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Review: ZTE Vital for Sprint

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Jun 12, 2013, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE aims a little higher than entry-level devices with the Vital, a low-cost Android smartphone for Sprint. It is big on specs, but is it big on performance?

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Is It Your Type

If you're on a budget, but don't want to skimp on features, the ZTE Vital offers a superlative spec list for a surprisingly low price.


ZTE still isn't that well known in the U.S., and in fact the battery is the only place you'll find the Chinese phone-maker's brand anywhere on the Vital. Instead, the Vital is being branded as a Sprint device. ZTE has actually brought a number of devices to U.S. carriers, including Cricket, MetroPCS, and Sprint, but the Vital is ZTE's most ambitious effort yet for the American market. The Vital has all the hallmark features of a superphone, including a giant screen, high-megapixel camera, and of course LTE 4G.

You'll probably notice two things about the Vital right away: its size, and color. The Vital is a big, big phone. Not only does it have stretched proportions thanks to the large display, but it is also a bit on the thick side. The deep blue color also helps set it apart. The overall shape is somewhat bland, but at least ZTE chose an attractive hue for the Vital. I find the blue a nice alternative to the tired-looking black and gray designs that are so prevalent in the smartphone market these days. Silver-colored accents give it just a little bit of visual pop that really provide the Vital with its own look.


The Vital is taller, thicker, wider, and heavier than devices with similar-sized screens, including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4. All of these factors together make the Vital a bit of a beast to lug about. It has a weighty, solid feel in the hand, and despite my large hands the Vital is not a phone I can easily wrap my fingers around. It will fit into pants pockets, but I wouldn't be surprised if you have trouble retrieving it.

The materials are a combination of plastic and glass. The battery cover, which encompasses the entire rear panel of the Vital, is covered in a soft-touch finish that gives it some nice grip. The silver-colored band that circles the edges of the Vital is not, in fact, metal. The seams between the band at the front and back surfaces are tight. The Vital feels well put together

The front is almost all display, though there's a bit of bezel above and below the screen itself. The Vital has three capacitive buttons for interacting with the Android operating system. They are back, home, and menu (not multitasking). The buttons themselves gave me trouble. The home button often required two or three presses to get it to work, for example. They offered good haptic feedback, though.

The volume buttons are placed on the left edge of the phone. Rather than use a toggle, ZTE chose to use two separate buttons. They are very easy to find, and travel and feedback is quite good. The microUSB port is placed below the volume buttons. Surprisingly, there is a dedicated camera button on the right edge of the Vital, right about where you'd expect to find such a button. It is a two-stage key that has a really nice feel to it. I thought the two stages had excellent definition. The screen lock button is on top, as is the stereo headphone jack. The screen lock button worked well.

The battery cover peels off with ease, and underneath you'll find the battery, SIM card and microSD card. All three can be removed, though the battery has to be pulled to access the SIM card.

It may be big, but the Vital is put together well.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Jun 14, 2013, 7:04 PM

break resistant

Eric M. Zeman Said:
The Vital's display measures 5 inches across the diagonal and it has 1280 x 720 pixels. Sprint will only say that the display is "break resistant," so we assume it employs some competitor to Gorilla Glass.

It uses dragontrail glass.
In fact it is more break resistant than gorilla glass, but is not that good at avoiding scratches as gorilla is (I think that It is because the material is less rigid, it contains more potassium or something)

Jun 13, 2013, 9:50 AM

Why not just get an S3?

I have to say I'm not a huge fan of this phone. It looks nice, it is a budget phone compared to the flagship devices, but with the poor call quality what is the point? That should be one of the most important aspects of a phone is how it performs with calls.

When did you guys start adding the "Our Ratings" at the end of each phone review? I just noticed this so it must be a fairly new feature of the site. I love how you can click reviews now and sort by a particular rating. One thing I have always liked about this web site is the fact that there is a dedicated section of the review for performance (signal, voice, screen) these are very important aspects of any phone, regardless of how pretty it looks or what OS it uses. I'm quite happy to...
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