ZTE Racer review

Full review: Android 2.1 for under £100

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The ZTE Racer teams up with 3 Mobile to create the most affordable Android phone yet. T3 takes it for a spin

While HTC and Samsung continue to churn out the Android powerhouses, manufacturers like ZTE are here to show that Android can be for everyone.

The Racer is ZTEs first UK Android release, and comes in at a wallet friendly price of £99 SIM free on Three Mobile, which is might impressive for a handset boasting the 2.1 Eclair operating system. The Chinese manufacturer is continuing its partnership with Three mobile, which also means cheap monthly contracts, and free Skype-to-Skype calls.

The ZTE Racer has some stiff competitions in the budget battle, with decent handsets like the HTC Wildfire, Motorola FlipOut and T-Mobile Pulse Mini offering the joys of Android 2.1, but any manufacturer can now slap the Google OS in a handset, so how does the hardware perform?

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The Racer takes on a very similar candybar format of its Android rivals, with a 2.8-inch QVGA resistive (not multitouch sadly) touchscreen and a relatively lightweight 100g body. The handset is top heavy, sloping towards a slimmer bottom end, so it fits better in the hand.

Below the touchscreen are touch sensitive Home, Menu and Back buttons, above the metallic make call and end call bar. The lock screen and power button rests at the top of the handset, but it’s small and tricky to access. It charges via micro-USB and boasts a trusty 3.5mm jack.

ZTE Racer Android: Interface and keyboard

How about that OS? Has ZTE been able to apply a HTC Sense-like skin to its first UK Android phone? Well, no. This is Android 2.1 in its most organic form.

There are three home-screens to whizz between, although whizzing isn’t really the right word here. The touchscreen isn’t that responsive, and you really have to apply a decent bit of force to enforce your will over the handset. The 600Mhz Qualcomm processor and 256MB of RAM does make the experience quite swift though.

But aside from a couple of Three mobile icons, there’s nothing to distinguish this from vanilla Android. We’d have liked to see a little more inventiveness, but on its own Android has more than enough to offer. Google Maps Navigation is on board, meaning a fully functioning sat-nav, as well as decent Facebook and Twitter live applications for all of your social networking means.

The ZTE Racer has the excellent Android keyboard and the predictive text is good thanks to the Android dictionary, but having to prod the screen with all your might really slows down the process of messaging and email, making it a laborious experience. The Android webkit browser is (despite the lack of Flash) support, still one of the most usable out there, and with Three’s great 7.2Mbps HSDPA mobile broadband performance and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g on board, surfing the web practically anywhere is a-go.

ZTE Racer Android: Multimedia

As a multimedia player, the speakers aren’t that bad and nowhere near as tinny as most phones of a similar pricepoint. It struggles on the go, as every time the accelerometer kicks in, the music and video jumps and the screen fails badly in bright sunlight. Aside from that, video playback is decent, but you can’t really ask for that much from a 2.8-inch screen.

There’s a 3.2-megapixel camera on board, with a strange on-screen brightness setting as well as the standard white balance, colour mode settings we’ve come to expect from Android phones. The results are really nothing to shout about, and the shutter speed is snail-paced.

The battery will comfortable get you through the day, but with extensive use, you’ll need to charge at night-time.

ZTE Racer Android: Cost and conclusion

Buy the Zte Racer on PAYG and you’ll get 150Mb data for every £5 you top up valid for 90 days, spend another £5 and you get a whopping 1GB data. Alternatively on contract it's £15 a month for 500Mb data.

If you’re on a very limited budget and can live with the drawbacks then you won’t regret buying the ZTE racer, but if you’re willing to spend a few more pounds, the HTC Wildfire is the much better option.

The ZTE Racer is out now on Three

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Specifications
OS: Android 2.1
Processor: 600MHz
Storage: 256MB, 2GB MicroSD
Screen: 2.8-inch QVGA resistive touchscreen touchscreen
Connectivity HSDPA 7.2MBps, Wi-Fi (b/g), aGPS, 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth 2.0,
Camera: 3.2MP with autofocus
Talk time: 3.5 hours, standby of 200 hours
Dimensions: 102 x 55 x 14.5 mm
Weight: 100g (without battery)
Battery: Li-Ion 1100mAh

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