ZTE Racer review:

ZTE Racer

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 5 user reviews

The Good Small and light; runs Android 2.1; great connectivity; low price tag.

The Bad Resistive screen; plasticky design.

The Bottom Line The ZTE Racer might not look all that pretty, but this cheap Android smart phone delivers a tempting range of features at a rock-bottom price

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall

Android phones have been arriving thick and fast recently. At the lower end of the market, handsets such as the LG Optimus GT540 and HTC Wildfire are making Android a much more affordable proposition. But the ZTE Racer significantly undercuts these models, coming in at £110 on a pay as you go deal. You can also pick it up for free on a £15-per-month, 24-month contract. Is it any good though?

Clear cuts 

You might expect ZTE to have made cuts as savage as Sweeney Todd's to produce such a cheap Android handset. But the Racer isn't actually as basic as you'd think. There are, however, two areas where the cuts are clear: the design and the screen.

The phone's finish is very plasticky, with the silver effect used on the band around the edge of the Racer looking particularly low-rent. That said, the handset's smaller dimensions make it more comfortable to hold than many larger smart phones. It's light too, at just 100g, so you can tuck it away in a shirt pocket and you'll barely notice it's there.

Unsurprisingly at this price, ZTE has used a resistive, rather than capacitive, touchscreen. This means the phone doesn't support multi-touch, so you have to use the on-screen zoom bar to whizz in and out of Web pages and maps, rather than the more intuitive pinch-to-zoom gesture. Resistive screens usually aren't as sensitive as capacitive displays, but the Racer's touchscreen performs pretty well, responding quickly to taps and swipes.

Android 2.1 offers a number of pleasing user-interface tweaks. In the main menu, for example, the icons appear to be rolling off a conveyor belt at the bottom of the screen

The 71mm (2.8-inch) screen's limited QVGA resolution means icons and text look much less defined than on pricier smart phones, and colours also don't look half as rich or vibrant. Also, the viewing angle isn't great when you're viewing the phone in landscape mode, with the result that you have to tilt the screen slightly to the left when watching videos to stop colours from washing out.

Hooray for Android 2.1

Unlike some other budget Android handsets, the Racer isn't saddled with the relatively dated 1.6 version of the operating system. Instead, it uses the much more up-to-date Android 2.1. As a result, you get an improved Web browser, as well as native support for Exchange. You also benefit from the user-interface tweaks that were introduced with version 2.1.

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