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Android smartphones Reviews
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ZTE Blade 3 review: A budget Android smartphone with a stylish design

£79 on PAYG

Manufacturer: ZTE

Our Rating: We rate this 3 out of 5

ZTE's latest addition to the Blade family is the Blade 3, but does this £79 Android smartphone have anything to offer beyond a budget price? Read our ZTE Blade 3 review to find out.

ZTE Blade 3 smartphone

ZTE's latest addition to the Blade family is the Blade 3, but does this £79 Android smartphone have anything to offer beyond a budget price? Read our ZTE Blade 3 review to find out.

See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?

ZTE Blade 3: Design and build quality

The Blade 3 has a simplistic yet fairly stylish design. In many ways it looks like your typical smartphone with everything where you would expect it to be. We like the use of various colours tones of black, silver and grey.

Unlike modern handsets, the Blade 3 has four touch sensitive buttons beneath the screen. We tend to expect three now, but ZTE has opted to sit search alongside menu, home and back buttons.

On the whole, the Blade 3 feels like well-made and solid smartphone. We're never fans of the kind of plastic removable rear cover which is present here but it does at least clip on well and isn't quite as thin as some. This phone certainly doesn't feel like a £79 piece of kit. Visit Group test: What's the best Android phone?

ZTE Blade 3: Hardware and performance

We weren't impressed with the performance of the ZTE Blade 3, not at all. Even budget phones with low specifications can provide a reasonably good experience around the operating system, like the MobiWire Gemini.

However, the Blade 3 is laggy even when given the simplest of tasks like opening the app menu. The handset consistently jerks and judders as you navigate the Android interface. There's also a delay of second or two when opening basic apps and menus, let alone more complex tasks.

ZTE Blade 3 smartphone side

The 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM gave us a truly dire score of 432 in GeekBench 2 which is among the worst we've seen. Furthermore, the 4.4fps result in GLBenchmark was equally unimpressive.

To round off the poor effort, the Blade 3 offered a time of 2611ms in SunSpider. Browsing the internet is a frustrating experience on this smartphone.

This isn’t exactly surprising given the Blade 3's rock bottom price, but the Huawei Ascend G330 isn't much more and won't frustrate on a daily basis.

While the 4in screen has reasonable brightness and viewing angles are good for a non-IPS panel. The resolution of 480 x 800 is uninspiring, though. And a pixel density of 233ppi is nothing to shout about. We also found the screen difficult to see outdoor, but considering the budget price tag attached to the Blade 3, the handset is punching above its weight here.

Storage is extremely limited at just under 2.5GB available to the user. But we can't complain too much as the Blade 3 has a microSD card slot.

Connectivity includes Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Wi-Fi and a build-in FM radio. We didn't expect anything more.

ZTE Blade 3: Camera

That's right, we said camera because there is only one on offer here. The solo rear facing camera is a 5Mp snapper, higher than we expected to see for the bargain basement price.

Photographs can be good quality, but you have to take your time with the device, giving the Blade 3 plenty of time to focus and then take the shot. This is fine for still objects but anything moving faster than the tortoise will be difficult to capture well. Even then, we quite often took a picture of the floor because we thought the camera had finished taking the photo.

ZTE Blade 3 test photo

A camera like this needs good light conditions to take good photos, with no LED flash you've got no hope in low-light situations. We filmed the test video at default settings which means a poor resolution of QVGA but the camera is capable of recording in up to VGA quality. We assume this default setting is to keep file size down and stop the small internal storage filling up quickly.

ZTE Blade 3: Software

The Blade 3 runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with a modified user interface. In general, everything is where you expected it to be but there are a few differences.ZTE Blade 3 Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The lockscreen appears to be simplistic. Unlocking the phone is done with a long press of a button but pinch outwards on this with two fingers (awkward to do when using the phone with one hand) and you get a six shortcuts to apps in a flower arrangement. These can be closed with in inwards pinch and customised with the Mi EasyShare app.

The notifications bar has a horizontal and scrollable list of quick settings including Wi-Fi, data, sync, airplane mode and brightness.

There's little else that's different. As we mentioned earlier, there are four buttons below the screen compared to the usual three. With no dedicated multi-tasking button, this part of Android is accessed by long pressing the home button. While this is perfectly fine, it's not immediately obvious.

As well as the usual pre-loaded Google apps, ZTE has added a few of its own. These include X-Office, Mi EasyAccess, SMS alerts, Hot Deals, Evernote and Full Share. ZTE also adds a couple of its own widgets but we didn't find these, along with the apps, all that useful.

The main problem, as we pointed out in the previous section, is that the Android OS does not run well on the Blade 3. Yes, the phone is dirt cheap but it's worth paying extra to avoid the kind of unresponsiveness which will really grate.

ZTE Blade 3: Battery life

Sometimes budget smartphones can offer the kind of long battery life which is out of reach for flagship and high-end devices with their power-hungry components. However, the 5.9Wh (1600mAh) could only offer us a day of usage, nothing more. While this is expected of a smartphone, we feel ZTE has missed a trick here.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

ZTE Blade 3 Expert Verdict »
Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
4in WVGA (480x800) touchscreen
1GHz Qualcomm MSM 7227 A processor
4GB internal storage (2.5GB accessible)
512MB RAM
microSD card (up to 32GB)
5Mp rear camera (VGA video)
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
GPS
FM Radio
Removable 5.9Wh Li-ion battery
64x123x10.5mm
132g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 7 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 6 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 9 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 4 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 6 of 10 overall

While we find the ZTE Blade 3 and stylish and well-built handset for its budget price, its poor performance means that the Huawei Ascend G330 remains the best budget Android smartphone around and is worth the extra £20.

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