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Thread: Our ZTE Grand X Plus review

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    Our ZTE Grand X Plus review

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    *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 didn’t suck.

    The bar was raised In 2014; for the same money you could now pick up something with a quad-core processor, 5” HD display and a 8 megapixel autofocus camera: I’m 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 5” HD display and 8 megapixel camera. LTE makes these phones more attractive to carriers but as far as I’m 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 5” display, 8 megapixel camera, quad-core processor AND LTE. You don’t have to make any compromises! You get all this for $200 from Fido.

    What about the Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen?

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    Compared to the Plus, the Moto G has similar specs but you actually have to pay $50 more and give up LTE.

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    Raw deal right? Not so fast, while it’s 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 Motorola’s (and ZTE’s) track record, the G will probably receive Android updates more frequently than the Plus.

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    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, I’m talking about the Canadian version of the ZTE Grand X, the Z933 which has a 5” HD display, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5 MP camera.

    Don’t 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 X’s 200. The 200 just isn’t up to the task of driving a 1280x720 HD display which results in a choppy user experience.

    Specs:

    • 5” IPS display
    • 1280x720
    • 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
    • 150g
    • 2300mAh battery
    • LTE band 4/7/17 up to 100Mbps
    • HSPA 850/1800/2100Mhz
    • WiFi 802.11N (2.4Ghz only)
    • Bluetooth 4.0


    Body:

    At a glance, the Plus looks pretty similar to Grand X (Z933). Both have 5” displays and have similar curves. However, upon closer scrutiny, the Plus’ body has a couple of improvements.

    First off, the power button has migrated from it’s 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 Plus’ 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 doesn’t snap on like most other phones. While I didn’t try it, it gives you the feeling that it’s going to fly off if you drop it.

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    The paint job on the back doesn’t fill me with confidence. It gets dirty very easily and is hard to clean off. It feels like it won’t 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 don’t hit them by accident. It also makes the screen bigger since the bottom part isn’t covered up with menu keys.

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    Behind the battery cover are a 2300mAh battery along with the MicroSD and MicroSIM slots.

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    Check it out, the Plus is “designed in Canada”. 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 “designed in Canada” aspect is interesting.

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    Power button on the right.

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    Volume buttons on the left.

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    MicroUSB port on the bottom.

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    Headphone jack on top.

    Display:

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    Like it’s competitors, the Plus has a 5”, 1280x720 IPS display. Ditto for the quality of the display.

    It’s not as bright as a flagship phone but it’s definitely bright enough for everyday use. Colours look nice and view angles are good enough. We’re 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 PPI’s of over 400 but to my eyes, the difference between 400+ and 290PPI is a lot smaller than you’d think. The Plus’ 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 you’re 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 didn’t notice them.

    Camera:

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    On the back is an 8 megapixel, autofocus camera with LED flash. I have a confession; I wasn’t expecting too much so in that sense, I was pretty impressed with the Plus’ camera. No, it’s as good as the iPhone 6 Plus (which concidently costs 4 - 6x what the Grand X Plus costs) but it’s capable of taking decent pics.

    It doesn’t blow out pictures like the Moto X 2nd gen does nor does it over-saturate to the degree the Alcatel Idol 2S does.

    It’s 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, I’m guessing it’s the equivalent to around 28 or 30mm on a 35mm camera.

    Despite the $200 price tag, this isn’t some budget basement 8 megapixel sensor - it’s surprisingly good.

    The camcorder can record at 1080P (Moto G only does 720P). Video quality was acceptable but the digital stabilization wasn’t very effective and the microphone picks up a lot of handling noise.

    Software:

    The Plus makes do with Android 4.4. It’s not the latest version but I guess there aren’t that many phones shipping with Lollipop at this point so this should be no surprise.

    I’m not sure if the Plus will receive any updates, I have a Grand X from a few months ago and it’s still on 4.3 so manage your expectations accordingly.

    You get ZTE’s custom launcher which isn’t 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 - “no i” noticed that the home screen has a background picture blur feature (press and hold the back button and then swipe up). You can “bokeh” up your pictures.

    You get Google’s apps and then ZTE’s versions of them. So, you get 2 browsers, 2 music players, 2 image viewers.

    While the Plus doesn’t feel too bloated, I noticed that it only has 4.5GB of usable storage vs 5.5GB on the Moto G 2nd gen so there’s something using up an extra GB of space. Hmmm…

    Like other Android phones, there’s a hotspot feature so you can use the Plus to get other devices connected. I could be wrong here but I haven’t seen Plus’ WPS feature on other phones. You can use WPS to easily connect other devices to it.

    Performance:

    Powering the show is a quad-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. You’ll 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 you’d expect from a 400. There’s 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).

    Media Capabilities:

    There’s a single speaker on the back. While I wouldn’t say it’s 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 year’s 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. There’s 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 there’s a blanket covering it.

    As a Phone:

    Sound quality is good. RF performance is average.

    Maximum earpiece volume is average - it’s 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 5” 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.

    Conclusion:

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    Let’s get this out of the way, I’m floored at what a good deal the ZTE Grand X Plus is. Aside from the back cover which feels a little cheap, there’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s 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 don’t really need to wait for the next flagship to get a phone that can do everything you need it to. Okay, that’s not really a problem for us consumers but it’s 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.

    Pros:

    • Camera
    • Display
    • Price
    • LTE
    • 2GB of RAM


    Cons:

    • Back cover feels cheap
    • Headphone jack sound awful
    Last edited by howard; 02-09-2015 at 02:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    Fellow HC,

    I remember way back then when ZTE shook hands with TELUS, they claims to develop the device tailored for Canadian market. Perhaps they really do have the R&D team here to work on certain aspects of the design.

    Regarding the background blur for the wallpaper, that feature actually impresses me more than just a gimmick because sometimes I want to focus on the labels of the icons on the home screen. Some pictures may make them hard to read. It reminds of some custom launchers like Yahoo! Aviate, which has got the same feature to blur the background wallpaper in some screens.

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    ^ From Left to Right: Nexus 6, Moto G (2nd Gen), Grand X Plus
    --

    HC - NO "i"
    I am NOT "the" HC, we are TWO different individuals!


    "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing!" - Jon Stewart, Comedian

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    Thank you for the review. I am really interested in getting this phone and I'd like to ask you for more details if you don't mind.
    1. The ZTE website lists 2 GB of RAM while you're saying it has only 1 GB! so which one is true?
    2. Can you provide more details on the call quality through the earpiece and the headphones. Is the sound clear and crisp? is the low volume makes it hard to hear the other side?
    3. How's the performance of the standalone GPS? How much time does it take to lock (without Data or Wifi)? How accurate is it?
    This information would help me make a decision. Thank you in advance.

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    I just can't see spending $200 on these type entry level phones, when you can buy 18 month old flagships new on ebay for around the same or a little more. What you get is better specs, better build quality, better support on the forums and a brand name. You can get a first gen Moto X for $160-$175 new now on ebay. A new Note 2 or LG G2 for a tad over $200 if you are patient, a Motorola Droid MAXX or HTC Droid DNA for under $200, new. These phones are much better all around. For the discerning cell phone shopper it's worth it to skip over these type of cost -cutting phones. On the other hand, the $200 Zenfone 2 coming out.. makes the ZTE look like kids play in every way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie500 View Post
    I just can't see spending $200 on these type entry level phones, when you can buy 18 month old flagships new on ebay for around the same or a little more. What you get is better specs, better build quality, better support on the forums and a brand name. You can get a first gen Moto X for $160-$175 new now on ebay. A new Note 2 or LG G2 for a tad over $200 if you are patient, a Motorola Droid MAXX or HTC Droid DNA for under $200, new. These phones are much better all around. For the discerning cell phone shopper it's worth it to skip over these type of cost -cutting phones. On the other hand, the $200 Zenfone 2 coming out.. makes the ZTE look like kids play in every way.
    You're probably right. But the thing is I have 85 FidoDollars that I can spend toward the purchase of this phone which makes it very tempting given the specs.

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    While I respect the opinion of many on this forum, do what you need to do, and what's best for you.
    Un-Rogered, and getting better 'value'.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaNet View Post
    You're probably right. But the thing is I have 85 FidoDollars that I can spend toward the purchase of this phone which makes it very tempting given the specs.
    $60, after the $25 upgrade fee.

    FIDO $60/10GB + 5 hours unlimited data
    WIND $15 AITF unlimited data (10GB full speed)


    All my posts are my own opinion only and not necessarily that of any of my employers, past or present.

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    I am a visitor to Canada and will stay here for like 6 months, so I just phoned a Fido store and asked about ZTE Grand X plus. The man worked there told me that I have to pay $50 extra fees to unlock this phone, that is, it is actually $250 before taxes, but the other friend told me that if I buy it online from Fido website, I don't have to pay the unlocking fees. Since I am new here, could anyone tell me more about it? Thanks a lot.

    --Jack

  9. #9
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    You'll still pay for the unlock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CGY Guy View Post
    You'll still pay for the unlock.
    Thank you very much for your quick reply
    ZTE is still a great choice anyway

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    Quote Originally Posted by CGY Guy View Post
    You'll still pay for the unlock.
    I went to a Fido store this afternoon,and tried the ZTE phone for quite a while;
    however, the sales told me that I have to have a Fido account to unlock the phone.
    It will charge me like $10 for a sim card plus $50 in the account, then I will pay another $50 to unlock the device.
    That is, it will cost over $300 to get the phone without any restrictions. After that, the sales is not happy to do so, and he suggested that I should buy an unlocked phone somewhere. Honestly, I don't quite understand the policy, or maybe I misunderstand his words. Could anyone here give me more details about it? Thank you.

  12. #12
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    Canada providers don't like having people who can change companies. They want to tie you to their service, which is why you pay so much to do all these things. It's BS.

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    Will this eventually got Lollipop?

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    A cheaper way to unlock is to use any 3rd party website. By this you get it unlocked in less cheaper. like i use phoneunlockingshop.ca

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