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Sprint Flash review:

Camera aims high, but falls short

For video recording there are far fewer options. Only the zoom, flash, geotagging, and white-balance features are retained. However, you can choose from five video qualities (ranging from MMS video to 1080p) and there is a time-lapse mode.

The front-facing camera features the same zoom, anti-band, picture quality, composition lines, tones, geotagging, ISO, and white-balance options, with two picture sizes (640x480 pixels to 1,280x720 pixels). Recording includes four video sizes (MMS to 720p), and the same time-lapse, white-balance, geotagging, and zoom choices.

Unfortunately, even with the 12-megapixel spec and all the features, the photo quality was subpar. Oftentimes, bright colors like the red of a flower petal or the blue of an ornament looked washed-out. These colors would contrast oddly, and in the end, the pictures ended up with a look suggestive of thermal vision. Zooming in on objects closely was also difficult. No matter how many times I patiently retook the photo, objects ended up blurry. Switching to macro zoom didn't help either. And, finally, the camera itself operates slowly. There is a long lag after clicking the shutter and waiting for the camera to take the next photo.

Sprint Flash outdoor
In this overcast outdoor shot, you can see how the sky is overexposed. Lynn La/CNET
Sprint Flash ornament
The bright blue hues of this ornament are completely blown out. Lynn La/CNET
Sprint Flash closeup
Despite many attempts and switching to macro zoom, I couldn't get these charms in focus. Lynn La/CNET
Sprint Flash-SSI
In our standard studio shot, you can see a yellow tinge to the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

I tested the Sprint Flash in our San Francisco office. Call quality was mediocre. Though volume levels were adequate, my friends sounded muffled, as if speaking through a thin cloth. In addition, I kept hearing a high but subtle buzzing sound every time my friends spoke. My friends told me that I sounded muffled as well; one said I sounded far away. Speaker quality wasn't spectacular either. When I played music or videos, audio sounded flat and tinny.

Listen now: Sprint Flash Sequent call quality sample

Because we can't get Sprint's 4G LTE network in San Francisco, we tested its 3G network instead. On average, the device loaded CNET's mobile site in 44 seconds and our desktop site in 55 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took about 19 seconds, while its desktop version took 50. ESPN's mobile site took 31 seconds, and its full site loaded in 1 minute and 3 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.12Mbps down and 0.46Mbps up. It also took a whopping 11 minutes to download the 23.32MB game Temple Run.

Sprint Flash Performance
Average 3G download speed 0.12Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 0.46Mbps
App download (Temple Run) 22MB in 11 minutes
CNET mobile site load 44 seconds
CNET desktop site load 55 seconds
Power-off and restart time 40 seconds
Camera boot time 3.31 seconds

The handset is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. While simple tasks, like thumbing through the five home screens and browsing through the app drawer, were performed smoothly, other (perhaps more complicated) actions felt laggy. As I mentioned before, clicking the shutter took a notable amount of time and switching from landscape to portrait mode took a few seconds longer than I'm used to. Launching the camera, which on average took 3.31 seconds, also felt slow, and it took about 40 seconds to reboot the phone.

The device has a reported talk time of 8 hours. During our battery drain test for video playback, it lasted 7.57 hours. Anecdotally, I found it had decent battery life. With light use, it can survive a workday without a charge, but if you're going to talk on the phone or browse the Web for a few hours then expect it to need some juice throughout the day. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.78W/kg.

Other than the Sprint Flash's support for 4G LTE and its minimalist UI, the device doesn't have much going for it. Its laggy internal speeds make old flagship handsets like the Galaxy Nexus and the HTC Evo 4G LTE (both of which are $99) look more appealing.

And if you can spare an extra $70, your choices get even better. You can get the same 4G LTE speeds, but a faster processor, higher-quality screen, and better camera with the LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S3, and Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE.

True, the Flash isn't exactly comparable to these top-notch phones, but it does promise a powerful 12-megapixel camera. And while I do admire the ambition, the fact that the camera fails to deliver just shows once more how ZTE isn't ready for prime time (I said that about its Warp Sequent and I'll say it here again). My advice for ZTE would be to give me a reliable phone with a great 8-megapixel (or even 5-!) camera rather than a poor 12-megapixel camera.

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