Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ZTE Grand S2 Review

After 8 months using the Neo N003, I decided to go for a true flagship phone. I needed a phone with the latest and most powerful processor, at least 1080p of resolution, 2 or more gigabytes of RAM and most importantly an sd card slot. The ZTE Grand S2 fits my budget perfectly, it gives me all I need and more; and I didn't have to break the bank to own one.

First Impressions

The ZTE Grand S 2 was given a generous 5.5 inch 1080p laminated display with Corning's Gorilla Glass 3. At the top of the screen is a decent ZTE logo, at the top of the logo is a speaker; a 2mp camera good enough for 1080p videos and a led notification light and sensors on the left.

At the top of the phone you'll find a 3.5mm headset jack. Although ZTE claims this phone comes with 3 mics for noise cancellation, I've only spotted 2 of these mics during my usage of this device which is a little over a week now. This device looks good in the flesh, it has a tapered rear cover with design imitating brushed metal; an F2.2 13mp camera with led flash and speaker to the right and left respectively. A noise cancellation mic that aids video recording and another ZTE labelling at the middle of the rear.

The device feels good, unlike reviewers have insinuated this device feels well made; good quality plastics and everything seems compact. The only issues I have is the on/off buttons and the volume rocker which feels kinda flimsy.


My experience with the Neo N003's display was lovely but the 3 capacitive keys died after 7 months of usage which is extremely disappointing. Unlike the Neo, ZTE's display feels thicker; this is because you can actually see and feel the Neo display misbehave under little pressure from your finger during touches. The Grand S2 didn't feel that way. This is the second 1080p (1920*1080p with pixel density of 401 ppi) phone I've used and as with the first, the display is very vivid and crisp even under sunlight. This display is on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5s display, the HTC M8, Oneplus One, Oppo Find 7a and scores of other flagship devices. Web-surfing is beautiful on this device, the widescreen makes for good views at even odd angles.

Movie viewing is also very good. The touch screen is very responsive. One issue I have currently is the fact that less than an inch horizontally across the top of the screen doesn't respond at all, at first I thought it was a software problem; but after flashing a couple of Roms I am convinced that it is a hardware problem. If there's an icon I have to click there I'll have to try severally before being able to launch it; I hope it won't progress gradually till the whole screen becomes unresponsive. This is very annoying. Other than that the display is very responsive even when touched with wet fingers.


The phone came out of the box with ZTE's Miflavor 2.3 based on the 4.3 jellybean. Notification center is neat, the ROM doesn't lag as it feels very fluid. It came without Google services installed so I had to flash a gapps zip folder for jellybean 4.3 into it. The ZTE Mi assistant is very useful as it serves as a network monitor,  antivirus and security, battery saver and permission manager. Given the lack of privacy with usage of Google's apps this permission manager comes pretty handy. I can control what app I want to get certain permissions. I can also restrict every apps permission on my phone. It comes with voice unlock, so there is voice recognition. In case you've got a kid who just wants to play around and explore your device, no need to worry because there is kids mode; once equipped all your apps remain intact while the kid explores and satisfies his or her curiosity. The issue I have with this ROM is that it is the Chinese version, and so all voice activated features that the phone comes with won't work at least till I flash an English ROM.


With a 2.3Ghz Qualcomm snapdragon 801 processing unit backed up by Adreno 330 and 2gb of RAM, the Grand S2 delivers when called upon. Gaming was always smooth and crisp. Real Racing 3 plays well with no visible lag whatsoever. Antutu scores varied from run to run, 34522 points on 1st run and 33000 on 5th run.

Am a very heavy user who an almost full 32gb SD card, I must say that this device is still very fast.


The Grand S2 comes with a 2mp front camera capable of 1080p videos. It also handles selfies very well as pictures taken with the front camera are clear even for a 2mp camera. The rear is a 13mp camera with an aperture of 2.2, this unit is a capable 6 elements camera and can handle photos and videos like a true flagship device. Daytime photos where very detailed, HDR provides better detailing and even at a 100 crop; pictures taken were still good.

Night pictures are quite usable too. Although like every mobile camera noise can be seen in photos. The led flash does a real good job in assisting the rear camera as the light spreads considerably over a large area.


The battery is a lithium ion battery rated at 3100mah. It is enough to easily last 2 days with moderate usage. But will only last 16 or so with heavy usage and constant data on. 30 mins of Real Racing 3 with WIFI on took out 11% of battery time.

Minimal usage based on average calls, text messages and occasional email checks are enough to reduce juice to 40% after 24 hours.

Leaving network on from night till damn took just 3% of battery life. Which is not at all bad.


In conclusion, the ZTE Grand SII is a capable flagship device for 2014. The level of hardware and design it offers at this price ($325 to $500) dependent on where and whom you purchase from, puts it in contention for the flagship killer position. The Oneplus One can be gotten online for about $380 - $560 which is also very good considering the level of design its got. The ZTE Grand S2 is not a looker, neither is it the most powerful or innovative device 2014 has to offer. Believing the touch glitch is an isolated case, I'll let it slide. But ZTE did a really good job at making a very capable device that delivers in the video and photography department so much that you could compare it's camera to the HTC M8.

Am not a perfectionist, but I do love a device that looks good, performs absolutely well and costs just as much as is justifiable. Considering the price, the ZTE Grand S2 is flawless.