Hands On with the ZTE Blade V9 and V9 Vita
The latest in ZTE's Blade series phones are the V9 and V9 Vita. These devices bring ZTE's design language in line with current trends by adopting 18:9 displays. They also put the competition on notice with dual cameras designed to take better low-light photographs. Here is Phone Scoop's first look at the latest from ZTE.
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ZTE is not messing around. The Blade V9 is a huge step forward for the company's mid-range line of devices. Where the Axon brand continues to serve as ZTE's premium line, the Blade V brand fills in the middle somewhere above the Blade A and Blade L series. The Blade V9 and V9 Vita are a step above what we've seen from ZTE in the past, particularly at these price points.
The Blade V9 sees ZTE showing off design chops we didn't know it had. This handset ditches the plastic materials of ZTE's XMax and ZMax series for an aluminum chassis and glass panels front and back. It's a huge improvement. The metal frame has a matte finish and semi-angled edges that help it feel better against your skin. It feels incredibly strong. The 2.5D curved glass panels that sandwich the metal frame are excellent, though this means the phone is more prone to breakage. ZTE didn't say if the glass is Gorilla or Dragontrail. The phone comes in back or gold. A shimmer effect gives the glass some depth. Both colors have some measure of appeal.
Thanks to the 18:9 screen, the V9 has that elongated look common to such phones. It's narrow and tall. I like the size a lot. The 5.7-inch screen means it isn't completely oversized, like some of ZTE's other phones are. In fact, it's close in size/shape the Galaxy S8 and will be a breeze for most people to carry around and use.
The full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) screen looks fine. In the few moments I spent with the phone I though it came off looking pretty good. The panel is bright, and the resolution works well considering the size. The glass itself was prone to collecting prints. There are no hardware buttons on front, as all the controls have moved to the screen-based user interface.
I don't think anyone can complain about the build quality. ZTE selected fine materials and assembled the major components tightly. I didn't see any gaps or unsightly seams in the phone's construction.
The phone has a fairly typical set of hardware controls. The screen lock button and volume toggled are on the right edge. It's a cinch to find and use these buttons, and travel and feedback was pretty good. A microUSB port is tucked into the bottom, while a 3.5mm headphone jack is on top. The left edge is smooth metal.
The dual camera module is tucked into the far upper-left corner. ZTE added a fingerprint reader to the rear panel and dropped it right where your finger expects to find it.
ZTE has dropped much of its own UI trickery and loaded the Blade V9 with stock Android — albeit Android 7 Nougat (what the what?!?) The stock build is really nice to see and it means the phone ran smoothly while we looked at it.
If there's one area ZTE paid particular attention, it's the camera. ZTE overhauled its camera app so it is much simpler to use. You've got new modes that are reached easily by swiping, and newly surfaced controls that make altering important settings, such as HDR, from the viewfinder. ZTE paid particular attention to its bokeh feature, which doubles a bit as a portrait mode. ZTE is keeping up with the times and tossed in some new ARS stickers, as well, so you can add silly faces or dinosaurs to your images. All good fun. Perhaps most importantly, ZTE says the secondary lens will also dramatically help with low-light photography. (After all, we all want those late-night, at-the-bar-with-our-friends pix to turnout well.)
As for the hardware, the main lens is a 16-megapixel shooter and the supporting lens is a 5-megapixel shooter. The phone will come with either a 8- or 13-megapixel camera on front, depending on the market.
Wrapping up, it's nice to see features like face unlock, NFC, and a large battery. ZTE says the Blade V9 will cost less than $300. We hope to see a variant of it later in the year.
Blade V9 Vita
The V9 Vita, by way of comparison, is not nearly as impressive. It looks similar to the V9, but is smaller and made of plastic. The 18:9 screen gives it that elongated appearance and a hard shell wraps around the rear and side edges. With no metal and no glass, it feels much less expensive and fine. This isn't to say that the V9 Vita is a poor-man's phone. The shape is still elegant and clean.
The smaller screen and slim shape mean it will be comfortable to hold and use, even for those with small hands. I do like the smooth feel of the plastic.
On the front you'll find 2.5D arc curved glass and it is matched perfectly to the plastic shell. The 5.45-inch display drops to HD+ resolution, or 1,440 by 720 pixels. I thought it looked decent in our time with it, and yet it didn't blow me away. It is certainly bright and colorful, even if the resolution isn't quite where I want it to be. There are no buttons on front, as, like the larger V9, all the controls tools have been moved to the user interface.
The button configuration is also just like that of the V9. The screen lock button and volume toggle are both on the right. They are easy enough to find, though I wasn't impressed by travel and feedback. ZTE kept a headphone jack on top and the microUSB port on the bottom. The left edge is free of controls or buttons.
Unlike the V9, the rear panel of the V9 Vita is removable. That means you have to peel the plastic shell off in order to access the SIM or memory card slots.
The rear of the phone looks almost identical to the V9 with the dual camera perched in the upper left corner and the fingerprint reader closer to the middle.
This phone has the same user interface and camera as the V9, and that's a plus. The dual rear camera system includes a 13-/2-megapixel configuration, with an 8-megapixel shooter on front.
ZTE said the price point will fall under $200. Again, this exact phone isn't slated for the U.S., but we hope to see a variant of it arrive later in the year.
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