Cricket Wireless' newest ZTE smartphone costs $200, and features an expansive 6-inch display and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.
LAS VEGAS -- The trend of big-screen handsets is no where near ending, and ZTE has made sure of that with its Grand X Max+. Unveiled at CES 2015 (along with the ZTE S Pro 2), the 6-inch device runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, and sports an uncommon 5-megapixel front-facing camera. In the US, it will be available starting January 9, for $200 from the prepaid carrier, Cricket Wireless.
Similar to its predecessor, the device sports a spacious 6-inch touchscreen with a 1,280x720-pixel resolution. This time, however, it now has an HD display, and it does well for viewing texts, videos, and images. The design remains relatively unchanged though, and when I handled it, I was fond of the back glass panel, which lent a subtle element of luxury to the smartphone, though it trapped fingerprints a bit easier.
The physical size hasn't changed much either. The handset measures 6.38 inches tall, 3.27 inches wide, and 0.31 inch thick (162.05 x 83.06 x 7.87mm). Given my petite grip, I found it difficult to maneuver with one hand, and uncomfortable to hold. Especially since its front and back surfaces are completely flat with no curvature, and its right and left edges run completely straight.
Of course, if you have bigger paws, the X Max+'s size may not bother you. And compared with other devices its size, it's relatively light at 6.06 ounces (171.8g). Alternative big-screen handsets, like the Google Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and Apple iPhone 6 Plus are heavier, as well as Cricket's other cost-conscious phablet, the Nokia Lumia 1320. It didn't feel particularly hefty during my time with it, especially when I held it still in landscape mode while watching a few video clips.
In addition to looking relatively the same, the smartphone also has some of the same core features as the original. It ships with Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of the box, has a 3,200mAh battery with Quick Charge 1.0 technology from Qualcomm, and it's equipped with a quad-core processor with a 1.2GHz clock speed.
Other goodies include 16GB of internal storage, up to 32GB of expandable storage via a microSD card, 2GB of RAM, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Given all these familiar specs, what exactly puts the "plus" in the Grand X Max+? One is the fact that it is now LTE-enabled (it was previously just a HSPA+ device). But the main answer lies in the cameras. The previous iteration had an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1-megapixel front-facing shooter. This time around, however, the handset has a bumped-up 13-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. (It's important to note though that other smartphones like the Huawei Ascend G6 and the Sony Xperia C3 have 5-megapixel front-facing cameras, too.)
The front-facing camera also has an 88 degree wide-angle lens so you can fit more into the frame during your video chats and selfies. When I tested it out for a short time, I held the handset out at arms length and did notice that the camera captured more real estate than in most phones, which would come in handy whenever I take (and I loathe the term myself) "groupies."
Although ZTE made some tweaks to the Grand X Max+'s cameras and display, overall, not much has changed with the device. Users who were for a major upgrade or who were waiting for a more decked-out sequel will be disappointed to see that most specs have remained the same.
Overall, however, the X Max+ feels like a solid midrange handset. Though it does run the risk of making its predecessor more appealing now that a price drop for the original X Max is expected, the X Max+ may be worth considering if you're a Cricket customer looking for an inexpensive phablet.
For more on CES 2015, read CNET's full coverage here.