The ZTE Skate is a budget Android smartphone running version 2.3 of Google's mobile operating system. It boasts a massive 4.3-inch screen and comes with a 2GB microSD card.
The Skate is available unlocked and SIM-free for around £200.
Should I buy the ZTE Skate?
If you read ourreview and were dissuaded by the obnoxious custom interface installed by Orange, then you may want to give the ZTE Skate some serious consideration.
The two phones are technically identical. They share the same internal hardware, the same case design and are both running, also known as Gingerbread. The big difference is that the Monte Carlo is being sold with Orange's software pre-loaded, while the Skate is packing the purest flavour of Android outside of the Google-backed .
This means you don't have to contend with performance-sapping pre-loaded apps you don't need -- or bloatware -- and a lurid user interface. Instead you're granted a blank canvas on which you can make your own mark.
This will appeal to die-hard Android fans but it comes at a cost -- because the Skate is currently only being sold SIM-free, you'll have to shell out around £80 more than you would for the pay as you go Monte Carlo.
If we're brutally honest, we hated Orange's custom user interface on the Monte Carlo. It was unattractive, sluggish and came packed with pointless applications which couldn't be removed by the user.
The ZTE Skate is running an almost untouched version of the stock Android operating system. That means it suffers from none of these issues. Put this phone alongside the Nexus S -- which also runs pure Android -- and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference from a user interface perspective.
There are some changes to take note of, however. The camera application has been slightly improved, offering an on-screen brightness control; this is for those times when you're shooting in low-light and can't make out your subject on the screen. There's also a smattering of pre-loaded apps, most of which are genuinely useful and don't hog processing power.
Because the version of Android on the Skate is uncluttered and free of bloatware, it runs moderately faster and smoother than the one seen on the Monte Carlo. It's still not a totally silky experience though. Scrolling is slightly jerky and there's a noticeable delay when moving between applications or opening menus.
Despite these issues, the decision to launch the Skate with stock Android was a wise one on ZTE's part. It gives users a chance to customise the phone to their own tastes, installing things they actually want rather than having apps forced upon them.
As we've already mentioned, the Skate is virtually identical to the Orange Monte Carlo. The only difference is the logo printed on the casing.
Despite its large dimensions, the Skate weighs just 120g. For a device with a 4.3-inch screen, that at first appears a remarkable achievement. It's slightly less impressive when you discover that the casing is entirely plastic -- and cheap plastic, at that.
Producing a handset of this type for such a modest budget naturally requires some sacrifices to be made. In the case of the Skate, it's construction materials. Don't go expecting the robust build quality of the
The front of the Skate features three physical buttons, which cover the traditional Android actions such as Home, Menu and Back. The Search button has been removed -- a habit that many Android hardware manufactures are falling into these days.
We actually quite like having a physical Search button as it allows you to quickly find items or fire up the Voice Command menu with a long-press.
Along the sides of the device you'll discover the volume rocker and power buttons. The latter is also used to lock and wake the screen. We'd hoped that you'd also be able to wake the display by pressing one of the fascia buttons, but that sadly isn't the case.
The Skate's 4.3-inch display is unquestionably one of its biggest selling points. No other budget Android phone can boast such a massive screen. The TFT LCD panel has a resolution of 480x800 pixels, which gives a pixel density of around 217 pixels per inch.
Despite lacking the vibrancy of a Super AMOLED screen, the Skate's display is reasonably bright, with good viewing angles. The auto-brightness setting is something of a miser, however, and you'll want to disable it if you hope to achieve the best image.
Of course, using such a big display does have its drawbacks, especially if you're running it on full brightness. The Skate's battery life is pretty poor, and we'd be willing to bet that a lot of the drain is down to the enormous -- but attractive -- screen.
Processing power and internal storage
Despite that massive 4.3-inch display, the ZTE Skate only has an 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. Other big-screen handsets that we've seen have tended to pack at least a 1GHz CPU, with plenty of RAM to aid smooth performance.
After spending a few moments with the Skate, you do get the feeling that a little extra muscle would have been welcome. The hardware seems to struggle with demanding activities. It's reduced to a crawl when you've got several things happening simultaneously.