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Huawei Valiant (MetroPCS) review:

Despite its shortcomings, good for the price

You can check out photos from other smartphones in our comparison gallery.

Colors are bright and rich, and corners look sharp on this 3-megapixel camera. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
I was impressed that the camera handled indoor shots as well as outdoor shots, but keep in mind that there's no flash to fill in darker scenes. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Taking focused camera shots is more of a challenge with a fixed-focus lens. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Exposure is even on this standard studio shot, which is pretty rare. Click to enlarge. Josh Miller/CNET

Call quality
I tested the Valiant in San Francisco. Due to MetroPCS's merger with new parent company T-Mobile, the Valiant is a GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900MHz bands) instead of a device that uses CDMA technology.

The network switch works to the Valiant's favor. Call quality was very strong overall for both sides. Volume sounded loud enough at about 80 percent of maximum levels, but that's when I was inside a fairly quiet office. I'd have a harder time hearing with more aural competition. Voices sounded rich and the line was clear during the vast majority of my calls. The only weirdness cropped up once in the form of feedback that echoed my voice back to me for a few seconds before righting itself again.

My main test caller praised the Valiant's audio quality for its clarity and volume, but noted that my voice distorted on peaks. He graded it a B+/A-.

Huawei Valiant call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone was also impressive when I held the phone at hip level, but once again that was with volume cranked up to the limit. This caused voices to sound a little "hot" and the phone to buzz slightly in my hand. Other than that, audio was surprisingly natural, and completely clear.

Performance: Data, processor, battery life
Although there's no LTE support for the Valiant, the move to T-Mobile's network does give it faster 3G than you'll find on other MetroPCS phones. You might not guess it from looking at the diagnostic numbers, though. Those consistently ranged between around 0.5Mbps and 1Mbps down and under 1Mbps up. Real-world tests were better, with even graphically rich Web sites like CNET's full desktop site loading in about 45 seconds.

Results from diagnostic speed and CPU performance tests put the Valiant in the lower end of the range. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Sure, that's pretty long when you compare it with 4G LTE speeds, but other phones I've tested have dragged on for long minutes, so this is acceptable for the patient.

On the processor side, the Valiant has a 1GHz dual-core CPU. It isn't very peppy. In real-world tests, I sometimes tapped a screen icon twice because I wasn't sure that my gesture had registered the first time. Apps loaded more slowly, and it takes at least a full second for the screen to rotate from portrait to landscape mode. Apps also load noticeably more slowly than on midrange and premium phones.

In diagnostic scoring, the Valiant got a 2,379 Quadrant score, compared with around 5,000 for the unlocked midrange ZTE Nubia 5 and about 23,000 for the high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Remember that instability I mentioned before? It also affected the game Beach Buggy Blitz, which wouldn't completely load. I'd hear the music, but it took a (very short) reboot each time to get the graphics to appear. The game looked sharp, clear, and responsive when I played it, but I noticed that other popular titles like Temple Run and Riptide GP 2 didn't appear in the Valiant's Google Play store.

Huawei Valiant MetroPCS (3G)
Install CNET mobile app (5MB) 36.6 seconds
Load up CNET mobile app 11.6 seconds
CNET mobile site load 11.3 seconds
CNET desktop site load 43.4 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 11.6 seconds
Camera boot time 3 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 1.5 seconds, no autofocus

The Valiant has a rated battery life of 10 hours and a standby time of 23.3 days on its 1,750mAh battery. Anecdotally, it lasted from morning until night before needing a charge. During our official battery drain test for continuous talk time, it lasted 8.95 hours.

Storage is sparse on this handset. You'll get 4GB total, which means you'll have only about half that, 1.9GB, to yourself. I strongly suggest investing in a microSD card for storage. The phone will accept up to 32GB extra. As for radiation level, the FCC measures a digital SAR of 0.60 watts per kilogram.

Buy it or skip it?
Phones that cost just $80 are few and far between, and when you weigh the pros and cons, the Valiant stands out as the best of an admittedly meager bunch. The larger screen size, in-hand feel, and call quality are solid for the low price, and 3G speeds, while not the fastest, are at least consistent. However, I have a hard time moving past the fixed-focus camera. It's reasonable for an entry-level phone to shuck luxuries like a front-facing camera and flash, but without at least touch focus, image quality is much more of a crap shoot. In addition, the phone's bouts of instability make me nervous.

If you want to stick very close to this price, the Kyocera Hydro with Cricket and Boost Mobile at least has a flash. The older Kyocera Rise with Virgin Mobile and the Kyocera Milano with Boost Mobile also cost about the same, but have their own set of problems and a smaller screen.

If you absolutely need to stay in this price range, go ahead and get the Valiant. However, if your budget can stretch a little more, keep shopping.

What you'll pay

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