Compares favorably to phones in the $400 price point, but right now it’s trying to punch above its weight class.
ZTE Blade S7
ZTE’s previous Blade device, the S6 was an entry-level $350 phone with a plastic build and an HD display. Now the Shenzen-based company is back with a more ambitious attempt as it tries to break into the premium midrange market.
The Blade S7 is fairly slim at 7.2mm, and measures 142 x 67mm, making it quite similar size-wise to an iPhone 6s. Despite this, it manages to pack in a larger 5-inch display. Remarkably, the phone is also lighter than an iPhone 6s, weighing in at just 131g. Unlike the all-plastic S6, the S7 has a full aluminum build and 2.5D Gorilla Glass panels on the front and back.
The right-side of the phone houses dual nano-SIM card slots, with the second slot also doubling up as a microSD slot, which supports cards up to 64GB in capacity. Internally, you get 32GB of built-in storage.
Below the display there’s a rectangular home button that doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. There are also two soft keys here for back and menu that only light up when pressed. If fingerprint scanning is too pedestrian for you, the S7 also boasts a retina unlock feature called Sky Eye that uses the front-facing camera to unlock the phone.
The Blade S7 has a 5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution (441 ppi) IPS lCD display, which uses in-cell technology - the same technology Apple uses on its displays - resulting in a more vibrant zero-gap display. In addition, ZTE uses a low-temperature polysilicon screen, to increase contrast ratio. It isn’t quite as good as an AMOlED display, but it’s definitely one of the better LCD displays we’ve seen.
The S7 runs on Android 5.1.1 lollipop with ZTE’s MiFavor 3.2 OS on top. As with most Chinese brand OSes, it highly resembles iOS, with the removal of the app drawer. ZTE has also included some of its own features, most prominently its Smart Sense gesture control. This feature lets you launch apps with a variety of gesture-based commands. For example, to turn on the torchlight, shake the phone vigorously and it will turn on. Shake it again to turn it off. New to Smart Sense is Black screen gesture, which lets you launch apps by drawing a pattern on the screen.
The ZTE Blade S7 is armed with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor used by its predecessor. For the price ZTE is asking, we would have preferred a higher-end processor, or at least Qualcomm’s newer Snapdragon 617 (the successor to the 615), but on the plus side, the S7 does boast 3GB of RAM.
The rear camera on the S7 is a 13-megapixel module with laser autofocus. The front camera is also 13-megapixels, making the Blade S7 one of the better selfie phones out there.
Picture quality from both cameras is decent with plenty of contrast and neutral colors. Details are generally good, but upon closer inspection, there is some noticeable smudging, especially towards the edge of the frame. And even at lower ISO levels, there’s some graininess too.
The Blade S7 has a 2,500mAh nonremovable battery. Battery life was quite average, with the S7 lasting a little over seven hours in our video looping benchmark test.
The Blade S7 makes many improvements over its predecessor. It’s got a more premium metal and glass build and its Full HD display is a huge improvement over the HD panel on the S6. The cameras, both front and rear, are much improved too. ZTE has also done a great job of tweaking and improving its MiFavor OS with new features like Black Screen gesture.
Those upgrades come at a price though. At $499, the S7 retails for $151 more than the S6, which puts it in a new premium mid-range price bracket where it competes against the likes of the OnePlus 2 and Xiaomi Mi Note (and the soon to be released OnePlus 3 and Mi 5) all of which offer just as much as the S7, but with much better benchmark performance.
AT A GLANCE
Operating System Android 5.1.1 lollipop with MiFavor 3.2
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core (quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53) processor
Display 5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixels IPS lCD (441ppi)
Dimensions 142 x 67 x 7.2mm
The Blade S7 was designed in ZTE’s Munich
The rectangular home button doubles up as a