ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: This 5-inch Android mobile boasts a 13-megapixel camera, fingerprint sensor and HD screen, but costs just £8.50 a month from Carphone Warehouse, or £149 SIM-free. So what’s the catch? Here’s our full ZTE Blade V7 Lite UK review.
ZTE isn’t a well-known brand here in the UK, but this Chinese manufacturer has churned out hundreds of mobiles and globally ranks as one of the biggest producers of smartphones. The ZTE Blade V7 Lite is its latest affordable phone, with a cheaper asking price than the likes of the Moto G4 and Sony’s Xperia XA. And unlike those phones, the V7 Lite offers a fingerprint sensor for fast and secure unlocking.
Here’s what we think of the Blade V7 Lite after using the phone as our own.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Design
Considering the low asking price of the ZTE Blade V7 Lite, it’s quite an attractive little blower. From the front it looks reasonably generic, although the touch-sensitive buttons beneath the screen glow a rather sensual blue, which is nice. But it’s the metallic frame stretching around the back and edges of the phone that’s most impressive.
Other budget handsets at this price point usually rock a plastic body, with the notable exception of the Lenovo K5. But the Blade V7 Lite’s aluminium alloy design stands out, offering a good-looking and reassuringly hardy finish.
At 5-inches, the Blade V7 Lite isn’t too difficult to use one-handed either. The bezels around the screen aren’t too chunky and the 134g weight means the phone is reasonably light, but doesn’t feel like a toy.
On the back of the phone you’ll also find a fingerprint sensor, a serious rarity at this price point. The scanner is indented and so easy to find without fumbling around, although it’s also quite dinky and not as responsive as I hoped. I often have to tap it two or three times before it recognises my print and unlocks the handset.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Screen and media
ZTE’s 5-inch display sports a 720p HD resolution, so your movies and photos look nice and crisp. Lean in close and you’ll spot individual pixels, but there’s enough detail that you won’t be squinting or struggling to read.
Impressively you can also configure the Blade V7 Lite’s panel so the colour reproduction meets your own personal tastes. The MiraVision feature allows you to switch between standard and vivid modes (which makes colours a little more punchy), or manually tweak everything from contrast levels to colour warmth.
The Blade V7 Lite features two rear-mounted speakers, which are actually pretty loud on top volume. However, that awkward positioning means that the audio is aimed away from your face, which isn’t ideal when watching videos.
You get 16GB of built-in storage, of which 11GB can be used for your apps, media and so on. Thankfully you can expand with a microSD memory card, to carry around extra stuff.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Features and OS
Android Marshmallow has been overlaid with ZTE’s own launcher, and like Huawei’s phones that means you get a few bonus features added on – and a key Android feature slashed.
The one feature that’s been removed is Android’s apps tray, which is a convenient way of hiding away apps that you only occasionally use. With the Blade V7 Lite, all of your apps have to be stored on your desktops instead. Thankfully you can create folders to stash them in, but it’s still means extra clutter, which annoys neat freaks like myself.
Thankfully ZTE has added in some cool features of its own, mostly involving gesture shortcuts. Some of these are pretty standard, such as double-tapping the screen when the phone is hibernating to wake it up. However, some are a bit more outlandish. For instance, you can wave your phone in a ‘V’ shape while pressing a volume key to launch the camera app.
While I never really bothered with the wild gesturing shortcuts, some of the gesture recognition did come in handy. For instance, lifting the phone to your ear automatically answers a call and also switches from speakerphone to receiver, which is useful when you’re on hold for something. There’s also a nifty Pocket Mode which detects when the Blade V7 Lite is stuffed in your pocket and rings on maximum volume when a call comes in, if you haven’t set it to silent.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Performance and battery life
The Blade V7 Lite packs a basic quad-core Mediatek processor, backed by just 2GB of RAM. As a result performance is limited, but fine for basic everyday use.
You’ll notice the occasional pause during everyday use, when typing fast or flicking between apps for instance. However, these little stutters are never too intrusive and rarely frustrating. And I did manage to play some new games like Fifa Mobile, with a respectable enough frame-rate. The Blade even pops up little notifications that help you to clean up the memory when needed, for a performance boost.
For those who are interested, the AnTuTu score came out at just over 23,000.
As for battery life, the Blade V7 Lite will happily keep you going all day on a single charge, even with regular use. However, it also requires a long time at the plug to charge back up again. You can expect to plug it in for close to three hours before the battery is finally replenished, which is twice as long as expected.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Cameras
You get a 13-megapixel rear camera on the Blade V7 Lite which does a respectable job for everyday shots, but has some serious weaknesses too.
On auto mode, you’ll get decent results as long as the lighting conditions are good. As soon as the light dims a little, photos become more murky and often grainy. Compared with cheap handsets like last year’s Moto G3, the Blade is significantly weaker.
Motion is also a sticking point. If you’re trying to snap a child or pet who refuses to stay perfectly still, you’ll notice a lot of blurry results. And the focus also struggled with any up-close shots, often capturing the background instead.
Still, you do get a manual mode which helps with some of those issues, if you can be bothered to mess around with the various settings. And you can also shoot basic 720p video, which is fine for a quick home movie.
The 8-megapixel front-facing camera is again weak in low light and often produces soft results, but it’ll do the job for Skype calls and the rest.
ZTE Blade V7 Lite Review: Verdict
For less than £10 a month on contract, the Blade V7 Lite does a good job of offering a strong set of features while keeping the cost down. You get a sturdy, attractive Android handset packed with all kinds of gesture controls, plus a solid HD display and a fingerprint sensor for extra security.
That said, there are obvious compromises. Basic performance, a battery that takes forever to charge and a camera that’s far from versatile are the issues you have to live with, for that low price point. If that doesn’t bug you, then the Blade V7 Lite is a decent portable pal. Otherwise, we’d suggest upgrading to the Moto G4 instead.