ZTE Overture review: A lot of power for the price

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
MSRP: $149.99

The Good The ZTE Overture packs a fast processor and LTE data speeds in a comfortable user-friendly design. And at $150 without a contract, it's a bargain.

The Bad The Overture runs Android 4.1. Call volume was low and voice quality wasn't always accurate.

The Bottom Line With its fast processor and LTE, the ZTE Overture is a great deal from Aio Wireless and one of the carrier's best starter smartphones.

Visit for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

The ZTE Overture is just the kind of smartphone that you'd expect from Aio Wireless. Neither its generic design nor its midrange feature set stands out from the larger Android crowd, but it all comes in a simple, easy package. LTE is a nice bonus and the processor is fast, but the handset is stuck on Android 4.1. That last bit is disappointing, but for $150 without a contract (Aio is AT&T's prepaid brand), that's pretty much what you'd expect.

All of that comes together to make this one of Aio's best phones for your dollar. At any other carrier it would be completely unremarkable, but given Aio's smallish lineup, it's worth a serious look for anyone on a budget.

Design and display
As common as the Overture's design may be, it makes a nice effort to look more expensive than it really is. A silver ring around the phone's perimeter breaks the basic-black monotony and I like the textured surface on the battery cover. What's more, for a budget device, the Overture is a comfortable size (4.88 inches long by 2.58 inches wide by 0.46 inch thin) and it has a firm, sturdy feel (at 4.53 ounces).

The 4-inch WVGA display can look the slightest bit washed-out, but it's still vibrant for a handset of this price range. The full resolution is 480x800 pixels. Like on any other Android device, you can populate the home screens (you get only three) with shortcut icons for your favorite apps and various widgets.

I liked the shortcut options from the main lock screen. Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

The Overture has a couple of signature touches to the home screen that I haven't seen before. For example, when you press and hold the green circle icon to unlock the screen, a lightning bolt animation orbits the circle as the handset unlocks. It may sound gimmicky, but I just thought it was cool.

More useful is the selection of six shortcut icons that you can access without actually unlocking the phone. To show them, just pinch open the green circle until they expand in a flowerlike shape. If you don't like the default options, you can switch them out for others. Of course, you won't see this option if you secure the phone with a password, PIN, or pattern (face unlock is available, as well).

The Overture has a standard icon-based menu design. Josh Miller/CNET

Below the display are the standard Jelly Bean touch controls: back, home, and settings. On the left spine is the large and easy-to-find volume rocker, the Micro-USB charger sits alone on the right spine, and up top are the power control and 3.5mm headset jack. The camera lens and flash protrude just slightly on the Overture's rear side, but a slight ridge should protect them from any damage. Just keep your finger out of the way when taking a photo. The single external speaker is just to the left. You'll have to remove the battery cover, but not the battery, to access the microSD card slot.

Interface and apps
As mentioned, the Overture supports Android 4.1.2. Though that's still a version of Jelly Bean, 4.1 is getting rather long in the tooth. After all, Android 4.3 is now three months old and KitKat (Android 4.4) may be released as early as the end of this month. Yes, I realize that a budget handset like the Overture is unlikely to have the newest version of Android, but I'd like it be no more than one update behind.

The back cover has a textured material. The camera lens and flash are at the top center. Josh Miller/CNET

Of course, you'll find the usual selection of Google apps like Google+, Hangouts, Gmail, Maps and Navigation, and YouTube. And as always, there are more apps available in the Google Play store. Fortunately, Aio doesn't cram the Overture with any bloatware. You'll see useful apps for accessing your account and your voice mail, though.

Organizer apps include a calculator, a notepad, a calendar, voice dialing and search, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, a timer, a file manager, and a world clock. And as you'd expect, there's e-mail for POP3 and IMAP4 accounts, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. A basic version of Kingsoft Office, which lets you view Office docs, comes free on the device, as do the Android apps for Facebook and Twitter.

Our standard indoor shot was one of the best photos that I took. Kent German/CNET

The Overture's 5-megapixel camera has more than enough editing options and an attractive and straightforward interface. Features include a self-timer, a 4x digital zoom, a multishot mode, four white-balance options, an adjustable ISO, geotagging, three color filters, and a night mode. You change the image resolution way down to VGA and adjust the exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. The 1-megapixel camera around front is at your disposal, as well.

The Overture's camera also performed relatively well under cloudy skies. Kent German/CNET

Photo quality was decent for a midrange phone. Not surprisingly, you'll get the best results when you have enough light and aren't staring straight into the sun. Yet, I also was pleased with a photo of the Empire State Building against a cloudy sky and the fountain at New York's Lincoln Center at dusk. Interior shots were about the same. For example, the photo of the CNET rug under a skylight turned out much better than our standard studio shot under florescent lights.

I even liked this photo of the Lincoln Center fountain at dusk. Kent German/CNET

Camcorder options are fewer than the still shooter has, with just four quality settings (the highest is 720p), geotagging, and four white-balance settings. A bonus feature, however, lets you take photos while filming. MMS videos are capped at 1 second; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available storage allows (4GB internal, plus up to 32GB with the external memory slot).

Sunny days produce the best conditions for photos. Kent German/CNET

Music and browser
The remaining features are no different from other Android phones in its class. You can go to Google Play to purchase content for the video and music players or use the preloaded Google Play Magazines, Music, Books, and Movies apps. There's also a dedicated news and weather widget.

Fluorescent lighting? Not as good. Kent German/CNET

The Overture also comes with both a standard Android browser and a dedicated Chrome browser. I continue to prefer the latter since you can browse in incognito mode and sync it with your computer or tablet to share tabs and bookmarks.

Processor and battery
The Overture has a 1.2GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor, which was better than I was expecting. As such, performance was mostly satisfying. The handset started relatively quickly (just suffer through an annoying Aio jingle as the phone powers on), there's barely any shutter lag, and I didn't have to wait for applications to open. The touch interface on the display was responsive, as well. Yes, there are faster phones, but the Overture was quite zippy for a midrange device. In my tests, the Overture had an average Linpack score of 216.140 MFLOPs (single-thread) with a high of 231.367 MFLOPs. On the Quadrant benchmark it has an average score of score of 4,721. For comparison, that's about as fast as 2012's HTC One X.