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printed November 19, 2017
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Review: ZTE Grand X 4 for Cricket Wireless

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  1  

Lock Screen

The Grand X 4's lock screen does a fine job helping you manage incoming notifications. Press the screen lock button to see the clock and notifications; there are no smart features to wake the screen. The lock screen provides a large and easy-to-read clock near the top. Notifications are broken down by app and listed in chronological order underneath the time/date. As always, you can select how revealing those notifications are.

Be default, the Grand X 4 requires a long press on the lock screen to unlock the phone. I really dislike this method, as it doesn't work consistently. I'd much rather have the option to swipe the screen, but no dice.

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Lock Screen  

But of course you should really secure your phone, and the X 4 offers PIN, pattern, password, or fingerprint options. I didn't have any trouble training several fingerprints and found the reader was fast enough most of the time for unlocking the phone. Last, you can make use of the Smart Lock function, which will keep the device unlocked when it senses trusted devices (smartwatch, Bluetooth headset), trusted places (home), trusted voice (speed recognition), or on-body detection (knows it's in your pocket). These all worked fine.

The lock screen provides shortcuts to the phone and camera apps. Like other ZTE handsets I've reviewed, using the camera shortcut on the X 4's lock screen always opens the camera in selfie mode. This cannot be changed.

Security  

Home Screen

The Grand X 4 runs Android 6 Marshmallow (no Nougat... sad face) with a mild user interface skin from ZTE.

The home screen panels and app drawer function much like they would on a standard Android handset, but have their own look and feel thanks to ZTE's fonts and colors. Two home screen panels are active out of the box, but these can be customized as per the norm. That means wallpapers, app shortcuts, and widgets are free for the arranging.

The settings menu looks and behaves like stock Android, but the Quick Settings tool has been adjusted to match ZTE's fonts and semi-transparent theme. One nice change is that ZTE allows Grand X 4 owners to arrange the Quick Settings panel however they wish.

Home Screens  

The Grand X 4 includes a couple of themes: normal and sport. The sport theme makes the phone look like it belongs on the bench with the New York Knicks basketball team (ZTE sponsors the Knicks.) More themes are available to download from ZTE if you're looking for a non-sporty appearance. You may also select from several different screen animation styles.

By default, the capacitive keys below the screen are back, home, multitask, but you can swap back and multitask if you want.

Customize  

The Grand X 4 also includes ZTE's Mi-Pop tool. Mi-Pop takes the form of a small floating circle on the screen. You can plop the circle anywhere on the screen you prefer. A quick press of the Mi-Pop button takes you back a screen. A long-press and slide to the left calls up three other options (home, menu, multitask). Mi-Pop is supposed to improve one-handed use. It's not for me, and thankfully it's off by default. You can turn it on/off at will.

MiPop  

The Grand X 4 has a Snapdragon 425 processor under the hood. This chip falls within the middle of Qualcomm's range of processors. The 1.4 GHz quad-core engine does an admirable job motivating the Grand X 4. Performance was smooth most of the time. I didn't see any major issues when transitioning between screens, jumping to other apps, or playing some of the preinstalled games. The only app that felt slow was the camera.

Camera

The only two ways to open the camera app are to use the lock screen shortcut or the normal app icon on the home screen. The app takes a couple blinks to open. The lock screen shortcut always opens the camera in selfie mode. The normal app icon opens the camera in whichever mode was used last. One interesting note: The camera opens in whichever mode you used last. Tthe Grand X 4 includes a dedicated (but totally redundant) selfie app — which simply opens the camera in selfie mode.

The main camera screen includes a handful of toggles for some features (settings, HDR, timer, flash, camera switcher) on the left and separate buttons for the camera and video camera on the right. The Grand X 4 has five shooting modes: auto, manual, panorama, time-lapse, and multi-exposure. Most of these are self-explanatory.

The multi-exposure mode does pretty much what the name implies: you take two pictures and overlay them in a handful of different ways to create a single image. Multi-exposure is fun and produces some unique images, but if you're trying for a specific effect, you really have to practice to get the hang of it.

Camera  

The manual mode is great for people who want to take a little more control. It allows you to adjust shutter speed, white balance, ISO, exposure, and focus. The manual mode includes an always-on visual tool to help ensure the shot is level (if you want it to be).

You can also simply fire away in auto mode and ignore the advanced functions completely. There are filters available in each mode to give photos effects such as sepia or black and white.

The deep settings controls are just as frustrating to use as other ZTE phones I've reviewed this year. They appear on the screen in a series of transparent drop-down menus and are nearly impossible to see/read. The small, white text is often lost entirely. These tools allow you to set the image size and aspect ratio, geotagging, grid lines, and so on.

The selfie camera includes a beautification tool that reduces blemishes and wrinkles. I like that it has a sliding scale for adjusting just how fake you want to look. The selfie cam also has a smile-capture setting.

The Grand X 4's camera could be easier to use and I wish it were a lot faster at actually capturing photos.

Manual Mode  

Photos/Video

The 13-megapixel sensor takes decent shots most of the time, though none of them really blew me away. Exposure and white balance were often accurate, but focus was hit or miss. For this, I blame the slowness of the camera app; I simply started to move, whether by accident or design, before the Grand X 4 finished capturing the shot. I was pleased with the color balance. The Grand X 4 did a fine job scoring rich color from time to time. Taking shots in dark environments introduces a lot of grain and the LED flash doesn't do much to offset it (look at manger photos.)

The 5-megapixel selfie cam is acceptable but I fear Snapchat fiends might not be so happy. Focus is generally a bit soft and exposure can be all over the place.

The Grand X 4 might be good enough for everyday shots as long as everything is holding relatively still. I'd rely on a better camera for important stuff.

The same is true for video. The Grand X 4 can capture video up to 1080p HD and it's pretty decent. As is often the case, the video camera software is able to improve upon the camera's focusing issues; most of the video is properly focused and exposed. White balance is accurate, too. Still, I noticed plenty of grain and suggest better gear when you want the best results.

Photos  

ZTE / Cricket Stuff

The Grand X 4 has 47 apps installed on first launch and not enough of them can be deleted. Cricket-branded apps include Cricket Rewards, MyCricket, and Visual Voicemail. Other apps taking up space include Argus, AskMD, Cookie Jam, Deezer, Dolby Audio, Empire, Game of War, Genies & Gems, Panda Pop, and WPS Office. Thankfully you can toss the games. The Grand X 4 has 16 GB of internal storage and you have access to 8.2 GB of it. I recommend adding a memory card.

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