By October 13, 2011

ZTE Libra review

ZTE Libra review ZTE are a company that specialise in selling very good-for-your-money phones and the ZTE Libra is another well priced addition to their line-up.

ZTE aren’t a well advertised phone maker, in fact, before this review, I hadn’t personally heard of them myself. But I shall definitely be taking a look at their future line-up after using this phone.

 

 

Ten second Review:

  • Device: ZTE Libra
  • Price: £166.80
  • Summary: A mid-range Android phone with something to say.
  • Best of: Five-megapixel camera on such a cheap Android phone.
  • Worst of: Slow 600 Mhz processor, Wi-Fi constantly turns off.
  • Buy it now from: Clove

 

What’s in the box?

  • Device
  • Charger
  • Headset with mic
  • 2GB micro SD card
  • USB to micro USB cable
  • Documentation

 

ZTE Libra specification:

  • 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G Network: HSDPA 900 / 2100
  • Dimensions: 114 x 56 x 11.8mm
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Display:TFT capacitive touchscreen, 256K colours, 480 x 800 pixels, 3.5 inches
  • On-Screen Keyboard
  • 3.5mm jack
  • Memory: 256 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM
  • microSD, up to 32GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth:  v2.1
  • microUSB USB 2.0 client, 480Mbit/s micro-USB
  • Camera: 5 MP
  • OS: Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo)
  • CPU: Qualcomm MSM7227, 600 MHz processor
  • Stereo FM radio
  • GPS with A-GPS support
  • Digital compass
  • Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1205 mAh

 

General

On the left hand side there’s the microUSB slot to sync/charge which doesn’t have a cover and I found to be upside down (as opposed to most other phones)

Flipping over to the right, you’ll find the volume rocker button, which even though it is small, is easy to use. There also appears to be a small speaker grill which produces fair quality music and loudspeaker calls.

ZTE Libra review

On the top, there is the 3.5mm headphone jack to the left and in the centre is the on and off button. I found the on/off button to be hard to reach sometimes as it is very small and does not protrude from the device very far.

 

The front is where it’s all happening. Firstly, from the top, there is the earpiece grill. Below that you’ll find the fair-sized 3.5 capacitive display. Below the screen there are three Android buttons (home, menu and back).

On the back, there is simply the 5 megapixel camera and the ‘ZTE’ logo at the bottom.

ZTE Libra review

 

Highlights

  • Great tactile navigation buttons
  • Feels solid and high quality with the rigid back covering

Lowlights

  • On/off button is too small
  • Back covering is very hard to remove

 

 

Review: Hardware

The ZTE Libra is clearly a phone that is trying to capitalise on the lack of cheap Android devices out there, however, it does not feel cheap with the plastic backing almost feeling like an aluminium covering. The phone feels like one device (like the iPhone) and does not feel like it would be easy to break, which is always a bonus for those purchasing a cheaper Android handset. The front of the device does well in keeping up the high-quality feel too with the display feeling very rigid and well made.

The buttons on the front of the device give a very tactile feedback and I didn’t once feel myself missing them or having to hit them a second time because they weren’t reacting. I wasn’t too sure on why they chose to design it so that the Home and menu buttons were one piece of plastic and the Search button another, but it isn’t something that got me confused and as I said it was easy enough to tell between the different buttons that i wanted to be pressing. The Search button seems to act as a notification light as well. However, I could not work out what all the different flashing lights meant (and there was nothing about it in the quick-start guide.) It may have been me just being stupid, but I couldn’t work out why sometimes it would flash red, why other times it would come up green, why other times it would flash white and why some other times it would have red on permanently. Maybe it’s just a light for decoration and wasn’t notifications at all.

The small power button also really got on my nerves in that I would literally have to look on the top of the phone to find out where it was and to press it. This was not much fun when in college and just wanting to quickly check my notifications whilst the teacher had quickly turned away and going to press it and missing and then finding yourself looking on the top of the phone and by the time you have, your lecturer has caught you looking – silly button!

However, I was impressed with the screen quality; I own an HTC Desire as my main use phone and this phone packs the same resolution as that and the HTC Desire costs about £200 more. Also, with the ZTE Libra’s screen being smaller than my Desire’s the pixel density was a little higher and so the screen almost looked nicer than my Desire’s in some places (such as reading text online.)

 

Software

The ZTE Libra runs stock Androids 2.2 Froyo operating system, which considering 2.3 Gingerbread from Android is the most advanced, I found this not a bad operating system to use. However, with the 600 Mhz processor, it really doesn’t run as fast as it could, with there being lag between menus and slow performance when using the keyboard to type. This was a huge downfall for me and caused many frustrations in the few days that i had to use it. I found myself sometimes having to press a certain button twice to get on to a menu or to go back a page and sometimes having to click the homepage out of frustration waiting for an application to load. This is a phone for people with a lot of patience who don’t mind waiting for things to load and who don’t mind taking their time to write a text or message. However, if you wish to bash out a quick text message or quickly check your Facebook or Twitter, this phone isn’t the phone I’d recommend, I’d recommended spending time looking around for a phone with a higher processor.

As the Libra runs stock Android, you won’t find any manufacturer add-ons such as HTC Sense or Samsung Touchwiz meaning there will be five home screens and an alphabetical list of applications when you hit the menu button in the middle at the bottom. To the left of that is the Phone Dialler button that takes you obviously to the dialler and on the far right of the three buttons, there is the browser option (which saves you adding an application shortcut to the home screen.) This is what my home screens looked like:

HomeScreen -2HomeScreen -1HomeScreen 0HomeScreen  1HomeScreen  2

One huge software flaw that I found when using this phone was the fact that the Wi-Fi had real problems staying connected. Whenever I would turn the screen off it would turn the Wi-Fi connection off. Now, I knew that Android had a function that allowed you to set your phone’s Wi-Fi to sleep mode when you turned the screen off, so I went and checked this but it wasn’t selected. This got me very confused, So I turned the phone off and on again, I even tried deleting and inserting my Wi-Fi details again but it kept turning the Wi-Fi off. Thankfully, on my third day this occurred less times and at the current time that I write this review, it seems to be performing okay. So maybe it was just warming up or something.

 

The browser on most Android phones is the bread and butter for them however, the browser on the ZTE Libra is one of the places you can really feel the 600Mhz processor letting you down. There was a noticeable loading time difference when I did a comparison with my HTC Desire that’s running a 1Ghz processor; the Desire would take almost half the time of the ZTE Libra with the same Wi-Fi connection enabled. In addition, the processor slows down the speed of scrolling and panning on the Libra. The Libra does support pinch-to-zoom and double tap to zoom, but once again these are slowed down by the small processor and low level of RAM. With the high resolution of 800×480 and a pixel density of 267 PPI, the screen allows text reading on the device to be fairly easy. However, you will have to zoom in a little to read most of the text due to the display size.

browserBrowser2

With the Libra running Android, it can be used as a business phone fairly well. I personally didn’t use the calendar much, but found myself using the Gmail application plenty and was constantly texting. The ZTE Libra does come with a default email application, but I found this to be less reliable with push notifications than the Gmail application. The Gmail application allows you to have multiple accounts and allows for favourite emails and also reply to all recipients (if you are sent a forwarded email.) The calendar application allows you to view your appointments in Day, Week, Month and Agenda view, all of which i found myself using. And the Text Messaging application is basic texting, you can send to multiple contacts, add media and all that other good stuff that we have come to expect from smartphones these days.

Calendar - MonthCalendar - WeekCalendar - DayGmailEmail

The ZTE Libra is rocking a 5 megapixel camera that isn’t usually found on such a mid-range Android device. The phone features a fair few amount of options for you to pick when taking a photo and these allow for you to often get a fairly okay picture. You can alter the: Focus mode, the exposure, picture size, picture quality, colour effect, ISO, anti banding, saturation, contrast and the sharpness. There is a Geotagging feature that allows you to add a location to your photo that you take. Also within the camera screen you are given the options to switch to video and the option to go to your gallery. However, you can tell that it is a mid-range 5 megapixel camera with the colours not coming out too well. However a 5 megapixel camera is still a 5 megapixel camera and as a result, the Libra’s definition is well presented within the pictures.

You can only record video up to QVGA on the Libra, but you are once again given a few options to change the video settings. These options are: colour effect, video quality, video encoder, audio encoder and video duration; you can also change the white balance as an additional option. Something else that you can do before you start recording is choose the quality, which I think is very clever. You can choose between: high, low, mms and YouTube which if I were to use this phone on a daily basis, I would find very useful instead of having to sort through the options to change them manually.

CameraGalleryGallery 2

IMG_20111007_124244IMG_20111008_151233

Battery Life

The battery life on the ZTE Libra was quite hard for me to compare to other phones, seeing as the only other phone I use is my HTC Desire (which isn’t known for it’s long battery.) I was doubtful when I first received the Libra, as it was only rocking a 1205 mAh power battery and my desire is rocking a 1500mAh. However, what i did find is that, after a full charge the night before, the ZTE Libra got me through a whole college day (from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM) and I still had battery left. In addition, I went out with it later on without a charge and when I returned home about 12, I was very impressed to see it still had about 20% charge left. This was all on mid/heavy usage. I was constantly texting people whilst checking my Facebook and receiving Twitter notifications. This is nothing compared to the likes of Blackberry, lasting two full days, but for me this was very sufficient indeed.

 

 

Conclusion

ZTE Libra has shaken the market up a bit, offering an almost high-end Android smartphone at such a low price!  I found this phone quite a joy to use as it did every action that I needed it to do, even if it did take its time to do these actions. One massive problem I had with the Libra however was the simple fact that the Wi-Fi kept turning off and for me (living in an area with no network coverage) this could really be a deal breaker for me. Now, I don’t know if this was merely that I was sent a dodgy model, but it was still a massive problem for me.

I would recommend the ZTE Libra for those who don’t want to splash out a lot of money on a phone, but do want a phone on which they can access their Facebook, Twitter and do some casual internet browsing. I would also recommend it for those who need a phone that can sync all their Google accounts to create a nice handheld device that stores all your calendar dates, emails and contacts. I would not recommend it for those who need to be bashing out texts and emails at a quick rate, whilst checking email, Facebook and booking events all within the space of five minutes. For these people I would recommend a higher-end device with a bigger processor, preferably a 1Ghz processor.

The ZTE Libra is a phone where you are getting what you paid for (apart from possibly the 5mp camera) and the speed would be a real problem. However, for those who aren’t looking to splash some cash, I would say this phone is for you as it has all the functionality of more expensive smartphones, but just with a smaller price tag.

 

Review by: Luke

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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