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ZTE Blade 3 review

  • ZTE Blade 3
  • ZTE Blade 3
  • ZTE Blade 3
  • ZTE Blade 3
  • ZTE Blade 3


A cheap as chips and perfectly pleasant to use prepay smartphone

Review Date: 22 Feb 2013

Price when reviewed: £80


Reviewed By: Chris Finnamore

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

ExpertReviews Award

ZTE is known as a maker of budget handsets, but the company has three distinct inexpensive smartphone ranges. There's Kis at the bottom, Grand at the top and in the middle sits Blade.

The Blade 3 is ZTE's latest mid-range handset, and as we expected, it doesn’t cost very much. At £80 on prepay with Virgin Mobile it's one of the cheapest Android handsets there is. ZTE says it will be available SIM-free, but we've yet to find anyone stocking an unlocked handset.

ZTE Blade 3

Apart from the fact the phone is SIM-locked to Virgin, you don’t get any prepay branding shoved down your throat. The Blade 3 runs an almost-stock version of Android 4.0.4, and the handset is plain, understated and good-looking, with a rubberised back and raised chin to help protect the screen against knocks. It's also remarkably heavy for a small handset, and feels pretty weighty in your hand. We actually rather liked the weight, as it helps make the phone feel tough and well made; an impression helped by the exposed metal chassis around the edge of the handset.

The touchscreen is responsive, which makes a welcome change from that of phones such as the Huawei Ascend G 300, which had us stabbing at the onscreen keyboard when typing. This isn’t the fastest phone we’ve ever seen, though. The 1GHz single-core processor means there's some slight jerkiness when flicking through app screens and a slight hesitation when opening apps, compared to the lightning-quick responses of a high-end smartphone.

The slow performance was borne out in our benchmark tests. In the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, the Blade 3 completed the test in 2,587ms. This is a slow result, and what we were expecting from a single-core chip. We saw the difference in web browsing to a certain degree, in that desktop mode pages took a couple of extra seconds to render compared to the fastest handsets and zooming in and out isn’t particularly smooth, but it wasn't especially distracting.

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