When it comes to Android tablets with a data plan, you don’t have much of a choice if you’re not looking to spend too much money. Now and days, it looks like you have to spend at least $400-$600 on a 2-year contract if you plan on getting any type of tablet with mobile data connectivity. ZTE hopes to change this with the ZTE Optik tablet, a 7-inch tablet that is currently available on Sprint for the low price of $100 with a 2-year contract.
Even at full retail ($350), the 7-inch ZTE Optik is priced well below other Android tablets with similar specs. It may not be the most powerful, but for its low price, it provides a lot of bang for the buck. Find out what we think of this $100 Sprint tablet on our ZTE Optik review.
- Price – When tablets with contracts currently sell for $300-$500, the $100 price tag on the ZTE Optik makes it hard to resist. And for that amount, you’re getting a tablet with some good specs.
- Design/build – Although the ZTE Optik sells for $100, it doesn’t feel like those cheap Android tablets running Froyo or Gingerbread. Instead, the ZTE Optik feels like it’s made out of quality material; it’s not light, it’s not too heavy, and it feels great to hold.
- Comfortable to hold – The rubberized grip pads that are located on the back of the Optik makes holding the tablet feel great on your hands.
- No Android 4.0 – Unfortunately, the ZTE Optik launched with Android 3.2 Honeycomb. Although we expect it to be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, we don’t know when that’s going to happen.
- Battery life – Although the ZTE Optik contains a 4000mAh battery, using the device on Sprint’s 3G network yields poor battery life. On average, we were able to get about 4-5 hours of usage before recharging it.
- Camera – The 5-megapixel rear-facing camera takes too long to focus and produces washed out images
Hardware / Design
When you first heard about the ZTE Optik, you probably thought “no, not another cheap Android tablet”. While it’s true that the Optik won’t break the bank, what most people don’t know about this 7-inch tablet is that it is made out of quality material. As soon as you pick it up, you will instantly know that this one isn’t like the others. Not only does it feel nice, but it also looks nice, too.
On the front of the Optik, you have nothing but your 7-inch 1280×800 pixel display. The display might not be greatest in the world (yes, it’s no Super AMOLED HD), but for what you pay, it’s amazing. It offers great viewing angles, low pixelation, crisp text, and nice colors. Since this is Android 3.0, there are no physical buttons anywhere on the front of the device. Other than the display, you have your 2-megapixel front facing camera and your notification on the front side of the device.
When holding the Optik in landscape orientation, the way it was meant to be held, along the bottom of the device, you have your proprietary connector in the middle, flanked by two speakers. To the right of the device, you have nothing but your microSD card slot and a small microphone. I still don’t understand why more and more manufacturers are shying away from microSD storage. It’s one of the features that gives Android an advantage of Apple’s iOS. Either way, it’s nice to see that ZTE decided to include a microSD slot on this one. It helps keep the price of the device low, while giving you the freedom to upgrade your storage.
The left side of the device graced with nothing but a 3.5mm headphone jack towards the top portion of the left edge. On the left top edge, you have nothing but your power button and volume rockers.
On the back of the device, you have your 5-megapixel camera and a plugged hole where it appears flash for the camera would’ve been located. The 5-megapixel camera on the back is nice and all, but what really makes the back of the device special are the rubber grip areas on the left and right. Having those two rubber grip areas makes holding the device feel great (both in portrait and landscape orientation), and also makes it easier to put the device down on a hard surface. Since the rubber grip areas are curved and slightly raised, they always touch the surface first when putting the device down.
At $99, you would think that you were getting something with undesirable specs, but that’s not the case with the ZTE Optik. The tablet features a fast 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 7-inch display with 1280×800 resolution, Android 3.2 Honeycomb, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and more. Check out the full specs below and see for yourself.
- 7-inch display with 1280×800 resolution
- 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm SnapDragon processor
- Android 3.2 Honeycomb
- 1GB of RAM
- 16GB of internal storage
- microSD card slot for expandable memory up to 32GB
- Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
- Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
- Stereo speakers
- Measures: 193 x 119.38 x 13.2mm
- Weighs: 14.11oz
The 7-inch 720P display on the ZTE Optik is one of the tablet’s best features. While it’s true that it’s not a super-high end display, it does get the job done well for the price you pay. The 1280×800 resolution allows for great detail in the things you view. Images and colors appear sharp and easily viewable. The display provides great viewing angles, which made watching movies great. Since the tablet’s display is glossy, using it in direct sunlight isn’t advised to to the reflection.
When it comes to software, the ZTE Optik is a little behind. At the moment, the latest version of Android is 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which is compatible with both smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, the ZTE Optik isn’t up to date when it comes to OS. It launched with Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which is one version behind. When will it be getting its much needed upgrade to 4.0? We don’t know at the moment. Sprint and ZTE haven’t mentioned when we could expect the tablet to be upgraded to ICS. I’m going to assume that it’s something that will be taking place at some point in the future; after all, it definitely has the power to run Android 4.0.
Although it appears to be running stock Honeycomb, ZTE did make some minor modifications to Honeycomb. The home, back, and recent apps buttons have been slightly modified. Other than, it feels pretty much like stock Honeycomb.
When it comes to pre-installed apps, the bloatware on the Optik is kept at a minimum. While there are some pre-installed Sprint apps on the device, ZTE and Sprint didn’t go crazy on this one like they (and other carriers) usually do. The Optik includes the following bloatware, some of which can’t be removed:
- Sprint Zone
- Sprint Music Player
- Sprint Mobile Wallet
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
- Docs to Go
- The Sims 3
If you’re a fan of the Swype alternative keyboard, you will be happy to know that the ZTE Optik comes with Swype pre-installed, making it easier for you to communicate by simply swipping from letter to letter.
Performance and Battery Life
When it comes to performance, the ZTE Optik responds, all thanks to its 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Unfortunately, since it’s running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, there are still some issues that need to be worked out. I experienced random force closes while running apps, but those issues seems to have gone away after the latest update. Browsing the web and watching movies all went well thanks to the fast processor.
Battery life on the ZTE Optik was a little disappointing. Despite it having a 4000mAh battery, no more than 4 hours of usage was obtainable from the device during my testing. I should note that the low battery results occurred while the device was connected to Sprint’s data network. When connected only to Wi-Fi you can expect more usage time out of the device. Don’t get me wrong, you will definitely get by your day with this tablet, but it’s not like some of the bigger tablets out there that offer over 10+ hours of usage.
The ZTE Optik features 2 cameras: a 5-megapixel camera in the back that is capable of capturing video at 720P, and a 2-megapixel front-facer that can be used for video chat. The camera on the ZTE Optik isn’t the best in the business. Yes, it’s 5-megapixel, but in order to get good pictures, you need to be in an area with lots of good lighting. In addition, there’s a very noticeable shutter lag when taking pictures, sometimes as long as 2-3 seconds.
Although the camera is capable of recording video at 720P, the 15 frames per second rate makes for less than smooth video recording. Check out the sample video below.
The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is sufficient for what it’s used for. At 2-megapixels, it’s great for taking self shots and also for video chatting, which looks great on both Skype and Google Talk.
720P HD Video Sample
Mobile viewing link
If you’re in the market for a 7-inch tablet with a data plan, and aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, then I think that the ZTE Optik will be a great choice for you. At $99 with a 2-year contract, it’s one of the lowest subsidized Android tablets with decent specs currently available. The ZTE Optik is made out of quality materials, feels great to hold, and is speedy thanks to its dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Although it does have some negative things, such as its camera, and the fact that it doesn’t run on Android 4.0 yet, it’s still a great tablet for the $99 price tag (with a 2-year contract).
If you don’t want a contract or don’t want care about 3G connectivity, there are other tablets out there that you can purchase with similar specs for less (Wi-Fi only).