Ginormous Grand Memo II LTE serves up Android KitKat on 6-inch screen (hands-on)

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February 24, 2014 4:32 AM PST / Updated: February 25, 2014 7:48 AM PST

BARCELONA, Spain -- During a press conference at Mobile World Congress Monday, ZTE introduced its new 6-inch phablet, called the Grand Memo II LTE. The device serves as the successor to the Grand Memo, which debuted at last year's MWC. It will launch in China in April, and later roll out to other countries in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific for about $300 unlocked.

Design
ZTE described the smartphone as "ultraslim," and at just .28-inch thick, it lives up to that description. However, because it also measures 6.33 inches tall and 3.26 inches wide, it felt a bit fragile in the hand, especially since it's also relatively lightweight for its size. This obviously doesn't serve as a detriment (indeed, "thin" and "light" are the two gospels of hardware design), but during my brief time with it, I felt like I had to be extra gentle.

The Grand Memo II LTE sports a matte plastic textured design, and its rear is decorated with a sheen tile pattern. Though I can do without these tilings, I welcome this unique look from ZTE. In addition, the phone's top and bottom edges are rounded off, which adds to the device's standout aesthetic.

As for its massive 6-inch HD display (a bump from its 5.7-inch predecessor), it sports a 720x1,280-pixel resolution, which comes out to about 245ppi. This does fine for displaying text and images, but it doesn't compare to other phablets available on the market. For example, LG's recently announced 5.9-inch G Pro 2 has a noticeably crisper and more vibrant 1080p screen with 373ppi.

Key components and features
According to ZTE's release and a second confirmation from a ZTE rep, the Grand Memo II LTE is powered by a Snapdragon 400 processor. (There was some confusion before during the conference from ZTE execs mistaking that it was powered by a Snapdragon 800.) Since last year's model sported two variants with either a Snapdragon 600 and 800 processor inside, the fact that its sequel would use a 400 is an odd step backward in any case.

On the device's rear is a 13-megapixel camera, and on its front is a 5-megapixel secondary shooter. This is a uniquely hefty megapixel count for a front-facing camera, but we've seen ZTE handsets with powerful front shooters before, like the Nubia 5S and 5S Mini.

The Grand Memo II LTE runs 4.4 KitKat, the newest version of Android, which is overlaid with the company's upgraded interface, MiFavor 2.3. The UI too launched at MWC today as well, with this device as its inaugural phone. In general, the UI is clean and simple, and it stays close with Android's pure look. A few new features include glove touch and the ability to shrink the screen down for easy one-handed use.

Additional features include a 3,200mAh nonremovable battery, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal memory with no option to expand.

With MiFavor 2.3, you can shrink down the display for one-handed navigation. Lynn La/CNET

Outlook
Though its Grand Memo predecessor never made it to the US, ZTE has been steadily increasing its presence with American carriers since last year. Boost Mobile, for example, released its first phablet, the ZTE Boost Max, about a month ago.

That being said, it's most likely that we still won't see the Memo II LTE in the US, but for those who live in countries that do, the device faces stiff competition. With such middling specs, it's hard to see it selling well. However, because it has a reasonable unsubsidized price, it has a slight edge against fellow phablets such as the Samsung Note 3.

Check out more of CNET's MWC 2014 coverage.

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About The Author

Lynn La is CNET's associate editor for cell phone and smartphone news and reviews. Prior to coming to CNET, she wrote for the Sacramento Bee and was a staff editor at Macworld. In addition to covering technology, she has reported on health, science, and politics.