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printed October 20, 2014
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Review: ZTE Anthem 4G for MetroPCS

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  2  

Screen

The Anthem rocks a 4.3-inch display with 800 x 480 pixels. This is a good, middle-of-the-road resolution befitting the Anthem's status as a mid-range smartphone. It's sharp enough that most of the stuff you'll look at will appear smooth. Hold it close, though, and the pixels pop out at you. The Anthem's display is sorely lacking when it comes to brightness. Set all the way up, it's fine for indoor use, but it falls flat outside. It's completely unreadable, even under dark, cloudy skies. I found it impossible to use for taking pictures on a sunny day.

Signal

The Anthem is ZTE's first LTE device for the U.S. market. It's a shame, then, that it performs so poorly. Despite the LTE network's availability, the Anthem's 4G powers never kicked into high gear. As a general rule, web sites were slow to load no matter what type of network was available. (Separately, the Anthem never registered more than a single bar of LTE coverage even in areas where MetroPCS's LTE network is robust.)

The Anthem didn't do any better on MetroPCS's CDMA network. Data sessions fell on their face when the signal bottomed out, and the Anthem dropped numerous calls in weak network coverage areas. It fared somewhat better when coverage was robust.

Sound

Phone calls were below average in both quality and volume. The calls I made were plagued by static and uneven quality. Sometimes words would be clipped or cut off, making it difficult to hold conversations. The earpiece generates enough volume for use in a quiet home or office, but doesn't suffice when you take it out into the real world. I consistently had trouble hearing callers when in places such as coffee shops or restaurants. The speakerphone is also fine for quiet environments, but is easily overwhelmed if you attempt to use it outside or in a car. Ringers and alerts are barely adequate. The vibrate alert is OK, but not great.

Battery

The Anthem's battery is acceptable if you live in an area that only has 3G coverage. If you plan to use it in one of MetroPCS's LTE markets, be sure you also plan to pack a charger everywhere you go. When used under LTE, I had a hard time coaxing the Anthem through more than six hours of battery life. There is no way to turn the 4G radio off. This phone needs to be charged every day, and then some.

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