Tuesday, 28 February 2017

ZTE Blade A2 Plus


ZTE, The Chinese Telecom equipment manufacturer has come out with a new device in the long forgotten Blade series, the A2 Plus. ZTE has been launching phones under the Nubia range with the most recent being the N1, N1 mini, with past models being the N9 and N11 internationally. 

To be honest, they are not a very popular brand and many of you might have never heard of any of these phones. Let’s have a look to see if the ZTE Blade A2 Plus will help ZTE take on the big boys in the world of smartphones!


Design


The Blade A2 Plus is 8.9mm thick (not thin by any means!) and weighs almost 189g, almost unheard of for a 5.5” (401 ppi) phone! You can blame the massive 5000mAh battery for this but there are other devices with over hefty batteries that aren’t as heavy nor thick. 

The left edge of the phone houses the hybrid dual SIM slot supporting nano SIMs (4G), while the right side of the phone has the volume rocker and power button below it. The micro USB port is at the bottom and is flanked by 2 grills which would leave you to believe they act as stereo speakers. Sadly though only the right one works as a speaker with the left acts as the mic. You have 5.5” FHD display on the front which works well even in direct sunlight and is covered by 2.5D curved glass. The front 8MP camera is on the left and you only have a visible capacitive home button at the bottom flanked by 2 small invisible dots that light up only when touched and work as back/menu buttons. There is no option to have on-screen buttons.

At the back you have the 13MP camera, the dual tone LED flash below it and the fingerprint scanner directly below, accompanied by the ZTE logo is just off centre at the back. The phone has a good unibody design and non-slippery feel to it. At the top and bottom there are light criss-cross patterns visible on close inspection and add to the design.

The phone is available in Gold or Grey.


Hardware


Talking of the innards, the ZTE Blade A2 Plus hosts the Mediatek Octa core MT6750, Mali T860 GPU, 4GB RAM and 32GB internal storage (expandable to 256GB via a microSD card).
One special feature is its reverse OTG charging option where it can turn into a power bank to charge any other phone or device! 

At the back the Speedy/Superkey-cum-fingerprint sensor is an ingenious idea to make good use of the fingerprint sensor and convert it into a pressable button! Using the button, you can swipe for photo scrolling, pull down notification screen or even assign single, double and triple press to apps like sharing, flash, burst image capture amongst other options.  


Software


The ZTE Blade A2 Plus uses the ‘Mi Favor’ user interface (UI), on top of the Android 6.0 and will soon get the Nougat update. It’s a pretty plain looking UI, pretty close to native Android but more like 4.0 rather than Marshmallow. The options, sharing settings, menu etc. look outdated and too basic to get the user interested in exploring it. Don’t get me wrong, it has some great features like the Family/Simple Mode where your home screen turns into bare essential apps and menus for ease of use.

Overall the Blade A2 Plus has plenty of useful features, however it’s UI could certainly benefit from some sprucing up, and some added customisation wouldn’t go amiss. 


Camera


The 13MP rear camera with dual tone LED flash and Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) is decent to say the least and more than gets the job done. Yet there are no real fancy effects besides your usual HDR, Panorama, and manual modes. 

It’s also disappointing in low light conditions. Video recording is supported up to 1080p @ 30fps. Moreover, the front camera is 8MP and can take good selfies! 


Gaming & Multimedia


Games like Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8, FIFA 16 ran without any freezing but do suffer from intermittent framerate drops, yet these are negligible unless you’ve seen these games run flawlessly on high end devices. Switching between apps and games is smooth and you have almost 1.5GB of free RAM at any given time. The device’s audio speaker is top notch and the bundled earphones are not bad either, which is an accessory you don’t often get with devices at these price points; kudos to ZTE for that! 

Finally, the 5000mAh battery easily lasted more than a day even after recording 30 mins of HD video, and a couple of hours of gaming and Youtube on 4G. Thanks to fast charging the mammoth battery takes less than 2 hours to charge, on a normal charger it’ll take closer to 3!



Conclusion


Overall, at this price point ZTE is trying to re-enter the fiercely competitive market where brands like Motorola, Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo have already made their name and keep updating devices every year. Competing with the Moto G4, Lenovo K5 and Xiaomi Note 4 is not going to be easy by any means and the device offers nothing stellar to make it stand out. 

Unfortunately it’s a case of better luck next time. Hopefully in the next ZTE device, we’ll see an improved UI, camera and a move to a Snapdragon CPU, giving you more bang for your buck.


★★★☆☆

Pritesh Khilnani


ZTE A2 Blade Plus at CeX




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