The ZTE Optik is a nice little surprise from Sprint. It's an unassuming but well-built and well-running 7-inch Honeycomb tablet that runs on Sprint's 3G network, and it is probably one of the better devices nobody has heard much about. With no gimmicks like a digital stylus or a foldable keyboard dock, it's easy to forget about the Optik. Hit the break to see why you shouldn't.
The Optik is really nicely built, the fit and finish on our unit was darn near perfect, and the parts used had a quality feel. It's also very nice to hold, partially because of the rubber grips. The screen is top-notch and better than most other 7-inch devices
It has to be said -- there is no 4G on the Optik. It's also another new device already one major Android version behind, with no clear upgrade path. The battery life wasn't as good as expected.
Easily the best value for the price, the Optik is actually a nice 3G tablet. The screen is very nice, and it's a great consumption device. If you're not expecting any type of 4G service in your area, and in the market for a tablet with a data plan, it's definitely worth a look.
Inside this review
The Optik is quite the looker. Nice rounded corners and a pleasant, if not familiar, color scheme brings the Nexus One to mind. When compared to similarly sized tablets like the Galaxy Tab 2 or Kindle Fire, it has a look and feel all its own. The front of the tablet is bare of controls, and components consist of only the 2MP front facing camera and a two-color notification light.
You'll also find the screen. At 1280x800 and 7-inches, you'll not find much pixellation, and even text is crisp and looks great. The screen also offers a very nice viewing angle. If you like to read in bed, these two points make the Optik a perfect reader. Simply put -- the screen on the Optik is great, and easily the standout feature of the device.
If you're holding the Optik in landscape orientation -- and with this one landscape is a very natural way to use it -- the bottom of the device has a proprietary connector and two speaker ports. Moving to the right-hand side you'll fins the microSD card slot and a pinhole microphone. Up top you have the volume rocker and power button in the left corner, and over to the left side you'll find the 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack. You'll also appreciate how easy it is to get to all the buttons and controls with a 7-incher.
Jump to the back for another great feature that you'll probably not really appreciate unless you hold one of these in your hand. The contoured back and rubber grip areas on the rear make the Optik a joy to hold and use. The placement of the rubber grips is perfect, and the slight curve at their edge fits the tips on my fingers quite nicely. Because there's no removable battery, the only other feature around back is the 5MP camera, complete with a plugged hole where a flash could have been.
- 7-inch display at 1280x800 resolution
- 193 x 119.38 x 13.2 mm
- 14.11 oz
- Android 3.2 Honeycomb
- Dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at 1.2GHz
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB storage
- Wifi (802.11 b/g)
- 4,000 mAh battery
- Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
- Stereo speakers
Battery life leaves a bit to be desired. Running on 3G you'll get enough time to watch two 90-minutes movies, or play a couple hours of games. Wifi, GPS, and Bluetooth worked as expected, and the sound was better than average through the speakers. The hardware is great for the price point.
The Optik runs a very vanilla build of Honeycomb, with no clear update path to Ice Cream Sandwich having been mentioned. This means there's a very good chance you'll never be able to run apps built specifically for ICS. It does not mean that the software is poor. On the contrary, the Optik is a speedy performer that runs just about everything you throw at it very well. Some nagging force closes seem to have been fixed by a recent update, and other than the lack of Chrome browser and the latest version of Google's apps, I found no issues using it. As mentioned, the screen is excellent for reading (something a 7-inch tablet does particularly well anyway) and videos play and look great.
Sprint has had a few extras thrown in the application drawer, but not too many. Besides Docs to Go and the Sims 3 (which most will find useful) you have The Sprint Zone, Sprint music and video, Sprint's NASCAR app, and Telenav. Swipe is also on-board as the default keyboard.
Web pages load well enough (you get spoiled with ICS browser rendering), and most apps (a few NDK games being the noticeable exceptions) load quickly. The Optik, mostly because of the excellent screen, makes for a great consumption device.
You won't be winning any awards with the Optik's camera. It's a 5MP sensor, and like most cameras on phones and tablets from last generation devices, images are a bit noisy and very dependent on good lighting. That's not to say they are bad, on the contrary they're just fine for posting on the Internet's various social networking sites, they just don't stand out. Have a look at some 5MP samples.
We're still not too excited about the rear camera on a tablet, though at 7-inches it's less a faux pas that a 10-incher. What does interest us a bit more is the front facing camera, and the 2MP one on the Optik is decent. Quality is more than adequate for video conferencing, and honestly anything after that is a bit of overkill for a front cam.
This part's easy. If you're buying a tablet with a data plan on Sprint, buying on contract is the way to go. With that being said, this one costs $99 bucks (or about $700 less that some others). If not having 4G or not running Ice Cream Sandwich is going to bother you, pass on this one. But if you're not concerned about either point, it's probably the best looking and best running of the budget tablets out there.
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