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ZTE Warp Sequent (Boost Mobile) review: Good performer, but not a great value

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good The ZTE Warp Sequent has a sturdy construction, delivers a nearly skinless Android 4.0 experience, and has a decent 5-megapixel camera.

The Bad Boost's Warp Sequent runs only on 3G, and its camera's shutter speed is slow.

The Bottom Line The Warp Sequent's impressive performance and decent midrange specs are a step up for ZTE, but its sluggish 3G speeds and price don't merit a purchase.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

You have to hand it to ZTE. Amid its seemingly infinite supply of mediocre handsets and mounting security concerns, the Chinese phone manufacturer raised the bar just a bit. Disregarding the ZTE Warp Sequent's oddball name (I know it's the successor to the Warp, but what's this name supposed to evoke anyway -- two warps whirling one after another?), it has more higher-end specs than what we've seen in past ZTE handsets, and its performance isn't plagued with buggy software or glacial internal speeds. To put it frankly, this is one ZTE handset that isn't a total disappointment.

Yet there are still a couple of things that hold it back. It operates only on Boost's 3G network, and even though you don't have to sign a contract for this $199.99 phone, there are more powerful Boost handsets available for just a few bucks more.

The ZTE Warp Sequent has a more premium feel than any ZTE device I've handled, and it reminds me somewhat of the last two Nexuses (which is a huge improvement, as far as ZTE goes). The general shape is the same: a slab with rounded corners, and top and bottom edges that curve slightly outward. But this handset is smaller, measuring 5 inches tall, 2.56 inches wide, and 0.39 inch thick. Weighing 4.6 ounces, it's not heavy, but it feels solid and dense. Though it's a snug fit in small jean pockets, it's comfortable to hold in my hands, or pinned between my face and shoulder.

On the left are a Micro-USB port and a volume rocker, while up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sleep/power button.

ZTE Warp Sequent (back)
The ZTE Warp Sequent has a lined back plate and a 5-megapixel camera. James Martin/CNET

On the back's top-left corner is a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, and on the bottom are two small slits (though only the left opens to the audio speaker). The thin plastic back plate features a striped, rectangular indentation in the middle, which slightly helps with grip. I like that it's also coated with a soft-touch material since it keeps fingerprints at bay. You can pry the plate off to access the microSD card slot and 1,650mAh lithium ion battery.

Above the display are an LED notification light, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and an in-ear speaker. Below it are three hot keys for back, home, and menu.

The 4.3-inch qHD touch screen is, again, one of the better ones I've seen on a ZTE phone. For one thing, it's sensitive to touch and doesn't require multiple taps or swipes as others do. Browsing through the app drawer, messaging with Swype (which it comes with), and switching home screen pages went smoothly.

Texts and app icons were crisp, default wallpapers were bright and clear, and the screen has a decently wide viewing angle in sunlight. Some images and many HQ YouTube videos did have some noticeable pixelation, especially with color gradients, but for the most part, the screen display shows marked advancement for ZTE.

Software features and OS
The ZTE Warp Sequent ships natively with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Aside from a handful of extra apps (we'll get to those later), the device offers a pretty pure ICS experience that I really like. Anyone who wants a vanilla Android OS will definitely appreciate the handset's lack of bloatware or overlaid UI, even though it's not as bare-bones as a Nexus.

It comes with the usual slew of Google apps, including Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Latitude, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, access to Play Books, Movies, Music, and Store, Search, Talk, and YouTube.

Basic task management apps are loaded as well, such as a clock with alarm functions, a native browser, e-mail, music and video players, a calendar, a battery and energy manager called Mi-Power, a news and weather app, a notepad, a timer, a voice dialer, a world clock, and a free trial of visual voicemail.

ZTE Warp Sequent (lock screen)
The Warp Sequent doesn't run a totally pure Android 4.0 experience, but it comes close. James Martin/CNET

Boost included two of its own apps. One is Boost Zone, a help portal through which you can also check your phone balance and fees.

The other is Mobile ID, which allows you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you choose. For example, if you select the E! package, you'll get E! apps and widgets pertaining to the celebrity news channel. You can also choose a Business Pro package, which includes tools designed to aid with business travel plans, financial investments, and backing up data.

Note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded -- you'll have to remove those apps manually. So far, there are 26 available packs. Unlike most Boost devices, Mobile ID isn't integral to the UI, and you can remove the Mobile ID app from the home screen's dashboard if you so choose.

Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera features a flash, touch focus, 4x digital zoom, a brightness meter, panoramic shooting, geotagging, and an exposure meter that ranges from -2 to +2. Other options are five white balances, five picture sizes ranging from 1- to 5-megapixels, a timer, three shutter tones, composition lines, three photo qualities, four color effects, five ISOs, and five levels of sharpness.

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