Sporting a 5-inch display, a 5-megapixel camera and a dual-core processor, the ZTE Grand X is a perfect example of a middle-of-the-road phone that is reliable and affordable.
But while the device's $100 off-contract price tag (after you send a mail-in rebate) on Cricket Wireless is mighty attractive, you'll have to be willing to make certain sacrifices. For one thing, the handset's dual-core processor is slow, and because it runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, it already feels dated the moment you take the device out of the box.
In addition, the Grand X isn't the only competitively priced smartphone on the market. The carrier itself has plenty of more alternatives like the HTC Desire 510 and the Motorola Moto G (2013), which offer a smoother and faster user experience for the same low cost.
With looks that echo US Cellular's ZTE Grand S Pro, the Grand X sports curved edges, smooth rounded corners, and a matte battery door that adds a subtle premium touch. The device's 0.37-inch profile is slim, but don't expect it to fit too comfortably in your jeans pockets since, overall, the phone is quite large: 5.7 inches tall and 2.87 inches wide, to be exact. It's also a bit heavy at 6.06 ounces. Given my small grip, I couldn't easily maneuver the smartphone comfortably with one hand. That's not a deal breaker per se, but people with petite paws should be mindful of this fact.
On its left edge is a Micro-USB port and a volume rocker. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and to the right is a sleep/power button. Both the volume and power keys bulge out ever so slightly from the surface, making them easy to feel for and comfortable to press. The back houses a 5-megapixel camera lens and flash, which are set off in a wide, glossy black oval finish. A small audio grille rests on the bottom-right corner. Using a small indentation on the bottom edge, you can pry off the back plate to access the removable 2,300mAh battery, SIM card and microSD card, which is expandable up to 32GB.
The handset's 5-inch qHD display has a low 960x540-pixel resolution. Although text and graphics are easy to read and see, images can look pixelated and there's obvious aliasing on the edges of letters. The screen can also be unresponsive to the touch, and on occasion, it required several taps or swipes of my finger to register an action. Due to its narrow viewing angle, the screen can appear washed out when you tilt it, and it becomes difficult to view the display.
Above the touchscreen is a low-res 1-megapixel shooter and an in-ear speaker. Below are three hot keys (for Back, Home and Menu) that light up when in use. To launch Google Now and recent apps, long-press the Home and Menu keys, respectively.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop already released from Google, it's disappointing to see the Grand X running the dated Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS. But it does have your standard package of Google apps you'd come to expect, like Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Search, Plus, Hangouts, Maps, Photos, YouTube and portals to the Play Store for Books, Games, Newsstand, Movies & TV and Music.
Basic task managing apps that are baked-in include native browser and email clients, a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a clock with alarm and stopwatch functions, a news and weather app, video and music players, a sound recorder and a voice dialer.
Cricket threw in some of its preloaded apps too. There's a mobile hotspot client, visual voicemail, and My Cricket, which lets users manage their phone and data services. TouchPal X activates an optional keyboard and text-inserting function, KingSoft Offices is a mobile office suite, and Mi-EasyAccess allows you change the app shortcuts on your lockscreen.
The Grand X does include Bluetooth 4.0, thankfully, though its internal memory is stymied at 4GB, and there's just 1GB RAM. That isn't unusual for low-cost phones, but it does mean you'll probably want to look into buying external memory.
Camera and video
Camera quality for the 5-megapixel camera was passable, but only just. The camera itself is slow, and you'll need to wait a few moments to press the shutter again after you take a photo. It also takes an average of 4.35 seconds to launch the camera app -- one of the longest times I've measured during my testing -- so if you want to pull out your Grand X to take a quick pic, you'll need to wait. In general, photos look sharp, and images are clear. However, colors appear muted, and dark hues are even harder to discern from one another. Light sources can also be overblown, and the device's flash leaves a harsh blue tint. For more on photo quality, be sure to click on each picture below to see them at their full resolution.