Affordable. Excellent battery life. Large, bright display. Includes fingerprint sensor and expandable storage slot.
Dated software. Can't handle demanding games. Limited internal storage. Lackluster call quality.
- Bottom Line
The Cricket Wireless ZTE Grand X 4 is a large, budget-friendly phablet with long battery life, but its capabilities are strictly basic.
By Ajay Kumar
Budget phones tend to make sacrifices in performance in order to be friendlier to your wallet. The $79.99 ZTE Grand X 4 cuts back on internal storage and processing power, but still has a big 5.5-inch screen and a long-lasting battery. It's a solid option for light use, but it won't run demanding games and apps. If money is tight and you want a big screen, don't count it out, but if you can stretch your budget you'll get a more rewarding experience from the $130 LG X Power or ZTE's $200 Grand X Max 2.
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Design, Features, and Display
The Grand X 4 doesn't stray far from last year's X 3 in terms of appearance. Both phones are plastic slabs with metal accents along the sides, capacitive buttons on the front, and USB-C charging ports. The X 4 gets a new fingerprint sensor on the back, but trades the grippy, removable back cover of the X 3 for a sealed plastic panel that creaks and flexes when you put pressure on it.
The phone measures 6.1 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.7 ounces, fitting between the smaller LG X Power (5.9 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches, 4.9 ounces) and the larger Grand X Max 2 (6.5 by 3.3 by 0.4 inches, 6.1 ounces). It's a pretty hefty device, with a large bezel and chunky build, and you'll need two hands to use it. There's no one-handed mode, but you can use add a software key in the middle of the screen to make navigation a bit easier.
You'll find clicky volume keys and a power button on the right side, a USB-C charging port at the bottom, and a 3.5mm audio jack up top. The left side has a SIM/microSD card slot that's capable of taking cards up to 64GB. The fingerprint sensor can be found under the rear camera. It's a bit slow, taking a second or two to wake and unlock the phone, but it's still nice to have for the price.
The X 4 has a bright 5.5-inch, 1,280-by-720 display. Resolution is 267 pixels per inch, which is adequate, though not nearly as sharp as the 1080p Max 2 (367ppi). That said, viewing angles are decent. It also gets impressively bright, making it easy to see outdoors.
Network Performance and Connectivity
Cricket Wireless uses AT&T's towers so service is identical across the two carriers. The X 4 supports LTE bands 2/4/5/12 and saw fairly good network connectivity during our testing in midtown Manhattan, with a top download speed of 8.4Mbps. That's in line with other Cricket/AT&T phones we've tested recently in the same area. Additional connectivity options include 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2; if you want dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC, you'll have to spend more money.
Call quality is mediocre. Voices can sound harsh and robotic, with occasional crackling that sometimes renders bits of conversation inaudible. Noise cancellation is decent, but it's still possible to hear some background disturbances. The rear speaker is tinny and not loud enough to hear outdoors.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The X 4 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 425 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. It's a common entry-level chipset, and in the AnTuTu benchmark test (a measure of overall system performance), it scores 35,624, significantly less than the Snapdragon 617-powered Max 2 (45,763) and the MediaTek-toting X Power (43,023).
With 2GB of RAM, the X 4 is capable of a decent amount of multitasking. You'll encounter occasional stuttering and some apps will hang a second too long before launching, but we were still able to run a fair amount of processes in the background without major slowdown. When it comes to games, the phone just isn't able to handle titles like GTA: San Andreas. Frame rates slow to a crawl and controls are too unresponsive to be playable.
On the bright side, battery life is excellent. Despite its large, bright display, the phone clocked 7 hours, 22 minutes in our rundown test, in which we stream full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness. It's only an hour less than the LG X Power (8 hours, 48 minutes), and significantly longer than the Max 2 by nearly three hours (5 hours, 30 minutes). We had no problem getting the phone to last through the day.
The Grand X 4 isn't going to win any photography awards. Its 13-megapixel rear camera takes decent pictures in well-lit settings, but in any mildly challenging circumstances, image quality doesn't hold up. On cloudy days or indoors you'll get muddy or blurry shots. Manual controls are available, letting you tweak settings like ISO and shutter speed to improve low-light performance, but even with those, you won't notice dramatic improvements from Auto mode.
Video recording (1080p at 30fps) is decent, but has the same struggles with low-light conditions. The 5-megapixel front camera is fine for selfies, though shots look ovely soft even after you disable the Beautification mode.
The Grand X 4 comes running the dated Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and you shouldn't expect to see any software updates. Thankfully it's a mostly stock version of Android, with some minor visual changes to the lock screen and notification shade.
A hefty amount of bloatware comes with the phone. There are 15 preinstalled apps from Amazon, Cricket, WebMD, and others. Out of the 16GB of total internal storage, less than half is available for use (5.68GB). A fair amount of the bloatware can be uninstalled, but you'll still need to use a microSD card if you want to download a lot of apps or take a bunch of photos.
For $80, the ZTE Grand X 4 mostly delivers on the basics. But aside from a large display and long battery life, it doesn't do anything particularly well. The Grand X Max 2, our Editors' Choice, gets you a faster processor, a bigger, sharper display, and a nicer build quality, though it's nearly double the price of the X 4. The LG X Power is a solid alternative, with faster performance and even better battery life than the Grand X 4, though it too costs a bit more. On the ultra-budget end, the Alcatel Streak doesn't offer any performance gains, but costs just $20.
By Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar. More »
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