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ZTE C78 (MetroPCS) review: ZTE C78 (MetroPCS)

ZTE C78 (MetroPCS)

Kent German
Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
4 min read


ZTE C78 (MetroPCS)

The Good

The ZTE C78 has an intuitive design, a functional feature set that includes stereo Bluetooth, and decent audio quality.

The Bad

The ZTE C78 lacks photo caller ID and its music player is beyond basic. Call volume level was rather low.

The Bottom Line

As a simple phone for making calls, the ZTE gets the job done. We appreciate the stereo Bluetooth, but we wish the volume were louder.

Though Chinese manufacturer ZTE has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, it still has a small presence in the United States. Its phones are available only at regional carrier MetroPCS, and even then you're limited to relatively low-end models. In the last year, we've reviewed the ZTE C79 and the C88 and we now turn our attention to C78. Sporting a candy-bar design in a unique purple hue (purple phones are in, by the way), the C78 offers mid-range features with decent call quality. At $119, it's on the pricey side, but keep in mind that MetroPCS doesn't require service contracts.

The C78 has a standard, candy-bar design. Apart from a ribbed surface on the rear face and the aforementioned purple color, there's not much you can say about its appearance. At 4.3 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick and weighing 3.5 ounces, it's compact and lightweight, but it has a solid feeling in the hand.

The 2-inch display supports 262,000 colors and 220x176 pixels. Colors were bright, but graphics looked a tad fuzzy. Only the backlight time, the font size, and the clock style are adjustable. The menus are simple and easy to use; you can choose from icon or list styles.

The navigation array is spacious and tactile. There is a four-way toggle and a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone control (nice!), a back button, and the Talk and End/power keys. The backlit keypad has a similar design. The individual buttons are relatively large and are raised above the surface of the phone. We had no problems dialing or texting quickly. Users with visual impairments may find that the letters on the keys are a bit small, so we suggest giving the C78 a test drive before buying.

The C78's volume rocker sits on the left spine below the 2.5mm headset jack. Over on the right spine you'll find the Mini-USB charger port and a dedicated camera button. The camera lens sits on the top end of the phone's rear side. Take care not to cover it with your finger when snapping pictures.

The C78's phone book holds 500 contacts with room in each entry for four phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can save contacts to groups and you can pair them with one of 21 polyphonic ringtones. Unfortunately, the C78 does not support photo caller ID.

Basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, a tip calculator, and a world clock. The C78 also packs in a few higher-end features. Stereo Bluetooth is a big plus, and you'll also find Web-based POP3 e-mail, instant messaging, and a very basic MP3 player.

The ZTE C78's camera doesn't offer a flash or self-portrait mirror.

The VGA camera takes pictures in four resolutions, from 640x480 pixels down to 160x120 pixels. You also get adjustable brightness and contrast levels, a digital zoom, two color effects, three image-quality settings, a self-timer, five white-balance settings, and two shutter sounds, plus a silent option. Photo quality is about what you'd expect from a VGA camera. Colors were muted and images had a lot of noise. On the upside, the C78 offers a respectable 60MB of user-accessible memory.

The C78 has average photo quality for a VGA camera.

You can personalize the C78 with a banner and your choice of wallpaper and ringtones. More options, and additional ringtones, are available from MetroPCS's MetroWEB service. The C78 comes with one Sudoku game, but you can always buy more titles.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) ZTE C78 in San Francisco using MetroPCS service. Call quality was decent overall, with a clear signal and little static and interference. Voices sounded a tad robotic, but it wasn't too bothersome. On the other hand, the volume was too low; we had trouble hearing in noisy situations.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine for the most part. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but they didn't notice the robotic effect that we heard. Yet, they also reported a low volume and a couple of our friends said that the C78 picked up a lot of background noise. Speakerphone calls were fine: audio quality was a bit muffled, but the volume level was loud.

The C78 has a rated battery life of 3.7 hours talk time and 7.5 days standby time. It has a decent tested talk time of 5 hours and 56 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests the C78 has a digital SAR of 0.994 watt per kilogram.


ZTE C78 (MetroPCS)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6
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