ZTE Era Tegra 3 Smartphone Hands-On: Weak Screen, Strong Performance

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Joining the ranks of HTC, LG and Fujitsu, ZTE introduced its own quad-core Tegra 3 smartphone at this year's Mobile World Congress. Dubbed the ZTE Era, this handset stands out for having significantly lower-end screen than its competitors.

Unlike the HTC One Z, LG Optimus 4X HD and Fujitsu's unnamed Tegra 3 phone, all of which have large 1280 x 720 displays, the Era sports a relatively-pedestrian 4.3-inch, 960 x 540 scren. In our brief hands-on, we were unimpressed not only with the Era screen's sharpness, but also with its dull color and comparatively dim backlight. Colors simply did not pop at all when we were playing games or navigating around the desktop.

On the bright side, the Era has an 8MP camera, 1GB of RAM, and Dolby Sound. It's also fairly thin at just 7.8mm. Though it won't beat the HTC One X or LG Optimus 4X HD in a fashion contest, the dark gray metallic back with its navy blue accents reminded us a bit of the Google Nexus One.

Though the ZTE Era runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it has a dedicated row of capacitive buttons below the screen. Apparently, ZTE agrees with most of its  competitors that dedicated buttons are better than the virtual buttons that appear in stock Android 4.0. The company even went so far as to include the search button along with the home, menu and back buttons.

The demo version of the Era that was on display at ZTE's booth did not have any special skins or UI customizations so all we saw was just another installation of stock Android 4.0. That said, we hear that ZTE has a UI called Miflavor that it could implement on this phone. 

In our brief time with the Era, we were able to fire up two demanding games, Riptide GP and Shadowgun, and both performed flawlessly. We also tried out the camera application and noted that it took a good couple of seconds to snap a shot. There's no high-speed camera feature like you'll find on HTC's new One phones.  

The ZTE Era's dim, sub-HD screen is truly a disappointment, considering its high-end processor. Considering that ZTE also showed a phone calle dthe PF112, which has a 720p screen with a dual-core processor, it's possible that ZTE doesn't even consider the ERA to be its flagship phone. Still, the device has plenty of pep and may find a market with screen-conscious users in China and the other non-U.S. markets where ZTE does most of its business.

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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