ZTE Racer review -

3
6out of 10
Performance
6 out of 5
Look and feel
4 out of 5
Ease of use
6 out of 5
Features
8 out of 5
Battery life
Pros:

Affordable, small and good in the hand

Cons:

Poor touch-screen and cheap looking display

This smartphone is emblazoned on the back with a dear picture of the green Android mascot, just below that of the network selling it, 3. And this network is known for its keenly priced tariffs and affordable phones.

No surprise, then, that this is an Android phone that’s aimed at getting smartphones into the budget range. You can see this from the screen, which, if you look at it from any angle other than straight on, loses its colour and contrast. Don’t get me wrong, this is a cute phone, although its build feels basic rather than lush. However, despite the low-rent styling, it’s compact, light and pleasant in the hand with its soft touch back and rocker button to start and end calls.

Resistive touch-screen

But it comes with a resistive touch-screen: a cheaper option than the capacitive kind of display found on the iPhone. So there’s a slight soft-focus effect, and the colours aren’t as bright or vivid as on rival screens, either.

Of course, you have to press that little bit more firmly with this kind of pressure sensitive screen, though at least you can use a stylus, or press the screen with your gloves on – unlike on, say, an iPhone. And resistive screens can’t manage multi-touch, so pinch-to-zoom effects are absent. Still, it’s entirely usable just not jaw dropping.

And the diminutive Racer will slip into your pocket much more easily than a larger screened smartphone – the display here is just 2.8ins.

 

The first question you ask with Android is which version it’s running. Again, corners are sometimes cut by supplying an older version, typically 1.6. But no, the Racer sports version 2.1, so almost the latest. This means you don’t see a microphone in the Google search box until you’ve downloaded Voice Search, Google’s free app. You’ll also need to download the update for Maps to have voice search enabled in the mapping program.

Many Android phone manufacturers commission their own skins to add some proprietary sparkle, but this phone is vanilla Android and while this is still good, it pales in comparison to the snazzier effects found in HTC’s and Motorola’s Android blowers.

Candid camera

The touch-screen isn’t as successful as it should be. Scrolling through wallpaper options, for instance, was hard to control and the ribbon of available images shot by faster than intended. And a long press on the home screen to add a widget was mistakenly interpreted as an attempt to swipe between screens. Overall, it seemed erratic rather than unresponsive.

 

The camera is a 3.2-megapixel model with no flash, so nothing special, though there are lower-resolution cameras on some smartphones out there. And the Racer rises above the budget range by including a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can play music back using your favourite earphones.

And the advantage of a small resistive screen is the display doesn’t burn as much power as a bigger one. So the battery lasted well, certainly better than many Android handsets on moderate to medium usage – though for safety’s sake you may still want to charge it each evening.

The verdict

The Racer is mostly quite fun to use, though that resistive screen is a let down, and this makes it hard to get excited about the handset. Another budget Android phone, the HTC Wildfire, offers a huge increase in comfort, speed and an improved user interface for only a little more money.

David Phelan

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