ZTE Blade V9 review: Great but not the best buy
During the ZTE event held in Barcelona just before the official opening of the Mobile World Congress, the Chinese company launched its new mid-range smartphone, the ZTE Blade V9. We've had the opportunity to get to know the device, and so far the new Blade has given a great first impression. Read on to find out why we have high hopes for this device in our comprehensive review.
- Android 8.1 Oreo
- Fast fingerprint reader
- Cover included in the package
- Strange requests for software permissions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
Sling Shot ES 3.1
Sling Shot ES 3.0
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
ZTE Blade V9 technical specifications
My experience with the Blade V9 was very positive. The design of the smartphone is captivating, although not very original. The device induces a great feeling in your hand. I was surprised by the latest version of Android, which a smaller manufacturer isn't usually expected to provide. There were some small defects, but when you have the latest version of Android in its stock form, the defects won't slow down your smartphone at all.
The price is the line with the competition of Honor/Huawei, LG and Sony smartphones and the features are quite promising. The performance isn't top-range, but is still above average from what you can expect for the the amount you spend. The 18:9 display and dual camera are noteworthy, and the elegant design and compact size make it attractive.
If you're considering buying this smartphone, there's no reason not to purchase it, but there's also nothing about the ZTE that makes it a best buy. It offers good value for money, and you'll be getting your money's worth, but nothing more and nothing less.
But let's here what you think! Are you tempted by the ZTE Blade V9? Does it deserve a US release?
Does the V9 also have a stereoscopic 3D photo/video mode like it's predecessor the V8? Thanks, Pete