A hidden but flawed gem for Visible users

It’s easy to get drowned out when you compete against mid-range names like the Google Pixel 5a and Galaxy A52 5G. However, ZTE may have found a way to cut some of the noise with its 5G-enabled Blade X1. With four cameras on the back, a headphone jack on the bottom, and a Snapdragon processor at its heart, the perfect price for beating the competition seems to be the icing on the cake. But is it the complete package? Learn more in Android authorityZTE Blade X1 review.

What you need to know about the ZTE Blade X1

The ZTE Blade X1 homescreen on a wooden coffee table.

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

  • ZTE Blade X1 (6GB / 128GB): $ 384 (visible exclusive)

The Blade X1 is right in the middle of the ZTE range – not quite close to the Axon 30 family, but by far the most powerful member of the Blade range. It’s available in a single configuration with just one color option, but 128GB of expandable storage is enough for a mid-ranger. The ZTE Blade X1 we tested came with Android 10 on board as well as the security patch from October 1, 2020 – an Android 11 update was not available at the time of writing. It’s also restricted as a Visible-exclusive device in the US, but you can unlock it for use on other networks after 60 days.

ZTE entrusted Qualcomm’s 5G-capable Snapdragon 765G processor to run everything at top speed. It’s paired with 6GB of RAM and a 4,000mAh battery. The large 6.5-inch Full HD + LCD display with a limited refresh rate of 60 Hz connects everything with a punch-hole selfie camera in the upper left corner.

See also: The best ZTE phones you can buy

The ZTE Blade X1 comes with a USB-A to USB-C charger in the box and a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3 block. It’s available in a single dark blue finish that really shines in the right light.

What is good?

The connections of the ZTE Blade X1 on a coffee table,

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Budget phones can be a mess for Android skins and pre-installed bloatware, but the ZTE Blade X1 is a breath of fresh air. The device is fast and fluid right out of the box, with no additional apps of any kind. In fact, the simplicity almost feels like using a Pixel device. Even the AccuWeather-powered weather app – the only non-Google addition – doesn’t look out of place.

The Blade X1’s 6.5-inch display is the perfect size for everything from streaming to gaming. The punch-hole camera is small enough to be easily overlooked, and the Full HD + resolution is crisp enough given the price. The media experience is rounded off by a mono downfire speaker that is more than loud enough to hear your favorite songs. While it does suffer some distortion as you get louder, it is better than many mono speakers at this price point. However, you will need to plug in wired headphones through the very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack to use the FM radio app.

ZTE’s Android skin is almost perfect – there are no ads or bloatware.

The shape of the Blade X1 is just right for continuous use. At the back it is a bit wider, with a slight taper towards the screen. You’ll also notice a shallow dent at the top and bottom, which is perfect for supporting your thumbs.

When it comes to security options, ZTE is happy to let you choose. The Blade X1 offers a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner or face unlock, although the latter relies on software and is therefore less secure.

Cash: The best budget camera phones you can buy

Some OEMs have made big cuts in budget-friendly camera options, but not the ZTE Blade X1. Its primary 48 MP sensor is sharp and works well in decent to great lighting. The camera app is also easy to navigate. ZTE’s peripheral camera modes aren’t quite as impressive, but the ultra-wide-angle shooter can produce some fun results. You can even take advantage of multiple portrait effects and try a monochrome mode with red, green, or blue color saving options. ZTE’s Bokeh mode also lets you choose the level of background blur (f / 1.0 to f / 8.0) for customizable portraits.

I also found the battery life to be more than adequate for a full day, and I’ve often reached nearly two days on a single charge. The 4,000 mAh cell isn’t massive for a 5G capable device, but I didn’t notice any passive drain. Of course, the 18W charge helped me get back on my feet every time the Blade X1 hit zero, jumped to 45% in 30 minutes, and took a full charge in about 80 minutes.

What’s not so good?

The back of the ZTE Blade X1 shows the camera and fingerprint reader.

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Android 11 has been in the market for a year now after it launched in September 2020. However, the ZTE Blade X1 launched with Android 10 on board in January 2021 and has stayed there. There hasn’t even been an Android security patch past October 1, 2020, which is simply not acceptable at this point. In view of the competing devices from Samsung, Google and Apple, even mid-range smartphones offer comprehensive long-term support.

We reached out to ZTE about the software issues and learned that the second security update was released in September. However, the Blade X1 we tested has not yet received the update. We have also been informed that support will continue for two years from the launch date, although no guarantees have been made for platform upgrades.

The lack of Android 11 is just the beginning of the Blade X1’s update problems.

The mention of the advantages of competing devices, the LCD display and the lack of a defined refresh rate are neglected. It’s not difficult to find an OLED panel in this price range – for example the Pixel 5a or the Galaxy A52 5G. Additionally, both the OnePlus Nord N200 and Galaxy A52 5G offer 90 Hz and 120 Hz panels, respectively, but you get stuck at 60 Hz here. ZTE has also skipped any form of Gorilla Glass, so it can be worth investing in a screen protector as well.

I’m also not entirely convinced of the Blade X1’s glossy plastic construction. The dark blue finish looks great in the right lighting, but only if you can manage to keep the phone fingerprint-free. It’s almost impossible to do, however, and it just doesn’t look like being covered in stains. You could still put a clear case on top of it, but it’s difficult to add too much more volume without making it feel a little unwieldy. ZTE also skipped an IP rating on the Blade X1, a feature that is slowly making its way into the affordable range. While it wasn’t historically common, it would have been nice to see some basic water resistance on a device for nearly $ 400.

The Blade X1’s Snapdragon 765G processor was an impressive leap for mid-range silicon in 2020. However, it’s not the fastest or most powerful option on the market these days. It’s still serviceable and will be fine for everyday chores and light games, but it could start showing its age in a year or so.

Related: The best 5G phones you can buy right now

While the Blade X1 has a solid set of cameras, you will likely only use the regular and ultra-wide cameras on a regular basis. The 2MP macro camera isn’t sharp enough for much more than the occasional show off, even if it gives acceptable results in good lighting.

I’ve also noticed that the Blade X1 occasionally struggles with portraits, especially edge detection. You can choose from some interesting effects like Studio Light and Window Blinds, but they tend to highlight the areas where the camera is falling short.

Unfortunately, at one point when we tested the phone, the cameras on the Blade X1 just stopped working. I could no longer switch between selfie and main camera, and there were no software updates to save me from my struggles. In the end, I fell back on the old factory reset that brought the camera back to life.

ZTE Blade X1 camera examples

ZTE Blade X1 specifications

ZTE Blade X1
advertisement6.5 in
IPS LCD
1,080 x 2,340 (19.5: 9)
processorQualcomm Snapdragon 765G
No mmWave
R.A.M.6GB
storage128 GB
Expandable to 2 TB
CamerasQuad rear camera:
48MP wide angle (f / 1.8)
8MP ultra wide angle (f / 2.2)
2MP macro (f / 2.4)
2MP depth (f / 2.4)

Front:
16MP wide angle (f / 2.0)

battery4,000mAh
18W fast charge
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
IP ratingNone
softwareSupplied with Android 10
Dimensions6.46 x 2.99 x 0.36 in
(164 x 76 x 9.2 mm)
6.70 ounces (190 g)
ColoursDark blue
safetyFingerprint scanner attached to the back
Face unlock
Headphone jackYes sir

ZTE Blade X1 review: should I buy it?

The screen of the ZTE Blade X1 with the phone app.

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

If you’re on a budget and itchy to try Verizon’s Visible service, this is the way to go. However, there isn’t a great way to get your hands on a ZTE Blade X1 from another supplier in the United States. This is a shame, because the ZTE Blade X1 is more than competitive with many cell phones in its price range in terms of camera, processor and RAM.

Where the Blade X1 falls far short is the software. It’s not enough to keep a device running for more than a year with an outdated security patch, and its lack of long-term promise for platform upgrades lags far behind that of competitors from Samsung and Google.

See also: The Best Budget Phones You Can Buy

We’ve already mentioned the next few alternatives to the Blade X1 in the Pixel 5a ($ 449), Galaxy A52 5G ($ 499), and OnePlus Nord N200 ($ 239). The first two offer more value and performance for your money, while the Nord N200 is a cheaper entry point to 5G, albeit with a similarly questionable software situation.

ZTE Blade X1 rear

ZTE Blade X1

ZTE’s sneaky, excellent mid-range car offers the best value for money. An excellent main camera, a light and fast Android skin as well as plenty of memory and RAM give the Blade X1 an impressive lead.

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