I have fond memories of ZTE, the Nubia was a thin smartphone with a stand up camera and great battery life. It’s been a while since I checked in with ZTE, so when I was asked to review the Blade 2020 I said yes, and I have to admit, it hasn’t lived up to the expectations of its predecessors.
The bar for mid range phones is pretty high these days, with more and more people looking to the sub 300 price range for a smartphone with good enough performance. The display is good enough, the colors are accurate with wide viewing angles but the brightness is very high. Viewing in direct sunlight you will be shielding the display trying to view it.
It’s a large display at 6.53 inches with Full HD+ resolution and 395 ppi pixel density. The LTPS screen covers 91.5% of the front and the frames are thin despite with a classic chin at the bottom. You can manually adjust the color temperature. There is a setting to “Improve video quality”, this optimizes the contrast and sharpness of video.
The Quad camera have 6 optical layers with the main camera featuring a 48MP with a f1.79 aperture which should offer some good low light performance. The wide angle sensor is 8MP with f2.4 and viewing angle of 120degrees. The other lenses are 2MP and are for macro photography and depth measurement.
The camera does produce some dull flat photos, but it can take a very nice photo like most mid range phones. A few times we were surprised by the quality of the photos, like the sampi that were taken in fairly low light.
Here are some example of the wide angle vs standard lens, you can see that the wide angle can produce very dull and photos lacking detail.
What’s interesting about this camera experience is that the photos don’t look great when you first take them, the trees would often lack the detail in the leaves, but wait a few seconds and go back to the photo and let the post processing magic work over the photo, and 7 out of 10 times you’ve got something good enough. This is the mid range processor at work, it takes a few seconds longer than you might like to give you the results you’re after. But that’s the point, the camera is lacking, but overall the camera experience is positive.
Zoom is not something that this smartphone is good at, but standard and wide angle. Shots that are zoomed are pixelated. Bokeh and macro photography are fine, the images when using bokeh are often over exposed no matter how much you play around. With portait mode I had a hard time getting the grape leaves in focus, the background often showed up clearer than the forground, which was meant to be super clear.
ZTE did not succeed in making the most out of the two extra lenses, but I know that they help with the overall camera performance.
Low light photos aren’t great, but this is expected from a mid range phone though for this price the poor lighting photos turn out better than you often expect.
When it comes to selfies, the Blade 2020 does a decent job and even has a portait mode.
The Blade 2020 is running an 8 core MediaTek Helio P70, it’s a 12nm processor with Mali G72 MP3 graphics. We did see some stutters and a few big lags, things got better when we switch away from the dynamic wallpaper that it defaults to on set up. You can game on this handset, I played some Harry Potter and it looked good, though not as good on a smartphone with 90HZ or 120HZ display, but that’s compromise you make for price. It doesn’t get too hot in hand after extended Fornite play, but if you do play for an hour I noticed a 18% drop in battery life.
ZTE could have given us 6GB of RAM to help with the occasional lags we’re seeing now, it would help the phone age better. We do like the 128GB of on board storage and you have a MicroSD card slot which will give you another 512GB.
There is NFC is you’d like to have contactless payment, dual band WiFi 5 (6 would be better) and Bluetooth 4.2 and not 5.0. So there are some steps down in components that we would rather have at the latest standard. It’s these little things that help your phone age better, high end phones are easier to keep for a few years, where mid range phones like this you’ll start to feel like you need to upgrade after just a year.
Surprisingly there is some enhanced audio with DTS: X Ultra, it’s a seperate app that’s configured for 450 different headphones.
Running Android 10 and MiFavor 10, it’s not as flexible as vanilla Android. Overall, it’s not a bad version of Android, but it has a decidedly Chinese flare with app styling that you can’t get rid of.
With 4000mAh and 18 watt fast charging we can charge up in 1:38Hr and you get 1% a minute if you’re under 60%. We liked the extreme power saving mode which leaves your 6 favorite apps running and shuts down everything else.
We got a day of battery life, but with no gaming, mostly messaging, Instagram, YouTube and a few emails. We would get over 4 hours of screen on time, which isn’t great, so you’ll have to a light user to make it through the day.
At 279EUR it’s a budget phone that can take a solid photo and has a nice display. It’s getting more an more competitive at this price point, but if you feel that you’re a light to moderate user you’ll be satisfied with the trade offs that you have to make when a phone is sub 300EUR.