MetroPCS is typical of many low-cost carriers in that the majority of its smartphone offerings consist of entry-level and midrange phones. The ZTE Avid Plus ($119; 8GB) falls right in the middle of the lineup, offering acceptable performance at a palatable price. But placed next to the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime or the ZTE Obsidian, the Avid Plus has a washed-out, low-res display that's tough to look at. You're better off picking up one of the many comparably priced alternatives that are easier on the eyes.
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Design, Display, and Features
The Avid Plus has a chunky plastic build that's typical for budget phones. Measuring 5.7 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 5.78 ounces, the device is bigger and heavier than both the Prime (5.2 by 2.7 by 0.4 inches; 4.59 ounces) and the Obsidian (5.4 by 2.7 by 0.4 inches; 4.87 ounces). That said, it's still very much a one-handed phone; it just weighs down your pocket a bit more than you might expect.
From the front, the Avid Plus looks like any other black slab, with a thick bezel around the display and a protruding chin with capacitive buttons along the bottom. The sides have a bit more personality, though, with a light blue sandwiched between navy blue panels. There's a power button on the right edge, a volume rocker on the left, a micro USB charging port at the bottom, and a 3.5mm audio jack up top.
The plastic back panel is dimpled, similar to the Samsung Galaxy S5, with a speaker. It peels off to give you access to a removable battery, a SIM card slot, and a microSD card slot that worked with a 64GB Leef Pro Card.
The 854-by-480 LCD is fairly standard for entry-level phones, but usually for panels that are 4.5 inches or smaller, like the Prime and the Obsidian. The 5-inch panel on the Avid Plus works out to just 196 pixels per inch (ppi), which is noticeably grainy. In addition, the entire screen just looks washed out. The Avid Plus also has poor viewing angles and weak outdoor visibility compared with the 207ppi Prime and the 218ppi Obsidian. I found it hard to look at for extended periods of time.
Network Performance and Connectivity
MetroPCS is T-Mobile's low-cost carrier arm, and operates on the same towers. The Avid Plus comes locked, with support for LTE bands 2/4/12—the same as the Prime and the Obsidian. These are standard bands for entry-level phones, and you'll find that connectivity is pretty similar across the board. Overall network performance is solid, with download speeds ranging 10Mbps to 15Mbps outdoors. Indoor performance is less so, averaging in the low single digits. The phone also supports 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Call quality is decent. Earpiece volume is sufficiently loud and voice transmissions come across clearly. Noise cancellation is average, with moments when wind and traffic sounds break through, but overall calls are intelligible.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Avid Plus' Snapdragon 210 processor is a small step above the Obsidian's MediaTek MT6735M and a small step below the Prime's Snapdragon 410. Clocked at 1.1GHz with 1GB of RAM, it performs reasonably well, scoring 20,252 on AnTuTu benchmark, which tests overall system performance, putting it right in between the Obsidian (17,910) and the Prime (25,340). General usage doesn't suffer from much latency, provided you don't run any major resource hogs in the background. Graphics performance is better than the Obsidian, but still not good that a graphically intense game like Asphalt 8 will run smoothly.
Battery life is a strong point. The Avid Plus lasted 6 hours and 5 minutes in our battery test, which streams full-screen video over Wi-Fi at maximum brightness. We normally test over LTE, but indoor network connectivity was poor, causing frequent pauses. Streaming over Wi-Fi will lead to slightly better results, but the Avid Plus is still much better than the Obsidian (3 hours and 48 minutes, also over Wi-Fi) and the Prime (4 hours and 45 minutes over LTE). All-day usage shouldn't a problem and the battery is removable so you can always put in a fresh cell.
The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the Avid Plus performs decently outdoors. In well-lit settings, it captures reasonably good detail with minimal noise. Color reproduction is accurate, though it favors whites over brighter or warmer colors. The biggest problem is the lack of image stabilization; you need to be careful not to move your hand at all, or the image will blur. 720p video capture at 30 frames per second is clear, but gets jittery if you pan around. The front-facing 2-megapixel camera takes soft, but passable shots.
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Software and Conclusions
The Avid Plus comes running Android 5.1 Lollipop with few changes to the UI. The home screen, app drawer, notification shade, and settings menu are all Google's standard Material Design.
MetroPCS has included its own customized news widget that also displays advertising. In addition, there are preinstalled bloatware apps like App Store, Device Unlock, Lookout, metroZone, myMetro, MobileHostspot, name ID, and Visual Voicemail. That leaves you with 3.19GB of internal storage, which is more space than you get in either the Obsidian or the Prime. You can move most apps to the microSD card—unlike the Obsidian—so storage shouldn't be a major problem.
The ZTE Avid Plus is an affordable and reasonably capable MetroPCS phone, but its poor display holds it back. ZTE's own Obsidian and the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime offer screens that are significantly brighter and sharper, with the same level of performance. The HTC Desire 626 offers an even sharper 720p display for the same price, but suffers from significant lag. Since MetroPCS allows you to bring your own device, you might want to consider an unlocked phone like the Motorola Moto E or the Blu Life One X, both of which offer a strong combination of price and performance.