ZTE Blade A711 Review - Slicing Through The Competition!

A great phone with solid build, sick design, powerful internals and great cameras is the trend of the entry midrange game this 2016. Devices that's good enough to be your main phone, but not all of them is that loaded and refined in terms of overall experience. That's where ZTE is trying to capitalize when they released the Blade A711, a near do it all phone with the proven Huawei Mate line inspired design, build and abilities.
ZTE Blade A711 review
ZTE Blade A711 review

First, let's take a look on what this device has to offer in paper. Let's begin!

ZTE Blade A711 Specs

Display: 5.5 inch FHD IPS 1920 x 1080 resolution at 401 ppi
CPU: 1.5 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 615 octa core processor
GPU: Adreno 405
RAM: 2 GB
ROM: 16 GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 128 GB
Back Camera: 13 MP w/ AF and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP
Battery: 3,000 mAh
OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, HSPA+, LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS, FM Radio, Dual SIM, Dual Standby
Others: DTS Audio, fingerprint sensor
Dimensions: 155.3 x 77.2 x 8.55 mm
Weight: 160 g
Price: 7,690 Pesos (4,999 Pesos sale price)

Unboxing / Accessories

Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to unbox this device as I just borrowed my unit from Spidey of techpatrl. Anyway, it should have all the basic inclusions found in a smartphone package that includes a wall charger, micro USB data / charging cables and SIM ejector pin. We're just not that sure if this will have an bundled earphones included.

Build Quality / Design

Fingerprint sensor at the back
View at the back of the phone showing the camera, fingerprint sensor and speakers below
Reminds me of Huawei Mate series


One of the strongest aspect of this device is its unprecedented close to top notch build quality in its price range. While most of its competition is still using plastic or just have a touch of metal, the Blade A711 is a full aluminum metal clad phone that feels like near premium device. On the other hand, the screen features Dragontrail glass protection which is good enough to avoid those annoying hairline scratches and minor damages.
Top of the phone
View at the top of the phone showing the microphone and 3.5 mm jack
Port below
Microphone and charging port on the lower right side
SIM and micro SD card slot
SIM / micro SD card location on the upper left
Power button and volume rocker location
Power button and volume rocker on the upper right side

Note: There's also a mic and 3.5 mm headphone jack on upper top part of the phone

In terms of design, this ZTE phone is clearly inspired by Huawei in totality. There are some minor difference with the look such as slightly more rounded metal frame close to the screen, the fingerprint sensor at the back is rounded instead of a squarish one and the lack of the grip at the back. However, it really looks like the Huawei G8 in general.

Button and ports placement were also pretty standard and ergonomically easy to locate in general. We just didn't like one thing which is the left and right capacitive buttons below might let you guess its function at first.

As a whole, even if not yet as refined compared with upper midrange and flagship phones, coming with with a device with this type of build and design for the price is truly commendable.


Display Quality

Screen of Blade A711
Screen quality

This phone is one of the most affordable handsets globally that utilizes a Full HD panel with IPS technology. While the spec-sheet didn't indicate if its an OGS screen, it appears to be one. As a result, the viewing experience is very acceptable with decent color balance and accuracy. There are just black gaps on the side to make a near bezel less like illusion and the screen isn't really that bright and might be hard to read under direct sunlight.
Multitouch test
10 points of multi touch

Aside from the Cherry Mobile Flare X, this is one of the rare type of screen with 10 points of multi touch for the price. As an effect, your typing experience and touching experience is a lot better.

Sound Quality

We don't like the speaker placement at the back as it will be covered one you put it on your desk or wherever. Fortunately, it isn't bad performing at all. The loudness were pretty decent as even at just 80%, the loudness is clear enough in my small room. It just distorts at 100% volume so avoid cranking the volume that high.

On a budget device loaded with good specs, I'm not expecting a good sounding DAC with this phone. However, it sounds fairly decent. Even if it leans towards the brighter part of the spectrum, the Blade A711 was able to provide decent lows and acceptable mids.

Don't expect its separation as analytical as the Starmobile Knight Elite and have the massive soundstage of Huawei G8. But at least, its more on the decent side without the heavy fatiguing bass of the Intel powered ZenFone 2.

My only concern here is the light sub-bass production. And if you think that pre-installed DTS software will help, think again. Why?It's the most unbalanced tuning I heard on a modern smartphone with ear piercing highs, distorion all around and bloated uncontrolled bass. I guess ZTE should ditch that software soon, as this device sounds a lot better without that.

Anyway, that minor weakness doesn't remove the fact that this phone would sound good in acoustic and alternative tracks.

In terms of microphone capability, this handset excels in that department. It goes with a dual mic setup on top and below giving you that better than most type of recording. The phone also decent in doing calls.

Battery Life

Battery life
Battery test result

In terms of battery performance, the Blade A711 performs similarly with other phones I tested with Snapdragon 615 chip and FHD display. It was able to last for a tad more than 4 hours under heavy usage with everything on and max setup.

Under normal usage, its acceptable. I was able to use it as a primary device for a day which started at 8 am to 8 pm with occasional calls, social media usage and taking pictures. I'm supposed to complain about its average battery life, but I remembered that this is a fully loaded budget phone, so as a whole its really acceptable.

Note: Charging time is a little over 3 hours in my test.

Camera

The Blade A711 isn't advertised as a camera device, but it has some nifty camera features and capabilities not common in the lower midrange category.

First it features an unknown type of 13 MP camera with AF and LED flash. It's just a little blueish by default, but it can take sharp photos with little grains. It can also focus on very near subjects with fast shutter speed. It also goes with near laser AF level of speed in terms of focusing performance. While it can't really take good lowlight shots, this level of quality is totally unexpected.

The Selfie camera on the other hand isn't really that good, but isn't that bad as well. It can take good photos as long as you have good lighting and it's pretty wide angled too that can fit a group of people in one shot.
Manual camera
Good manual camera controls

Moving to the surprise of this phone is the fully loaded camera software of this phone. It goes with a near full manual camera controls that I find better even when you compare it with other expensive devices.
Camera settings
Other camera settings
Numbia camera family
Numbia camera family

It also goes with other nifty effects found with the Numia camera family such as Timelapse, Multi Exposure, Light Painting, Special Filters, Electronic Aperture with shutter speed adjustment, Panorama Star Track and Video Maker.

There are very few devices with that type of effects here. That also makes the Blade A711 the most affordable handset with Light Painting effect ala Huawei Mate S.

Video capability-wise, this device can take 1080p videos both back and front cameras. Aside from that it's also not that shaky compared with other phones without optical image stabilization.

Rear Camera Samples

Good lighting shot
Good lighting shot
Manual camera test with color and focus adjustments
Manual camera test with color and focus adjustments
Normal vs HDR mode
Normal vs HDR mode
Sample night shot
Sample night shot
Lighti painting test
Light painting test (I do not know how to use it LOL)

Selfie Camera Sample

Selfie camera good lighting
Selfie camera good lighting
Selfie low light
Selfie low light

Video Samples



Performance

Antutu score
Antutu score

Packging the proven Snapdragon 615 octa core chip paired with Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM, the Blade A711 has pretty capable midrange worthy configuration. It can basic run apps smoothly with little to no hiccups at all, has swift multi tasking experience and even some graphics heavy games are playable. For the price, this ranks as one of the best setups you'll find even if it doesn't have 3 GB of RAM.
Geekbench score
Geekbench score

ZTE changed their UI drastically from what I last saw with the Blade Vec 4G. It's now using a heavily skinned OS that doesn't rely on using the app drawer. Instead you can easily access all the apps by just swiping left and right. That's something similar to what we're used to see with Lenovo's Vibe UI and Huawei's EMUI.

To differentiate from others, ZTE adds their own flavor in it in terms of animation and wallpapers. What I liked here is it also has the least bloatware found on an internation phone. This is something that ZTE should keep on using as they move forward.

However, not everything in its software is smooth sailing. The file manager experience is pretty bad as it didn't have a way to copy a file to your phone from your OTG storage. That's something they should fix.

The fingerprint sensor at the back may need you to check the settings properly. First, you should check the wake up the device when screen is locked to make sure that you'll unlock the device even when the screen is off. Or else you'll have to turn on the phone first before you can use your fingerprint. Anyway, it's as responsive as the Flare Selfie that we reviewed previously. While its still not on the level of the Huawei Mate line, this is a good security feature.

Some of the other smart gestures are also nowhere to be found like the double tap to wake and sleep.

In terms of connectivity, this device is pretty complete except for the lack of NFC that's very understandable for this price. WiFi connectivity and range is okay, Bluetooth works fine and LTE capability is a plus factor if you have it in our location.

Pros - Speedy performance, premium build and design, intensive camera software, LTE connectivity
Cons - No double tap to wake, average battery life, bad file manager software

Verdict

The Blade A711 is an example that you don't need to spend loads of cash in-order to get a near complete device. With the low asking price of just 7,499 Pesos, the Blade A711 emerged to be one of the top contenders in the sub 8K department.

GIZ Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Where to buy this: Click Here!
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