the same way as on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. That's because the People app found here is the stock Android 4.0 example.

ZTE Grand X review

It's as easy to negotiate as ever. Your list of contacts is arranged in alphabetical order, as a vertically scrolling list.

Each contact is comprised of a thumbnail picture, followed by their name and finally a little phone shortcut for making instant calls.

If your contact doesn't have a phone number attributed to them, no phone shortcut appears. Simple, but oh-so-effective.

Drag left from the main contacts page and you'll find the Group section, which lets you sort your contacts into categories such as family, close friends or colleagues. Touching one of these takes you to an image-led grid view of all the contacts contained within.

If you scroll right from the main contacts page, meanwhile, you'll encounter your favourites - those contacts that you've starred due to being the most commonly used.

ZTE Grand X review

As you'd expect from an Android device, your contacts are pulled in from your Google profile, so as always those who are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem will have a ridiculously easy time of it.

If you're not, or if you just want to add a new contact manually, it's a simple matter of hitting the little plus icon at the bottom right of the contacts page, then filling in the details.

You can attribute a photo from your existing gallery, or even take a snap right there and then if the person's standing right in front of you.

In fact just about the only weak point of the ZTE Grand X's contact management is its total lack of social network integration.

Unlike HTC Sense, for example, it won't automatically try to link in your Facebook or Twitter contacts.

As a bare-bones contact system, though, the ZTE Grand X's People app is as functional and pleasant to use as you could wish for.

Calling

ZTE Grand X review

As with the process of negotiating through contacts, making calls on the ZTE Grand X is much the same as it is on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus - that is, very easy indeed.

You're presented with a big bold dial pad upon hitting the Phone command, and your two most recent calls are listed just above if you want to make another quick call.

If you hit the icon at the bottom-left of the screen, the keypad disappears and you're presented with an expanded list of your recent calls.

Hit the Settings key at the bottom-right of the screen and you'll be able to set up speed-dial keys, voicemail, call forwarding and the like.

Answering calls presents a very nifty system whereby you can touch and drag an icon to either answer, reject or send a busy message to the caller.

It's nice and easy to use, and gives you a nice array of options without being overwhelming.

ZTE Grand X review

When it comes to call quality, the ZTE Grand X is exemplary.

Calls came through loud and clear on both sides of the line - even when your surroundings are noisy.

This is likely due to the phone's active voice cancellation technology, which uses a second dedicated microphone to detect and nullify ambient noise.

It's a standard feature on high-end smartphones, but it's still good to see here on the affordable Grand X.

We had no problems with dropped calls or inconsistent signal strength during our time with the ZTE Grand X, either.

Messaging

With Android 4.0 on board, the ZTE Grand X is a strong messager. Whether you're texting, emailing or instant messaging, there's a pre-installed app here that'll do the job.

ZTE Grand X review

Text messaging is slightly different to the Galaxy Nexus experience, though in practice it's just a few cosmetic tweaks to account for the smaller, less sharp screen.

You still get a nice layout for text exchanges, with your comments aligned to the right and the contact's to the left, but these lack the accompanying thumbnail pictures.

Instead you get a single thumbnail at the top of the page.

It's a minor change, but it makes the app less attractive and a little less intuitive.

On the plus side, the attachment button has been moved to the lower-left of the display, which we found to be much easier to reach than on the Galaxy Nexus - even taking into account the more manageable screen size.

Text input is a bit of a mixed bag. ZTE has made the odd decision to bundle in the TouchPal third party keyboard, and has made it the default input method.

ZTE Grand X review

This is strange, as the default Android 4.0 keyboard is markedly superior.

ZTE Grand X review

TouchPal is packed full of confusing icons that leave too little room for the actual process of typing, and it has an awkward slider toggle on the space bar for switching its predictive feature on.

Even this feature - which guesses the word you're trying to type and lets you tap to insert - isn't unique, and can be found implemented in a much tidier fashion on the stock ICS keyboard.

Fortunately this is also included, so we recommend switching over at the earliest possible opportunity.

With the Android keyboard activated, typing on the Grand X becomes a joy - both in portrait and landscape.

If text messaging is functional, then dealing with email through the Gmail app is a revelation.

ZTE Grand X review

We'd go so far as to say the Android 4.0 Gmail app is our favourite way to email on the go, and it's here on the ZTE Grand X perfectly intact.

The Gmail app gets the balance of power and accessibility just right, allowing you to juggle multiple accounts, search through old or recycled mails and more - all through a beautifully streamlined interface.

There's a general email app for non-Gmail users, but we'd recommend downloading the related app (the likes of Hotmail and Yahoo are fully represented) from the Google Play store rather than having to endure the laborious and fiddly set-up process here.

No one wants to be messing around with POP settings and security types on a mobile phone in 2012.

Internet

Internet is another stock Android 4.0 experience on the ZTE Grand X, and while that's no longer our preferred Android browser (that accolade has to go to Chrome), it's still one of the best there is.

It's as quick and understated here as the first time we tried it on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Almost the whole screen is set aside for web pages here, with only a small black banner along the top containing the omnibar (where you can either search or type in a full web address) and the tab button.

Even this bar disappears once you begin scrolling down a web page - you have to scroll up forcefully to make it reappear.

ZTE Grand X review

It's this minimalist, get-out-of-your-way approach of Google's that has made them a web browsing force on all formats, and we love it here on the Grand X.

Hitting the aforementioned tab button brings up a vertically scrolling list of website thumbnails that looks and acts much like the multitasking menu.

Here you can jump to recently-opened web pages in an instant, or dismiss them with a lateral swipe.

While some loading is still required when jumping around like this, having the precise web pages to hand is excellent.

We added around a dozen tabs to our browsing session and the Grand X coped admirably with nary a stutter.

ZTE Grand X review

Full web pages offer a page overview by default, leaving you to scroll and pinch-zoom in to the point you want.

This can be turned off in the settings menu, where you can also play with auto-fill settings, change the default search engine and the like.

Bringing up the settings menu also allows you to save pages for offline reading - though we should note that we could only get this feature to work when we inserted a microSD card.

Once done these 'Saved Pages' appear in the Bookmarks menu.

Either way, with apps like Pocket on the Google Play store doing this job better - as well as working with the browser through the Share menu option - this isn't a feature we felt the need to use too often.

ZTE Grand X review

Text reflow is a familiar matter of double-tapping the screen, and it generally works well - with a couple of exceptions where parts of the text would disappear off the edge of the screen.

The iPhone 4S remains one of the best at handling this side of things, but the Internet browser on the ZTE Grand X is more than adequate.

One advantage of the Android browser over Safari on the iPhone 4S is the potential for Adobe Flash support.

This isn't possible by default, unfortunately, but a quick visit to the Google Play store and a free download of the Adobe Flash Player app will soon see you right.

While Flash's days are numbered (as are those of its support for Android), many top websites still use it, so it's a big advantage to have this available on the ZTE Grand X.

Camera

The ZTE Grand X comes with a 5-megapixel main camera, which puts it into the same category as recent midfield competitors like the HTC One V and the Nokia Lumia 710.

It also strengthens the Grand X's status as something of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus-mini in all but name, with the Android 4.0 flagship also relying on a 5-megapixel snapper.

ZTE Grand X review

If the Camera app doesn't load up instantly, it doesn't hang around too long. In addition, you can jump straight to it from the lock screen by sliding the icon left rather than right - ideal for those times when you're hurrying to capture those impromptu moments.

The only better way than this to access a camera app is through a dedicated camera button, but sadly the ZTE Grand X follows the herd in omitting such a specialised hardware option.

You can use the volume buttons to take snaps, but as they naturally fall under your left thumb it's a little awkward.

We found there was a little too much lag in between pressing the virtual shutter button and the picture being taken, which was frustrating.

As you'd expect from such a decently kitted out phone, the Grand X camera comes with a flash for low light shots, and it does the job for close-up indoor shots - particularly when combined with the night scene mode. Any kind of distance is a bit of a no-no, though.

Other than this, picture quality is okay when viewing back on the phone itself or even previewing on a PC monitor - provided you feed them with ample light.

Look closely at the images in their original 5-megapixel size, though and it's a bit of a blurry mess. But then, you'd expect that of a mid-range smartphone camera. For posting images to your social network of choice, it's not bad.

ZTE Grand X review

At this size, and on a sunny day, we found that the Grand X produced some reasonable pictures, but colours do appear washed out.

The biggest shortcoming here is dynamic range, or lack thereof, with the ZTE Grand X simply unable to cope with extremes of light and shadow.

On a more positive note, touch-to-zoom allows for some nice depth of field and macro shots. Face detection also plays its part, picking out those cheesy smiles quickly and fairly consistently.

ZTE Grand X review

The camera app itself is the default Android 4.0 one, which we really rate. It's quick and easy to use, with a nice big digital zoom slider (though using this destroys detail).

The selection controls for switching between camera, video and panorama shots is found at the bottom right, but this seems unnecessarily fiddly - all three icons are visible, but you can't activate them directly - you have to touch to open a larger menu first.

The settings menu offers up a decent number of manual tweaks, including exposure and white balance.

You can also select from three basic scenes in addition to Auto: Action, Night or Sunset. We would have liked to have seen a few more of these, in truth.

ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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ZTE Grand X review

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Video

When it comes to the ZTE Grand X's camera, video is the biggest disappointment, with no 1080p Full HD option.

We're stuck with plain old 720p, which is a little puzzling given the capabilities of the Tegra 2 CPU/Android 4.0 OS combo at the Grand X's heart, although for the price we can't complain too much.

However the 720p mode scarcely deserves the loosely applied 'HD' term. Video is blurry and far from smooth, while there's nothing here to counteract shaky handling.

You can zoom during filming, but the horrific effect this has on detail should prevent you from doing so.

For some reason it's impossible to bring the flash into play in video mode, which means that indoor and low-light shooting is a little problematic.

ZTE Grand X review

Besides issues of quality, the Android 4.0 video camera interface is pleasant enough to use on the ZTE Grand X - if a little basic.

You can adjust the white balance according to four scene settings, and also apply a time lapse effect. That's about it.

Take a look at our video samples to get an idea of the ZTE Grand X's lacklustre video performance.

Media

Though the ZTE Grand X's run-of-the-mill screen doesn't make for the best portable video experience in the Android range, its expandable storage and excellent audio performance makes it brilliant for music.

Music

Audio for both music and video is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of Dolby Mobile.

We're not usually big fans of this kind of artificial sound enhancement - it can be the equivalent of the 'base boost' button on rubbishy old stereos - but we have to say it genuinely makes a massive improvement here.

ZTE Grand X review

Dolby Mobile lengthens base, boosts higher frequencies and generally lends a wider, richer sound.

It's also designed to improve the separation of the channels when plugging your phone into a set of speakers.

The Dolby Mobile Control Panel app allows you to turn this feature on and off, and it also provides the ability to adjust the equaliser settings to a few different presets.

There's no fine tuning available, but you can set the sound for Jazz, Metal, Electronic and various other genres.

We're tempted to say that we were impressed with Dolby Mobile only because the Grand X's default audio performance is sub-par - turning it off reveals a weedy, flat sound.

But when the final result is this clear and well balanced, we'll just doff our caps to the good folk at Dolby and commend ZTE for including it in the Grand X. Regardless of the tricks that are being played to make us feel this way.

ZTE Grand X review

The ZTE Grand X makes for an excellent personal stereo, then, and this is bolstered by the presence of that microSD slot.

Although you only have 8GB of internal storage to play with, being able to stick in a further 32GB (plus being able to hot swap in even more) means that you could quite comfortably carry your whole music collection around with you - and enjoy it thoroughly through the Grand X.

One word of warning though - if you haven't already, invest in a new set of earbuds; the ones that come with the ZTE Grands X are terrible, leaky things.

Of course, the same could be said for the vast majority of rival efforts. Even HTC has stopped giving away Beats 'buds with its high-end handsets.

ZTE Grand X review

The music player itself is extremely basic, but functional enough. It finds and plays your tracks quickly and efficiently, with the main menu offering access to Artists, Albums, Songs and Playlists.

When playing a track the album art is shown prominently, and pressing the Grand X's menu key offers access back to the library as well as a shortcut to the Dolby Mobile Control Panel.

You can also delete or set the track as a ringtone from here.

There's a simple widget for the music player, though it only enables you to pause or skip to the next track. For greater control you have to go into the music player itself.

File support is decent - we played MP3, AAC and WAV files without any issues whatsoever.

Video

As we've mentioned, the ZTE Grand X isn't the device we'd turn to if we wanted to watch a film on a plane journey, but it still handles video content more than comfortably.

While that 4.3-inch 960x540 screen isn't the biggest, sharpest or most vibrant, its slightly more muted colours actually work reasonably well with video content, producing realistic skin tones and reasonable blacks.

ZTE Grand X review

Even when streaming content through the stock YouTube app, or from the free-to-download Netflix app, the image remains sharp and fairly faithful - though it's a little on the dark side.

Most importantly, high-definition video content is processed without a hitch - again thanks to that potent Tegra 2 CPU.

ZTE Grand X review

We should note that the Tegra 2 chip traditionally struggles with decoding certain types of full 1080p video, but considering that playing such high resolution footage on the Grand X's qHD screen is pointless, we can't really pull it up for this.

You may well encounter troubles playing some of your home-ripped Blu-Rays through the phone, though.

As with audio, so video benefits from Dolby Mobile integration on the ZTE Grand X.

It ensures that music is nicely separated between the channels when using a decent set of headphones, and there's even a movie mode accessible from the Dolby Mobile Control Panel app.

The ZTE Grand X ships with the Google Play Movies app pre-installed, though this is simply a shortcut to the movies you may have purchased or rented through the Google Play store.

Either way, you can rent films from just 99p.

Photos

The default Gallery app here is another stock Android ICS example, and it's predictably fine.

ZTE Grand X review

You can view your snaps by album, locations, times, people or tags via a drop-down menu at the top-left of the screen, and individual photos are rendered through a scrolling list of thumbnails.

As we've mentioned, such thumbnails don't look quite as good here as they should, as it's been designed with large HD displays in mind. Still, it's an intuitive way to browse through your photos.

From the Gallery app you can also crop and rotate your pictures, as well as setting them as a contact photo or wallpaper.

You can also make use of Android 4.0's excellent sharing facilities, bringing up a list of all the installed apps that can be used to share images in some way.

There's also a dedicated Dropbox button for manually uploading your images to the cloud.

ZTE Grand X review

That's not all you can do with your pictures either.

Through the Grand X's DLNA connectivity and the bundled Full Share app, we were able to view our snaps through our PS3 in seconds with no cables and no lengthy set-up.

We'll discuss that further a little later, but suffice to say it's a great way to review your pictures.

Battery life and connectivity

Battery life

ZTE claims that you'll be able to get 180 minutes of talk time and 300 hours of standby from the ZTE Grand X's 1650mAh battery.

ZTE Grand X review

It's hard to relate these figures to real-life usage, which usually involves periods of intense usage followed by long periods of inactivity.

ZTE Grand X review

Still, we can say that these estimates are pretty standard, and that the Grand X's real life performance too is fairly ordinary.

You'll get through a day's heavy usage without having to charge, which is what we've come to expect of modern smartphones. If you don't use it too much, you'll be able to stretch it over two whole days.

After running our stock Nyan test - which involves playing the Nyan cat video for 90 minutes with everything switched on (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, all notifications) and the screen brightness set to maximum, the battery had on average 62 per cent left.

It's worth noting too that the 1650mAh battery unit sits in between the similar spec HTC Sensation (1520mAh) and the HTC Sensation XE (1730mAh), so it's about right for capacity.

Connectivity

When it comes to connectivity, the ZTE Grand X has almost all of the bases covered.

It comes with the expected staples of HSDPA , Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 for wireless connectivity, while microSD and microUSB enable you to transfer files physically.

ZTE Grand X review

You can also use the Grand X as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to get connected to the internet from anywhere with a half-decent 3G signal. This feature's a little buried in the settings menu, but it's more than welcome.

One welcome wireless standard found here is DLNA, which is relatively common but by no means ubiquitous.

This enables the fuss-free transfer of media such as photos and videos to many TVs, DVD players, printers and the like.

While that's fantastic for the present, the ZTE Grand X lacks the most important forward-facing connectivity option of the lot - NFC.

Near Field Communication allows you to make payments with a swipe of your phone.

It hasn't been widely adopted yet, but you can guarantee it will be, which makes the Grand X slightly less future-proof than we would like. Its omission also means you can't exchange details with other Android 4.0 users through Android Beam.

ZTE Grand X review

While the ZTE Grand X comes with a USB cable for connecting up to your PC, there's no PC software bundled in, so you'll have to rely on good old drag-and-drop to get your music and other files across.

Still, in our experience this is one of the easiest and quickest ways to manage large files, particularly in any kind of quantity.

With the myriad cloud and app-based media transfer facilities available on the Google Play market, we didn't feel at all shortchanged with the Grand X in this department.

There's also a handy file manager included with the Grand X, which lets you navigate the music, text and video files stored on the phone's internal memory, as well as on any SD card you might have inserted.

We found this handy for renaming some of our annoyingly mis-labeled music files on the fly.

Maps and apps

Maps

Let's get the ZTE Grand X's mapping capabilities out of the way.

Not that Google Maps deserves to be dismissed, you understand - it's just that it's the same excellent service as can be found on every other Android device out there.

A quick recap, then. Google Maps lets you map out routes, search for specific addresses, size up colour-coded traffic reports and even check out 'street view' pictures of most locations. It's a staggeringly powerful tool.

ZTE Grand X review

The latest version, which the Grand X comes with, allows you to save a whole region for offline usage.

We're still waiting for the day when we can just preload a whole map of the country, as you can with Nokia Maps on the Nokia Lumia 900, but for now this is a decent feature.

Google Maps on the Grand X is very quick to pinpoint your location - even without GPS turned on, courtesy of Wi-Fi connection trickery.

The app responded extremely smoothly, with zooming as fluid as you like. The speed at which 'street view' images load up on this affordable phone is near instant over Wi-Fi, showing just how capable the dual-core CPU is.

Apps

While Android devices, above all others, thrive on the customisation that comes with picking and choosing your own apps, we still like a thoughtful selection of pre-installed applications on our phones.

At the same time, the last thing we want is a whole heap of bloatware filling up our menu screen and phone storage alike. The ZTE Grand gets the balance just right.

ZTE Grand X review

The inclusion of Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox apps add vital functionality in these increasingly connected times.

The latter in particular allows you to automatically upload your snaps and videos to cloud storage as soon as they're taken.

AccuWeather is as accomplished a weather app as you're likely to find, complete with a tidy widget and a permanent presence in the notification bar (which can be disabled).

Another welcome pre-installed app is Evernote, which lets you make quick notes and affix snapshots or voice messages.

These are then sent to the cloud and can be synced with any other device containing the Evernote app - or a computer logged onto the website.

ZTE Grand X review

Facetones doesn't feel anything like as essential as the rest.

It automatically creates a slideshow of your contacts' Facebook pictures and plays them every time they call or text you. It's a cool concept, but pretty pointless all the same and definitely falls under the label 'bloatware'.

The Grand X also comes with an adequate - yet really quite ugly - MS Office file reader in X-Office, which helps you open those Word and Excel file attachments.

ZTE is really pushing the Grand X as a gaming device, and while we don't quite see it as such, there's no doubting that the Tegra 2 chip is widely supported by Android game developers.

ZTE Grand X review

To drive this point home, the company has included a demo of the graphically intensive Riptide GP alongside TegraZone.

This Nvidia app acts as a filter for all Tegra-optimised games on the Google Play store. It's a great way to explore the ZTE Grand X's capabilities.

There's also an app to help show off and enhance the Grand X's audio capabilities.

Dolby Mobile, which we discussed in the Media section, gets its own small app here.

This simply lets you turn the feature on and off, and it also gives you a few equaliser presets to play with.

Hands on gallery

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

Official gallery

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

ZTE Grand X review

Verdict

While its style and specifications may belong to 2011, the ZTE Grand X's dual-core processor and Android 4.0 OS makes other sub-£200 Android devices look positively under-equipped.

It's not quite as impressive in the hand as it is on paper, with an unresponsive screen and a mediocre camera, but you can't argue with the overall value of the Grand X package.

Buying GuideBest Android phone - which should you buy?Best Android phone

We liked

You'll struggle to find a dual-core Android phone for less than £200, but that's exactly what we have with the ZTE Grand X.

Equally hard to find is a non-Nexus device that ships with stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but again the ZTE Grand X comes up trumps in this regard.

Add in a thoughtful array of pre-loaded apps and decent connectivity and you have an affordable device that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

We disliked

If any corners have been cut, it's with the ZTE Grand X's design. It's a chunky, utilitarian device that doesn't attract a whole lot of gadget lust.

That 4.3-inch qHD display is also a little underwhelming - both in terms of vibrancy and responsiveness - as is the ZTE Grand X's rather ordinary 5-megapixel camera. Where's the 1080p video recording?

Final verdict

Criticising the ZTE Grand X for its ugly looks, ordinary camera and underwhelming screen almost seems churlish when held against its extraordinary price-performance ratio.

Offering a dual-core processor and stock Android 4.0 OS for less than £200, this is a no-nonsense phone that punches well above its weight.

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