The ZTE Avid 4G gives you a lot of horsepower for $149, and it’s an ideal smartphone for heavy Web browsing on MetroPCS’s low-cost network. But almost every one of its other features is lackluster, so you should know what you’re getting into here. With your eyes open, you’ll probably appreciate the value.
I’m not recommending that anyone buy a high-end phone on MetroPCS right now. That’s because in June, if the merger with T-Mobile goes through, MetroPCS will stop selling its existing CDMA-based lineup and will switch over to a brand-new lineup of GSM phones. The CDMA phones will still work until 2015, but the older network will be neglected and, eventually, turned off. So anyone buying a Metro phone right now should expect to buy a new one in early 2014 to take advantage of the new post-merger network. (This has also rendered our Editors’ Choice on MetroPCS moot, as we gave it to a more costly phone before we knew about the merger.)
Fortunately, Metro has a robust low-cost 4G LTE lineup. Along with the $149 Avid, there’s the $99 Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G and the $49 LG Motion 4G, a crazy steal at that price. Now we’ve set the scene, so let’s look at the Avid.
Physical Design and Phone Calling
The ZTE Avid 4G is a blandly designed, black slab phone that’s 4.9 by 2.6 by .5 inches (HWD) and 5.25 ounces. It’s a little chunky and a little cheap-feeling, but at least it’s solidly built. The back is soft-touch black plastic, and there’s a bit of chromed plastic around the edges. The physical power and volume buttons are easy to find.
The first real downer about this phone, though, is the screen. Getting an 800-by-480 LCD into a $149 prepaid phone is a feat; the trick is to use the worst 800-by-480 screen in history. Unevenly lighted, the screen has an extremely poor viewing angle, which gets in the way of playing games with tilt controls. The panel also seems to be behind a sheet of plastic as thick as the Plexiglas divider in the Riker’s Island visiting room.
Reception is strong here, but call quality is just acceptable. Earpiece volume is moderate-to-high; voices sound okay, but a little computery. Transmissions struggled with noise cancellation, becoming scratchy and thready in noisy areas. The speakerphone is too quiet to use outdoors, although it would be fine in a car. Bluetooth headsets worked fine, including triggering the standard Android voice dialing. Battery life was very good, at 10 hours, 8 minutes of continuous talk time.
Android and Apps
The Avid starts looking up when you start running apps on it. With a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor, it benchmarked quite well, running full-screen games at smooth frame rates and delivering Web pages promptly. Web browsing plugged along nicley with the built-in Chrome browser and 4G LTE speeds ranging from 4-7Mbps in Manhattan. Maps loaded quickly and were accurate, and the Avid will work as both a tethered and a Wi-Fi hotspot with the right service plan. If you’ll primarily be browsing the Web, the Avid 4G delivers very good value.
The Avid 4G also runs a very close to stock version of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), including Google’s attractive dialer and contact book. MetroPCS has added its usual bloatware, ranging from the useful Easy WiFi, which automatically connects to open Wi-Fi networks (although the phone supports 2.4Ghz only), to the infernal MetroXtras, which spams your phone with ads until you opt out. Unlimited Rhapsody music is available for just $5 added to most rate plans. There’s no word on an Android 4.1 upgrade, and I wouldn’t hold out hope.
Unfortunately, you can’t run some more ambitious apps here because of a lack of internal storage. While the Avid supports memory cards up to 32GB in a slot under the back cover, it has only 2.3GB of internal memory, and I found I couldn’t download games with large supplementary downloads like Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Asphalt 7: Heat because they needed to use internal memory as a staging area.
Multimedia and Conclusions
The Avid 4G comes with two awful cameras. Technically, there’s a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a VGA camera on the front, but numbers never tell the whole story. The autofocus lag feels nearly endless at 1.5 seconds. While photos taken with the main camera are okay in controlled conditions, my outdoor shots looked oversharpened in the center and soft at the edges. Low-light shots had blown-out white areas and suffered from low shutter speeds, leading to blur if I couldn’t hold my hand completely steady. The front camera is terrible; every shot I took was either so soft it looked smeared, or extremely noisy.
Video recording was a tad better. The main camera records videos up to 720p resolution at 30 frames per second indoors and out, and they’re of decent quality, although they have a reddish cast to them. The front camera, on the other hand, only recorded 360-by-480 videos at 15 frames per second, and they were so soft they were practically impressionistic.
Audio and video playback is as good as could be expected, given the very dim screen. The phone had no problem playing a wide range of audio formats, whether through wired or Bluetooth headphones. Video played back at resolutions up to 1080p, although quality was hampered by the dim screen. There’s no HDMI out.
The ZTE Avid 4G does one thing well: with its 800-by-480 screen, you get a lot more real estate for Web browsing, email, and gaming than you do with 480-by-320 phones like the competing LG Motion 4G and Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G. That said, I still think the Motion is a better value for money. It’s less expensive than the Avid right now, but all of its components are of higher quality, providing a better overall experience.
More Cell Phone Reviews:
|Screen Details||800-by-480 LCD touchscreen|
|Bands||850, 1900, 1700|
|Operating System||Android OS|
|High-Speed Data||EVDO Rev A, LTE|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Processor Speed||1.2 GHz|
|Screen Size||4 inches|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2.56 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc