ZTE unveiled its first ever Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) powered handset at a London event attended by V3 on Wednesday.
Clearly having high hopes for its first ICS handset, the company claimed the Grand X will be a major milestone in its Mobile World Congress promise to become a top three smartphone provider by the end of the year.
Having gotten our hands on the device, we offer our opening impressions of the Grand X and its chances of fulfilling ZTE's ambitions.
Design and build
The Grand X has looks fairly similar to the company's recently released Tania Windows Phone, featuring the same slightly rounded corners and hardline edges and measuring in at a fairly similar 127x65x9.9mm - the Tania's dimensions by comparison are 129x68x10.5mm.
One factor that helps differentiate the device is its weight, with the Grand X being significantly lighter than the hefty 158g Tania, weighing a much more pocket friendly 110g.
Despite being lighter though, during our hands on we were impressed with the Grand X's build quality. Though it's made of plastic the Grand X felt fairly solidly built, especially when compared to ZTE's previous Skate handset.
This was largely because instead of the Skate's glossy and pliable chassis, the Grand X's case has a thicker backplate and matte finish that help make it feel significantly sturdier.
In hand the device felt fairly nice during our tests, having soft slightly curved sides and a textured backplate that let us get a decent grip on the device.
The Grand X features a 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor and boasts the now standard 1GB RAM. We found in general performance was smooth, usually taking around five seconds to load each webpage in our opening tests.
However, we did notice a few glitches navigating the main menu, with it occasionally stalling and taking a few seconds longer than we'd like to recognise our commands. We found this particularly odd considering the fact that the device managed to run the slew of games ZTE pre-installed on the device with little to no trouble.
We're hoping that the glitches in the menu were just a problem with our development demo handset and that they'll be ironed out when the Grand X is released later this August.
When it comes to displays, the Grand X features a 4.3in 960x540 qHD touch screen. Not being true 1920x1080 HD, the unit wasn't as crisp as certain other mid-tier handsets. Still, when compared to other sub-£200 handsets the display definitely held its own.
Additionally, during the event a ZTE spokesman promised us that the handset was designed to be legible even in bright, sunlit conditions - though unfortunately we didn't get to test this during our hands on.
Operating system and software
The Grand X is the first ZTE phone to run using Google's Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. During the demo it looked like ZTE has made few changes to the operating system, with the user interface looking fairly similar to the one seen on Google's own brand Galaxy Nexus handset. We're hoping this will remain true come the release and that ZTE won't overload its new flagship with a load of custom unwanted bloatware.
In fact one of the only additions we saw was Nvidia's Tegra Zone, a custom store that grants access to a portfolio of game titles not available on the standard Play store. Adding to this, the device also comes with Dolby sound technology which aims to boost the device's audio quality, though again we didn't get a chance to test the feature during our hands on.
In terms of cameras, the device features a 5MP rear facing camera backed up by a 0.3MP front facing unit. Taking a few brief snaps in the dim, low-lit basement where our demo took place we were reasonably impressed with the photo quality, with the device's flash helping ensure the photos looked reasonable, if a little oversaturated.
Battery and storage
Powering the Grand is a fairly reasonable 1650mAh battery that the company promises should last at least a full day's use. In terms of storage the device packs 4GB of internal storage that can be upgraded via the Grand X's micro-SD card slot.
ZTE already has a fairly solid, albeit understated UK presence with several network carriers, like Orange, having released its products using alternative names and branding them with their own logos - the Skate for example is better known in the UK as the Orange Monte Carlo.
Building on this pre-existing presence while we're not sure the Grand X will markedly improve ZTE's overall market share, we are fairly optimistic at its chances of snapping up a significant share of the budget handset market.
The Grand X is set for release in August via Phones 4 U on Virgin Media with a rough £190 price tag. Check back with V3 closer to the time for a full review of the device.
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