The Android operating system used to be the preserve of high and mid range handsets, but it is slowly creeping into the lower end too, and the ZTE Racer is one of several newer mobiles that can be had for around the £100 mark. The ZTE Racer is an exclusive to Three in the UK, as other ZTE handsets have been.
At this price some things have had to be cut, but the basics of Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G are all here as is a touch screen and access to the all important Android Market for adding new applications to your handset as often as you like.
We quite like the chassis design of the ZTE Racer. There is a rubbery finish to the frame and backplate and beneath the screen, touch sensitive buttons for Home, Menu and Back functions are supplemented by a sliver button for Call and End buttons. If you long-press on the End side of this button, a profiles menu pops up. A quick tap on the menu button brings up the Google search facility which is sometimes found on a physical button.
The ZTE Racer runs Android 2.1 and it is an unskinned version, so you get to see and use Android as a vanilla operating system. The absence of a skin is not really a problem as it is easy to get around within Android. There are three home screens which you can fill with widgets.
One area where compromises have been made to keep the cost of this handset down is the screen size. At 2.8 inches it is small, and this means web browsing is a little constricted, as is typing out text. The automatic screen rotation means that when you are in text entry mode, such as when you are creating SMS or email messages, you can switch easily to widescreen mode to get a larger QWERTY keyboard, but even so we found things a little cramped.
The screen is resistive. Capacitive technology, while more responsive to the finger, is more expensive to implement. We found we needed to make very definite presses to ensure the handset recognised our requirements.
There is a camera, of course, and it shoots stills at 3.2 megapixels. Image quality is not great, and there is some shutter lag so that shots of moving objects are something of a challenge. Without a flash indoor shots are hampered too, particularly where the ambient lighting is poor.
One design fault is that the microSD card slot is under the battery. If you like swapping cards then this is an awkward location as you’ll have to power down the handset to get at your card.
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