ZTE Grand X 4 Smartphone Evaluation

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Product: ZTE Grand X 4 Smartphone
Provided By: ZTE Canada
Price: $299 CDN without contract in Canada at time of publication

 

Introduction:

Today we are looking at yet another Smartphone from ZTE – the Grand X 4. This comes on the heels of their Axon 7 Smartphone and is the super-budget friendly offering from ZTE. In the past, I’ve been very impressed with what ZTE has to offer – both on the value line as well as their flagship devices and it will be interesting to see how this unit stacks up. 

While the Grand X devices usually run light on features, the Grand X 4 tries to marry some of the flagship features with a budget-priced phone. Keep on reading to see how it all turns out.

It’s unfortunate that Canadian carriers try so hard to hose their customers as this device is priced at ~$300CDN here currently and can be picked up for a mere ~$110 in the USA. If you sign a contract with either stocking carrier – the price will be free. Still, it’s priced a bit high for the mid-range device that it is. Currently, you can get the last-year’s flagship Axon device for less that this device is currently being offered. Enough of my pricing rant, let’s look at the Grand X 4.

ZTE Grand X 4 Box

About ZTE:

While many people in North America haven’t heard much about ZTE, they are a big player in other markets.

ZTE is a leading global provider of handset devices and telecommunications equipment. We are one of the top rated high-tech enterprises in the world developing and producing 2G, 3G and 4G handsets. As well as manufacturing mobile devices such as smartphones in over 150 countries, the company delivers innovative products business solutions. It connects global customers via voice, data, multimedia and WLAN Founded in 1985, ZTE is listed on both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges and is China’s largest listed telecoms equipment company.

More information about the company can be found over here.

 

First Look:

The ZTE Grand X 4 is a 5.5-inch device that packs an “HD” 720p display, a rear 13MP camera, 5MP front camera, 1080p video recording and a very solid 3,140mAh battery. Under the hood is a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor that is fed by 2GB of RAM and has an internal storage capacity of 16GB. The specifications won’t melt you mind, but with the enormous battery and 720p screen, the battery life should be impressive. Also, much like other ZTE Grand devices, the X 4 has a MicroSD card slot so that you can store more images, videos and even your Netflix and Amazon Prime downloads. ZTE claims it will support up to a 64GB SD card.

ZTE Grand X 4 Bundle

 

The bundle that comes with the Grand X 4 is pretty much a non-bundle. It ships with a charger and a USB-to-USB-Type-C cable, a quick manual as well as a SIM eject tool. There are no headphones or other goodies in the box. It’s bare.

You’ll notice in the images as we continue that the battery in the Grand X 4 is non-removeable in that it doesn’t have quick access. I’m sure it could be replaced if the phone was disassembled, but it’s not a user-serviceable part. Still with over 3,100 mAh of battery, you shouldn’t need to charge it often during the day.

ZTE Grand X 4 Front  - SIM Out

 

As I mentioned, the battery is very large for the screen size and general CPU speed of this phone. I’ve been impressed with previous ZTE devices when it comes to battery life and I’m excited to see what kind of real-world battery life I’ll get out of this monster.

 

Closer Look:

As we continue our look around the Grand X 4, there are a few quick things to note. 1) The phone uses USB-C (good). 2) It uses a Micro-SIM card as well as a MicroSD card on the same tray (neutral). 3) The home, application switch and back buttons are fixed and below the screen (neutral). 4) The Power button and volume controls are switched to what I’d call “normal” (bad). The power button is below the volume buttons on the right side of the device, and while I see what they are doing by trying to put the power button closer to your thumb, it is backwards to other devices I’ve used and I spend the first two weeks constantly turning on my phone screen instead of lowering the volume.

 5) The device appears very sleek and “HTC One M8-ish”, but the plastic body on the phone is hard to hang on to. I never dropped it, but I came close a few times. I’d feel much better if I had a nice rugged case for this phone.

ZTE Grand X 4 SIM Slot Side

SIM Side

ZTE Grand X 4 - Volume/Power Side

Volume Side

 

6) The back of the device holds a camera, flash and a fingerprint sensor. This is a high-end feature on a mid-level phone that seems nice on paper – if it works well. We’ll cover that later in the review.

On the next page, we’ll cover all the features from ZTE before we talk about how well the device works and if you should pick this up for your next device.


Features:

The following features and specifications have been taken from ZTE’s site and posted here for your convenience. Please check with the manufacturer for all the latest details and updates.

Power and performance at a price you can handle
With a 5.5” HD display and a Qualcomm 1.4GHz quad core chipset together with the lightning fast Freedom Mobile LTE network the Grand X™ 4 will have you browsing your favorite sites and multitasking with ease. Enjoy the rich and powerful sound with Dolby Audio and enjoy entertainment wherever you are.

Feature rich and entertainment packed, the ZTE Grand(TM) X 4 has something for every aspect of your busy life---plus the power and performance to keep up with it!

With the smile activated selfie camera you can take your snaps virtually hands free! Use the fingerprint sensor for increased security and store up to five fingerprints for fumble-free phone access.
 

 

Specifications:

Specs

 

Some of the key features of this device are the 5.5-inch 720p screen that still offers 267ppi. There is also a solid 2GB of RAM as well as MicroSD support. The phone also packs in Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11b/g/n (not ac) but ups their LTE game with Cat 4 LTE that blisters through downloads at up to 150Mbps. Also, the fingerprint reader is not something you expect to see on a device in this price range.

On the next page, we’ll look and see if the device performs in general usage.


Using the Grand X 4:

I’ve been using Android devices for quite a few years; starting with the original HTC Nexus One. While there has always been room from improvement in any operating system, I’ve found the hardware to be solid as it evolved along with consumer usage. With many current Android devices running anywhere from $600 to $1100 here in Canada, something like the Grand X 4 can capture some attention as it is priced where the average person can afford to buy it.

You could buy several of these ZTE Grand X 4 devices for the same price of a Pixel right now, and while the Grand X 4 is no Pixel in terms of performance and incredible build quality, it’s not priced like it either. The screen has a lower resolution and you get less internal storage that you do with many flagship devices, but you do get an additional memory slot. A memory slot is a feature that EVERY phone should have.

ZTE Grand X 4 Back With Fingerprint Sensor

 

Once I installed a memory card and my SIM, I booted up the device and was happy to find a plain-Jane interface. It’s very much like pure vanilla Android and this is good for a couple of reasons. First, as a Nexus user, I’m used to the simple OS interface. Second, less glitz, glamour and software bling equals better battery life.

ZTE Grand X 4 Bottom

ZTE Grand X 4 Bottom

ZTE Grand X 4 Top

ZTE Grand X 4 Top

After playing around with the Grand X 4 for about a month, I noticed a few things that I really liked. The overall feel of the device is nice. Once I got used to the inverted power/volume controls, I grew to like them as they make more sense when it comes to hands-on usage. The screen brightness is good and it is viewable outside in average sunlight. I used the Grand X 4 with my DJI Mavic drone it is worked flawless. I was quite happy with how it all worked out. The device was fast enough to process and record 4K video and there were no connection issues. Overall, it was very good.

The Grand X 4 has mainstream features overall and offers mainstream performance and a solid user experience for day-to-day tasks. On the next page, we’ll focus on camera quality, functions and features, shoot a few pictures and share the samples.


Camera Testing:

The camera on the ZTE Grand X 4 is a nice upgrade from preview “Grand” devices we’ve looked at from them. As I mentioned before, the rear camera is a 13MP shooter and the front camera tops out at 5MP. As is standard, the camera app supports things like smile detection, timer, digital zoom, geo-tagging, exposure compensation, HDR and Panorama modes. ZTE also brings other features like ISO control, white balance and shutter speed to the mix – which many companies leave out of their stock camera apps.

The samples below have been shot with the camera app and haven’t been retouched in any way at all. They have been pulled off the camera and uploaded at full resolution for you to enjoy. Click on the images below to view them on Google Plus with the ability to zoom to full-resolution.

 

 

 

No HDR

HDR Off

HDR On

 

 

HDR Off

HDR On

 

As far as video goes, the ZTE Grand X 4 is much like its predecessors and is a very basic shooter. It has the ability to use filters, but resolution is limited to a maximum of 1080p and the fastest framerate is 30fps. It's not bad by all means, but it's not a crazy video-phone.

On the next page, we'll touch briefly on a few other tidbits and then post up our conclusion.


Battery Life, Calling & More:

The battery life on the Grand X 4 is absolutely amazing. After using my Nexus 6P and other mainstream devices, you get used to trying to conserve power to make it through the day. With the lower screen resolution as well as a huge battery, I can easily get through 2 days of medium-heavy usage with this ZTE device. I left WiFi enabled after I was pretty much done this review and it lasted for well over 4 days – with a day and a half to go. Keep in mind that I was still checking notifications on this phone as well as playing games and using it to monitor the DJI Mavic drone as well.

In terms of size, the Grand X 4 is a bit larger that some of their earlier “Grand” offerings, but the size is quite manageable as it has a slim profile, albeit a tall screen. It is very pocketable and is marginally smaller than my Nexus 6P.

ZTE includes a solid SMS/Messaging App and the gallery and image editing features. I'm very impressed with the entire gamut of features, applications and the entire package out of the box. The stock keyboard is solid but after using Swiftkey, I had to install it as the prediction is much better. Again, the experience is pretty much what you'd expect with a Nexus or Google Play Edition device. I love the basic, non-frills experience.

Check out our video below of some hands-on with the Grand X 4.

 

When it comes to call quality, the ZTE Grand 4 is a solid performer, but looking back at the Grand X 2, that older unit had better call quality. I had a few complaints with this device that I was a bit "muffled". The call quality in ideal situations is good, but in a loud environment, the call quality suffers a bit. The built in speaker is a bit louder and actually clearer than my Nexus 5 as well. It's no HTC One M8 by all means, and the location of the ZTE speaker is not all that desirable, (located lower back - like many Galaxy devices), so if you lay the phone on the back, it does muffle the sound. All that aside, it's still a decent speaker that works well for hands-free calling or for listening to music and other media.

On the last page, we’ll wrap things up with our final thoughts.


Final Thoughts:

Up until the Grand X Plus, I'd never used a ZTE device before and just like many other people here in North America, I thought that ZTE might be more of a "budget quality" device. After using ZTE devices on and off for the past couple of years, my thoughts have changed quite a bit. The phone certainly isn't a flagship device, but it's a whole lot more than a budget device as well. The screen resolution of 720p may be a turn-off for some resolution snobs, but the screen quality is good. The bonus of fewer pixels is that the phone is much easier on the battery and I would rather have a few less pixels and better battery life.

That brings us to the battery and CPU. With a 1.4GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 425 CPU, the phone isn't the most powerful - but in turn, it gives you better battery life here as well. For pretty much any non-gaming App, the CPU and GPU combination is a great match and provides more than enough power for most applications and does so while sipping power. I could consistently get two-three days of use out of the device with moderate usage - much better than any device I’ve used before.

The Grand X 4 comes with 16GB of internal storage and supports a MicroSD card up to 64GB – according to ZTE. I tested it out with a 64GB card and it worked just fine. I wish that every phone had additional storage options like this as not everyone wants to stream everything from the cloud – or has a data plan that allows them to keep everything off-device. I love the fact that you can turn a 16GB device into an 80GB device for about $35.

As far as network performance goes, the WiFi is limited to 802.11n - not 802.11ac - which is the new industry standard. Still 802.11n is likely faster than your home internet connection and the cellular radio inside this device is capable of LTE. The radio scales and transitions nicely between 3G, 4G and LTE and I never dropped calls while hopping towers or changing bands. It's rock solid in terms of wireless performance.

While most of my experience with the ZTE Grand 4 has been positive, there are a couple of things that let me down a bit. The camera quality is not Pixel quality, but it still decent. It does shoot a lot of different modes and for the most part it’s solid – it just doesn’t’ stand out. The camera is not horrible, and it seems to do white balance better than some older devices, still, when you view the images at 1:1, there is a lot of compression and artifacts that I'd rather not see on my photos. Keep in mind that this device costs 25% to 50% of other devices with the better cameras that I mentioned.

In Canada, this device will set you back $299 without a contract and for that price, you have to think about it a bit before you drop your cash. The earlier Grand X devices were priced about half that and at that price, they were much easier to justify. Freedom Mobility has this device in stock and you can pick it up for $0 if you have a MyTab plan valued at $45 or more.

Battery life on this device is incredible. It's better than any other Android phone I’ve used to date, and while it might suffer if you punish it with loads of games, for moderate usage, it lasts two-three days easy. Three days. That will save you the pain of waking up in the morning and realizing that you forgot to plug in your device overnight. It will keep you running that extra day and even more, if you're a light user.

If you're in the market for a new Android device and don't want to strap yourself into a long contract or grab a cheap Samsung Galaxy Ace, the ZTE Grand X 4 will likely impress. It comes with 16GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot for total storage up to 80GB at least. All those features considered, the ZTE Grand X 4 is a slight evolution of the Grand X 2 - and while it does up the price a bit, you also get more features, more performance and better hardware all around. The value for this device can’t quite take the overall score up to “Gold” status, but it scores a solid “Silver”.

 

Pros:

  • Bright 5.5-inch IPS screen
  • Fast LTE performance
  • Quad-Core Snapdragon 1.4GHz CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Great battery life
  • Bare OS runs nice and fast
  • MicroSD slot

 

Cons:

  • Lack of accessories such as cases and screen protectors here in North America
  • Fingerprint reader is laggy and sometimes fussy
  • Value for performance is less than earlier “Grand X” devices
  • Phone chassis squeaks when the phone flexes.

 

If you have any comments, questions or other feedback, please feel free to post in the forum right here.