Hands-on: ZTE Grand S II is bigger, bolder and more powerful than original

Big phones are all the rage at the moment. ZTE's sequel to the Grand S, the aptly named Grand S II, pushes into phablet territory thanks to its large 5.5-inch screen. It's not only bigger than the original 5-inch model in the series, it's more powerful too. Does it add up to a considerable step forward? We got our hands on one at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 to see what we made of it.

Chinese manufacturers are really pushing forward in the Android smartphone world. In the hand the Grand S II certainly feels large, but given that we've been using the 5.9-inch Oppo N1 as our go-to phone since the beginning of the year it certainly didn't feel over-sized or too heavy.

Every manufacturer these days also seems to heavily re-skin stock Android by default, and just like its predecessor the Grand S II is no stranger to this. Arrangement of the custom skin over Android 4.3 at first felt slightly, but given a little use everything felt familiar enough.

The usual trio of Android buttons perform as normal for home, back and menu options - but these are also available via a second floating widget source. It's a bit like the Facebook Messenger floating heads app, meaning this widget can be placed around the screen and dragged outwards to open up the virtual quick access controls, three of which mirror the standard Android controls. It's a potentially good way of making single-handed use easier on that larger screen.

In addition the re-skinned interface adds split-screen multi-tasking where more than one app can remain open on screen, while voice activation - a feature we weren't able to test - can be used to unlock the phone.

We found the soap bar shape and smooth back of the phone sits comfortably in the hand and that big screen looked really good. Although larger than its predecessor, it doesn't show a bump in resolution. But given it's a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution that's no issue, as this 401ppi screen packs in plenty of detail.

Where things get even more exciting is with regard to the specs. Under the hood there's a Snapdragon S800 processor delivering 2.3Ghz of quad-core power alongside 2GB of RAM. We didn't spend a huge amount of time with the phone, but that should be every bit as strong as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

READ: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

One of the issues with the original Grand S was its 1780mAh battery. While the Grand S II has a larger screen and more powerful processor to tug at the battery's power, the new handset has a 3000mAh battery which should last for longer. It's not quite the 3200mAh offering of the Samsung though.

Elsewhere there's a 13-megapixel rear camera, 16GB on-board storage as standard, microSD slot for further expansion, and 3G/4G connectivity.

It looks as though ZTE has got pretty much every angle covered here. The clincher will be the price which, for now, remains unknown. We'll have to wait and see how much cash the Grand S II demands upon its anticipated March release date.



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