ZTE were kind enough to lend us a Snow White Kis for review, but how does this ultra cheap Android handset stack up?
Paul covered the basics of the device in the original announcement.
Opening the Kis box, you get the Snow White Kis, a black stereo headset, black USB data cable, quick start guide and a black charger:
To save space and cost, the USB cable also doubles as the charger cable although any micro USB cable will do the job.
Powering on the Kis, you are greeted with a Virgin bootscreen, and then the following lockscreen:
As the Kis runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a custom lockscreen is a blessing and a curse. Yes it's pretty, but you have to unlock the device to silence it! On the stock 2.3 lockscreen, you slide right to unlock, and slide left to silence. On Android 4.0 you can use the volume keys to silence. On the Kis's lockscreen you can do neither, you have to unlock the device... :(
On to the hardware! The ZTE Kis features:
- 800MHz Qualcomm MSM7225A CPU
- Embedded 350MHz Hexagon QDSP5 DSP sound
- GPRS, EDGE, W-CDMA/UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, MBMS baseband support
- Qualcomm Adreno 200 Enhanced GPU with support for OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenGL ES 1.1, OpenVG 1.1, EGL 1.3, Direct3D Mobile, SVGT 1.2, DirectDraw support
- HVGA (320x480) 3.5" display
- VGA (640x480) video decode
- gpsOne Gen 7 GPS module
- 3.15 MP camera
- Wifi B/G/N
The MSM7225A chipset supports up to 512MB RAM, but ZTE have decided the Kis only needs 256MB RAM to function. The chipset also supports a 5 MP camera, but ZTE have only given the Kis a 3.15 MP camera.
The ZTE Kis feels sluggish to use, upon checking the 2.3.6 ROM build.prop it is apparent that the Adreno 200 GPU is not being utilised for drawing the screen, and the VM Heapsize is 40MB:
From a fresh boot, with no Google account setup or any application taking extra RAM, this leaves 49MB free from start up!
The lack of RAM becomes apparent when you are playing Angry Birds Space, the cut scenes are slow and when you exit the application, it takes a while for the launcher to reload. As mentioned above this is due to the GPU not being enabled for composition, and the VM Heapsize being too large.
The Kis has 512MB of built in ROM storage, 234MB of this is taken up by the system partition, only 152MB is given for user data, which will be filled up so quickly you will be glad that a 2GB Micro SD is bundled with the device.
ZTE have also given the Kis a custom launcher to go with the lockscreen:
[center][lightbox http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/kis-launcher1.png][/lightbox] [lightbox http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/kis-launcher2.png][/lightbox] [lightbox http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/kis-launcher3.png][/lightbox][/center]
I find the wealth of notification settings buttons useful:
[center][lightbox http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/kis-notify1.png][/lightbox] [lightbox http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/kis-notify2.png][/lightbox][/center]
I like the launcher, I'm also full of please to see ZTE not bundling Facebook and Twitter into the rom, only Google+. ZTE have also bundled Touchpal, Documents to Go and their Task Manager and Filer into the rom.
Touchpal looks far better than it was on previous ZTE devices, though because of the HVGA Screen you don't get to see much of the previous messages:
Every Virgin Mobile application is nothing more than a shortcut url to the web browser and the Virgin Mobile website, they could all be safely deleted if they were not bundled in rom.
From the shape and the launcher, it is quite clear which device the Kis imitates:
The ZTE Kis costs £49.99 (+£10 topup) on PAYG with 12 months free data (1GB per month) included, worth up to £60.
In the same price bracket it competes with the LG Optimus L3, and the HTC Explorer. The HTC Explorer matches the ZTE Kis for specifications, but has 512MB RAM. The LG Optimus L3 only has a QVGA display but has 384MB RAM and 1.5GB ROM.
The Kis is a nice device, I had no problems with call quality or data connection. As a first Android device for a new Android user, it would be a good introduction to Android and with Virgin giving you 12GB data over a year for free, it would also work as an emergency handset or even used as a satnav. Just don't expect too much from it.