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ZTE Grand Memo II hands-on review

Budget phablet is unlikely to lure buyers away from the Galaxy Note 3
Tue Mar 04 2014, 13:59

CHINESE PHONE MAKER ZTE unveiled the catchily-titled Grand Memo II at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week, as the sequel to last year's Grand Memo phablet.

Improving on the original ZTE Grand Memo, for those who like big screens at least, the Grand Memo II touts a larger 6in display, despite its slimmed down 7.2mm thin casing. This sees ZTE upping its game in the ever competitive Android phablet market, as it eyes the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and HTC One Max.

Despite its slim 7.2mm casing, there's no denying that the ZTE Grand Memo II is a big device. At 83mm wide, its much larger than most other smartphones unveiled at this year's MWC, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5. This means that the device can be a little awkward to hold and is almost impossible to operate with one hand.

ZTE Grand Memo II design

Saying that, we liked how the design looked and felt. The ZTE Grand Memo II is constructed predominantly from plastic, and its rear casing features a cross-hatched design underneath its mirrored finish, similar to the finish on the Sony Xperia Z2 and Intel's Merrifield reference design smartphone.

However, the Grand Memo II doesn't feel quite as sturdy as those devices, with its plastic casing feeling creaky in places and like it might not withstand too much of a battering.

On paper, the ZTE Grand Memo II features a 6in 1280x720 resolution IPS LCD screen. Overall screen quality is good, with the handset boasting great viewing angles and handling the bright MWC lights well, but the edges of text and app icons are noticeably not as sharp as those on an HD 1080p device.

ZTE Grand Memo II has a 6in 720p HD screen

Saying that, the ZTE Grand Memo II will likely be much cheaper than these higher-end, higher-spec devices.

Performance and operating system
The ZTE Grand Memo II has a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor under the bonnet that keeps things running smoothly. However, during our hands-on time with the device, we did notice a little lag when performing tasks such as dragging down menus and opening apps, and it's noticeably slower than other Android phablets on the market.

There's also a 3,200mAh battery in the ZTE Grand Memo II that ZTE claims will last up to 15 days on standby, and 16GB of internal storage expandable via microSD card.

Unlike most 'affordable' Android devices, the Grand Memo II arrives running the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 4.4 Kitkat. Potential buyers needn't get too excited however, as ZTE has heavily customised the Android user interface (UI), making it barely recognisable.

ZTE Grand Memo runs Android 4.4 Kitkat

ZTE's custom UI skin is a bit mismatched, similar to Huawei's Emotion UI, and we much prefer Google's stripped down, clean-cut interface. For example, the app icons look a little childish, and the homescreen is filled with apps and widgets, most of which are unlikely to get much use. These look somewhat oversized too, as though ZTE struggled to make the most of the large 6in screen.

ZTE has added custom animations as well, which likely contribute to the device's often laggy performance.

A 13MP camera sits on the rear of the ZTE Grand Memo II, and on first impression it's much better than the cameras you usually find on mid-range Android devices. Even under the bright show room lights of MWC, the camera produced images full of colour and detail, although we have yet to test how well it handles less brightly lit surroundings.

ZTE Grand Memo II has a 13MP camera

What's more, much like the Huawei Ascend G6, there's a 5MP camera on the front of the device, along with some custom camera software features.

First impressions
The ZTE Grand Memo II is unlikely to be a big hit in the UK. While it's set to be more affordable than most Android phablets, its underpowered processor and heavy Android skin likely will turn buyers away.

However, if it retails for less than £200, it could win over those in the market for an inexpensive Android phablet. µ


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