*Update* the Grand X Plus Z826 actually comes with 2GB of RAM, not 1GB like I stated originally.
In late 2013, an interesting trend emerged in the marketplace; Motorola released the Moto G which was the first relatively inexpensive phone that didnít suck.
The bar was raised In 2014; for the same money you could now pick up something with a quad-core processor, 5Ē HD display and a 8 megapixel autofocus camera: Iím talking phones like the ZTE Grand X (Z933 - Canadian version) or the Blu Studio 5.0C HD.
Later in 2014 we got different permutations on this formula; The HTC Desire 510 and Nokia Lumia 635 added LTE but they forced you to give up the 5Ē HD display and 8 megapixel camera. LTE makes these phones more attractive to carriers but as far as Iím concerned, trading these 2 features to get LTE is just not worth it.
Now we have the ZTE Grand X Plus (Z826). With the Plus you get a 5Ē display, 8 megapixel camera, quad-core processor AND LTE. You donít have to make any compromises! You get all this for $200 from Fido.
What about the Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen?
Compared to the Plus, the Moto G has similar specs but you actually have to pay $50 more and give up LTE.
Raw deal right? Not so fast, while itís not the most solid phone around, the G definitely feels more solid in my hand. It also has a louder earpiece, better sounding headphone jack and much better speakers. Also, given Motorolaís (and ZTEís) track record, the G will probably receive Android updates more frequently than the Plus.
If you can look past the Plus' weaknesses, the real clincher is that the Plus comes with 2GB of RAM. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other phones that comes with 2GB of RAM for this price.
What about the ZTE Grand X (Z933)?
Just to clarify, Iím talking about the Canadian version of the ZTE Grand X, the Z933 which has a 5Ē HD display, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5 MP camera.
Donít let the higher model number fool you; Z826 > Z933. The Grand X Plus has a much better camera, 2GB of RAM, LTE and most importantly, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 instead of the Grand Xís 200. The 200 just isnít up to the task of driving a 1280x720 HD display which results in a choppy user experience.
- 5Ē IPS display
- 1.2Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC
- Adreno 305 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 8GB Storage
- 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash
- 2MP front facing camera
- Android 4.4
- 144.6 x 73.9 x 9.6mm
- 2300mAh battery
- LTE band 4/7/17 up to 100Mbps
- HSPA 850/1800/2100Mhz
- WiFi 802.11N (2.4Ghz only)
- Bluetooth 4.0
At a glance, the Plus looks pretty similar to Grand X (Z933). Both have 5Ē displays and have similar curves. However, upon closer scrutiny, the Plusí body has a couple of improvements.
First off, the power button has migrated from itís perch at the top of the phone to the right side. I also like how the MicroUSB has moved from the side and is now centered on the bottom. This makes the Plus much easier to plug in at night.
As for the build quality, like the X, the Plusí body and finishes feel a half step behind the competition. The back cover feels thin and has a bit of give to it. When you remove and attach the cover, it doesnít snap on like most other phones. While I didnít try it, it gives you the feeling that itís going to fly off if you drop it.
The paint job on the back doesnít fill me with confidence. It gets dirty very easily and is hard to clean off. It feels like it wonít take much to scuff it up.
I was kind of surprised that the volume and power buttons have a nice feel to them.
Ergonomics are good, most people will be able to use the Plus with one hand. The menu keys are placed closer to the middle so you donít hit them by accident. It also makes the screen bigger since the bottom part isnít covered up with menu keys.
Behind the battery cover are a 2300mAh battery along with the MicroSD and MicroSIM slots.
Check it out, the Plus is ďdesigned in CanadaĒ. Was the phone designed from scratch here? Or did a product manager from Fido specify that the Plus needed to have support for a certain LTE band? Who knows but the ďdesigned in CanadaĒ aspect is interesting.
Power button on the right.
Volume buttons on the left.
MicroUSB port on the bottom.
Headphone jack on top.
Like itís competitors, the Plus has a 5Ē, 1280x720 IPS display. Ditto for the quality of the display.
Itís not as bright as a flagship phone but itís definitely bright enough for everyday use. Colours look nice and view angles are good enough. Weíre now at the point where the choice between an inexpensive phone and a flagship is whether you want a nice display or an awesome one.
Screen sharpness clocks in at just over 290PPI. These days flagships have PPIís of over 400 but to my eyes, the difference between 400+ and 290PPI is a lot smaller than youíd think. The Plusí display is very sharp.
Compared to the Moto G, the saturation on the Plus is dialled back a tiny bit (not a bad thing). When youíre viewing black, the Plus screen is slightly more evenly lit. I did notice that the Plus had 2 lit sub pixels. One was red and the other was red. I only noticed this when the screen was all black. Under normal circumstances I didnít notice them.
On the back is an 8 megapixel, autofocus camera with LED flash. I have a confession; I wasnít expecting too much so in that sense, I was pretty impressed with the Plusí camera. No, itís as good as the iPhone 6 Plus (which concidently costs 4 - 6x what the Grand X Plus costs) but itís capable of taking decent pics.
It doesnít blow out pictures like the Moto X 2nd gen does nor does it over-saturate to the degree the Alcatel Idol 2S does.
Itís not bad in the dark and manages to do so without excessive noise.
Focusing is pretty fast and shot to shot speeds are good for the class.
The lens had a fairly wide angle, Iím guessing itís the equivalent to around 28 or 30mm on a 35mm camera.
Despite the $200 price tag, this isnít some budget basement 8 megapixel sensor - itís surprisingly good.
The camcorder can record at 1080P (Moto G only does 720P). Video quality was acceptable but the digital stabilization wasnít very effective and the microphone picks up a lot of handling noise.
The Plus makes do with Android 4.4. Itís not the latest version but I guess there arenít that many phones shipping with Lollipop at this point so this should be no surprise.
Iím not sure if the Plus will receive any updates, I have a Grand X from a few months ago and itís still on 4.3 so manage your expectations accordingly.
You get ZTEís custom launcher which isnít too heavy.
The most noticeable features are that the lock screen has been changed so that you just have to press and hold it to unlock or press and hold the lock screen apps to launch them.
HC - ďno iĒ noticed that the home screen has a background picture blur feature (press and hold the back button and then swipe up). You can ďbokehĒ up your pictures.
You get Googleís apps and then ZTEís versions of them. So, you get 2 browsers, 2 music players, 2 image viewers.
While the Plus doesnít feel too bloated, I noticed that it only has 4.5GB of usable storage vs 5.5GB on the Moto G 2nd gen so thereís something using up an extra GB of space. HmmmÖ
Like other Android phones, thereís a hotspot feature so you can use the Plus to get other devices connected. I could be wrong here but I havenít seen Plusí WPS feature on other phones. You can use WPS to easily connect other devices to it.
Powering the show is a quad-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. Youíll find the same SoC in the Moto G 2nd gen and the Alcatel Idol 2S along with many other mid-range phones a lot of which cost more than $200.
Benchmarks are pretty much what youíd expect from a 400. Thereís really nothing to see.
The Snapdragon 400 is perfectly adequate to the task of driving the HD display. In the Plus it offers reasonably smooth performance. Apps load quickly and I never got the feeling that it was struggling (except when running very high-end benchmarks).
Thereís a single speaker on the back. While I wouldnít say itís terrible the best thing I can say about it is that its serviceable - the front facing speakers on the 2nd gen Moto G blows it away.
Unlike many of last yearís sub-$200 phones, the Plus comes with 8GB of storage instead of just 4GB. You can expand the storage with MicroSD cards.
The headphone jack sounds awful. Thereís some sort of signal processing going on that over-emphasizes the bass and pretty much ruins everything else. Everything except the bass sounds muddy like thereís a blanket covering it.
As a Phone:
Sound quality is good. RF performance is average.
Maximum earpiece volume is average - itís slightly quieter than the Moto G 2nd gen. Mxximum speakerphone volume is also slightly quieter than the G.
You get a 2300mAh battery on a phone with a 5Ē display and LTE. I think regular users (Normobs)
can get a full day while power users will have to top off halfway through the day.
Letís get this out of the way, Iím floored at what a good deal the ZTE Grand X Plus is. Aside from the back cover which feels a little cheap, thereís nothing really wrong with it. Itís got all the features most users want and for the most part, the features work just fine.
One problem if you could call it that is that phones in general have reached a point where we donít really need to wait for the next flagship to get a phone that can do everything you need it to. Okay, thatís not really a problem for us consumers but itís a problem for manufacturers like Samsung who want to charge you $700 for a phone.
And guess what, phones like the ZTE are the source of that problem. Yes, a flagship is better, but the ZTE is good enough.
- 2GB of RAM
- Back cover feels cheap
- Headphone jack sound awful