ZTE Overture review: A lot of power for the price

The 1,780mAh battery has a reported talk time of 9.5 hours and a standby time of 12.5 days. During our battery test for continuous video playback, the Overture lasted 5.52 hours.

ZTE Overture Performance testing
Average 3G download speed 7.61Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 4.89Mbps
App download (CNET) 3.72MB in 32.21 seconds
CNET mobile site load time 4.53 seconds
CNET desktop site load time 12.23 seconds
Restart time 24.83 seconds
Camera boot time 1.37 seconds

Data speeds
Honestly, it wouldn't have shocked me if Aio had left the Overture on 3G, which is why I'm so glad to see that it supports 4G LTE speeds. That connection remained solid and fast throughout my trial period in everything from Web browsing to app downloads. Out of five separate tests in the same location using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, I clocked an average download speed of 7.61Mbps and uploads at 4.89Mbps. The highest upload score was 8.62Mbps and the highest download score was 5.16Mbps. When LTE isn't available, the Overture will fall back to 3G (UMTS 850/1900/2100).

On the default Android browser, the CNET mobile site loaded in 4.53 seconds, the full CNET site loaded in 12.26 seconds, and the full site for American Airlines loaded in 8.59 seconds. The CNET Android app (3.72MB) downloaded in 32.21 seconds and launched with updated content in 12 seconds.

The Overture is small enough to fit in your pocket. Josh Miller/CNET

Call quality
I tested the dual-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) ZTE Overture in San Francisco. Remember that as a brand of AT&T, Aio uses AT&T's regular network. Call quality was satisfying on the whole, though it wasn't without a few issues. When calling another cell phone, the signal remained strong and free of static, though some audio had an unnaturally high pitch. It wasn't a big deal, but a couple of my friends didn't quite sound like themselves. The volume level on the Overture could stand to be a bit louder, as well.

On their end, callers had no complaints. One friend specifically mentioned that the Overture didn't pick up any background noise. I also had no trouble using an airline's automated calling system when calling from a quiet office. I was able to walk several steps through a voice command menu without having to repeat myself. Granted, my experience would be less ideal if I tried calling from a noisier place, but that would be the case with any almost other cell phone.

ZTE Overture call quality sample

Listen now:

The speakerphone didn't fare as well, unfortunately. Though the volume was loud through the single external speaker, I had to repeat myself occasionally if I spoke from anywhere besides a quiet room. Voices didn't have the same high pitch that I heard on regular calls, but I noticed some distortion in the audio quality. On the whole, it was about average for a cell phone speaker: not really good and not really terrible. The Overture has a maximum SAR of 1.25 watts per kilogram as tested by the FCC. It supports M3 and T4 hearing aids.

Unless you're willing to open your wallet wide for a Samsung Galaxy S4 ($579), an iPhone 5C ($549), or an iPhone 5S ($649) on Aio Wireless, the ZTE Overture is one of the best smartphones of its class that you can get on the carrier. For just $150 and no shackling contract, you get a well-built device with a bright display, a fast processor, and enough features (especially LTE) to keep you interested. Call quality could be better and the Android 4.1 OS is dated, but there's much more to like about this phone than there is to shun.

As for Aio's other starter smartphones, I'd definitely choose the Overture over the 3G-only Samsung Galaxy Amp. The Samsung Galaxy Express delivers slightly superior features, though you'll need to shell out an extra $100 for the better goods. Alternatively, the $99 Nokia Lumia 620 has a great display, a decent camera, and NFC just as long you're willing to consider Windows Phone 8. Of course, if you're not sold on Aio, you have a world of options available at other carriers. Handsets similar to the Overture and at the same price are indeed plentiful, and I'd hardly hold it up as the best buy of them all.