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ZTE Avid 4G (MetroPCS) review:

Despite LTE, speed and call quality disappoint

The front-facing VGA camera has far fewer options. Both the camera and the video still have zoom and geotagging. However the former also has a brightness meter and compositional lines, while the latter has a timer.

Photo quality was decent. In sunny outdoor environments, images had well-defined edges and were clear. Bright white lighting did wash out, and it was hard to differentiate dark hues, but overall, objects were in focus. Understandable, in dimmer lighting, photos fared a bit poorer. Objects outside the center-focus area were blurred and photos looked patchy and pixelated up close. Furthermore, there were a few seconds delay between my clicking of the shutter and the image being saved.

ZTE Avid 4G (outdoor)
Though bright lighting was washed out in this sunny outdoor shot, objects were in focus. Lynn La/CNET
ZTE Avid 4G (indoor)
In this indoor shot, objects that fall outside the center focal point are blurry and pixelated. Lynn La/CNET
ZTE Avid 4G (SSI)
Despite an accurate white balance in our standard studio shot, objects looked out of focus. Lynn La/CNET

Video was perfectly adequate as well. Audio picked up clearly, moving objects remained in focus, and playback showed clear footage. However, there were times when the camera took too long to readjust its focus and lighting, and dark hues would partially obscure the recording in the process.

I tested the quad-band ZTE Avid 4G (CDMA 800/1700/2100/1900 MHz) in our San Francisco offices. Call quality was mediocre. Although audio didn't cut in and out and no calls were dropped, I heard a subtle static rustling in the background with all my calls. In addition, volume level for both the in-ear speaker and the audio speaker could be higher. Likewise, I was told that I sounded a bit muffled, and the static sound could also be heard at the other end of the line.

ZTE Avid 4G call quality sample

Listen now:

MetroPCS' 4G LTE network isn't the most robust, but data speeds were impressive. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 6 seconds, while loading our full site took 11 seconds. The New York Times' full site clocked in at 10 seconds, and its mobile site also took 6 seconds to load. Altogether, ESPN took a shorter time to load, with its mobile site taking 5 seconds on average, and its full site loading in 9 seconds. The 23.32MB game Temple Run downloaded and installed in an average of 58 seconds, and Ookla showed me an average of 4.91Mbps down and 6.26Mbps up.

ZTE Avid 4G: Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 4.91Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 6.26Mbps
App download (Temple Run) 23.32MB in 58 seconds
CNET mobile site load 6 seconds
CNET desktop site load 11 seconds
Power off and restart time 50 seconds
Camera boot time 2.04 seconds

The handset is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU. Though basic tasks like unlocking the screen, opening the camera app, and transitioning back to the five home screen pages showed little lag, more complicated tasks took some time. For instance, switching the keyboard between portrait and landscape mode, opening up games like Temple Run, and clicking the camera's shutter (as previously mentioned) seemed laggy. On average, it took almost a minute (50 seconds to be exact) for the phone to restart entirely. Lastly, it took about 2.04 seconds for the camera to fully launch.

During our battery drain test the device lasted a 12.02 hours with data connection turned off. Anecdotally, the handset has a decent battery life. With the screen on full brightness, you can go a handful of hours without a charge, but you'll definitely need to juice up at the end of the workday. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 1.12W/kg.

When you look at MetroPCS' Android lineup, the ZTE Avid 4G is one of the few handsets that feature both 4G LTE and Android 4.0. However, that still doesn't make it the best choice. The LG Motion 4G not only has both fast data speeds and one of the more recent OSes, but it's actually $50 cheaper than the Avid 4G (likely because it was released last summer). Still, despite its earlier release date, it's by far the better choice due to its value, its smoother experience, and its more impressive camera.

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