Hands on: ZTE Grand X3

ZTE’s Grand X3 shows $130 goes a long way in the smartphone world of 2016

The $130 ZTE Grand X3, with its curved glass and big screen, proves cheap no longer has to mean nasty.

It’s now possible to buy flagship spec smartphones for less than $400, so it makes sense that the price of mid-range smartphones is also dropping; but the cheaper mobiles get, the worse they usually become. That rule of thumb doesn’t apply to the new ZTE Grand X3, which somehow manages to cost just $130 without a contract on the Cricket network, but comes with a solid spec list wrapped up in an attractive and solid body. We had the chance to try it out at CES 2016.

A slim, simple phone

The body may not be aluminum, but it’s slim at just over 9mm, and relatively light at 170 grams. Around the back is a textured plastic panel that feels way better than it looks in the pictures — think of it like a less course version of the sandpaper-like OnePlus 2’s rear panel, and you’re almost there. However, it’s around the front things take a very cool turn. The screen is covered in a 2.5D piece of glass, neatly curving around the edges and making the phone very comfortable to hold.

This is important. Cheap things are usually uncomfortable. Buy a pair of $10 sneakers and compare them to a $70 pair after a month’s worth of wear, and see which feels better. The Grand X3 isn’t expensive, but it doesn’t feel or look cheap when it’s in the palm of your hand, and that’s a huge step forward for low-cost smartphones, especially those bred exclusively for carriers. It’s not the first time we’ve seen ZTE have a go at covering both these bases. The old ZTE Blade S6 almost managed bring everything together, but ruined everything with a nasty, creaky plastic back. The Grand X3 does it right.

Respectable mid-range specs

There’s a big 5.5-inch, 720p screen under the glass, and it’s bright and clear. Any pixelation wasn’t obvious when we checked the phone out, but obviously it won’t display pictures in the same way a phone with a 1080p or beyond screen will. That said, it displayed the Android 5.1.1 operating system well, and we’re happy to report ZTE has left it almost completely standard, aside from a few carrier apps and slight visual tweaks. Plus, the big 5.5-inch screen is just about as fashionable as phone screens get. So if you’re envious of a friend’s LG G4 but can’t justify the cost, the Grand X3 will at least match it in size if not in resolution.

The Grand X3 isn’t expensive, but it doesn’t feel or look cheap when it’s in the palm of your hand

A Snapdragon 210 quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM powers the device, which certainly handled the OS without a problem, but we haven’t been able to play any challenging games or run any power-intensive tasks yet. That’s the same situation with the cameras — it has an 8 megapixel on the rear, and a 2 megapixel above the screen — but the rear cam does have autofocus, and the app seemed responsive in our brief test.

While those specs don’t make the Grand X3 standout, the USB Type-C connector and fast-charging 3,080mAh battery are very welcome, as is a MicroSD card slot. Remember, this is a $130 phone, and there are devices costing a lot more than that with smaller batteries and the old Micro USB charging ports still on sale. There’s no fingerprint sensor, NFC, or anything really flashy; but for the price, we wouldn’t expect there to be. What we expect is what the Grand X3 seems to offer: great build quality, a strong design, and specs that won’t embarrass anyone. It sounds easy, but it’s not, and rarely does the result come in at such a competitive price.

Yes, you’ll need to go to Cricket to get one, but if that’s not a problem, the Grand X3 appears to be another low-cost winner from ZTE. Go and hold one to see for yourself, and prepare to be surprised by how much smartphone $130 can buy you in 2016.


  • Strong build
  • 2.5D glass
  • Big, bright display
  • Almost stock Android
  • Fast-charging USB Type-C connector
  • Low cost


  • Only for the Cricket network
  • Performance is an unknown

You forgot all about these 6 phones of 2018. Prepare to forget them again

The best phones of the year are memorable, exciting, and ones we all want to buy. But what about the others? We're not talking about bad phones, we're talking about forgettable phones -- ones that aren't even bad enough to be remembered.

Declutter your life with our favorite wireless chargers for Android and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.

Choosing one of these smart TVs under $300 will make you look like a genius

Buying a good cheap smart TV is easier than ever. To help you out, we've sniffed out a half dozen of the best models out there with prices starting at just $130. We've even thrown in a couple 4K smart TVs, with these UHD models still…

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.
Smart Home

These activists are hacking housing problems in NYC using apps and data

There are 1.2 million people living in "deficient" housing in New York City and now these coders are making easy-to-use, intuitive apps designed to give tenants a fighting chance against unscrupulous landlords.

Google Assistant will alert you if it thinks your flight will be delayed

Google Assistant will soon be able to alert you if your flight is delayed. Using historical flight status data and machine learning, the service can even predict a flight delay before it's been officially confirmed.

Forget 3 being a crowd, 4 is the magic number on the Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei's sequel to the P20 Pro, the P30 Pro, has already started to leak ahead of its 2019 announcement and release. The company is likely to improve even further on the P20 Pro's excellent camera.

Here are 19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great stocking stuffer ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth…

How to use Samsung’s Bixby assistant for all of your smartphone tasks

Samsung Bixby is a powerful tool, but not the most intuitive one we've encountered. Here's how to set up and use every feature of Samsung's digital assistant, as well as what to expect in the future.

Microsoft patent filing shows wearable that mitigates involuntary movements

A patent application from Microsoft has shown the company is looking into using wearable technology to alleviate symptoms from various diseases and disorders that cause involuntary movements.

AT&T makes 5G a reality for a dozen U.S. cities, with more to come in 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Product Review

With sapphire glass and analog dials, you'd never know this watch is smart

The world of hybrid smartwatches is getting much larger, and the latest comes from a name with history — New York Standard Watches. In our NYSW GTS Activity Tracker review, we find out what makes this watch special, and why we were so…

Scientists have charged a phone and a Fitbit with solar-powered clothes

Scientists from Britain's Nottingham Trent University have discovered a way to incorporate solar panels into clothing, and they've even managed to charge a phone and Fitbit with the energy created.