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Hands-On: ZTE Grand X Max+ and SPRO 2

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Jan 5, 2015, 7:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here is a quick take on ZTE's new hero phone for Cricket Wireless as well as a peek at the new mobile hotspot projector.

Grand X Max+ 

ZTE today showed off the Grand X Max+ fro Cricket Wireless. This device is little more than a spec bump from last year's X Max, but still demonstrates just how serious the company is at attacking the US market.

The Grand X Max+ is a massive phablet. With a 6-inch screen, it's flat-out huge. I found it to be no noticeably bigger than the Motorola Nexus 6, for example. Like last year's phone, the Max+ design is quite appealing. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, which are held together by a strong polycarbonate frame. The frame has a bit of a matte finish to it. Despite the huge footprint, the phone is impressively thin at just 7.87mm. The top and bottom edges have a rounded design that I like, and the sides are just flat enough that the phone can stand on edge. It is a classy looking phone.

The monstrous screen, which has the same specs as last year's phone, looks better than it should. What I mean is, 1280 x 720 pixels stretched out over 6 inches of glass usually means you'll see lots of pixels. That's not really the case here. I was pleasantly surprised by how sharp and bright the X Max+'s display was. Colors looked great and I was easily able to see the screen when under the harsh glare of spotlights and the sun. The front surface remains free of smudges, but I noticed the back side collected fingerprint oils quite easily.

Grand X Max+  

The volume toggles are located on the left edge of the phone. They have a decent profile and were easy to find. I thought travel and feedback would have been a bit better. The SIM card tray is also on the left side. You'll find the screen lock button positioned about the midway point on the right edge. It is small, but still easily found and used. Travel and feedback was good. There is no dedicated camera button, which is a shame. The headphone jack is on top and the microUSB port is on the bottom.

The device uses on-screen buttons to control the Android 4.4.4 KitKat operating system. They come and go as needed. Since the device has a glass back panel, the rear cover is not removable. That means no swapping batteries. However, with a 3,200mAh battery inside you probably won't need to.

The user interface has some slight customizations from ZTE, but sticks close to stock Android. I thought the device performed well in the few moments I spent with it thanks to the jump from a Snapdragon 200 processor to a Snapdragon 410 processor. There were not surprises in terms of bugginess or lagging.

The real story of this device is the price point. Cricket plans to sell it for $200 free of any contract. At that price, the ZTE Grand X Max+ will be hard to beat.


We also spent a few moments with ZTE's second-generation portable hotspot projector. ZTE sold the first iteration of this concept through Sprint in the US and apparently it did well enough to earn a sequel.

It is a compact projector that will easily slip into a briefcase or backpack. You can use the on-screen Android UI to access online content for playback, or send content to it from nearby smartphones, tablets, or laptops. The UI has been rewritten and given a bit of a skin that makes it easier to use. The first generation device used a raw Android UI, and it turns out people didn't like it too much. The new one has large buttons and a simplified menu structure for navigating the different features.

SPRO 2  

At 200 lumens it is twice as bright as last year's model, but I thought it struggled a bit in a sunlight room. I could see the images/video being shown, but it wasn't that easy. In a darkened room, the content looked much better. ZTE says the projector can display screens up to 120 inches across the diagonal at 720p resolution. They demonstrated the SPRO 2 on what I'd guess is a 40-inch screen and it looked decent, but not great (as far as the sharpness is concerned.)

Still it has autofocus, which means it can quickly adapt if you move it around, and it has auto keystoning to correct for the angle at which the image hits the wall. This means it squares up the edges, rather than leave them in a trapezoidal shape.

The mobile hotspot can run for 10 hours and support up to 10 devices, but the projector itself will only run for 3 hours on the battery. You can plug the device into a power outlet, of course, at any time to get around the battery life limits.

ZTE wouldn't name them, but said the SPRO 2 will be sold by the two largest carriers in the US (AT&T and Verizon Wireless) during the second quarter of the year. It seems like the SPRO 2 is a slam dunk for traveling salespeople or even families on vacation (think gaming). Pricing has not yet been revealed.

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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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