ZTE Grand Memo review: first look
This year at MWC in Barcelona, big phones and “phablets” have stolen all the headlines, and Chinese manufacturer ZTE is hoping to grab some of the limelight, too. Its Grand Memo is a rival to the Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Huawei Ascend Mate (announced at CES earlier this year), and in terms of size it sits right between the two, with a 5.7in screen diagonal.
As with those other big handsets, the Grand Memo doesn’t blaze a trail with its resolution, though. A pixel count of 1,280 x 720 seems to be the limit with these types of smartphones right now, and although that means the pixel density isn’t particularly high at 258ppi, we can’t imagine it will bother many people.
With the brightness turned up, the display seemed perfectly presentable, although we’ll hold final judgement on quality until we’ve actually used the Grand Memo away from the glaring white spotlights of the ZTE show stand.
As you might expect for a phone this big, it really fills the hand, and we found it quite tricky to operate one-handed when taking our hands-on photographs. We’re not overly keen on the Grand Memo’s glossy plastic chassis either.
It comes in two finishes — a plain white and a dark, fake brushed aluminium, very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S III’s “Marble White” and “Pebble Blue” — however our first impressions are that the Grand Memo isn’t as well made as the S III. Tap the rear panel and it gives off a disturbingly hollow sound. The two plastic flaps along the side, covering the SIM and microSD card slots, aren’t the most inspiring piece of design work either.
Having said all that, the Grand Memo is remarkably slim and light f0r such a large phone. It measures only 8.5mm from front to back and even with the security tether attached didn’t feel particularly hefty when we picked it up, and there’s plenty of quality packed inside. Powering the Grand Memo is Qualcomm’s fastest chip — the 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 — supported by 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.
As with a number of other current smartphones, it sports a 13-megapixel camera on the rear. There’s a large, 3,200mAh battery, and for wireless connectivity you get dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4 and 4G support.
It also runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1, but this is a very heavily modified version that won’t be to everyone’s taste; it’s littered with fancy 3D animations and screen transitions. It doesn’t slow the phone down unduly, though — it felt perfectly responsive when we were swiping our way around the OS — and you can customise it so it’s less intrusive.
The most enticing aspect of the Grand Memo, though, judging by its bargain basement chassis, is likely to be the price. We don’t have any specifics just yet, and a UK release date has yet to be confirmed, but with previous ZTE handsets coming in at rock-bottom prices Samsung could have a challenger to its supremacy in the big phone segment.