ZTE V5 first impressions: a decent offering that faces a tough road ahead

“The V5’s pair of 13MP and 5MP camera sensors differentiates it from the competition”

Did you know that ZTE was placed amongst the top 10 vendors globally in Q1 of 2014, based on smartphone shipments*? If you didn’t, we wouldn’t blame you. The Chinese company might be big in its home country or major markets like the USA, but it isn’t a known name in India. Interestingly, the brand has been present in India for several years, selling its own devices as well as white label products in partnership with telecom operators like Reliance. To alter its image, the brand has launched a new smartphone dubbed as the V5, developed specifically for the Indian market and targeted at budget-conscious buyers.

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The device was unveiled at an event in New Delhi today and we got a chance to spend some quality time with it to bring you our hands-on experience.

The ZTE V5 comes with a 5-inch OGS display, which has pretty much become a standard choice these days. With a pixel density of 294ppi, the display looked good and offered ample brightness. To protect it against scratches and knocks, the display is sealed with a layer of Dragontrail Glass. The major portion of the front is covered by the display panel itself, with the earpiece, front-facing camera and other sensors above, and navigation keys at the bottom. The capacitive keys offer the usual functionality and are represented by two dots on either side and a large circle representing the home button in the center. We really liked the blue colour of these capacitive keys, which imparts a unique look to the device.

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The white back of the V5 has a matte texture providing a good grip. The rear houses the main camera unit along with an LED flash, which protrudes from the top. At the bottom you’ll find two speaker meshes. Prying the rear panel open exposes the detachable battery, removing which you can access a pair of SIM card slots (micro-SIMs) and a microSD card slot. In terms of handling, the device doesn’t feel bulky or thick. But when comes to the build quality and looks, it’s quite average.

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The placement of the volume buttons and the power key is a typical affair, with both located on the right and left edges respectively. A 3.5mm audio socket is available up top, whereas a micro-USB port is at the bottom.

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Ticking under the hood is a 1.2GHz quad-core processor for handling performance in symphony with a gigabyte of RAM. During our brief usage, we didn’t encounter any lags while opening and closing different apps. However, it remains to be seen how well it works under duress. In the memory department, the smartphone comes loaded with a dismal 4GB of onboard storage, which is further partitioned to two separate chunks, leaving just about 2GB of space for users. Although you can add a microSD card of up to 32GB, the storage is far too low for installing basic apps, let alone games such as Real Racing 3.

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Up until now, the device seems to offer similar specifications to the Moto G (review | FAQs), and even includes the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. But the OEM is hoping to differentiate the V5 on the basis of its cameras. At the back, the handset sports a 13-megapixel EXMOR RS sensor sourced from Sony, which is better than the usual 8-megapixel cameras available in its price bracket. Sadly, pictures speak thousand words and the images we shot during the event weren’t very impressive. This could be because we shot them indoors, but nevertheless the results turned out to be grainy. We hope that the image quality is better in other situations. The phone can shoot videos in full HD resolution. 

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The camera interface is heavily customised, and offers a variety of options and modes. It also has three different preset settings in the form of Auto, Pro and Fun. Apart from the usual panorama, burst mode, HDR, etc, it also features a multiple exposure mode, which takes two successive images with different exposures and merges them together.

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To cater to the growing trend of selfies, the ZTE V5 is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera with a BSI sensor at the front. With its ultra-wide angle of 88-degrees, the secondary shooter can comfortably take group selfies too.

Following in the footsteps of other Chinese brands, ZTE has completely customised the Android interface. Running on top of 4.4.2 KitKat, the Nubia UI v2.5.1 overlay brings forth different icon packs, a modified user interface and functionality. Similar to Gionee’s Amigo UI and Xiaomi’s MIUI (MIUI 6 overview), there’s no app drawer, and everything can be accessed from the homescreen itself. You can also add a variety of widgets. Just like MIUI, you can open the flashlight by long-pressing the home key from the lock screen.

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The notification panel has also an interesting change. Instead of displaying quick toggles at the top or in a separate tab, they’re shown at the bottom. At first, you can only see a single row, but you can expand it to bring up more options.

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The ZTE V5 also makes use of sensors for some smart features. Some of them are pretty basic – allowing you to answer a call as soon as you place the device near your ear, while others allow you clear recent apps or change the music track by shaking the handset. The device also lets you take a screenshot by performing a three-finger swipe upwards, or open the most recent app by swiping left or right. Although it may take some getting used to, the gestures are an interesting touch.

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Surprisingly, we weren’t able to figure out how to open the recent apps menu in the ZTE V5, as long-pressing home key opens up Google Now, while there’s no effect of long-pressing the options key.

Last but not the least, the device includes a 2,400mAh battery, which should ideally last the smartphone a day. For connectivity, the phone features dual-SIM support, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

As a standalone offering, the V5 seems like a good attempt by ZTE to target the rapidly-growing budget smartphone segment. The asking price of Rs 10,999 is also fairly competitive. However, when you pit it against the competition, it fails to make a stand for itself. The Xiaomi Redmi 1s (Review|FAQs) is nearly half the price, and even though it’s powered by the same Snapdragon 400 SoC, it’s clocked higher at 1.6GHz. The V5 also faces stiff competition from the ASUS Zenfone 5 (review), which offers double the RAM and impressive image quality with its 8-megapixel snapper. There’s also the Moto G and its upcoming successor, the Moto G2, which will offer similar specs based on rumours. What really goes against the smartphone is its miserly 4GB of built-in storage, while only thing that works in its favour are its pair of 13MP and 5MP camera sensors. We’ll have more to say on the device and its capabilities in our review.


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