Sprint's brand new ZTE Optik tablet has an astonishingly low price of $99. But before you throw down your short stack of 20s, bear in mind that cost has a 2-year service contract with Sprint associated with it. Sans the contract, the price of the tablet shoots up -- way up, in fact -- to $349, a cost that exceeds the Amazon Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet as well as a handful of brand name budget Android tablets. Which brings us to the obvious question: is the ZTE Optik worth the extra buck-fifty? Here's our two-bits on the matter.
Build & Design
The ZTE Optik is a sleek little device measuring 7.60 x 4.70 x 0.52 inches, which is right about neck and neck with the Kindle Fire. The Optik is designed with edges that are slightly more rounded than those of the Kindle Fire, and the presence of two underside rubberized hand grips make it much more conducive to mobility -- as does its half-ounce lower weight.
At a half inch thick, the Optik will never snatch the Toshiba Excite LE's crown for skinniest tablet on the planet, but that's not exactly a drawback either. Turning the Optik on edge, you'll discover that its designers have made smart use of all four sides.
On the top, you've got a single 3.5mm headphone jack. On its bottom, a micro-SD card slot and an in-built microphone that enables wireless VoIP chat functions or low-fi recording using the pre-loaded sound recorder app.
The Optik's left edge is reserved for a proprietary battery charging pin connector that can be connected directly to a computer via USB, or directly to a wall socket with the included compact AC adaptor. There are two stereo speakers on the Optik's left edge, both of which have been smartly separated by about seven inches to deliver optimum sound.
The top right edge of the Optik is home to the device's power button and volume rocker, both of which are in a convenient enough location to prevent inadvertent shutdowns and volume adjustments. One unfortunate omission is the lack of an HDMI port for viewing streaming or on-board video content on a large screen HDTV.
Screen & Speakers
As far as screen quality goes, the ZTE Optik does a fine job in avoiding some of the handicaps that far too many tablet screens come with. Glare is minimal, even when watching content under natural or artificial light, and the 1280 x 800 resolution with 216 ppi delivers crisp, colorful images that you'd be hard pressed to find fault with, even when compared to many more high profile tablets on the market. Streaming content has much higher quality when you're connected with Wi-Fi instead of the mediocre-grade 3G alternative, of course, but that's to be expected.
One thing that isn't expected and that you might find yourself a little excited over are the Optik's speakers. As mentioned before, they're evenly spaced out on the upper and lower edges of the tablet's left hand side, which probably adds that much needed "oomph" with respect to volume. The Optik is also Bluetooth enabled, which gives you the option of zoning out with a wireless headset or even connecting it to a set of external speakers for a bit more bass kick. No, it'll never get your house party shut down, but it'll certainly ensure you don't have to strain to hear something without having to don a pair of earbuds.
ZTE Optik specs:
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