ZTE Blade V Review

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ZTE Blade V

The Blade V is ZTE's latest dirt-cheap smartphone. It's just £100 on prepay (and only £130 SIM-free), which makes it one of the least expensive Android smartphones out there.

The Blade V even has an up-to-date specification. There's a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 840MB RAM and a 4in 800x480-pixel screen - all perfectly reasonable mid-range stuff, although the tiny 1GB onboard storage means you'll definitely need a microSD card. It's a fairly chunky handset which is all about the plastic, but it feels like it should survive a tumble or two and the slightly raised top and bottom should help protect the screen if the phone is dropped face down. The phone's performance doesn't really live up to its on-paper spec.

There's a hesitation when you open the app tray, and the animation is jerky. The Blade V took 2,844ms to complete the Sunspider JavaScript test using its default browser and 2,618ms when we switched to Google Chrome - both some of the slowest scores we've seen. This showed to a certain extent when browsing complicated web pages, where Chrome was jerky when scrolling around. It also took over 15 seconds to render www.guardian.co.uk, compared to 8s for a top-of-the-range Sony Xperia Z1. It's nothing we weren't expecting from a budget phone, though, and it feels significantly quicker than other Android phones in the same price range, such as the Huawei Ascend Y300.

The Blade V also struggled to play back 1080p video files, but was fine with 720p. We were more impressed with the phone's IPS LCD display. Colours are accurate with little colour cast and pure whites, and you couldn't see much in the way of backlight bleed from the edges. There's not a huge amount of contrast, though, and the display suffers badly from reflections. ZTE has customized Android 4.1 to a certain degree, but this mainly extends to the use of some cheesy icons for contacts and the web browser on the home screen launcher.

The Blade V has a 5-megapixel camera, and it's impressive and disappointing in equal measure. On the one hand, out door shots showed a large amount of detail and a level of colour accuracy on a par with more expensive phones. On the other, shots were highly overexposed, even on a relatively dim and wet day. The camera takes 640x480-resolution videos in the old-school .3gp format, and they're blocky and grainy. ZTE's Blade V isn't perfect, but considering its price it's still a perfectly adequate handset. It can do everything most Android phones can do, just without much panache. However, as there's nothing at this price to touch it, especially if you buy it on Virgin prepay, it wins a Budget Buy award.
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