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ZTE Avid 4G (MetroPCS) review: Despite LTE, speed and call quality disappoint

Though it sports Android 4.0 ICS and 4G LTE connectivity, the prepaid ZTE Avid 4G disappointed us with its slow internal speeds and fuzzy call quality.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
5 min read

Despite its rather enthusiastic and optimistic name, the ZTE Avid 4G isn't a phone to write home about.


ZTE Avid 4G (MetroPCS)

The Good

The <b>ZTE Avid 4G</b> has LTE connectivity, runs on Android 4.0, and requires no contract.

The Bad

The Avid 4G's display can be unresponsive and it has a noticeably blue tint; call quality is mediocre; and the phone's processor is slow.

The Bottom Line

Though the Avid features Ice Cream Sandwich and operates on MetroPCS 4G network, the carrier has other LTE devices that are faster, smoother, and sometimes, even cheaper.

Other than simultaneously featuring Android 4.0 and LTE, this mid-range device doesn't have much else. In addition to its bland construction and low-resolution screen (which takes a few hard presses to register), its processor falls on the slow side and its call quality failed to impress.

Furthermore, while its $149 price tag falls right about in the center of MetroPCS Android lineup, the carrier has a handful of other LTE handsets that can give you a smoother, faster experience. Even better, some of these phones sport a smaller price .

With its uninspiring, black-slab aesthetic, you won't turn any heads with the ZTE Avid 4G. Its sharply rounded top corners and curved, tapered bottom edge make it look like it's half the ZTE Score M and half the Anthem 4G. It measures 4.88 inches tall and 2.58 inches wide, and it has a trim, 0.47-inch profile. At 5.25 ounces, it is a bit on the heavy side, but it fits comfortably in front jean pockets, and you can maneuver it easily with just one hand.

On the left are a Micro-USB port and a silver, easy-to-press volume rocker. Up top are a power/sleep button and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The back houses a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. To the right of it are two small slits for the output speaker. In the lower right-hand corner is an indent you can use to pry off the backplate. Inside, you'll get ahold of the 1,730mAh battery and expandable microSD card slot. The plate is made out of a lightweight plastic coated in a matte finish that limits the visibility of fingerprint smudges.

ZTE Avid 4G
The Avid 4G has a 4-inch TFT display with a 480x800-pixel resolution. Josh Miller/CNET

The 4-inch TFT display has a 480x800-pixel resolution. While text and icons rendered clearly, there were a few unfortunate things I noticed with the screen. First, there was an odd blue hue that overlaid the entire glass, and it was really obvious if you viewed a white image. Second, the display itself looked very speckly, and it was riddled with subtle but visible splotchy markings. Gradient patterns also looked streaky and the display had a narrow viewing angle.

Above the screen is VGA front-facing camera and an LED notification light. Below are three hot keys (back, home, and menu) that light up whenever they're activated.

A closer glimpse at the ZTE Avid 4G (pictures)

See all photos

Software and features
As previously mentioned, the device is MetroPCS' only ZTE handset running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. As such, it has the Google apps you come to expect: Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Latitude, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, and YouTube. There's also Google Play Books, Magazines, Movies and TV, Music, and Store.

Other apps include Yahoo answers, a media sharing app called Full Share, Facebook, a mobile office suite known as Kingsoft Office, and a media portal called Pocket Express.

The phone also comes preloaded with Rhapsody's music subscription service. For an extra $5 a month, on top of a $60-a-month unlimited talk, text, data, and e-mail plan, you can search and download thousands of albums and artists on major U.S. record labels. Despite the fact that you can't play songs offline unless you add it onto a playlist, the service is intuitive and easy to use.

ZTE Avid 4G
The Avid 4G has a 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing VGA camera. Josh Miller/CNET

There's a handful of MetroPCS apps as well, including M Studio, which stores media files like ringtones; the carrier's native app store; MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi; Metro411, which searches and locates for nearby businesses and restaurants; an entertainment and media app called MyExtras; Metro Block-it, which allows you to block calls and texts from unwanted persons; a 4G mobile hot spot app; the device locator called Total Protection; and MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.

Simple task managing apps include a clock with alarm functions, a calculator, a calendar, a native e-mail client, a news and weather app, a notepad, a timer, a voice dialer, and a world clock.

Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera includes a 4x digital zoom, geotagging, a flash, a timer, and compositional grid lines. There's also panoramic shooting, four color effects, auto and touch focuses, five white balances, an exposure range (-2 to +2), a brightness meter, and four photo sizes (1 megapixel to 5 megapixels).

Video options include the same flash, geotagging, white balances, zoom, and color effects. You also get a few time-lapse options, five video sizes (from 352x288 to 1,280x720), a timer, and the ability to take photos while recording video.

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:

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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.


ZTE Avid 4G (MetroPCS)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 6