ZTE is a Chinese multinational that makes telecom equipment and software to run the hardware and smartphones. They have been trying to make it big in the Indian market trying to duplicate the success of Xiaomi, OnePlus and even Vivo to some extent. The company had launched Nubia Z11 and N1 last year in December for Indian customers and we reviewed the Nubia Z11 Mini before that.
So without further ado, let us see if the Blade A2 Plus has what it takes to be the new budget favourite.
Build and Design: 7/10
ZTE Blade A2 Plus comes with a dull and unimpressive design with nothing new to offer. One thing to note is that the device does feel solid and sturdy. The front of the smartphone has the 5.5-inch display with IPS LCD panel. The bottom houses a circular icon to signify the capacitive home button with the back button on the left and multi-tasking button to the right. The orientation of the buttons can be changed from the settings menu.
The top of the front houses the front camera, speaker grill and proximity sensor. The power button is located on the right side of the device a little towards the top from the middle with the volume rocker towards the top.
The SIM tray is located towards the top on the left side of the smartphone. Blade A2 Plus comes with a metal back that can't be removed with plastic portions towards the top and bottom of the metal back.
The rear side sports the fingerprint sensor towards the top middle portion just below the camera and LED Flash module.
One significant part about the fingerprint sensor in this phone is the ability to customise the functionality of the smartphone. The fingerprint scanner comes with a clickable button to enable additional functions like gestures to see photos, take screenshots, selfies and other things like navigating the gallery.
Last but not the least, the smartphone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top side of the smartphone along with a microUSB port for charging and file transfer.
The phone also sports the main speaker grill for the smartphone on the bottom side.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus sports an octa-core MediaTek MT6750T processor clocked at 1.5GHz and a Mali-T860 GPU. It comes with 4GB RAM along with 32GB internal storage and Android Marshmallow 6.0 out of the box. If you are running out of storage space then you can add a microSD card up to 64GB in the second SIM slot. A2 Plus packs a 5.5-inch Full-HD IPS LCD display with an effective resolution of 1080x1920 at 401ppi display density covered with Gorilla Glass 3 for additional protection.
ZTE has added a 13MP camera module along with LED flash on the back. This camera module is capable of shooting video at 1080p resolution at 30fps. In addition, the phone sports an 8MP camera module on the front.
Blade A2 Plus is equipped with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS with A-GPS, microUSB v2.0 port with fast-charging support depending on the max current supplied by the adapter and USB On-The-Go support. The smartphone also provides 3.5mm headphone jack on the top side of the smartphone and FM Radio support along with Dual (one normal Nano SIM slot and the second one which is a hybrid SIM slot where you can either insert a Nano SIM or a microSD card at any given time) SIM slots.
The company has added Fingerprint sensor on the rear side of the smartphone right below the camera module. You get a 5000mAh lithium-ion non-removable battery.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus has a respectable 5.5-inch Full-HD display with an effective resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels with 401ppi pixel density. The display has an IPS LCD capacitive display which is not as amazing on paper but the display seems to hold on its own during daily usage. The screen is reflective and you will face discomfort while working in direct sunlight and will need to re-adjust or go into a shaded region.
The LCD IPS display provides decent viewing angles despite seeming a bit dim in terms of brightness when viewed from sides. But overall, I had a good time while reading, web browsing, gaming or watching videos on the display. The colours, contrast and vibrancy of the display were fairly decent at all times. There is no special mode for outdoors and I wish that ZTE had added something for the direct-in-sun workflow which could make working easier.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus runs Android Marshmallow 6.0 out of the box along with the custom MiFavor UI 3.0 on the top of the OS. ZTE has packed 'Power Manager" as part of its UI which gives you total control on the power consumption of your device. I have detailed the section in the 'Battery' performance section below.
The addition of 'Family mode' is brilliant and it changes the UI of the smartphone to be more friendly to users who may get confused by Android while switching from feature phones to an Android based smartphone like my mother. Other additions like the 'Private Space' to lock sensitive contacts, photos or files is a good addition, though I don't know how secure it really is in real-world.
The company has given attention to the fingerprint sensor by giving us option for different gestures in the 'Gesture & motion' app and add other functionality in 'Super Key' to leverage the click like mechanism that turns the fingerprint sensor into a button.
It comes bundled with AccuWeather, Calculator and Clean Master (which is of no use and does not provide any additional benefit in real world usage due to changes in Android since Kitkat 4.4).
Apart from these additional features, the MiFavor UI 3.0 is nothing great, the icons and entire UI is unintuitive at best with changes that don't make any sense like the themed notification area, changed power menu and the changed mechanism to switch MiColor, Wallpaper, Icon style and Effect.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus performed just okay without any significant device freezing lag or stuttering for the majority of the review. The experience turned rocky immediately after I ran any high-level benchmark apps where the entire system came to a crawl. I also regularly suffered from micro stutters while using the phone while scrolling through long list of Google Play Store apps.
The voice quality while playing music and calling was decent with no distortion. However, it was not that loud and could be suppressed in a noisy environment or large halls.
It's not clear if ZTE has purposefully included the slow animations to make sure that users don't detect the stuttering and slowness from the slow animations. Apart from the occasional micro-shutters, MediaTek MT6750T processor coupled with 4GB RAM performed decently during all the tasks, music, gaming, web browsing and photo editing.
The smartphone scored 3923 in the PCMark 'Work performance 1.0' benchmark along with scoring 601 in Single-Core and 2539 in Multi-Core benchmarks in Geekbench 4. A2 Plus did decently but it did heat up considerably during extended gaming sessions and the performance suffered a bit in heavy games like DeadTrigger 2, Modern Combat 5 and Gear Club. The heating was concentrated on the top area around the camera on the back side of the smartphone but that is normal behaviour and nowhere did it reach the uncomfortable mark.
The heating was concentrated on the top area around the camera on the back side of the smartphone but that is normal behaviour and nowhere did it reach the uncomfortable mark.
I don't want to write much about the camera that comes with this smartphone because there is nothing to write about. The camera is bad and ZTE needs to improve the camera performance of the smartphone to a whole new level for me to even consider it.
The photos have no details or textures, daylight photos are just passable with noise in them, the camera UI does not have many features except filters and low light photos are out of focus grainy mess.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus performed great in the battery life department with the smartphone matching the extensive daily usage. During my extensive testing, the smartphone performed admirably well coping with my heavy usage. It lasted a little over 10 hours during my typical day which consists of always being connected to the internet through Wi-Fi, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp throughout the day in addition to 1 hour minutes of music, 35-40 minutes of gaming and installing and testing new apps.
The smartphone lasted for 12 hours and 6 minutes in our PC Mark 'Work battery life 1.0' test. However, two major things missing in the offering are the USB Type-C port and fast charging it does have fast charge but that is just dependent on the current being supplied using a high powered USB charger.
The 'Power Manager' has an 'Ultra Power Saving Mode' along with a "Smart power-save" mode which modulates the processor speed depending on the usage scenario and turns off all features like mobile data, Bluetooth, GPS, and faster sleep mode to increase the battery life of the smartphone. This section also provides us option to manage the power management for the apps, check the battery usage and check which apps are draining the battery to ensure that they are used less or removed from the smartphone. One interesting part is the 'Comprehensive Power Usage Detection' button on the top in this section which gives you suggestions to optimise the power consumption of your mobile device.
Verdict and Price in India
ZTE Blade A2 Plus is a strictly average smartphone by the company. But despite the decent attempt at going with tried and tested way with a good battery life, there is no way that I would recommend this smartphone to people despite the decent price point of Rs 11,999. There are much better smartphones in the market at the same price point offering a much better value for money. The best option right now for budget buyers should be the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. In fact, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime also outperforms ZTE Blade A2 Plus in performance. Other options that you may look at is Moto G4 Plus which is priced a little higher.
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