ZTE gets into the 'phablet' game (hands-on)

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/ Updated: February 25, 2013 4:16 PM PST

BARCELONA, Spain--Tossing its name into the supersize phone ring, ZTE demoed its Grand Memo at this year's MWC. Strutting a massive 5.7-inch screen, the handset belongs to the company's family of 4G LTE-enabled devices, which includes the hyped-up flagship, the Grand S, launched at CES in January. The Grand Memo will be available in China starting in March, with a later European launch in Q2.

Design
If you're like me and you think LG's "phablet," the Optimus G Pro , looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 , wait until you get a load of the Memo. Its back plate, with its brushed metallic-blue design, is nearly identical to that of the Galaxy. Both the front and the back are fingerprint magnets, though, so keep that in mind.

With a 0.33-inch profile, the phone is incredibly thin. It measures 6.3 inches tall and 3.25 inches wide, and feels relatively lightweight in the hand -- for a phablet, anyway.

Sporting a whopping 5.7-inch HD display, it easily surpasses the Note 2 and the Optimus G in screen real estate. (Or, if you want to think about it the other way, it just needs a bit more than an inch to become a full-fledged tablet like the Nexus 7.) The screen has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, and unfortunately, it doesn't come with a stylus. Not everyone needs to use one, but with a phone like this, it should at least be an option.

ZTE Grand Memo
The ZTE Grand Memo sports a thin, 0.33-inch profile. Lynn La/CNET

Features
Powering the Grand Memo is a 3,200mAh battery and a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor. During my brief time with it, I didn't experience any particular lag, and it handled simple tasks like opening up Chrome and launching the camera easily.

It features Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, but beware -- ZTE has slathered its own interface on top of it. Personally, I was always fond of how ZTE left its Android OS untouched for the most part. But from the notification bar to the odd Rubik's cube animation for the app drawer, you won't get away from the ZTE's UI in this handset.

Other features include 16GB of memory, Dolby Digital technology, 1GB of RAM, and a 1-megapixel front-facing camera. On the rear is a 13-megapixel camera that's capable of recording 1080p video and has photo features like geotagging and time lapse.

To make one-handed usage easier, the Memo can situate its keyboard and number pad slightly more to the left or right (depending on what your dominant hand is), so you can type with one hand.

Outlook
With its quad-core CPU and 13-megapixel camera, it flaunts respectable specs. Currently, there are no plans yet to bring the Grand Memo to the U.S. Given ZTE's history of manufacturing competitively priced phones here, it'd be interesting to see if the Memo were to launch on our shore as the phablet for those on a budget. But until it debuts overseas, however, we'll just have to wait and see how well it's received.

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Where to Buy

ZTE Grand Memo

Part Number: GRANDMEMOULK

Please visit the manufacture for additional models.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Diagonal Size 5.7 in