[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]
ZTE’s Blade line gets a lighter version of the V7, but will the Blade V7 Lite live up to its bigger brother?
Ranking as one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world for sheer handset models, ZTE is slowly beginning to carve a lineup of solid handsets in the UK. Spanning everything from budget to premium, the Blade V7 Lite sits firmly at the bottom end of the range, costing just £149.99 SIM-free. It’s a crowded market down there, so does it have what it takes to stand out? Lets find out…
OS Android Marshmallow 6.0
Processor MediaTek MT6735P
Screen 5.0 inches
Resolution 1280 x 720 (294 PPI)
Memory 2 GB RAM
Micro SD compatible Yes, up to 256GB
Rear camera 13MP
Front camera 8MP
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3G, 4G LTE
Dimensions 144 x 70 x 7.9mm
Battery 2,500 mAh
[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]
With an all-glass front panel, the ZTE Blade V7 Lite looks like an attractive buy. From the front, you could be fooled for thinking that it has a bezel-less display, such is the size of that black screen. As it turns out, there’s another inner bezel several millimetres thick which you’ll only notice when the handset is turned on. It gives the device a deceptively impressive appearance and we were a little disappointed to find out it was only for show. Having those huge black borders around the side of the panel actually looks worse than having bezels, as it ruins the minimal design language that the ZTE Blade V7 Lite mostly gets right.
A single circular button sits under the panel itself, glowing when you have an incoming notification. The other two buttons only illuminate under use, preferring to spend the rest of their time hidden away unless necessary. Above the panel, you’ll find the earpiece and front camera sensor, plus a proximity sensor and lamp The inclusion of the latter is always a welcome feature, as it makes those late night video calls to friends across the globe a little easier.
The back and sides are both finished in aluminium, with power button and volume controls flanking either side of the device. There’s also a dual SIM tray, with the second port doubling as a microSD card reader. On the bottom, you’ll find a micro USB connector for plugging in the charging cable, while a headphone jack sits at the top. The back of the device features a ZTE at the bottom, with two speakers either side. As far as we could tell only the left one is functional, with the right speaker simply there for design symmetry. There’s also a fingerprint reader, which we’re happy to report feels snappy and responsive.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]
The ZTE Blade V7 Lite has the same 13 megapixel rear sensor found in its bigger brother, however it lacks phase detection autofocus. There’s also no optical image stabilisation, though shots don’t feel quite as shaky when compared to similar handsets. Focusing was generally really good, with even our macro shot pulling out a fair amount of detail.
Our test images showed a decent performer that managed to perform satisfactory under most conditions, though there was still a few areas that still could be improved. There’s plenty of colour and vibrancy in the images which helps them to look exciting, though it can border on overkill with subtle information lost as a result. Likewise, images with a stark contrast between light and dark also showed missing detail in the shadow areas.
It performed surprisingly well in our low-light shot, with the mascot coming through well. It was able to pick up a small amount of colour information and even some detail, though image noise and artefacts were clearly visible.
The 8 megapixel front camera sounds good on paper but unfortunately takes very washed out, dull images. While detail was generally okay, it made our faces look pretty unflattering and pale. The inclusion of a front lamp is something we always like to see, as it helps to illuminate video calls when things get a little dark.
The camera application on the ZTE Blade V7 Lite is very impressive, featuring a plethora of controls at your disposal ranging from ISO to white balance. All of these are neatly arranged along the bottom for easy access, which makes a nice change from other manufacturers who tend to hide them in busy menus. There’s also other controls for focus modes and grids, which will all appeal to the professional photographers out there.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]
The screen is about what you’d expect from a budget device, with a 5.0-inch 720p panel equating to 293 pixels-per-inch. This is only slightly under the print standard, so pixelation should be pretty much unnoticeable. We found the colour reproduction of the panel to be very good, with no noticeable hues aside from a subtle red tint in the blue details. One thing that did disappoint us however was the evidence of heavy sharpening, which seemed to have the undesirable effect of obscuring fine details by introducing edge artefacts. It’s common for smartphone manufacturers to implement such features on lower resolution panels in an attempt to make them look more detailed, but the effect here is far too aggressive for our tastes. Screen brightness for the ZTE Blade V7 Lite seemed perfectly acceptable, with enough to see it under most outdoor conditions.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]
Featuring a MediaTek MT6735P processor, performance should be roughly equivalent to devices running the last generation Snapdragon 410. The latter is quite an old chip by today’s standards, having debuted way back in 2014. The 2GB RAM will no doubt help this perform a little better than older handsets which only included half that amount… but this is by no means a quick device.
Benchmark scores reflect this, with 427 recorded for single-core and 1190 for multi-core in Geekbench 4. These are okay results but nothing special. Looking at the table, this puts it in the same league as the HTC Desire 510, yet another handset which ran on the Snapdragon 410.
Thankfully, Android 6.0 is now optimised to make use of low-end hardware. We found general performance perfectly fine, with apps opening with only slight delay. Hot-switching between various backgrounds apps did introduce a little more lag but again, the effects were tolerable. We’ve experienced far worse on other budget devices.
The included Mali-T720 is a pretty poor graphics card that really reflects the performance of this chipset. Trying our go-to title of Asphalt 8: Airborne was pretty disappointing, with the handset even struggling on medium settings. Graphical benchmark tests also failed pretty miserably, with a 3DMark score of 79. This is among some of lowest scores we’ve recorded in recent memory, which is a reflection of the poor processor on board.
The ZTE Blade V7 Lite runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, along with the MiFavor 3.0 overlay. It’s not a bad launcher by any means and performs well, with good levels of optimisation. It’s just a shame that the company didn’t ship the newest version 4.0. The experience is much closer to stock Android than other launchers from other manufacturers but still carries a few subtle differences worth mentioning.
The notification bar at the top of the page has been re-arranged with a smaller footprint, while the app tray is completely absent. One thing we’ve always liked about thw ZTE UI is just how customisable it can be, with the ability to edit everything from iconography to colour pallet. Taping the back key will bring up a menu along the bottom which includes several options, though it never feels messy and overbearing. We were also surprised to see the Swiftkey keyboard installed as standard, which is much better than the OEM crap that other manufacturers like to shove down our throats.
Bloatware is moderate but thankfully most of it is removable. ZTE will try to lean you into using their own web browser but Chrome can be found hidden in the Google folder. All the other basic applications such as Contacts and Messaging seem to be stock Google, which is why we’ve only classed it as moderate.
The ZTE Blade V7 Lite has a modest sized non-removable battery at 2,500mAh, which is on a par with most other budget devices. It scored 7474 on the Antutu battery test, which is not incredible but definitely acceptable. In our real-world test, it seemed to manage a full day of modest use before needing any extra juice.
The lack of any quick-charging support is a major disappointment, with the handset taking a very long time to charge. We found it to take almost two hours for a general charge; this extends to over three hours when the device is completely dead.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Conclusion[/highlight]
A solid build quality and acceptable camera help this phone to stand out against similar budget handsets, but overall performance can feel slow and sluggish at times. If ZTE had included a slightly better processor, the Blade V7 Lite would’ve made a very attractive package. As it stands, this is just another good budget phone.