The Good The ZTE Sonata 4G is competitively priced, scores respectable data speeds, and has expandable memory.
The Bad In addition to the thick profile, the sonata has a mediocre camera and a low resolution screen.
The Bottom Line If you can live with amazing photos, the Sonata 4G is a reliable phone for those on a budget, but a prepaid LG Optimus F6 is the best option.
For just $80 off-contract, you might be able to look past the ZTE Sonata 4G’s chunky design, so-so screen quality, and underwhelming camera. Overall, the unassuming Android phone — sold on AT&T’s prepaid Aio Wireless network — gives you decent value when you consider its strong 4G network speeds and reliable call performance.
However, a little more money can throw you a better phone, such as the Motorola Moto G from Aio for $ 149.99. And if you can’t give up the $ 80 mark but can change operators, we will still be taking LG Optimus F6 MetroPCS with LTE any day.
Although compact (4.9 inches tall and 2.56 inches wide), the Sonata 4G has a unique and thick 0.45-inch profile that makes it a snug fit in your jeans pocket. In addition, though the sleek white battery door looks chic, it does make the device quite slippery in the hand.
The left edge houses a volume rocker and a microSD card slot with up to 32GB expandable memory. Above you will find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sleep / power button. Finally, the Micro-USB charging port is at the bottom.
On the back is a 5MP flash camera and on the left is a small slot for audio speakers. You can remove the battery door with the small opening at the bottom and access the removable battery and SIM card slot of 1,785 mAh.
As for the 4-inch display, it has a resolution of 480×800 pixels. It’s not very high at all, and the really iconic menu icons may look grainy, and you can see the color bar with the default wallpaper. In addition, the touch screen has a narrow viewing angle. Tilt it slightly left or right and the display will blur. And although its brightness in the room is great, it’s hard to see the screen in direct sunlight. Below the screen are three hotkeys that glow in white when used for the backrest, home and menu.
Sonata 4G sings a cheap tune (pictures)
The phone runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and as such contains several Google apps: Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Hangouts, Maps, YouTube, and access to the Play Store’s Books, Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Newsstand portals.
Other applications include Facebook and Twitter, alarm clock, native browser and email clients, calculator, calendar, news and weather app, notepad, voice recorder, timer and beep.
Users will also receive TouchPal X, an optional keyboard and text insertion feature that you can activate, and a Kingsoft Office mobile office suite. Finally, additional features include 4GB of internal storage, Bluetooth 3.0, and 1GB of RAM.
Camera and video
The photo quality of the 5MP camera was average and showed a noticeable amount of blur. The objects in the photos lacked attention and the edges were clearly defined. You can also see digital noise, especially in dimly lit areas, and graininess. The colors also came out a little muted and washed. To learn more about camera quality, check out some of the test shots below, and don’t forget to click on the photos to get the full resolution.
Features include touch and autofocus, 4x digital zoom, flash, five white balance options, five ISO levels (100 to 1600), geotags, composite grids and three photo qualities. It can take pictures in five photo sizes (640×480 to 2,592×1,944 pixels) and has three photo filters, three anti-bandwidth modes, snapshot and panorama modes, timer and individual counters for exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation , and sharpness.
For video options, you get scaling, four video quality (MMS to 720p), the same five white balance options and geotag. You can also take a photo while recording a video and record a time lapse movie.
The recording quality was just as mediocre. Both moving and motionless objects were heavily blurred and pixelated, and the colors seemed muted. Even when I was only recording from a few feet away, people seemed to be indistinguishable and difficult to understand. Moreover, although the sound could be heard on the phone itself, the recordings did not sound when played on a computer.
I tested the Sonata 4G in our San Francisco offices using Aio Wireless’ service (which runs on AT&T’s network). Call quality was good, but there were times when my calling partner sounded a bit muffled.
The amount of static wasn’t too distracting, and it didn’t make her voice even remotely obscure, but it was noticeable. In addition, however, none of my calls were declined, there were no extraneous noises, and the calls continued in succession. When the loudspeaker was activated, the sound came out thin and smooth, but the volume was appropriate and I could still hear my partner’s voice. In addition, I was told that my voice also sounded decent and clear, and that I was easy to understand.
Listen Now: Sample Call Quality ZTE Sonata 4G (Aio Wireless)
Though 4G doesn’t compare to the superfast speeds of LTE, this device clocked respectable and, most notably, consistent data times on AT&T’s network. Ookla’s speed test app showed an average of 3.93Mbps down and 1.14Mbps up. It also took an impressive 1 minute and 49 seconds to download the 44.22MB game Temple Run 2. As for Web browsing, the mobile sites for CNET, The New York Times, and ESPN each took 6 seconds to load. The corresponding desktop site took 17, 15, and 8 seconds, respectively.
|ZTE Sonata 4G||Performance|
|Average 4G download speed||3.93Mpbs|
|Average 4G upload speed||1.14Mbps|
|App download (Temple Run 2)||4.22MB in 1 minute and 49 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||6 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||17 seconds|
|Power off and restart time||40 seconds|
|Camera boot time||2.02 seconds|
The handset has a 1.4GHz dual core Snapdragon 400 processor. This will give you enough strength to perform daily tasks, such as returning to the home screen, calling the keyboard, and flipping through the application drawer. More complex tasks were also performed smoothly, but don’t expect the phone to fire fast. Although the intense gameplay of Riptide GP 2 never forced me to throw or stutter during my gameplay, I saw smoother frame rates and graphics. On average, shutting down and restarting the Sonata 4G took 40 seconds, and running the camera took about 2.02. Finally, the device scored 5544 quadrants, and its best multi-threaded Linpack result was 269,867MFLOP in 0.63 seconds.
The 1,785mAh battery does not seem very similar, but anecdotally it provided enough power to last a full day with ease of use. According to ZTE, the message has a talk time of 5 hours and a waiting time of 13 days. During our battery test, the phone lasted 8 hours and 2 minutes for continuous video playback. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a digital specific absorption coefficient of 1.05 W / kg.
You can’t expect much from a $ 80 prepaid smartphone like the ZTE Sonata 4G. Owners will not play high-speed games, take snapshots, or even use the latest version of Android.
On the other hand, they will get a reliable handset with a decent 4G speed that makes reliable phone calls, and the bank will have some money to download.
But if you’re not attached to Android, you may want to consider the Nokia Lumia 620, which Aio also offers. Windows Phone is also $ 80, comes in a wide range of colors, and comes with a better 5MP camera. Plus, if you can save $ 70, the highly customizable Moto G is a great Android 4.3 device, despite the lack of LTE.
Otherwise, the only other prepaid phone I would consider at $ 80 is the LG Optimus F6 at MetroPCS. It has a larger 4.5-inch screen with a higher resolution and a clearer 5-megapixel camera, and the ZTE phone is better, offering a faster 4G shape.