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Huawei Vitria review: Faster LTE makes this Android a good deal

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By most measurements, the thickset, plain-looking Vitria is hardly the catch, especially with last season's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, a 5-megapixel camera, and a slowish dual-core processor. The phone, too, has obvious performance flaws, like data and processing hiccups, and rapid battery drain.

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6.3

Huawei Vitria

The Good

Thanks to MetroPCS leaning on T-Mobile's 4G network, the <b>Huawei Vitria</b> is a pretty fast LTE smartphone (or can be). Its $130 prepaid price makes it an affordable entry-level option.

The Bad

The Vitria was a little buggy in my tests, and its heavy body looks rather plain. Battery drains quickly. Data sometimes stutters.

The Bottom Line

Consider the Huawei Vitria if you're looking for an affordable Android LTE phone, and aren't put off by entry-level specs.

However, the camera takes pleasing shots and video, the Android experience is still satisfying, and T-Mobile's control over Metro means that LTE speeds have never been faster.

Metro's Vitria isn't the carrier's least expensive smartphone, and it certainly isn't its best, but it offers up a decent package if you can look beyond some stability snags. For $20 more, it's also worth checking out the LG Optimus F3 and the LG Optimus L9, both comparable 4G options for $149 with MetroPCS.

Huawei Vitria gets the job done (pictures)

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Design and build
Though uninspiring, there's nothing inherently wrong with the Vitria's plain Jane looks. In fact, its rounded corners, matte gray perimeter, and soft-touch backing are comfortable enough, even if the phone tips the scale at a heavy 4.9 ounces.

Size wise, the handset's 5-inch height, 2.5-inch width, and 0.46-inch depth are pretty standard, though the Vitria is a bit taller (and weightier) than Samsung phones with 4-inch screens, like AT&T's Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and Cricket's Samsung Galaxy Admire 2. As a result, it isn't quite as compact, and may protrude a bit more from smaller pockets.

The Huawei Vitria is a basic Android smartphone that courts' 4G LTE. Josh Miller/CNET

As for that 4-inch screen, its 800x480-pixel resolution is par for the course. Colors don't look as bright or as saturated as some rivals, like the similarly specced-out Galaxy S3 Mini, and the viewing angle isn't as wide. However, when I compared detailed HD wallpaper side by side on the two devices (both at maximum brightness), the Vitria showed slightly greater detail throughout the scene, and higher contrast.

Build quality is nothing special on the Vitria, but edges seemed sealed and the heft gives it a feeling of solidity. Around the spines, you'll find the volume rocker, headset jack, power/lock button, and Micro-USB charging port. You take screenshots by simultaneously pressing Power and Volume Down. The front houses the speaker grille and VGA front-facing camera. On the back, there's the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash.

An indentation on the back cover is supposed to help you peel off the back panel, but for me, it was hard to find purchase unless I angled my fingernail just so. When it does, you can slide in up to 32GB in microSD storage.

OS and features
Huawei has added a few of its own design touches onto the Vitria, but it isn't the elaborate Emotion UI you'll see blanketing this Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device. However, an app called Themes does give you a taste of that UI with a total of five options. Instead, there's a circular lock screen that lets you unlock the phone to the dialer, home screen, camera, or messaging app.

You also get some quick-access toggles in the notification shade, some stylized icon designs, and a setting menu broken into a tab for general options and one for all settings. There's no gesture to pinch for an overview of the home screens, but the settings make up for that with easy access to font size, ringtone, and notification tone choices. There's also a fast boot setting that's turned on by default, and a choice to add a battery percentage meter to the home screen.

You'll have your choice of a few themes to customize the Vitria's interface. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Swype comes preloaded onto the Vitria's keyboard, along with a tutorial for the uninitiated. That helps keep the keyboard from feeling too cramped. A voice dictation microphone can also pitch in. I also like the built-in FM radio.

MetroPCS, Huawei, and Google together populate the Vitria with app presets, some of which are more useful than others. For example, beyond the Google suite of apps and essentials like a calculator and calendar are a ton of MetroPCS titles that take you to various storefronts and portals. Backup, and FM radio, a voice recorder, and a notes app are other useful tools. There's also one that will help you turn the phone into a mobile hot spot for up to eight devices (but keep an eye on those battery levels!)

Cameras and video
Photos were decent on the Vitria's 5-megapixel camera, thanks in part to autofocus and an LED flash. Outdoor shots taken with natural light worked better than indoor shots with competing light sources.

The Vitria offers up a fair number of shooting modes and settings, including HDR and panorama, low-light mode, and a burst shot. There's a hearty helping of filters as well, for the Instagram crowd. Goofy effects like Big Nose and Wide Smile are engineered to get cheap laughs. ISO, white balance, a grid, and red-eye reduction are all tucked away, along with other settings. A pop-out menu makes these easy to find, and onscreen controls handle toggling from camera to video, from front to rear camera, and the state of the flash.

The 5-megapixel camera takes fair shots; some are better than others. Josh Miller/CNET

After taking the photo, editing tools can crop, continue to adjust red eye, rotate, and flip. There are even more filters and effects.

720p HD video capture was also good, faithfully capturing street scenes and an indoor basketball shooting match between coworkers. Keep in mind that while the microphone picks up your voice and general ambient noise, it isn't good at recording the voices of people you may be talking to.

Images taken from the VGA front-facing camera are extremely noisy and indistinct. They get the point across, but I wouldn't use the Vitria for creating head shots or video chatting, unless I had no other choice.

Storage space for photos and video is scarce -- you only have about 2GB to use for your own devices, including apps. Luckily, the phone takes up to 32GB in external storage.

Colors are lifelike on this motorcycle. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Detail and clarity are both a little sparse, but the photo is still pleasing. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The colors here could have been a little brighter and the details a little crisper. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
This photo, taken with the front-facing camera, is noticeably noisy, but coloring is mostly correct. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
This studio shot takes on a bizarre, eerie blue light. I like it, but it certainly doesn't belong here. Click to enlarge. Josh Miller/CNET

Call quality
I tested the Vitria in San Francisco. Since this is an HSPA+/LTE phone, the Vitria uses T-Mobile's GSM network with GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands, rather than Metro's usual CDMA. Call quality was above average, with round, rich voices that sounded natural. My two areas of concern were the persistent white noise in the background, like a soft shhhh, and the fact that I needed to raise the volume just short of the maximum allowance in order to comfortably hear in my fairly quiet office.

My main phone tester said he heard a slight unnaturalness to my voice, a little gravel, but said that the call quality was overall very good. I came across loud and clear, with absolutely no noise.

Huawei Vitria call quality sample Listen now:

When I tested speakerphone at hip level, I had to strain to hear, even with volume at the highest setting. Speakerphone solved the background noise issue, and voices, while a little buzzy, weren't hollow or echoey. Unfortunately, it just wasn't loud enough. According to my main calling partner, speakerphone sounded clear and loud, but a little echoey. Quality was strong overall.

Performance: Speeds, processor, battery
One trade-off with the Vitria's low price is its iffy performance. Most of the time, everything worked fine on the 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8930 processor. Apps opened quickly enough, and there wasn't any major stalling with navigation. However, my test unit started and stuttered at times, which made the screen blink once, forced a game to crash, and caused a video to stutter on playback. Rebooting the phone cleared up the issue.

Data speeds get a major boost here in San Francisco, where the Vitria is riding on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network. On average, T-Mobile says that speeds that are seven times faster than previous MetroPCS LTE speeds within these T-Mobile areas. While that's certainly the case with scores captured from the Speedtest.net app, in the real world, it still took long minutes to download large apps, and I sometimes saw network connection issues. These eventually smoothed themselves out, and disappeared of course when I turned on Wi-Fi, but there were some frustrations with interrupted data.

For instance, after 7 minutes, the Vitria had downloaded 20 percent of Riptide GP2 (46.37MB) over LTE. I canceled the download and started it again later, where the game completely installed a few minutes later.

Although the processor is middling (L), diagnostic data speeds were the fastest I've seen on a MetroPCS smartphone. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

As I mentioned before, the Vitria has only 4GB of internal storage, about 1.9GB of which is user-accessible. Customers should consider buying a microSD card if they want to store photos, videos, music, and games on the device. It can hold up to 32GB. The Vitria has 1GB of RAM.

According to Huawei, this phone scored a talk time of 11 hours and a standby time of 15.8 days on its 1,750mAh battery. Anecdotally, it seemed to drain quickly, dropping to 50 percent down from 100 after half a work day. You'll definitely need to charge the phone daily. However, using a video playback loop test, the Vitria ran 10.2 hours on a single charge.

FCC tests measured a digital SAR of 1.49 watts per kilogram.

Final thoughts
The Huawei Vitria is a basic, but mostly capable Android phone that justifies its $130 all-in cost with faster LTE (thanks to T-Mobile's network in its MetroPCS buyout) and a good 5-megapixel camera. I experienced a few inconsistencies with speed and processor performance in my tests, but all in all, the good outweighed the bad.

That said, for $20 more, the LG Optimus F3 and the LG Optimus L9, are comparable 4G MetroPCS choices that are also more attractive, and take advantage of T-Mobile's faster LTE speeds.

Huawai_Vitria_35828373-2867.jpg
6.3

Huawei Vitria

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7