The ZTE Grand X is the Chinese company's flagship own-brand Google Android phone running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
ZTE is a Chinese smartphone maker. You may not have heard the name ZTE but you may have seen some of its devices – Orange sells ZTE handsets with its own branding. Examples include the San Francisco and the Monte Carlo, also known as the ZTE Blade and ZTE Skate respectively.
The ZTE Grand X is one of a few handsets seen in the west to carry the ZTE logo, with the company aiming to raise the profile of its own name. This Android 4.0 phone is only available on Pay As You Go terms, costing £200 from Virgin Media, but promises decent gaming and multimedia performance.
The ZTE Grand X uses a typical 'candy bar' design. The front is dominated by a large 4.3in LCD touchscreen with a set of touch-sensitive buttons below it, including the now rare Search button. The smooth rounded pebble-like corners and edges make the handset comfortable in the hand.
The rear of the ZTE Grand X consists of a black plastic removable cover. This is unsurprisingly thin and bendy like most such covers. It has a textured finish to aid grip but we found it to be rather coarse and grating on the skin.
For a smartphone with a 4.3in screen the ZTE Grand X is quite compact overall. It measures 65mm x 127mm, and is 9.9mm at its thinnest, or 11.1mm where the case juts out at one point. ZTE quotes a featherweight 110g for the Grand X although our sample weighed a more believable 142g.
For a budget smartphone the Grand X has good build quality. The handset feels quite well-made and solid in construction. Seams are nicely flush and the rear cover clicks neatly into place.
The hardware buttons don't have enough feedback so you often can't tell if you've pressed them successfully or not.
The ZTE Grand X is powered by an nVidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz, with 512MB of RAM. This isn’t up to the standard of the latest quad-core Tegra 3 chips but this older processor is less surprising on a £200 PAYG phone. And it does the job.
We found the Grand X coped well in general use – and it lived up to the promise of good gaming performance too.
Built-in storage is limited to a very average 4GB, although this smartphone includes a microSD card slot for adding up to a further 32GB.
One of the main attractions of the Grand X is the 4.3in screen with its high resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. The pixel density of 256ppi means images are crisp.
There's the essential Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS but little else. You'll have to look elsewhere, and likely pay more, for features like HDMI and NFC.
The Grand X is designed for gamers not photographers. So to this end the smartphone has a very mid-range 5Mp rear camera, with 0.3Mp front camera.
The rear camera failed to impress us, with resulting images looking distinctly washed-out and grainy. Although the camera app is stock Android we experienced a painful lag when trying to take photos. In contrast, the 720p video footage was relatively smooth and detail was much better than still photos.
Meanwhile the front-facing camera is one of the worst we've seen, producing an extremely fuzzy and slow-to refresh image.
It's nice to see a smartphone come with a reasonably recent build of Android, namely version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich – provided you ignore this year’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. ZTE hasn't made any comment about future upgrades for this model.
ZTE has left Google’s software well alone, which we think is a mostly a good thing. Overlays, common on HTC and Samsung phones, can have their advantages but Ice Cream Sandwich works fine on its own. The lack of any extra eye candy means the operating system makes less demands of the hardware.
Since the Grand X runs vanilla Android 4.0, it’s like using a budget version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The main difference is in the pre-installed apps.
To get you started ZTE includes demo of Riptide GP, a fun jet-ski racing game. Other than the Google Play Store for getting more games, there's the nVidia Tegra Zone – a filter for Tegra-optimised games.
There's also Evernote for note taking, Full Share for sharing media content via DLNA and the basic X-Office. Another addition is the Dolby Mobile Control Panel which gives you music and movie settings and different pre-set styles to choose from.
The keyboard is non-standard. The TouchPal keyboard takes a bit of getting used to but works well with the option to use a Swype-style input method and a handy dedicated layout for navigation and editing.
We all want good battery life from our smartphone but it's the area in which the Grand X really failed to deliver. The removable 6.1Wh battery is a reasonable capacity but it couldn't even see us through one day of light use.
This poor performance is a very disappointing considering the phone is aimed at people wanting to play games, watch video and listen to music.
ZTE's Grand X delivers well on some levels. The combination of good specifications for less than £200 with unspoilt Android 4.0 makes it an attractive package. It will certainly play games and suits video content too. However, you should take into account the poor cameras and terminal battery life.