ZTE Blade is a Chinese smartphone with a budget price. It may not have all the features Galaxy S or Desire HD has, but it has nothing to shame for its price. Except that it has basic Android 2.1. It is quite adequate for basic user, but lacks out-of-box tethering, for example. But otherwise, it is OK.
What you get for your money (Notice! there are regional variants of ZTE Blade. Some have less memory, different camera resolution etc.). Blade has 512 Mb internal memory, and supports up to 32 Gb microSD cards (you get 2 Gb card with phone). It supports up 7.2 MiB HSPA/WCDMA data transfer rate.
Touch and feel
What I like best in Blade is its “rubbery” skin. It means you can get a good grip and it won’t slip away from your fingers. Although glossy covers (like Galaxy S) may look good they are annoyingly slippery. It has standard power button and volume buttons.
The buttons for Menu, Home and Return are real buttons instead of touch screen buttons. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of taste. Good thing is that it makes it harder to accidentally exit applications which is very easy with touch screen buttons – especially when you are using the device only with one hand.
Screen is 3.5 inches and it looks amazingly crisp (considering the price). Colors look good. Very small text is quite readable, even.
Blade has Qualcomm MSM 7227 600MHz processor with Adreno 200 GPU. All this gives you reasonably good perfomance in basic use. Scrolling of large webpages is very fast. Swapping from one application to another goes very smoothly. Turning desktop from vertical to horizontal was quick.
I tested Blade on both mobile optimized and normal web pages. It was interesting to notice, that it could fetch and render them as smoothly as Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab, sometimes even better than Galaxy Tab. Of course, this could also have something to do with 3G connection. I used different provider on Blade compared to what I use on Galaxy.
Model I tested has 5 Mpix camera with autofocus. And no flash. Nothing exeptional in this category, picture quality is certainly not phenomenal. This not a problem for me, if I want good pictures, then I use real camera. Here are some examples I took with default camera settings.
This is perhaps the weakest point. Internal memory is only 512 Mb. This means that you have to invest in a good large capacity SD card. The 2 Gb card included in the package can take you only so far. The manual (yes, I am one of those weirdos who actually read manuals before using something) states that Blade supports up to 8 Gb microSD cards. However I used it quite well with 16 Gb card (there seemed to be some sluggish behavior) and some sources state that it actually supports 32 Gb cards.
At least in Linux, you can only mount the removable SD card. Internal memory is not recognized.
Video and audio
Audio quality is exactly what you can expect from miniature device. It lacks the depth, bass and clarity of real Hi-Fi audio system. But this is the problem in any smartphone. Regardless of what they say, no cellphone can produce crystal clear audio without plugging it into an external audio system. Blade has the connector (standard 3.5 mm) for audio cable, so you can play the music with headset or any stereo system.
It has all the standard stuff like GPS, A-GPS, compass, Google navigation, WiFi, bluetooth, proximity and ambient light sensors, accelerometer, FM radio.
ZTE Blade is really lots of value for your money. For a low price you get even more than you might expect. This actually makes you wonder, why you are paying 5 times this price to get some high end smartphone which actually is not so phenomenally better than this. They are better but… I guess it really is so that price tag has no real relationship with manufacturing costs. Companies put price tag based on what they expect consumers to be willing to pay for it.
Android 2.1. There are some 2.2 updates available in US for Blade, and you could try out some unofficial 2.2 releases. This however is risky. It is possible that ZTE releases a official 2.2 update, but then, it is possible that it never happens. This is a minus since Android 2.1 is a basic one. Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson usually put their own additions on top of the package. For example: Samsung Galaxy S had USB tethering with Android 2.1.
So, if you are not interested in flashing out newest iPhone or HTC in a trend café, but want a solid Android phone with internet browsing, social networking, navigation and even more, then this could be your thing.