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Featured Review: Zopo Speed 7

November 23, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed one of Zopo’s phones, but the Chinese OEM keeps delivering them to the market and we’re here to check out one of their latest.  The Zopo Speed 7 is a $160 mid-range phone that’s designed to deliver excellent value and a stock Android experience.  It feels like there are a million of these types of phones in the wild, so is there something specific that sets this one apart, or is it just another good, cheap phone?  Let’s dive in.

Specs

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On the front of the Speed 7 you’ll find a 5-inch 1080p LCD display sitting inside a body that’s 146mm high, 71mm wide and 8.5mm thin, and only weighs 150 grams.  This smaller body fits a 64-bit MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor running at 1.5GHz.  3GB of RAM helps keep the action moving between apps and Android 5.1 Lollipop runs the whole show.  There’s a removable 2,500mAh battery behind the removable back and dual micro-SIM card slots here too.  You’ll also find a microSD card slot back here if the internal 16GB of storage isn’t enough for you.  There’s 4G LTE capabilities for certain markets and of course you’ll be taking pictures with a 13-megapixel camera on the back and a 5-megapixel camera on the front.  There’s also HotKnot support here instead of NFC, which is designed more for sharing content locally rather than payment and other actions like NFC is.

In The Box

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Chinese OEMs typically pack nearly as much value into the box as they do into the phone, and that’s no exception with the Speed 7.  Inside the standard box you’ll of course find the phone itself as well as a wall charger, microUSB cable, a pair of headphones, manuals and even an extra screen protector.  Our particular unit arrived with both the flip case with quick circle window, as well as a tempered glass screen protector.  Both of these extra accessories may or may not be included with your order depending on what specials are available at the time of order, but they can be purchased separately for cheap.

Display

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As far as displays go this is probably about as good as it’s going to get in this price range.  Just about everything outside of black levels is excellent, including a sharp screen density thanks to that 1080p resolution in a 5-inch size, and a great refresh rate even during fast action.  By default the color saturation is low, so colors are accurate instead of super vibrant, and the white balance is actually quite excellent sitting somewhere in-between warm and cool.  Viewing angles are excellent and exhibit almost no noticeable change in color or black levels, even at extreme angles, and there’s no visible light bleed from the edges of the LCD panel even when held at the same extreme angles.

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If you don’t like the default look of the screen you can change just about every aspect of it with the included MiraVision console found in display settings.  When set to user mode you can adjust contrast, saturation, picture brightness, sharpness, color temperature and dynamic contrast.  Besides these great features you’ll also find that the digitizer is top notch and responds quickly and accurately no matter what you’re doing or how fast you’re typing.  This is a breath of fresh air in inexpensive devices where the digitizer quality suffers as a result of cost savings and creates a poor user experience.

Hardware And Build

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Upon picking up the Speed 7 for the first time you’ll immediately notice that it’s a smaller phone, a breath of fresh air in a time of huge phones that aren’t usable with a single hand.  It’s made mostly of plastic but features a metal trim that makes it feel better than some other phones at this price range, although no one will mistake it for a premium-level phone.  The plastic on the back has a brushed metal look and a finish that makes it a little more grippy than the plastic found in phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 for instance.  On the right side you’ll find a power button just above the mid-level of the phone, with the volume rocker placed above that.  The bottom of the phone features a microphone and microUSB port, while the top houses the 3.5mm headset jack.

On the back you’ll find the round camera lens centered near the top of the device with a single LED flash just below it, and a small half sound bar on the bottom left of the device.  The back cover is easily removable via the small thumbnail spot near the bottom of the phone, and is held in place via a standard plastic clip system.  Around the front you’ll find some moderately sized bezels that are colored black and give the look of zero bezels when the screen is off.  There’s thankfully no capacitive buttons here, rather proper Android software buttons located on the dedicated nav bar on the bottom of the screen, which automatically pulls away when entering full-screen apps and can be called up again by a single swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

Circular Window Case

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Our phone included the flip-style case with a circular window cut out of the front, and it’s an incredibly handy experience to have.  As you may be familiar with by now, flip cases will unlock the phone when you open them, with the main idea here being to protect the screen when the phone is in a pocket or bag.  This also enhances the Smart Wake functionality of the phone since you likely won’t be pressing the screen with your leg while the phone is in your pocket, however it means that the phone will probably unlock if you place it flat on a table and the flap unlocks.  The biggest problem with the design is that the microfiber interior of the white one gets dirty really easily, and within a week of using it I found that it looked noticeably dirty compared to when I took it out of the packaging.

Functionality wise when the case is closed, the power button lights up the screen as usual, except it only shows the part of the screen viewable through the circular window.  Clicking the digital clock that’s present in this circular window brings up a ring of apps that can be launched including camera, messaging, phone and more.  Taking pictures through the case provides a good experience when trying to take some quick shots, and of course keeps the screen protected the whole time.  Phone calls and messages can be answered through the window, reducing the amount of time that precious screen is exposed to the rough world.  Overall it’s a great case with some customization and plenty of features, which can be accessed only while the window is on.

Performance And Memory

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At this point, MediaTek pretty much rules this corner of the market, and it’s for a great reason too.  This phone absolutely lives up to the Speed 7 name and blazes along no matter what you’re doing on it.  Apps launch in mere milliseconds, loading takes almost no time at all, and thanks to the sped up animations Zopo sets automatically the whole experience feels artificially faster than it might with standard animation speeds.  This speed comes from a number of factors including sufficient processing power for the screen resolution, a slim and non-bloated skin for Android, plenty of RAM and fast internal storage speed.  All these factors come together in a fantastic package that’s not likely to leave anyone dissatisfied with the phone’s performance.

Even gaming on graphically intensive games was a joy and I found slowdown in only a few minor areas, but of course, this will change depending on the games you play.  Multi-tasking was absolutely as good as it could get thanks to the dedicated Overview button on the software nav bar as well as plenty of RAM as said earlier.  One button press to open the Overview multi-tasking menu is a great way to encourage users to quickly switch between apps, and zero loading when launching apps already in RAM only reinforces that behavior.  This is just an all around excellent performer.

Benchmarks

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Benchmarks show this one performing at the expected level for this processor setup.  Everyday performance is even better than what the benchmarks show so use these as a baseline for what you can expect.

Phone Calls And Network

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The Zopo Speed 7 is designed to be used on European networks and as such is optimized for the common frequencies used by GSM carriers in Europe.  You’ll find the full range of supported bands below but I found the phone worked just fine here in the US on T-Mobile but not on AT&T.  I was only able to get a 2G signal on AT&T even when not inside of any building.  This one is definitely a no-go for AT&T customers.  On T-Mobile the 3G HSPA signal was nice and speedy, although it doesn’t have nearly the high bandwidth or the low latency that 4G LTE gets, so users in Europe will be able to enjoy that.  Call quality was great and about as good as it gets without being on HD voice.  Check with your carrier of choice to make sure the below list of bands are supported.

2G Bands: 850/900/1800/1900MHz

3G HSPA Bands: 900/1900/2100MHz

4G FDD-LTE Bands: 800/1800/2600MHz

Battery Life

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You probably wouldn’t expect it given this has a 1080p screen and only a 2,500mAh battery, but the battery on the Zopo Speed 7 was absolutely stellar for me.  I had a difficult time killing it even on heavy use days, and the battery life benchmark we run backs that up too.  On average I got somewhere in the ballpark of 3.5 hours screen on time after the end of a full 18 hour day and still had around 20% left to go.  This one has great lasting power and the standby time is beyond superb, with only 1-3% battery drain per hour on average when I wasn’t using it.  There was even a day where I had Google Maps open running GPS for over 3 hours and still didn’t have to plug it in after the same 18 hour day.  This one is incredibly impressive and I wish more phones behaved like it.

Sound

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Sound output via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm headset jack was pretty average, although average is usually a good goal to shoot for in this price range.  Most phones in this price range sound pretty terrible, with poor balancing by default and no way of adjusting that outside of the built-in software equalizer, which ends up lowering volume the more you adjust things.  There are some basic sound enhancement options here, and there’s even lossless Bluetooth audio, but overall it just ends up feeling average no matter what is adjusted.

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Sound from the speaker on the body is actually quite good for a single, rear-facing speaker.  A speaker this size can’t produce much bass, and of course, being on the back is a terrible placement in general for listening to anything while looking at the screen, but everything else here is great.  Volume levels are superb, the sound doesn’t get distorted even at max volume, and in general the sound is very well balanced.  Even the loud speaker was easy to hear in the car when using the phone, something that comes in handy quite often.

Software

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Zopo keeps it light and fast, and for that I imagine most users will be very thankful.  The included launcher is themed with an icon pack but works similarly to a standard Android launcher with no frills.  Overall the UI looks no different from stock Android 5.1 Lollipop, which is great considering how good Google’s aesthetics and design are nowadays.  You’ll find a few extras here such as a HotKnot, data connection and audio profiles toggles in the notification shade, but that’s about it as far as altering the UI goes.

There are just under a dozen extra apps that are installed out of the box, including a Gameloft promotion, backup and restore app, Clean Master, Documents to Go, FM Radio, Opera, PopStar+, APUS search, SIM toolkit and a link to Zopo’s website for customer service.  These are all found in the app drawer and can be removed or disabled to your liking, so they really aren’t a big deal.  Some of them are nice to include too, like the FM Radio, which pulls in an FM signal so long as you have headphones plugged in.

Gestures

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The settings menu is the home of all the gestures included on the phone, and there are a boatload of them too.  The first up is Gesture Sensing, which is akin to the touchless gestures Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S4.  This allows users to wave their hand over the screen and interact with the phone in a few specific ways without having to touch it, like unlocking the phone without smearing the screen up or other similar actions.  These work well enough but are pretty limited in their usage just because it’s such a broad input.

The second area is the Smart Wake which allows users to double tap to wake the screen up as well as drawing letters and shapes on the screen to launch any app of your choosing.  This one works alright but almost always ends up waking the phone up in my pocket no matter what I do, so your mileage might vary on how well this works in your daily routine.  Those keeping the phone in a bag or holster might find these work much better than people who leave it in their pockets.

Security, Data and Privacy

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Within the security section of the settings menu you’ll find per-app permissions as well as auto-start control for apps.  Those not wanting certain apps, or any app for that matter, automatically starting when the phone turns on can control it in this section, although it appears to be limited only to the apps you download rather than the ones that come pre-installed on the phone (system apps).

Per-app permissions have become second-hand nature for Chinese OEMs, and this is a blessing since Google only just now implemented such a policy with stock Android on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.  Per-app permissions allow users to control which permissions each individual app is allowed.  For instance if you’re OK with an app accessing the camera on the phone but not your contacts or GPS location, you can turn that off in this section.  A pop-up box will also ask you for each permission an app tries to access on the first time, so you’ll never be in the dark as to what an app is trying to access.

Camera

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The camera software found here is basically the same as you’ll find on almost every other Chinese OEM’s phone at this price-point, and that includes the list of features and modes too.  Besides the standard automatic mode you’ll find a scrollable list of modes on the left side of the interface that includes Picture-in-Picture, Live Photo, Motion Tracking, Panorama and Multi-Angle shot.  Most of these modes are only going to be useful in very specific situations, however, the picture-in-picture and motion tracking modes are arguably the best of the bunch.  PIP uses both front and rear-facing cameras at the same time which could make for some pretty awesome shots, plus the smaller “Polaroid” style shot can be resized, moved around and used for either camera.  Motion tracking helps follow a moving object and attempts to keep it in focus over anything else going on in the shot.

Everything else in the interface will be incredibly familiar to anyone who’s used a phone in this price range in the last several years, and includes a ton of adjustments and other niceties like a dedicated shutter and record button so you can instantly take a shot or record a video without having to switch modes.  Plenty of picture adjustments are included here like saturation, sharpness, contrast and more, and there’s a boatload of options in here like zero shutter lag (for taking the picture without focusing first), anti-shake and even a burst mode that can take about 10 shots per second by holding the shutter button down.  It’s a familiar experience for sure, but one that doesn’t fall flat on its face thanks to a combination of good image processing and a solid camera sensor.

Even low light shots are excellent given the price range, and overall this camera blows away most of the competition in this price sector.  The biggest thing the Speed 7 struggled with was HDR, where it ended to hold too long of a shutter and sometimes overexposed the scene quite a bit.  Too long of a shutter means you absolutely cannot use the HDR mode in any light if there is movement, and you’ll likely want to be choosy about the exposure of the shot before you take it.  Make sure it looks a little underexposed compared to what you want it to look like and you’ll probably nail the shot just right.

Video modes are also worth looking at and include up to 1080p 30fps video for a solid HD experience, and there’s no frame rate slowdown in low light as many phones in this price range continue to struggle with.  There’s even 8 different live filters here that can be used for photo or video such as polarize or sepia tones.  Overall this is a great camera experience, especially at this price range, and continues to show just how good all around this phone is.  Check out the full gallery below for picture and video samples.

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The Good

Super fast

Removable battery

microSD card support

Dual-SIM

Extra software security

Fantastic battery life

Great camera for price range

4G LTE

1-year Warranty in Europe

The Bad

Plastic build feels cheap

No NFC

Will only work in the US on T-Mobile

Final Thoughts

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There’s nothing in particular that sets the Speed 7 apart from the pack necessarily outside of the fact that it really does everything incredibly well.  It’s fast, has a great screen for this price range, excellent camera experience, removable battery, microSD storage expansion, dual SIM cards and a stock Android experience with goodies.  While this doesn’t have every feature you might get on a stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow phone, additional features over stock Lollipop like per-app permissions, auto-start options, scheduled on & off modes and others make it feel closer to that than you might imagine coming into it.  This is one phenomenal phone and is impossible not to like.

Buy ZOPO Speed 7 4G at Gearbest.com for $154.99