At first, second and third glance, ZTE’s latest flagship model, Grand X In, looks identical to the Grand X we tested a few months ago. With minimal external differences, the large Intel logo on the back is the only thing that “jumps” at you. Since this is the first smartphone based on Intel’s (x86) platform that we’ve tested, many questions have arisen. Will there be limitations as far as application installation, compatibility etc. are concerned? How about unexpected bugs or issues? What to expect in terms of performance and battery autonomy? And heating?
IMG 7283 cover

Production quality

Since both phones are virtually identical, everything that we originally stated for Grand X still applies today. Grand X In is a likeable device, slightly reminiscent of Galaxy Nexus and with a very nice grip. The cover on the back is finely perforated, making it pleasant to touch, and alongside the aforementioned Intel Inside logo, there’s also a ZTE one, in chrome fashion and without the Android robot in the bottom section. Its weight is well-balanced and its production high-quality and compact, leaving a very positive impression overall. The bottom section of the battery cover has a mild bump that contains two speaker openings (although there’s physically only one stereo speaker) and the mic. The implementation of Dolby technology has turned out to be a very good move, making the sound coming out of the main speaker surprisingly pleasant – dialogues in films and music are very clear and pronounced, which is a point where many reputed competitors tend to stumble. With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that the headphone output is solid, with a clear sound, moderate volume and no interference.
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The top left corner houses the camera opening and a LED flash. The camera now has a higher resolution of 8 MP (versus the predecessor’s 5) and makes noticeably better images and videos. Under the cover, there’s a replaceable battery of a decent capacity that holds on for about two days of usual use (an improvement of around 30% compared to Grand X’s autonomy), as well as SIM and micro SD card slots. The left-hand side contains the volume rocker and a micro-USB connector, while the power button, auxiliary noise-cancelling mic and headphone output are all situated on top. The latter is somewhat “masked” to appear more serious than it really is. The entire front of the phone is covered by reinforced glass, in order to increase resistance to scratches. Still, for peace of mind and a reduction in fingerprints (which there are plenty of), we recommend that you get a supplementary protective foil. Below the display, there’s a line of four sensor buttons; above it, there was enough room for the earpiece speaker, front camera, signal LED and ambient light sensor. The sensor buttons are backlit, but only in low visibility conditions. This is a problematic approach because the human eye always adjusts to the brightness of the display itself, not just external conditions, which makes the sensor buttons much less visible without at least some backlight.

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As expected in this price class, the display is standard TFT, but of a satisfactory quality and very well-suited resolution. Colour aberrations are noticeable in sharp angles, but brightness, speed and gradients are all good enough. There’s a metal-like ring around the entire phone, and despite being plastic, it manages not to feel cheap. This ring is at a level slightly higher than the display, probably to protect the latter from direct contact with flat surfaces; however, this has often led to the coating peeling off the ring itself over time.

Heart transplant

The hardware base of the system consists of the hardly well-known single-core Intel Atom CPU, with a high clock and support for two parallel execution threads. Unlike the case with Grand X, RAM is aplenty, which is very (positively) noticeable when running more advanced apps and multitasking. Overall, Grand X In feels much more responsive than the previous model. The internal storage memory is limited, but easily expandable with the use of a micro-SD card, which the phone instantly detects and starts storing all possible data on it, from app files to downloads, saving the precious internal memory for the essentials.
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Our first contact with an Intel Atom CPU in a mobile phone was positive altogether. It’s sufficiently fast for usual applications, browsing the net or playing music. Simply enough, everything worked well on the hardware level and we haven’t encountered a single problem in that respect. We particularly appreciated the fact that the serious issue with playing HD video on Grand X seems to have been rectified in the In model. With the aid of the preinstalled video player (or MX Player), .mkv files were a breeze to watch, which wasn’t the case with Grand X (at least not in the initial revision – a later software patch eliminated this issue). Unfortunately, games were somewhat problematic, despite being the entirely legit versions from Google Play Store, with Shadowgun not even wanting to run, while Temple Run suffered an inexplicably low framerate. Other, less demanding games, such as Angry Birds, My Paper Plane or Battle Racing all functioned properly. Synthetic benchmarks have shown that the Tegra 2 platform is inferior to Grand X In in terms of raw processing power, but the graphics section still outperformed it by a hefty margin, so we can’t recommend Grand X In as a gamer’s model in the mid-range; for all other purposes, have no doubts about it.

AnTuTu
Tegra 2@1.2 GHz VS. Intel Atom Z2460@1.6 GHz
Quandrant
Tegra 2@1.2 GHz VS. Intel Atom Z2460@1.6 GHz
AnTuTu s Quadrant s
Vellamo HTML 5
Tegra 2@1.2 GHz VS. Intel Atom Z2460@1.6 GHz
Vellamo Metal
Tegra 2@1.2 GHz VS. Intel Atom Z2460@1.6 GHz
Vellamo HTML s Vellamo Metal s

A bit of ice cream, please

The operating system is ICS (Android 4.0.4) which is known for excellent cooperation with Intel’s platform, and ZTE hasn’t been experimental with the UI, making only a minimum number of amendments to Google’s vanilla version. No hitches or bugs are to be found, on the contrary, and we’ve only managed to make the lock screen “stuck” for 20-30 seconds once. There are strong indicators that ZTE is about to roll out a Jelly Bean update, but Grand X In remains a very competitive phone even “as is”. There isn’t a lot of extra software, but what’s present is definitely handpicked. FM Tuner is gone, but the video and music players are still there, as is the file manager. One app that should be noted is Full Share, which is used to access multimedia content over the local network, as well as X Office for typical office document purposes.

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TouchPal Keyboard deserves a special mention, as it replaces the very popular swipe function. Support for local characters is amazing, although not all keyboards support the swipe function in full. Of course, the full palette of Google services/apps is in place, with Maps, Gmail, Gtalk, Calendar and Play Store at your disposal, which is enough to get you up and running.
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ZTE Grand X In
 
Processor Intel Atom Z2460 (1C/2T) @ 1.6 GHz
GPU Intel GMA @ 400 MHz
Memory 1 GB RAM DDR2, 1.5 GB ROM, internally available 1.64 GB, total 4GB
Display 4.3'', 960x540 pix, capacitive TFT
Connections microUSB, Bluetooth, WiFi n, HSDPA, GPS
Camera Back: 8 MP with autofocus and LED flash; Front: 0,3 MP
Battery Li- Ion 1650 mAh
OS Android OS 4.0.4
Dimensions 127 x 65 x 9.9 mm
Weight 141 g with battery
Price sample

Serious improvement

IMG 7290
ZTE Grand X In is most notable for switching to Intel’s platform, beating the previous Tegra 2-based model in most synthetic tests. However, this isn’t the only improvement, since the amount of RAM has been doubled as well, which is something that you’ll definitely appreciate when working with larger apps, while the camera resolution has been significantly increased too. Unfortunately, the internal storage memory has remained the same, which is likely the phone’s biggest drawback, but a high-performance micro-SD card with a decent capacity is a nice intermediary solution. We’ve encountered trouble with a few games, either with 3D rendering or the FPS rate, but other than that, everything works perfectly well. All usual tasks are accomplished with an ease expected from a model in this price range, while the battery is even better than one would expect. All in all, ZTE have shown that they can assemble a very good phone even with an unfamiliar platform, upping performance significantly while remaining within the confines of the existing price tag.