ZTE Grand X 2 Z850 Smartphone Evaluation

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Product: ZTE Grand X 2 (Z850)
Provided By: ZTE Canada
Price: $149 without contract on Bell Mobility (Canada) at time of publication

 

Introduction:

Today we are looking at the ZTE Grand X 2 and this is their follow-up to the value-packed Grand X Plus we looked at earlier this year. It has been only about half a year since the release of the Grand X Plus. Is the Grand X 2 coming down the pipe too quickly, or does it have enough to offer to make a person glad they waited? We'll be taking a look at this device in more detail on the following pages and sharing our thoughts on this budget-oriented device.

While the Grand X Plus debuted at Bell Canada costing a mere $199CAD without a contract, the Grand X 2 comes in a slightly-lower $149CAD and is certainly a device that won't break the bank. We'll find out below if this device is merely a decent back-up option if you trash your Galaxy S6 Edge+ and can't afford to drop $949 to keep a phone, or perhaps it has enough to offer right off the bat to be a good cost-effective alternative to the expensive $800+ devices that everyone seems to hype here in North America. 

ZTE Z850 Grand X 2

 

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 2 is a 5-inch device that packs an adequate 720p HD display, 8MP camera, 1080p video recording and a decent 2,480mAh battery. Under the hood is a 1.21Ghz quad core Snapdragon 400 processor that is fed by 2GB of RAM. The specifications certainly won't blow you away, but the performance shouldn't disappoint you either. One thing that I do like about ZTE devices is the inclusion of a MicroSD card slot. They do this to make up for the 16GB of internal storage that is showing its age. With the included software, the device ships with about 11GB of available storage. It certainly is nice that the Grand X 2 will support up to a 64GB MicroSD card.

In Box

 

The bundle that comes with the device is adequate. Along with the standard USB / Wall charger is the removable battery as well as a bit of a manual. There are no earphones included and while it makes the bundle look a little lean, most headphones that ship with devices are not that impressive and probably won't be used by most consumers.

The ZTE Grand X 2 follows in the footsteps of the Grand X Plus in that ZTE has done a few little things to cut back on some extras and a little horsepower in order to make the device more affordable. Let's face it, not everyone wants to spend $800 or more on a new phone.

Bundle

 

The Grand X Plus has a pretty large battery for the size of the processor and resolution and the Grand X 2 takes this slightly higher. As I mentioned before, the battery is rated at 2,480 mAh and should out-last your LG G3 or other high-resolution device. I found the 720p screen to be pretty decent all around, but since I reviewed the Grand X Plus (compared to my then, Nexus 5), I am now using the Nexus 6. The screen on the Nexus 6 is vastly superior, and I can certainly notice that lower pixel density on the Grand X 2. That's not to say it's a bad device - or a bad screen, I'm just comparing it to a 2K screen, and as much as I try - when switching from one device to another, it's hard not to make some mental comparisons.

On this device, ZTE once again split up the power and volume keys. The power button is located on the left-side of the device with the volume buttons on the right side. The volume buttons appear as a single long button that is a rocker and allows you to easily control the volume when operating the phone with one hand. I really like the design of the phone this time around. The bezel is narrow and the Gorilla Glass 3 protected LCD looks really sharp with the new front design. 

Z850 Front
Front

Z850 vs Nexus5
Z850 vs Nexus 5

Back Z850
Back Z850

 

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 on a phone as my last three Nexus devices have had this feature stripped out. The back has a bit of a texture and is very easy to handle. I never had an issue hanging onto it as people often do with some phones that have a slick finish. 

On the next page we'll cover all of the features from ZTE and add a few of our own before we talk about how well the device works and if you should picking 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. 

Functionality, style, and affordability come together with the ZTE Grand™ X 2. The latest smartphone in the Grand X family features a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and Android™ 5.1 (Lollipop), so it can keep up with you even on your busiest days. Its slim design and comfortable grip make it easy to carry as a constant companion. Take pictures and record videos with the 8 MP rear camera and full HD camcorder, or snap the perfect selfie with the 2 MP front camera. Use Manual and Fun camera modes to take great pictures wherever you are, then view your media on the 5" HD display, which is also ideal for gaming and web browsing. Preloaded Google™ apps like Gmail™, Calendar™, and Maps™ keep you connected and in control of your time. Hop onto a local Wi-Fi® network, or use the mobile hotspot capability to share Grand X 2's connection with other devices.

 

Key Features:

  • 5" HD Display with Gorilla Glass 3 
  • 8MP Camera & Camcorder with 1080p video capture 
  • Dual Microphone Noise Suppression 
  • Android 5.1 (Lollipop) 

 

 

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 2:

I've been using Android devices for quite a few years starting with the original HTC Nexus One. 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 2 and it is this price-point that intrigues me.

You could buy five of these ZTE Grand X 2 devices for the price of a Nexus 6 and obviously this device won't keep with last year's flagship from Motorola, but you do get more than you may think. The screen has lower resolution and you get half the internal storage as the 32GB Nexus 6, but you do get an additional memory slot. A memory slot is a feature that absolutely EVERY phone should have - no matter how much internal storage it ships with. With all that in mind, I dropped my Telus SIM in the device, a 64GB MicroSD card and booted it up to see if I could take a giant step backwards from my Nexus 6 and still be happy.

Right off the bat, I really appreciate the basic interface of the device. ZTE doesn't skin the OS up with Sense, TouchWiz or any other interface that drains battery life and hogs storage. The interface is pretty much a clone of the Grand X Plus - and looks almost like vanilla Android – and that is a good thing (in my opinion) as I like minimalist software.

Z850

 

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 2 has an 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. Thankfully the proximity sensor isn't quite as sensitive as the Grand X Plus as that device always dimmed when a shadow of my hand passed over the sensor. This one is much slower to respond and less sensitive which is actually really good. The proximity sensor in the Grand X Plus was so much of a pain that it was really hard to use with the home button on the left when in portrait mode. The Grand X 2 solved the issue and it works as it should.

 

The ZTE Grand X 2 has pretty mainstream features overall and offers nothing less than mainstream performance and a solid 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 shoot a few pictures and share the samples.


Camera Testing:

The camera on the ZTE Grand X 2 is pretty standard for an entry-level to mid-range device. It features front and rear facing cameras that are 2MP and 8MP respectively. The current model Nexus 5, has about the same resolution, so this camera is not light-years behind, but it's not breaking any new ground either. While I am now using a Nexus 6 as my main device – which has a better camera – the ZTE Grand X 2 is pretty solid all around. 

It has a 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.

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 panorama, HDR, a collection of real-time special effects, multi-exposure, time-lapse (interval) and smile detection. It looks to be quite robust and ZTE gives you a lot of options to choose from.

 

 

 

As far as video goes, the ZTE Grand X 2 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 2 is very good. After using the Grand X Plus for a while with its 2300mAh battery, I had higher hopes for the 2480mAh battery that ships with the Grand X 2. As the screen resolution and resolution are the same, we should be able to squeeze out some more run-time out of this device. I was able to easily get two solid days out of the device as long as I didn't play too many games. 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. Battery life is a winner with this device.

In terms of size, the Grand X 2 is pretty solid for mainstream users. Of course this is subjective, but when coming from a Nexus 6, the move to the Grand X 2 is great in terms of holdability, but is hard to get used to the smaller screen size when compared to the Nexus 6. The plain-jane OS makes the transition pretty easy if you're used to Android 5.x.

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.

Z850 Back with Battery

 

When it comes to call quality, the ZTE Grand 2 performs better than my Nexus 5 but not as good as the Grand X Plus. I had a few complaints with this device that I was a bit "muffled". The call quality in ideal situations is pretty 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 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 for your entertainment pleasure and for comparison on your own devices.

GB - Z826 Grand X Plus
GeekBench - Z826 Grand X Plus

Nexus 5
GeekBench - Nexus 5

Z850 Grand X 2
GeekBench - Z850 Grand X 2

Z826 Grand X Plus
AnTuTu - Z826 Grand X Plus

Nexus 5
AnTuTu - Nexus 5

AnTuTu - Z850 Grand X 2
AnTuTu - Z850 Grand X 2

Z826 Grand X Plus
3DMark - Z826 Grand X Plus

Nexus 5
3DMark - Nexus 5

Z850 Grand X 2
3DMark - Z850 Grand X 2

 

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 these last two devices exclusively for over a month each, 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 good. The bonus of fewer pixels is that the phone is much easier on the battery and I have come to the conclusion that I'd gladly give up a few pixels for an extra day of usage.

That brings us to the battery and CPU. With a 1.21GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 400 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 and slightly better than my Nexus 6.

 

Another great feature - and really a must-have is the removable back, battery and MicroSD card slot. The Grand X 2 comes with 16GB of internal storage and supports a MicroSD card up to 32GB – 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 the majority of my experience with the ZTE Grand 2 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.

In Canada, this device will set you back $149 without a contract and for that price, you really can’t go wrong. Bell Mobility is currently stocking the device up north, and it's free on contract. For $149 you're probably better off buying it outright, but if you can't afford that, a subsidized phone is not a bad way to go. For $149, it makes a great backup device for your main phone if you drop it in a puddle, and it is more than adequate to be used as a main device by all means.

 

Battery life on this device is great. 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 days easy. Two 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 2 will 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 2 is a slight evolution of the Grand X 2 - and it does it at a slightly lower price tag - with more storage to boot. The excellent performance for the dollar you get out of this phone makes it well worth your money, and a "Gold Award" winner.

Pros:

  • Bright 5-inch IPS screen
  • Fast LTE performance
  • Quad-Core Snapdragon 1.21GHz CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Great battery life
  • Amazing value
  • Bare OS runs nice and fast
  • MicroSD slot

 

Cons:

  • Camera quality is less than I'd hoped
  • Lack of accessories such as cases and screen protectors here in North America
  • WildTangent Games installed

 

I'd like to thank ZTE Canada for sending out the Z850 for us to review. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the forum here.