It's a shame the ZTE V9+, also known as the V9 Plus, doesn't run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but it could prove an affordable alternative to tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
ZTE is the company behind the Orange San Francisco, a ludicrously popular budget Android phone. ZTE isn't content with making cheap Android phones, though -- it wants to make affordable Android tablets too. Enter the ZTE V9+, otherwise referred to as the V9 Plus.
We went hands-on with the V9+ at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the tablet was announced, and here are our first impressions. Pricing and availability has yet to be announced.
The 7-inch V9+ borrows heavily from the similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Tab when it comes to design. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though -- the Tab is a cracking tablet.
The V9+ feels quite light, so it should be very portable. Seven-inch tablets tend to suit people who want to take their slate everywhere. We think the V9+ will suit the on-the-road lifestyle.
The chassis feels quite boxy, despite its rounded corners. The front-facing portion of the V9+ is glossy black, while the back is silver. Again, this puts us in mind of the Tab, which is black on the front and white on the back. We'd be surprised if the build quality of the V9+ matches that of the Tab, though -- when we turned the V9+ on its side we could see an unsightly seam where the two halves of the chassis had been stuck together. It may just have been an issue with the pre-production model we saw, though.
On the front, just under the screen, there are three touch-sensitive buttons for controlling the Android interface, and there's a 5-megapixel camera on the back.
Froyo hands up in the air
Just like the Tab, the V9+ runs Android 2.2 Froyo. In some ways, that's great, and, in others, it's slightly disappointing.
On the plus side, Froyo introduced support for Flash Player 10.1 to Android, so you'll be able to watch Flash video in the phone's browser. You'll also have access to the wonderful world of Android apps, so you can fill this bad boy to capacity with applications that will make you more productive, or maybe just Angry Birds.
On the other hand, Google is about to unleash Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which is optimised for tablets. Honeycomb makes better use of a tablet's large display, whereas Froyo is built for phones and designed to be used on a smaller screen. Honeycomb also adds support for Google Books and tabbed browsing, and offers a swoopy faux-3D interface that we've gone completely gaga for.
In short, Froyo is ace, but it's annoying that the V9+ doesn't offer the new, tablet-specific version of Android.
If we had to guess, we'd say ZTE decided to opt for Froyo because the hardware inside the V9+ isn't up to running Honeycomb smoothly enough.
Several of the Honeycomb tablets we've seen recently sport powerful dual-core 1GHz processors. The V9+ has a single-core 1GHz processor, which is far from slow but perhaps not fast enough to run Honeycomb. Indeed, during our testing, the V9+ seemed to run smoothly for the most part, but we did spot occasional juddering as we cycled through menus and launched apps.
If the ZTE V9+ is cheap enough, it could prove a really cool little device, especially if you're lusting after the Galaxy Tab but just can't spare the cash. Stay tuned for a full review soon.
Edited by Charles Kloet