Want the latest smartphone specifications for less than the price of a Nexus 5? The latest generation of China designed smartphones offers great performance with low cost. The ZOPO ZP998 smartphone sports an eight core processor, 5.5-inch screen and more for around $300.
In its own category, ZOPO’s build quality and value seemingly dominate the competition, offering the same resolution display as the Nexus 5. It’s comparable in dimensions and specifications to cutting edge phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG Nexus 5 and the HTC M8. However, it beats them all handily in pricing.
The ZP998 sells from a variety of importers on Amazon – I recommend buying from APlusElek on Amazon, or from any online vendor provided they use a localized version of the Android operating system. Many imported phones come with Chinese set as the default language and include a number of apps available only in Mandarin. Serious importers will make certain to streamline the experience. I should point out that the ZP998 is identical in specifications to other octacore phones, based on the MTK6592 chipset, differing only in the quality of the screen and the flavor of 4.2 Android. To my knowledge, no KitKat (4.4) version of Android exists for a similarly built phone.
Making Use Of The ZOPO ZP998
The ZOPO ZP998 excels in its intended role, as a low-cost, unlocked Android smartphone. It offers comparable specifications — on paper — to the best devices on the market, with the caveat that it lacks LTE. Otherwise, the gorgeous screen makes for a great experience when working or playing on-the-go. The screen is large and pixel dense enough for it to function as a mini-tablet.
Like most modern smartphones, the ZP998 offers a camera. The ZOPO ZP998’s 14 megapixel back-facing shooter offers an unusually high pixel resolution. Unfortunately, its picture quality isn’t particularly good. While it color accuracy is adequate, the edge detection isn’t great. You end up getting pictures that appear fuzzy, which defeats the purpose of using a high megapixel camera. Were the ZP998 upgraded to Android 4.4, it might use the sublime Google Camera – unfortunately, an update doesn’t appear likely.
The ZOPO ZP998 comes in a black, silver-lettered matte box, positioned on a felt tray. The elegant presentation of its unboxing will remind one the quality seen from major manufacturers, such as Samsung and Motorola. It also comes with a large number of peripherals. The only distinguishing feature is its brown polycarbonate case. The case snaps onto phone after applying a fair amount of pressure and is of decent quality. The remaining peripherals possess no special or differentiating features.
- Brown polycarbonate case
- micro-USB cable
- AC adapter
- Additional screen protector
- Applied screen protector
- Instruction manual
The ZP998 feels well-crafted, comparable to the quality of any major device manufacturer. A painted aluminum bezel surrounds the phone and the removable plastic back employs a leather texture, helping users grip the phone. As standard, it uses three buttons – a left-side volume rocker, a right-side power button and the rare dedicated camera button, of a textured metal construction. It weighs about the same as most feature phones, at around 150 grams. For reference, the Nexus 5 weighs 130g and the Samsung Galaxy S5 weighs 145g.
- CPU/Chipset: MTK6592 octacore
- GPU: Mali 450MP4, clocked at 700MHz
- NFC support
- Data: GPRS, HSPA (up to 21Mbps)
- GPS: aGPS
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4
- RAM: 2GB RAM
- Storage: 16GB
- Screen: 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass 1920×1080 FHD, 401PPI
- Camera: 14 megapixel rear-shooter, with LED flash and 5MP front-facing
- WiFi: Single channel 802.11bgn
- Battery: 2,400 mAh lithium-ion
- Weight: 150 grams
- Dimensions: 151.4 x 76.1 x 9.1mm
Testing The ZOPO ZP998
Using both my favorite battery analysis tool, Carat, and AnTuTu, the ZP998 scored in the 88th percentile and in the 50th percentile, respectively.
In Carat, the ZP998 scored in the 88th percentile of all devices. This score partly extends from the slightly larger than average battery size. Also, the phone’s default configuration enables a battery-saving mode, which holds many of the CPU cores in reserve for larger tasks.
For the most part, the battery-saving mode succeeds in extending the phone’s battery life. However, given light use, battery lasts around two days. Compared to other phones in its class, the battery life is decidedly average. Unfortunately, its idle battery performance compares poorly to many feature phones, such as the Nexus 5. When idling, the ZP998 drains about 20 percent over an eight hour period, which isn’t particularly good, although since I have poor cellular reception in my area, this isn’t all that bad either.
In AnTuTu, the ZP998 scored around 28,000, making it — on paper — among the fastest smartphones you can buy today. However, we must note that the MTK6592 chipset offers an octacore processor – octacore processors may work fantastic for multitasking but they require that apps support multiple “threads”. Most apps, unfortunately, do not take full advantage of the eight cores and so you typically get poorer performance than a CPU with a higher frequency and fewer cores. Also take into consideration that AnTuTu scores suffer from rampant cheating – device manufacturers configure their phones to overclock whenever benchmarking is detected. The 28,000 score could very likely be faked.
Living with the ZOPO ZP998
Living with the ZP988 proved to be a disappointment. While the device feels great and offers fantastic specifications, it comes up short in reliability, GPS performance and battery life.
Feel and Portability
Despite its gigantic size, the slimness and texture of the ZP998 make it easy to carry around. It fits comfortably in either your front or back pocket – even hipster jeans can accommodate the ZOPO ZP998. The leather-textured back of the phone make it relatively easy to grip. Shooting pictures doesn’t take a lot of effort, either, as there’s a dedicated camera button.
An interesting design feature is a slightly raised nub, near the rear-facing speaker. The nub holds the phone slightly off any flat surface, allowing music to continue playing. Overall, the ZP998 offers excellent, thoughtful styling and a high quality build.
The Achillies Heel of the ZP998 — battery life — guarantees problems. While most Android smartphones still fail to last a full workday of use, ZOPO’s phone barely cracks a half-day. I found myself unable to use the device for extended periods as a GPS device. While some reviewers complained of overheating, my device never really felt more than warm to the touch.
Slow GPS Lock
Using the ZOPO ZP998 for directions, I frequently experienced issues finding my location. While software fixes (requiring root access) do exist, such as FasterGPS or FasterFix, you won’t want to use them. In all honesty, while these apps might provide better GPS performance, you are almost always better off with a device that already has good GPS performance. In short, if you need navigation consider a better phone, such as the Nexus 5 (read our review of the Nexus 5).
Mediocre Battery Life
As mentioned prior, the ZP998’s battery life falls short of average. I found myself unable to use the device for much longer than half a day. This problem exists even when battery-saving mode is enabled. If battery life is your primary concern, look elsewhere for devices.
Lack of TRIM
Like most devices on Jelly Bean (Android 4.2), the ZP998 suffers from a lack of TRIM support. TRIM optimizes solid state storage (why TRIM matters), which prevents devices from experiencing lag and other performance issues. While some apps, such as LagFix, can restore performance to sluggish devices, it’s not compatible with all storage. In fact, LagFix has been known to brick (destroy) some unsupported flash storage devices.
Sleep of Death
About once a week, I’ve experienced the so-called “sleep-of-death”, common to many Android devices (particularly Samsung tablets). This occurs when devices enter one of the deeper levels of sleep and then fail to wake up. This requires removing and reinserting the battery. While users can recover from this issue rapidly, the problem may indicate larger firmware issues.
The ZP998 comes with a custom “fork” (or derivative) of the Android operating system, known as Aliyun OS. The particular variant on the ZP998 comes fully localized, without any Chinese applications. The software is clean and runs smoothly. Aliyun offers a similar look and function as the custom ROM MIUI – it includes a number of custom icons and extensive theming, but otherwise works as good as stock Android. Aliyun also offers a number of refinements, such as an improved camera app, a flashlight and other software that’s not included in stock Android. I’ll cover the camera app here, among other software features:
The ZP998’s camera, which is a 14 megapixel sensor, at the hardware level offers potent specifications, but with problems. Shooting using the baked-in app doesn’t produce quality images. It suffers from washed out colors, poor edge detection. The HDR mode, which stitches multiple images together, doesn’t fare much better. Shooting in full daylight, the image quality falls short of the Nexus 5’s camera.
Given the recent release of the Google Camera, which only works on Android 4.4 (KitKat) phones, the ZP998 camera seems poor in comparison. However, for any Android build older than 4.4, the ZP998 camera app offers a lot of features you can’t find bundled together anywhere else. Its rich features include: panorama, motion tracking, smile detection, ASD, HDR and MAV mode.
- Panorama: This feature allows the user to swing the camera from left to right, capturing a wider field of view. The picture quality is reasonably good for panorama mode.
- Motion tracking: This mode is useful for tracking moving objects. It automatically detects motion and can capture it without excess blur.
- Smile detection: This mode shoots when a smile is detected. It seems to work.
- ASD: This permits automatic scene detection, including night time or low-light conditions.
- HDR: HDR mode rapidly shoots multiple images, stitching them together to create a better image.
- MAV: Multi Angle View allows users to take panoramic shots of objects. I couldn’t distinguish between MAV mode and Panorama mode, though.
- Burst mode: Holding down the camera button with the camera app open initiates burst mode. You can shoot up to 40 pictures in rapid-fire succession.
While you can download apps with similar functionality from the app store, the ZP998 camera offers all of these features in a single app. Overall, the app doesn’t compare with Google Camera, but it does provide a better shooting experience than the majority of smartphone cameras, and apps, on the market. You get a wide selection of features, a dedicated camera button and great functionality.
Touch-Free Gesture Support
The ZOPO ZP998’s gesture support (a virtual clone of Samsung’s Air Gestures) allows control over a small number of apps. After enabling the feature, users can interact with apps by swiping left or right of the proximity sensor. Unfortunately, I can’t see much use for the motion sensor in its current implementation. Although it adds a distinct feel to the ZP998, it falls short of practicality. I found myself rarely needing the feature – and it accidentally triggers constantly.
However, in the event you cannot directly touch your screen, such as in cold weather, the gesture support comes in handy. For most users, unfortunately, touchless gesture support doesn’t offer any practical value.
Automatic On and Off
The most useful feature of the ZP998 is its ability to automatically turn on, or power off, using a scheduler. This offers fantastic battery saving as the device oftentimes drains 20% overnight. This feature does not, to my knowledge, exist within the Android ecosystem and is something sorely missing from vanilla Android.
The ZP998 can easily be rooted and a single custom ROM exists for it. The process, while potentially bricking your phone, doesn’t take a lot of effort. Simply download and run the rooting app and afterward flash the ZP998 custom ROM using your recovery. Before proceeding, read up on on what a custom ROM is, and tips on avoiding creating a brick.
Unfortunately, you can’t also install the Xposed Framework (what’s Xposed Framework?), which allows stock Android to function similar to a custom ROM. There’s some hope that it will work, but right now I’d wait until a stable fix comes out before installing it.
Should You Buy the ZOPO ZP998?
The ZP998 remains slightly too expensive given its minor problems. Compared to the $350 Nexus 5, a $50 difference doesn’t warrant a purchase. The Nexus 5 offers uniformly better performance, more features and rock solid stability – shrewd importers, however, may manage to find a ZP998 for less than $200. In China, similar phones sell for around $150. In such a case, the ZP998 offers a strong combination of performance, screen quality and unique software features that might warrant a purchase over other devices. Additionally, it also includes a rootable firmware, custom ROMs and excellent design. The octacore processor, however, feels more like a gimmick rather than a real competitor to Qualcomm or NVIDIA chipsets. While it scores high on benchmarks, its real-world performance fails to impress — particularly with respect to apps that don’t make use of all eight cores.
How do I win the ZOPO ZP998?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, June 27. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Congratulations, Colleen Boudreau! You would have received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please respond before August 8 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
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