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ZTE Blade V9 and V9 Vita put larger screens on budget phones

Android Oreo 8.1, 18:9 displays, and lower-light improved cameras aim to make the new Blade a better buy, but competition could be fierce.

ZTE Blade V9

Joshua Goldman/CNET

ZTE's midrange phone line, the Blade series, wasn't that memorable when CNET reviewed the Blade V8 Pro last year. But it did offer a low price and good battery life.

The newest Blade V9 and Blade V9 Vita, announced in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, may not blow you away either. But the overall feel and specs are better, and the Blade V9 now has a 5.7-inch 18:9 display that comes closer to what premium phones offer in size-to-screen ratio. They'll be released in Europe, Latin America and Asian markets, but not in the US. Instead, expect ZTE to release some sort of carrier-based variants to these phones later in the year.

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We looked at both the Blade V9 and V9 Vita in a brief hands-on opportunity. They felt reasonably lightweight, and looked sharp, particularly the Blade V9. From a distance, it has the look of a premium phone.

ZTE Blade V9

The ZTE Blade V9: the improved screen-to-body ratio feels nice.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Blade V9 edges out the V9 Vita in specs. Key stats include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 octa-core 1.8 GHz processor, Android Oreo 8.1, 32 or 64GB of storage, and a dual rear 16-megapixel camera that's supposed to be better at taking lower-light shots.

Keep in mind that the Blade V9's second rear camera is only 5-megapixels, though: It's used to collect some picture data and also help with AR applications and depth sensing. The Blade V9 starts at €269 (equivalent to £235, $330 US, or AU$420).

ZTE Blade V9

The Blade V9 Vita: more compact.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The smaller Blade V9 Vita has a 5.45-inch 18:9 display, a Snapdragon 435 processor, and a 13-megapixel/2-megapixel dual rear camera and less onboard storage (16 or 32GB), starting at €179 (equivalent to £160, $220 US, or AU$280).

Depending on how affordable these can get, they could end up being good budget phone picks. But the right price might be everything.

ZTE Blade V9

AR... meh

Joshua Goldman/CNET

By the way, ZTE promises that these phones will run AR apps, but they are not compatible with Google's ARCore apps. Instead, I tried a few AR tricks on the included camera app, including a pop-up T-Rex which didn't stay put very smoothly on a table. Don't expect much. If you're actually interested in augmented reality, I'd hold out for an ARCore phone instead.

Blade V9 specs:

  • 5.7-inch 2,160x1,080 18:9 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 Octa-core 1.8 GHz processor
  • Android Oreo 8.1
  • 16-megapixel and 5-megapixel rear cameras
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • 3100 mAh battery
  • 3 or 4GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB storage
  • Micro SD card slot
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Headphone jack
  • Micro USB charging
  • 151.4mm x 70.6mm x 7.5mm

Blade V9 Vita specs:

  • 5.45-inch 2,160x1,080 18:9 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 Octa-core 1.4 GHz
  • Android Oreo 8.1
  • 13-megapixel and 2-megapixel rear cameras
  • 5-megapixel front camera
  • 3200 mAh battery
  • 2 or 3GB RAM
  • 16/32GB storage
  • Micro SD card slot
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Headphone jack
  • Micro USB charging
  • 146.8mm x 68.7mm x 7.6mm

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