Cricket Engage LT (Cricket Wireless) review: Though stylish, not worth its high price

Video options include a digital zoom, continuous flash, the same white balances and color effects, time lapse, three video qualities (QCIF to 480p), and three video durations (30 minutes, 10 minutes, and 30 seconds). The front-facing camera has all the same options except you get only two video qualities (either CIF or QCIF) and no color effects.

While the megapixels have diminished with this handset, which does diminish this phone's photo quality, it isn't a huge loss compared to the predecessor. Not because the Engage LT's camera is so great, but rather, the camera on the original Engage wasn't very hot in the first place. In indoor lighting, the LT's photos had a notable amount of digital noise, colors were muted, and objects lacked focus. To its credit, however, pictures taken outside in ample lighting fared much better, as colors were a bit more vibrant.

Cricket Engage LT (indoor)
Blurred outlines and digital noise plague this indoor shot. Lynn La/CNET
Cricket Engage LT (outdoor)
With ample lighting, colors in the flower petals appeared bright and vivid. Lynn La/CNET
Cricket Engage LT (SSI)
In our standard studio shot, the flash left a blue hue over the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

Video recording was also mediocre. The camera is slow, so you'll see a lag between movrment of the device and the corresponding feedback. Lighting also took a noticeable amount of time to adjust itself, a jarring effect as you can see a scene switch from soft yellow lighting to a colder blue. Also, in one of my recordings of a quiet office space, a soft buzzing sound can be heard over the audio.

Performance
I tested the tri-band (800/1900) handset on Cricket's network in our San Francisco office. Call quality was mediocre. Though none of my calls dropped, voices came off fuzzy and static-y, and max volume didn't seem loud enough. Audio was muffled, and there were even times when it cut in and out for less than a second. Calls through the speakerphone also sounded static-y, and during times of complete silence, I could hear a low buzzing noise.

Cricket Engage LT (Cricket Wireless) call quality sample

Listen now:


Cricket's 3G network isn't the most robust, and data speeds were slow in our specific area. On average, the handset loaded CNET's mobile site in 20 seconds and our desktop site in 52 seconds. The New York Times mobile site, which usually loads fairly quickly even on entry-level smartphones, took about 35 seconds, while its desktop version took 1 minute and 16 seconds. ESPN's mobile site took 33 seconds, and its full site loaded in 1 minute and 13 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.27Mbps down and 0.32Mbps up. It took a whopping 32 minutes and 16 seconds to download the 32.41MB game Temple Run 2.

Cricket Engage LT Performance testing
Average 3G download speed 0.27Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 0.32Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 32.41MB in 32 minutes and 16 seconds
CNET mobile site load 20 seconds
CNET desktop site load 52 seconds
Restart time 1 minute and 5 seconds
Camera boot time 2.4 seconds

The handset is powered by a 1GHz processor. Simple tasks like browsing through the app drawer and returning to the home screen pages are executed smoothly enough, but there's a lag of several moments waiting for tasks like switching from portrait to landscape mode, opening up the browser, and launching apps like Block Breaker 3 and Muve Music to be executed.

And as I mentioned earlier, the camera operates slowly; you'll need to wait a few seconds after pressing the shutter for it to fully save a photo. On average, it took 2.4 seconds to launch the camera, and 1 minute and 5 seconds to shut down and turn on the phone altogether.

The phone's 1,900mAh battery has a reported talk time of 8 hours. During our battery drain test for video playback, it lasted 5.93 hours. Anecdotally, it has a respectable battery life. It easily lasted the weekend on standby and can last through a workday (assuming minimal usage), without a charge. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.975W/kg.

Conclusion
Between the release of the original Engage and this model, Cricket has lowered the price of some of its better Android 4.0 devices, which lessens what little incentive one would already have to buy the Engage LT.

For instance, the HTC One V is currently $40 less than the LT. Though it's a bit older, you'll get the same 3G capabilities and Android 4.0 OS, plus it has a more stylish design and a better 5-megapixel camera with loads more features.

But if you want an even better upgrade, I'd suggest the HTC One SV . True, it's $100 more expensive, but at least the price merits the specs: you'll get 4G speeds, a great camera, and a dual-core processor.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

ZTE Cricket Engage LT (Cricket Wireless)

Part Number: N8000 Released: Mar 11, 2013

MSRP: $199.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar 11, 2013
  • Technology CDMA2000 1X
  • Service Provider Cricket Wireless
  • Weight 5.09 oz
  • Diagonal Size 4 in
  • Sensor Resolution 3.2 pixels
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