ZTE Grand X Plus Z826 Smartphone Review

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Product: ZTE Grand X Plus (Z826)
Provided By: ZTE
Price: $199 no contract on Fido (Canada) at time of publication

 

Introduction:

Today we are looking at a device from ZTE. This is one of their latest devices and is called the Grand X Plus. The name indicates that not only is the product "Grand" but it is more than grand/large/great, there is also a "Plus". With a name like that, you’d come to expect some pretty big things, but when you look at the price tag of $200 CAD (at time of publication) you start to wonder what could be "grand" about this device.

We will be checking out this device and drawing some comparisons to my Nexus 5 that I am currently using. While the Nexus 5 is no longer a flagship device, it is still a very current device that performs very well and should offer some competition to the ZTE device. The Nexus 5 should honestly beat down the Grand X Plus as it is still $400 without contract here in Canada. The big question going into the review is this: "Is the ZTE Grand X Plus half the phone that the Nexus 5 is?" We will find out how it performs and stacks up to the competition.

ZTE Phone

 

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 Plus is a 5-inch device that has a 720p HD display, 8MP camera, 1080p video recording and a decent 2300mAh battery. Under the hood is a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU that is fed by 2GB of RAM, so while the specs won’t blow you away, they probably won’t make you wail in disappointment either. ZTE includes a MicroSD card slot and exclude a lot of built-in storage. There is 8GB of internal storage and ZTE uses almost half for their own system files as well as storage formatting.

The bundle that comes with the Grand X Plus is adequate. Along with the standard USB / Wall charger is the removable battery as well as a bit of a manual. There are no headphones included and while it makes the bundle look a little bare, most companies include headphones that won’t be used as they are poor quality and the user probably already has a better set.

These are a couple of ways that ZTE cuts back on some extras to make the device more affordable. Not everyone wants to spend $700 or more on a phone.

Bundle

 

The included battery is really rather large in size. While the rating of 2300 mAh is not a lot when compared to some phones from Samsung and LG, it should provide decent battery life as this device is only powering a 720p screen. This lower resolution may turn some people off, but when the screen is lit up and you’re using it, I never missed 1080p (gasp!). The pixel density is very good so while the resolution is not very high, the dots on the screen provide smooth text and unless you’re very fussy, you’d never know it wasn’t a full 1080p screen.

Phone & Battery

 

ZTE has moved the volume and power buttons part way down the device and not near the top like many other devices. The result is that you can comfortable reach the buttons with your thumb and fingers on the same hand you are holding the device. There is no point on making you shift the phone around in your hand so you can control the volume and hit the power button. The more you shuffle your phone around in your hand, the more chance you’ll have of dropping it. The design of the device makes it easy to hold and operate with one hand.

Power Button Volume Buttons

 

The back of the device can be removed for battery, SIM and MicroSD card installation. It’s been a while since I had a removable back as both the Nexus 4 and 5 did not. The back is pretty slick, but with the rounded edges, the device is pretty easy to hold. I’m sure that a rubberized back would make it even easier to hold, but I never dropped it during testing (thankfully).

Stuff Installed

 

On the next page we’ll cover all of the specifications from ZTE and add a few of our own before we talk about the usability of the 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.

The Grand X Plus is ideal for anyone looking for a premium design at a price that won't break the bank. Delivering a large 5-inch HD display, 8MP camera with full 1080p video recording and a large 2300 mAh battery the Grand X Plus is sure to impress. And with lightning fast LTE network speeds and a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, you can be sure this is one powerful device.

 

  • 5" HD Display and Dolby Sound
  • 8 MP Camera & Camcorder with 1080p Video Capture
  • 2300 mAh Battery

 

Specifications:

Specs

 

Some of the key features to note are the 5.0-inch IPS display, 2GB of RAM and MicroSD support (32GB stated, 64GB tested). While the phone does have the latest Bluetooth 4.0, it has last-gen 802.11b/g/n (not .ac). ZTE promises - and includes quite a bit of hardware, for a very good price.

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


 

Using the ZTE Grand X Plus:

I’ve been using Android devices for quite a few years – since the Nexus One actually – and I’ve owned a few. While there is always room for improvement in any operating system, I’ve found the hardware to be pretty awesome. While there are a few big companies that are trying to get you to fork over a month’s rent for a device, ZTE is hitting a very sweet spot with their Grand X Plus and it is this price-point that intrigues me.

For less than half the price of a Nexus 5, you expect to get a bit less – and you do – in theory. The screen has a lower resolution and there is less internal storage, but the addition of a memory slot (something that EVERY phone should have) makes up for that. With that in mind, I powered up the Grand X Plus, dropped in my SIM, a 64GB MicroSD card and booted up to see if I could live happily with this device instead of my Nexus 5.

Main Screen Folder
   
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Right off the bat, I really appreciate the basic interface of the device. ZTE doesn’t skin it up with TouchWiz or any other interface that drains battery life, hogs space - and while pretty, doesn’t really add anything extra to the device. Nope, their interface is pretty plain-Jane - much like a Nexus device. I’m quickly impressed.

After playing around with the device, I noticed a few additions that ZTE threw in that stand out. There are great file manager, task manager, and note apps that I would be glad to pay a few bucks for these apps.

 

The Grand X Plus has a ambient light sensor that detects the surrounding light and brightens and dims the screen depending on the environment. This is a great feature that many phones have and it can be useful when using your device out doors and then indoors. The screen seems to be bright enough outside and doesn’t blind you when you answer your phone in the dark when you’re lying in bed. The downside of this particular sensor is that it is very sensitive and located in a spot that causes some issues for me. When I use this phone two-handed (portrait mode) with the home button positioned to the left, my thumb covers enough of the light sensor that the screen dims. When typing it will dim, brighten, dim and so on and this is a pain when trying to use the phone outdoors and it keeps thinking that it’s dark. If you hold the phone with one hand, or with the home button located on the right, it’s not a problem, but it’s a quirk that is a bit frustrating at times.

Messaging Notes Stopwatch

 

The ZTE Grand X Plus had pretty mainstream features overall and offers better than mainstream performance and user experience for day-to-day tasks. On the next page we’ll take a look at the camera quality, functions and features as well as do a bit of video recording and picture taking for samples.


Camera Testing:

The camera on the ZTE Grand X Plus sounds pretty mainstream - but that’s not a bad thing at all. With an 8MP rear facing camera and a 2MP "selfie" camera, it should get the job done. My current device is a Nexus 5 and while I won’t do a ton of side-by-side comparison shots, I will draw some comparisons and try for a few comparison shots just for kicks. In all of these tests, you have to keep in mind that the ZTE device costs half that of the Nexus 5, so we really can’t expect everything to score equally - or can we?

The ZTE camera has a built-in 4x digital zoom that degrades the image quality - just like every other digital zoom. The only reason to use it is if you HAVE to, but it’s not recommended.

Camera Mode Camera Settings
   
Camera Filters Recording

 

The ZTE default camera app (in manual mode) allows you to adjust exposure metering, ISO sensitivity, white balance, exposure value, contrast, saturation and sharpness. You also have HDR mode, group shots, panorama, blink and smile detection, intervals and more. It looks to be quite robust and ZTE gives you a lot of options to choose from; in addition to a bunch of filters that work with both video and still image modes.

Please check out the images below and see how they looks when zoomed 1:1. The images you click on will open full-size in a new window.

Big Truck
Big Truck

Tiny People
Tiny People

 


Nexus 5 vs ZTE Grand X Plus
(click for full resolution)


Nexus 5 vs ZTE Grand X Plus
(click for full resolution)

 

Frosty
Frosty Hoar

Frosty
Frosty Chain

 

 

Panorama
In Camera Panorama

 

(HDR Off/On Sample)

 

Please check out more images and some direct comparsions over here on Google+.

 

As far as video goes, the ZTE Grand X Plus 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. For amazing video options, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or the iPhone 6 are pretty incredible.

 

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


 

Battery Life, Calling and More:

The battery life of the ZTE Grand X Plus is very good. With a 5-inch screen I didn’t expect tremendous things from a 2300mAh battery, but the lower resolution and slower processor match up to make the device last two days with moderate use. When the screen is off, the standby time of the phone is fantastic. I was away for a few days and didn’t check my phone that often. As a result I managed to get three easy days out of the device with light usage. That alone makes this device worth considering in my opinion. I do get tired of plugging in my device every day - and sometimes during the day if I’m a heavy Nexus 5 user.

In terms of size, the Grand X Plus is pretty much perfect in my opinion. Of course this is subjective, but when coming from a Nexus 5, the move to the Grand X Plus is absolutely painless in terms of holdability and usability. The physical size is pretty close and the plain OS makes the transition pretty easy – if you’re used to Android 4.4. I’m assuming that ZTE will be sending out a Lollipop upgrade, but as of yet we are still using 4.4. Judging by the current battery life, Android 5 will make a very good device even better.

Backup Backing Up

 

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 pretty 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.

When it comes to call quality, the ZTE Grand X Plus performs better than my Nexus 5. I often get complaints from people saying I sound “muffled”. Not so with the ZTE device. The call quality is very good. 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 a Galaxy S3), 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.

 

Benchmarking Performance:

I know that some people will want to see how this phone compares when it comes to actual benchmarks. I've included a few below, but the biggest thing I noticed when I compared them side-by-side is that the Nexus 5 was slower at loading many applications, but dominated on Google Play Music and Zynga Poker. Still, the numbers are included for you to compare with your own devices.

3DMark - ZTE

3DMark - ZTE

AnTuTu - ZTE

AnTuTu - ZTE

Geekbench - ZTE

Geekbench - ZTE

     

3DMark - Nexus 5

3DMark - Nexus 5

AnTuTu - Nexus 5

AnTuTu - Nexus 5

Geekbench - Nexus 5

Geekbench - Nexus 5

 

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


Final Thoughts:

I’ve never used a ZTE device before this unit and just like many other people here in North America, I thought that ZTE might be more of a "budget quality" device. After using this device exclusively for about a month, my thoughts have changed 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 actually really, really good. The bonus of fewer pixels is that the phone is much easier on the battery and I’d gladly give up a few pixels for an extra day of usage.

That brings us to the battery and CPU. With a 1.2GHz Quad-core 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 was able to consistently get two days of use out of the device with moderate usage - much better than my Nexus 5 (with battery saver disabled).

ZTE Grand X Plus

 

Another great feature - and really a must-have is the removable back, battery and MicroSD card slot. As the phone only ships with 8GB of memory, additional storage is a must. While ZTE claims up to a 32GB card, I’m using a 64GB Lexar card and it detected and works great. I wish that every phone had additional storage as you don’t want to have to stream everything from the cloud and turning an 8GB device into a 72GB device for $35 is awesome.

As far as network performance goes, the WiFi is limited to 802.11n – which is much faster than your home internet connection and the Cellular radio 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 the majority of my experience with the ZTE Grand X Plus has been positive, there are a couple of things that let me down a bit. The camera quality is not quite as good as my Nexus 5 and that camera isn’t as good as many others. The camera is not horrible, and it seems to do white balance better than the Nexus 5. 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.

The other small thing that annoyed me was the location and sensitivity of the ambient light sensor. I use my phone in "landscape" mode quite frequently and I use it both left and right-handed. The sensitive dimming of the screen in a light room is frustrating when I hold it "wrong". As I mentioned before, if I make sure the home button is oriented to the right, it works fine. Still, I think I should be able to hold it anyway I want and not have the screen dim as if I were in a dark room.

In Canada, this device will set you back $200 without a contract and for that price, you really can’t go wrong. Fido is a carrier here up North that is stocking the phone and if you sign a contract, they are giving it to you. For that kind of money, it makes a great backup device for your flagship phone if you drop it in a puddle, and is more than adequate for your main device as well.

Battery life is probably the biggest reason that I don’t really want to go back to my Nexus 5. Even though benchmarks show that the ZTE phone lags behind many other devices, in real-world usage the phone is snappy, responsive and works very, very well.

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 Plus will impress you. The low price and great performance of this device make the overall “Value” a perfect 10/10. For not a lot a money, you get a whole lot of phone.

Pros:
  • Bright 5-inch IPS screen
  • Fast LTE performance
  • Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A7 1.2GHz CPU
  • 2GB of RAM!
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent Call Quality
  • Amazing value
  • Bare OS runs nice and fast
  • MicroSD slot!

 

Cons:
  • Camera quality is less than I’d hoped
  • Ambient light sensor is very sensitive and gives some "false positives"
  • Lack of accessories such as cases and screen protectors here in North America

 

Based on the value and overall quality and performance of this device, it easily earns a "Gold" award. It does everything they claim - and does it well.

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I’d like to thank ZTE for sending over this phone for us to review. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them at the link below.

Comment here