If you haven't got much money to spend on a smartphone then the Blade V might be just what you're looking for. It cost just £72 on a Pay As You Go basis from Virgin Media –that's cheap especially for what's on offer here.
ZTE Blade V: Design and build quality
For the price, the Blade V is an attractive little smartphone. It's chunky at 10.3mm but fairly light at 130g. It's a nice size for one-handed use and the curved rear cover allows it to sit well.
The buttons are laid out in a typical fashion and although the microUSB port is on the side, this is no real bother. What we found more of a problem is the power button which is too small and doesn't have enough travel to it.
The Blade V looks plain from the front with fairly fat bezels and a large camera lens above the screen. However, on the back it looks quite stylish with a brushed aluminium effect in a nice blue colour and a silver bezel around the camera.
Although the handset feels strong and quite robust, it does also feel plastic and tacky – something fairly common with budget devices. The rear cover is removable giving access to the SIM-card slot, removable battery and microSD card slot.
ZTE Blade V: Hardware and performance
For today's standard, the Blade V's screen is pretty small at 4in. But unlike most Android smartphones, the navigation buttons are below the screen rather than on it meaning more of the real estate is utilised. It has a typically low resolution of 480 x 800 which means a pixel density of 233ppi.
This matches most budget handsets like the Nokia Lumia 520 and Huawei Ascend G330, but Motorola has thrown a spanner into the works with the Moto G which has a 720p resolution for a much crisper experience. It also outperforms in many other areas.
The Blade V is one of the cheapest phones around with a quad-core processor. In this case, it's a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon which is accompanied by 1GB of RAM. For a budget smartphone the performance is good, above average. However, it's not without problems. The interface does lag fairly often when switching between apps, for example.
Storage is a real issue with the Blade V. It's only got 4GB of internal storage and only a quarter of this is available to the user. Luckily there is a microSD card slot which can accept up to 32GB so this will be a must.
A 5Mp camera at the rear of the Blade V has an LED flash. There are three filters you can apply and a panorama mode to experiment with. However, we don't rate the snapper highly. It produces low levels of detail in good lighting and struggles to focus. Video footage can only be captured at 480p which doesn't look good and the camera continually refocuses. The front facing camera is a lowly VGA resolution but produces a better image than we expected. Here's our test photo and video.
Click to enlarge
ZTE Blade V: Software
The Blade V is somewhat behind the times when it comes to software, running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. There's full access to the Google Play store for apps, games and media content but newer features like Google Now and lockscreen widgets are missing.
Despite being fairly vanilla, ZTE has customised some of the software interface on the Blade V. A very different looking lockscreen gives a green button which has petal-like sections to access apps. A long press unlocks the phone rather than the traditional swipe. We like the quick settings available in the notifications bar.
The firm also pre-loads a number of apps onto the phone including Kingsoft Office, World Time, Torch, Accuweather, Amazon Kindle, Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, they can't be uninstalled.
ZTE Blade V: Battery life
With a 6.6Wh battery inside the Blade V, we didn't expect anything special in terms of battery life, and we we're justified in our findings. Users are most likely to get a day out of the handset before needing to recharge it. Lighter users may find themselves getting two days.