ZTE Blade V9 review: Great but not the best buy

 

ZTE Blade V9 design and build quality

The ZTE Blade V9 has a modern design that is now common to many devices. A metal structure with curved edges to facilitate grip and ensure design continuity with the two glass panels that enclose the device hardware.

ZTE’s 2.5D glass has a curvature that is only hinted at and barely noticeable at a casual glance. The device is really comfortable in your hand. Although the Blade V9 also looks very solid at first glance and the construction is good, keep in mind that the two panels are made of glass (the type is not specified by the company) so don’t expect it to survive hard falls.

AndroidPIT zte 9518 The design isn’t particularly original, but it looks good! / © AndroidPIT

The back panel has a similar finish to the Honor 8 and Honor 9, and ZTE calls this Aurora Glass because of the pleasant light effects it produces. The available colors are Night Black and Papohaku Golden.

Elegant in design, easy on the eyes

But the real star of the show is in the front of the smartphone. The ZTE Blade V9 has an 18:9 display that doesn’t follow the fashion of rounded corners, and instead has remained in the classic rectangular shape.

The frames around the display have been reduced as much as possible to achieve a remarkable 83.6% body to the display ratio (compared to 80.6% on the Honor 7X and a meager 69.3% on the iPhone 8 Plus). What is most striking is the size of the side bezels, which have been reduced to just 2.9 mm. As a result, the smartphone in your hand is comfortable even if it gives the impression of being slightly longer than the competition because of these extreme bezels.

The panel is a beautiful 5.7-inch LCD with Incell technology and FullHD+ resolution (2160 x 1080 pixels). This means that the hardware responsible for managing the touch input is integrated into the LCD itself, removing the need for an additional layer over it.

AndroidPIT zte 9521 Bye-bye, bezels. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

This makes for really good viewing angles on the display and brings the LCD itself closer to the user just as is the case on OLED panels. The colors look vivid and brightness is good, which we measured as just under 500nits in our test. From our measurements, the display seems to cover the sRGB color spectrum very well with a white that is near ‘perfect’ (if I may use the term), with only a very slight and imperceptible tendency toward blue.

display test zte blade v9 The values were measured with the Spyder 5 Elite. / © AndroidPIT

The contrasts are good, but not as good as the OLED panels and value we found was 1158:1, which is not bad. Of course, there are better displays on the market, but no other device in this price range can compete with these figures.

display test zte blade v9 2 Not all shades of blue are covered in the sRGB range, but there are so few that it’s not a problem. / © AndroidPIT

Interesting hardware

The smartphone has a SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 consisting of eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores at 1.8GHz. The CPU is a classic 8-core unit. It isn’t composed of two different quad-core clusters, so there aren’t two sub-units specializing in simple or high performance processes, as we have usually found in smartphones in recent years.

The ZTE Blade V9 is available for purchase in three different variants that differ in the quantity of RAM and internal memory, which in any case can be expanded with a microSD up to 256 GB. The version we tried is the version with 3 GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory but there is also a cheaper model with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage and a more expensive one with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of memory.

AndroidPIT zte 9527 No USB Type-C, but at least we get a mini-jack on the opposite side! / © AndroidPIT

Performance isn’t the strong point of this device, which performs well with basic functions, but isn’t so great with slightly more demanding requests and multitasking with more than two applications. I didn’t experience any delays with games. Most of the time, 30 fps shouldn’t pose a problem, but expect long loading to be slow with heavier 3D games.

When using browsers, mail, social media, and other apps, the Blade V9 does its job without any issues. Below you can check out a comparative table of benchmarks from the ZTE Blade V9 and some other smartphones in the same price range.

ZTE Blade V9 compared to the competition

  Sony Xperia L2 Honor 9 Lite LG Q6 ZTE Blade V9
3D Mark
Sling Shot ES 3.1
117 338 230 443
3D Mark
Sling Shot ES 3.0
285 231 470 805
3D Mark
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
6652 12170 7764 12738
Geekbench CPU
Single core
683 945 637 769
Geekbench CPU
Multicore
1928 3712 2119 3908

Great that it includes a 3.5 mm headphone jack, but unfortunately the charging port is still a microUSB Type 2.0. 

More battery than the new Galaxy

The battery has 3,200 mAh, which will get you through the day. I also have to add that I’m extremely satisfied with it. Not only does it have more capacity than the Galaxy S9’s battery, but the lower-power SoC also enables plenty of autonomy.

With normal use (accounting for the non-use at work) you can safely reach two days of autonomy, perhaps even three if you’re thrifty. The situation is different if you’re a gamer and pushing the SoC to its limits: in this case you can still get to the evening, but it’s better to recharge your smartphone at night, so it won’t completely drain until the next day.

A promise of perfect photos

“Picture perfect dual camera” – this is how ZTE presents Blade V9’s photographic capability. Given the price range we do not expect miracles but on paper the smartphone seems to promise much and keeps up with the competition.

AndroidPIT zte 9520 The dual camera has now become a must. / © AndroidPIT

The main photographic compartment consists of two sensors, one with 16 MP and one with 5 MP, both with 6-component lenses for less distortion and better performance. Only the 16 MP camera has PDAF 2.0 autofocus, while the second camera has fixed focus and is only used for shooting with bokeh effect and portrait mode (yes, because they are two separate modes in the ZTE Camera software). The front camera is 13 MP and has fixed focus.

ZTE provides your smartphone with photo software that offers many functions such as portrait modes, variable aperture (software), night mode, manual mode and others. The results won’t leave you breathless, but the performance in low light is more than acceptable.

IMG 20180225 172824 One of the photos taken with the ZTE Blade V9. The details are amazing (you can also look at the original photos in their uncompressed form below). / © AndroidPIT

I’ll avoid commenting on the bokeh mode and portrait mode (you wouldn’t expect them to work correctly, right?), I have to admit that the shots taken with the main camera of the Blade V9 are interesting. In good lighting, the photos are more than good, the colors are correctly represented and the details are visible and distinguished.

Am I dreaming or is this the newest Oreo?

The biggest surprise of all is in the software. The Android version is 8.1 Oreo with the January 2018 security patches. The ZTE interface is called Stock+ for one reason: we don’t find any major changes to Android in appearance but only in functionality, which is always very welcome!

AndroidPIT zte 9524 Android stock is a pleasant surprise, Oreo 8.1 is an even better one! / © AndroidPIT

The added features include unlocking with face recognition, fingerprint reader gestures and certainly many more that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to discover. At first glance, it seems to have a latest generation Pixel or Nokia in your hands, given the cleanliness of the software. It will be my duty to check in the full review whether the added features are useful, and more importantly, well-implemented.

zte blade v9 software 1 During the initial setup you’re asked install some additional apps, which is much better than having to find them yourself. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, as is often the case with smartphones from lesser-known manufacturers from China, there are some apps that require permissions that aren’t really reassuring. Why does the stock browser need access to phone calls? Thanks to Android you’ll be able to block these requests and sleep at night.

zte blade v9 software 2 Dear ZTE, I’m sure you have good intentions, but you have to take better care of your software to dispel any doubts. / © AndroidPIT

Let’s just it’s not the nicest or best-maintained software I’ve come across, as there are some smudges here and there that are obvious during use. In any case, it is better to have an updated and practically stock version of Android, even with some defects, than to have slightly better software with a proprietary interface that isn’t updated as often. In this regard, ZTE doesn’t earn top marks, but should be applauded for its commitment.

Available in March at an attractive price

ZTE will fight in a price range full of competition. The version of the 3 GB/32 GB smartphone we tried and tested will cost 269 euros, which is equivalent to about $ 331. 

The company is preparing to launch the smartphone as early as March and seeks to enter into agreements with carriers for more widespread distribution. At the moment, ZTE does not plan to release the Blade V9 in the US, though fans of the brand may be keen to import it.

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