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ZTE Blade A2 Plus Review: It solves the battery problems and is a good overall performer
Smartphones these days pack enough hardware to give your old desktop and some new ones a run for their money. However with no significant improvements in battery technology, most of the handsets these days, even some flagship ones need to be plugged in frequently, sometimes twice or thrice within a day.
That said, the trend of introducing bigger and powerful battery units have become quite common lately and even the end users don't mind carrying some extra ounces in return of a longer batter backup.
And that actually make sense because you can only appreciate sleek and light design of a smartphone for initial months and it is the battery backup that matters in everyday usage in a longer run.
We have seen a number of handsets from Lenovo, XIaomi, Gionee and Asus offering bigger battery units and he latest to join the heavy duty game is ZTE A2 Plus, which is launched today at a starting of Rs. 11,999 and will be exclusively available on Flipkart.
The smartphone is backed by a large 5,000 mAh battery unit that is said to last for two days on a single charge.
We tested the smartphone and here's what we have to say about its performance.
5,000 mAh Battery: Yes it lasts long and solves the battery problem
It's 8:30 in the morning and my ZTE Blade A2 Plus review unit is 100% charged. The smartphone is configured to handle work and social networks that include two email clients, Facebook, Instagram, two separate accounts on Twitter and Snapchat.
Besides, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Slack will be active throughout the day that adds to continuous on-screen time. The handset is working on Airtel 4G network in Delhi NCR.
I kept the handset on navigation (Google maps) during the 90 minute stretch to my office, just to find out how much battery the GPS drains. The aux cable is also plugged in and music ain't stopping folks.
During the 90 minute journey, I received 4 to 5 calls, checked and replied to Facebook and WhatsApp messages and also clicked a couple of shots to test the rear camera performance.
I reached my workplace and to my surprise, ZTE Blade A2 Plus still shows 92% battery which is a good start as most of the handsets with conventional battery units tend to lose at least 18 to 20% of juice in similar usage patterns.
During the first half which ended at 3 pm in my day's routine, the 5,000 mAh battery unit further discharged by 18%. I had received several calls, streamed two or three YouTube videos on Wi-Fi, and edited a number of pictures in third party editors such as Snapseed and Picsart.
I also played Asphalt 8 for about 15 minutes, used Share it to transfer data and as mentioned above, the social networking and work related apps never stopped.
I left for home around 6:30pm with 57% juice left in Blade A2 Plus.
As I reached home around 8:15 pm following the same usage pattern of GPS and music playback, the ZTE Blade A2 Plus shows 49% battery mark. Before calling it a day, I made 5 to 6 calls, checked e-mails, streamed music for over 30 minutes on a wireless speaker, texted and read some news.
At midnight, the battery displays 42% charge and I kept the phone on standby with data turned off and brightness level set to auto level.
The next morning I woke up to 41% charge left in ZTE Blade A2 Plus that shows the smartphone is still going strong and does not need to be plugged in for at least next 8 to 10 hours.
It was around 6pm in the evening that I finally put the Blade A2 Plus on charging with battery showing 3% charge.
So in total, the smartphone managed to last for a good 36 hours on a heavy usage, which means it can easily last for two days and even more if you don't play heavy games or stream YouTube videos on loop.
This is quite commendable for a smartphone of this price-point considering the fact that many flagship smartphones that does not even last a day.
Design: Premium and Sturdy build
To accommodate a bigger 5,000 mAh battery unit, ZTE has to make some compromises that increase the overall weight of the smartphone. Just to give you an overview, ZTE Blade A2 Plus weighs 189 grams compared to its rivals- Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 that presents a sleek design, weighs 175 grams and is backed by a 4,100 mAh battery unit.
On the other hand, Huawei's Honor 6X which also sells in the same price-point is powered by a smaller 3,340 mAh battery unit and weighs 162 grams. Besides, Lenovo P2 and Gionee Marathon M5 Plus also offer a 5,000 mAh battery unit and weighs 177 grams and 208 grams respectively.
While some can argue over weight and the overall thickness of the handsets packing bigger battery units, I personally don't mind carrying some extra ounces if the very handset can last a day longer without asking for a charge. ZTE Blade A2 Plus is one such handset that presents the right combination of design and features to deliver on everyday performance.
Coming on to look and feel, the Blade A2 Plus has a subtle design, which seems quite practical in everyday usage. The rear panel has slightly curves edges that make the smartphone fits comfortably in hands.
The top and bottom of the rear panel has two metal sub heads with criss-cross pattern that adds to the style. A 13MP camera module is placed at the top centre along with dual LED flashlight. A fingerprint sensor is integrated on a clickable button, right under the flashlight.
The metallic frame with brushed finish accommodates the physical buttons; volume rockers and power button on the right and SIM card slot on the left.
The top edge has the 3.5 mm headphone jack and the micro USB charging port rests at the bottom with two speaker grilles. The speaker grille on the right side is functional and the left one is fitted to add symmetry to the overall design.
The front of the smartphone is dominated by a 5.5-inch display covered under a 2.5D curved glass that seamlessly blends into the metallic frame. There are two touch capacitive buttons at the bottom of the display, positioned on either side of the home button. The top has an 8MP selfie camera along with an ear piece and a light sensor.
As far as usability and handling is concerned, ZTE Blade A2 Plus is comfortable to hold and can even be used with one hand. The buttons and the fingerprint sensor are placed ergonomically so that your thumb and fingers don't struggle to get the job done.
The overall weight is very well balanced and the handset does not feel hefty in everyday usage.
Overall, ZTE Blade A2 Plus brings a sturdy and practical design. The smartphone cannot be accounted as a sleek looking handset but the payback for a bigger battery is simply appreciable.
Display: 5.5-inch full HD Screen is crisp but viewing angles are a bit off
ZTE Blade A2 Plus flaunts a 5.5-inch full HD display with a resolution of 1080x1920 pixels. The display delivers good contrast levels and colours have a natural tone to them.
ZTE Blade A2 Plus will also please consumers who love to read books/news, play 3D games and watch movies on their handsets. The 5.5-inch full HD screen delivers a pixel density of 401ppi that result in crisp and sharp content.
While the content looks crisp and colours have natural tone, the viewing angles are bit unimpressive and we noticed colour shifts upon tilting the screen to different angles. This makes it a bit difficult to use the handset in direct sunlight.
Performance: Swift computing and multitasking performance
ZTE Blade A2 Plus is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6750T processor paired with 4GB of RAM. This MediaTek chipset uses 4 Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.5 GHz and the other 4 Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1GHz.
Built on 'Reduced Instruction Set Computing' (RISC) design strategy that enables faster instructions executions, the CPU easily manages everyday tasks and can even handle intensive applications with no major performance issues.
The 4GB RAM is more than enough to offer lag free multitasking experience. You can write emails, play music, stream YouTube videos, post pictures on Instagram and chat on WhatsApp without worrying about any performance slowdown.
Software: ZTE's custom software skin based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Like most of the Chinese Android handsets, ZTE Blade A2 Plus has a custom skin that misses an app drawer and have all the icons placed on home screens. It is based on Android 6.0 marshmallow and is mostly stock Android.
We did not notice any app crashes or lags while using the handset. The screen navigation is smooth and you also get a slew of customization options to tweak the look and feel of the handset.
The smartphone also has gesture and motion support. You can double tap to wake up the screen, flip the handset to mute the audio, enable auto call that dials the on-screen number when you put the phone close to your ear, etc. All these features can be accessed 'Gesture and Motion' section in settings menu.
Besides, you can customize the placement of touch capacitive buttons at the bottom of the display and can even set shortcuts to be accessible via fingerprint sensor placed at the rear side.
As we mentioned in the design part of the review, the fingerprint sensor is fitted on a clickable button that can be set to capture a screenshot upon a single click, launch the camera app with double click and switches on the flashlight when you long press the fingerprint sensor.
Overall, the smartphone delivers on software front with a lag free user interface that also comes loaded with nifty features.
Camera: Decent Camera performance and you also get RAW image format support
ZTE Blade A2 Plus features a 13MP rear camera that has CMOS sensor inside and comes with phase detection auto focus (PDAF). The camera is accompanied by a dual tone LED flashlight and can even capture images in RAW format. This will please photo enthusiasts who love to tweak the images they capture from their mobile devices.
The 13MP rear camera captures good quality images in daylight conditions. The color tones look natural and the camera software do not add any artificial saturation to the images. Besides, the images captured have good level of detailing. Here are some images captured in daylight.
While the camera performance is good when the light is sufficient, it is the low-light performance where the 13MP CMOS sensor fails to impress. It struggles to focus on the subject and leads to blurry shots if your hand is not still.
The camera app has a total of 9 filters that allows you to enhance the mobile photography experience. The camera also has Electronic Image Stabilization to support video recording that goes maximum to 1080p resolution in 30fps.
The 8MP front camera is quite a good performer when it comes to click selfies. The images have good detailing and you can even capture selfies in HDR mode. The selfie camera app also has gesture mode to click selfies.
Connectivity, Audio and call quality
As far as connectivity is concerned, ZTE Blade A2 Plus offers all the required options. The smartphone has Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and OTG reverse charging that allows you to charge other mobile devices with the help of large 5,000 mAh battery unit. Besides, the radio-frequency module fitted in the handset also supports 4G LTE and VoLTE connectivity.
You can use two nano SIM cards at a time or one SIM card and a microSD card that can expand the storage by up to 128GB.
We used the handset with Airtel 4G in Delhi NCR and did not face any call quality issues.
The audio performance delivered by the right speaker grille is not up to the mark and you have to use earphones to enjoy music while you tune in to your favorite tracks or watch movies.
At an aggressive price of Rs. 11,999, ZTE Blade A2 Plus is a good budget Android handset for users who are looking for a smartphone that can easily last for two days and offer a good overall performance.
The smartphone has a premium and sturdy build quality, crisp 1080p screen, lag free user interface and enough RAM to tackle intensive multitasking without breaking a sweat.
The only weak point seems to be its camera performance where it lacks behind from the competition.