Review: ZTE Avid 4 for MetroPCS
Feb 9, 2018, 10:30 AM by Eric M. Zeman
ZTE's latest low-cost handset for MetroPCS offers entry-level specs and performance. It includes a 5-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and Android 7 Nougat. MetroPCS customers can score this handset for next to nothing, but there might be better options. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
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Is It Your Type?
The ZTE Avid 4 is a phone for those who need the lowest-possible price. This entry-level Android covers just the basics for MetroPCS customers.
To look at the ZTE Avid 4 is to know that it is a low-cost phone. Its pedestrian looks belie the phone's status in an instant. Everything about it says, "I'm cheap!" Sadly, that's the experience it provides.
ZTE mixed black, gray, and blue into a design that harkens back to the phones of 2015. The black glass is fitted into a chunky gray plastic frame. The blue plastic rear shell covers the entire back surface and wraps around to meet the gray frame at the sides. The blue is a pleasing shade. ZTE kept the Avid 4's lines simple and clean, though it comes off looking a bit blocky.
The Avid 4 is an average-sized phone. Most people should find it comfortable to hold and use. My one complaint about the size is the thickness: at 9.1mm front to back, it feels a hair on the chubby side. The plastic materials keep the weight down. It fits into pockets well enough and was never a burden to cart around.
Build quality is solid enough. The glass, frame, and shell are all tucked togeher tightly. The phone is plastic through and through, and you'll know it when you hold it. The Avid 4 may come off as cheap, but it's not flimsy. I had total confidence in the hardware while testing it, though it's worth mentioning that the phone isn't waterproof and it isn't designed to be particularly rugged.
The Avid 4 has a face only a mother could love. The gray frame creates a thin rim around the glass that's probably not enough to protect the screen should the phone be placed face down. Huge, unsightly bezels surround the display. Worse, the display is gray in comparison to the black framing, which causes it to stand out in an unpleasant way.
A small slit above the screen holds the earpiece. Three capacitive buttons line the Avid 4's huge chin. Typical for ZTE, the home button is a small circle, while the back (left) and app-switcher (right) keys are small dots. The capacitive buttons worked fine.
The screen lock button is on the phone's right edge. It has a good profile and a ribbed texture to help it stand out. I was pleased with the travel and feedback. The volume toggle, placed above the screen lock key, has an excellent profile and a smooth texture. The toggle is long enough to help set the up/down halves apart. Travel was a little mushy.
The Avid 4 has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom edge. The phone relies on microUSB for charging, rather than modern USB-C. The port is tucked into the bottom edge. This is a typical set of ports for a low-end phone.
ZTE liks to use deep blues on its handsets and the back of the Avid 4 is no different. The plastic has a cross-hatch pattern and a semi-shiny finish to it. I'm glad there's some texture to panel, though ZTE did well to smooth the pattern out along the side edges. A notch in the lower corner allows you to peel the entire rear panel off. Doing so provides access to the SIM card and memory card slots, as well as the battery. I like that you can swap the cards without pulling the battery.
The ZTE Avid 4 doesn't elicit oohs and aahs, yet it suffices as a usable piece of hardware.
The phone has a 5-inch display with sub-HD resolution (854 by 480 pixels) and it's a dealbreaker for me.
First, the glass lacks a fingerprint-proof coating and is seemingly on a mission to collect as many oily smears as possible. Gross. Second, the display is set deep below the glass and it looks cheap. The gap between the surface and the LCD may only be a millimeter or two, but it may as well be a mile.
Crucially, the low-res screen is no fun to look at. Visible pixels are everywhere and the screen door effect is distracting. Text can be hard to read on web sites. Brightness is acceptable for indoor use, but it's not enough for outdoor use (particularly considering the fingerprint problem). Last, the color is off. The entire screen skews blue.
It's a bad screen. Maybe a young kid could deal with the experience, but no one else should have to.
MetroPCS is owned and operated by T-Mobile, and thus the Avid 4 runs on T-Mobile's network. Thankfully the phone includes support for T-Mobile's somewhat newer band 66, in addition to the Un-carrier's more traditional LTE bands.
The phone did a fine job finding the network and remaining hooked up. The Avid 4 consistently connected calls on the first dial and only dropped one call at highway speeds in a known dead spot. Data performance is acceptable. I was able to enjoy Spotify and YouTube streamed over LTE, though at average quality settings. Perusing media-rich social networks over 4G worked well, as did browsing the web and downloading apps from the Google Play store. The Avid 4 does as well as any other Metro-branded handset.
Phone calls are middling on the Avid 4. Voices coming through the earpiece are fairly clear and have a nice tone, but the earpiece simply doesn't produce enough volume. I could barely use the phone to make calls at home, let alone in a noisy space such as a coffee shop or moving car. I struggled to hear calls nearly everywhere I took the phone. People I spoke to through the Avid 4 said I sounded "okay."
The speakerphone only works in quiet spots, such as home or an office with a closed door. It's useless outdoors, or in the car. Moreover, the speaker is located on the rear panel; this means if you hold the phone in your hand, you'll likely muffle the speaker. Quality is scratchy.
Ringers and alerts are just barely loud enough. The vibrate alert does a fine job.
If there's one place the Avid 4 excels, it's battery life. The phone ships with a 2,520mAh battery and it easily pushes the phone through a full day with plenty of power to spare. We can likely thank the low-resolution screen for the Avid 4's fine battery performance. Only on the heaviest-use days did the phone's battery capacity ever dip below 30%. My guess is most people will be able to enjoy all-day uptime without worry.
Unsurprisingly, the Avid 4 does not support rapid charging, nor wireless charging.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
The Bluetooth radio did all right. I was able to pair and connect with accessories such as headsets and speakers. The phone gave me a little trouble with my car's hands-free system, but some perseverance got the two talking. Call quality was pretty rough over headsets and via my car, but music sounded good enough through earphones.
As a navigation tool, the Avid 4 gets the job done. The GPS radio matched the Avid 4's real-time location with Google Maps on the regular. Point-to-point navigation worked as it should.
The WiFi was decent. The Avid 4 does not have NFC.
It does include an FM radio. If you have wired headphones, you can tune in your favorite local stations no problem.
The Avid 4 has a simple, standard Android lock screen. Press the lock button to wake the display and see the clock and notifications. A basic Active Display tool briefly flashes incoming notifications on the lock screen as they arrive.
In terms of security, you'll have to be happy with a PIN, password, or pattern; there's no fingerprint reader.
The Avid 4 runs Android 7 Nougat with minimal tweaks from ZTE.
The home screen panels behave just like any other Android handset. Feel free to change up your home screens with wallpapers, app shortcuts, and widgets to suit your preference. MetroPCS did plaster them with branded apps and widgets, but it's not too much work to push them aside.
The app drawer, settings menu, and Quick Settings shade all rely on the standard Android experience. They're easy to sort through and master.
The capacitive keys below the screen are back, home, multitask, but you can swap back and multitask if you're used to the Samsung layout. I like that you can adjust the font and icon sizes, which lets you fit more content on the screen if you wish. The only issue is that the Avid 4 limits you to two icon sizes: (too) small and (too) large. A middle option would be great.
The Avid 4 has a Snapdragon 210 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with just 2 GB of RAM. This phone is painfully underpowered. It often feels slow or bogged down. Apps are slow to open, screen transitions are gummy, and the phone skips and stutters its way through animations.
The quickest way to open the camera is to rapidly press the lock button twice. The app opens quickly for this class of phone. You can also open it via the lock screen shortcut. It takes about 1.5 seconds to open.
I like that you can set the flash to on, off, or auto, but the HDR function only lets you toggle it on or off (no auto). The Avid 4 has four shooting modes: auto, video, manual, and panorama. Each functions about how you might expect.
The manual mode lets you to take just a little more control. It allows you to adjust white balance, ISO, exposure, and time-lapse intervals. There's no way to adjust focus or shutter speed, which is a total bummer. The manual mode includes a tool to help ensure the shot is level.
The selfie camera includes an adjustable brightness tool to help make up for the lack of a flash. You can also set it to snap a photo automatically when you smile.
The Avid 4's camera is relatively straightforward to use. Most people will figure it out in a minute or so. But I wish it were faster. A lot faster.
The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and it's not very good. Everything is a bit rough.
Focus, exposure, and white balance are inconsistent. At best you'll get two out of three in a single picture, almost never all three together. Shots taken indoors are soft and horrifyingly grainy and the flash does little to help. You can see in the clock and bust below just how bad it is. Outdoor shots had a better chance of looking clean. You'll see clearer photos with better color and exposure, though focus still comes across as somewhat soft. I would not use the Avid 4 as my main/only camera.
The 5-megapixel selfie camera is pretty bad. It produces soft, grainy shots that I'd probably not share with anyone.
The phone captures up to video up to 720p HD and is mixed. I found the stuff I shot outside looked fairly decent. Shooting video indoors is pretty much useless, thanks to grain and poor exposure.
ZTE has made compelling low-cost handsets in the past, but the Avid 4 for MetroPCS is not one of them. It's a mediocre device at best. The hardware is put together well enough, though the design is uninspired. Signal performance was pretty good, as was battery life, but voice quality left me wanting more and the screen is just not good enough even for a phone at this price point.
The Android operating system, while clean, was slow thanks to low RAM and lack of processor power. The camera delivers less-than-average results.
The ZTE Avid 4 for MetroPCS is not for most people. MetroPCS sells it for $50, which is about as low as you can go these days. I'd only recommend it to pre-teens who need any phone for basic communications. If you can spend $10 more, MetroPCS sells the Motorola Moto E for $60 and that's a much better option.
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