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There are plenty of awesome, high-end phones out there that offer cool features and terrific performance. The great phones are generally easy to spot. Finding a good, budget-friendly phone, however, can be a little more tricky. Some of them are great, and some of them are terrible. Some of them make you wonder what the manufacturer was thinking when designing the phone. Some of them make you wonder why a phone this good is so inexpensive. Those gems are out there but finding them is the tough part.

So, where does the ZTE Fury belong? Is it a low-end phone that will surprise you with excellent performance or is this one of those cheap phones that you wouldn't force on your worst enemy? (Maybe that analogy is taking it too far, but seriously, some low-end phones are just awful.) It has the hardware and enough features to be a good phone - a 1GHz processor, Android 2.3, a 5-megapixel camera - but it's also lacking in a few areas. Keep on reading to see where the Fury excels, where it fails, and if it's worth your consideration.

 

Design & Features

The Fury is a rather small device, as most low-end phones are. At only 4.65-inches tall, 2.46-inches wide, and .47-inches thick, the Fury fits nicely in the hand. It weighs nearly five ounces so it has a solid feel to it, but the plastic construction won't let you be fooled into thinking it's not a cheap phone. The buttons are somewhat loose and wobbly. The back cover features a white dotted design on a black background. Around the edge of the phone is a metallic band. The design is simple, but has enough elements to keep things interesting.

On the left side of the phone, you'll find the volume rocker buttons and the microUSB port. The camera button is on the right side of the phone, and the Power/Screen Lock button and 3.5mm headphone jack are on the top of the phone. The Fury has a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 480 x 320. The display seems tiny compared to most displays these days that measure at least 4-inches diagonally. I found typing to be uncomfortable on the cramped keyboard. The low resolution means text and graphics are rough and pixelated. There is an LED notification light positioned below the front speaker.

Underneath the battery cover is the phone's 1500 mAh battery and a microSD card slot. You must remove the battery cover to access the memory card slot but you do not have to remove the battery. The phone ships with a 2 GB card to supplement its 4 GB of internal memory. You can add up to 32 GB of additional memory with a card. Some of the phone's internal storage is taken up by pre-installed Sprint apps that cannot be uninstalled. Still, 4 GB is a good amount of memory, at least for a low-end phone.

 

Usability & Performance

The Fury ships with a stock build of Android 2.3. ZTE hasn't made any customizations but Sprint has added a few things like Sprint ID and Sprint Zone. Sprint ID allows you to download "ID Packs" based on themes. Each pack comes with apps and wallpapers that are related to that theme. For example, a sports-themed ID pack may have an ESPN app, a few sports games, and a football wallpaper. You can choose to switch between themes or just use the included apps. It's a nice feature for those who are new to Android and don't want to hunt around the Play Store for an hour to see what apps are available.

Performance is a big issue with low-end phones. Like I said in the introduction, it can be great or it can be terrible. The Fury uses a 1 GHz Qualcomm processor backed by 512 MB of RAM. The processor does a great job handling most tasks even when I have multiple apps running in the background. I thought the low amount of RAM might hinder the phone's multi-tasking capabilities, but it handled it well. Of course, there were some moments where the phone lagged a bit or took a half-second or so to keep up. But compared to other low-end phones, the Fury did a great job. Pinch-to-zoom is relatively smooth and transitions look good too, only slightly choppy. It's certainly not perfect, but it's pretty darn good for a phone of this caliber. The Fury scored a 1,651 on a Quadrant Standard benchmark test, a 631 on the Smartbench 2012 Productivity Index, and a 2,988 on an AnTuTu BenchMark test.

Web browsing on the Fury was also decent. Yes, there is some lag here and there, but I didn't have any real problems in terms of performance. (It helped a lot to have Flash plug-ins turned off though.) I did, however, record some pretty slow data speeds. The Fury is not a 4G device so you're working off of Sprint's 3G CDMA network. While testing the phone in the Dallas area, I got average download speeds of 300-400 kbps, with lows of 100-200 kbps. Needless to say, these speeds were disappointing.

One feature I was very impressed with was the Fury's camera. It has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a flash and, surprisingly, a self-portrait mirror. That's something you don't see these days. To be honest, I had mild expectations for the camera. Most cameras on low-end phones just don't produce great pictures. It's understandable, given the cheap parts that are used. However, the Fury's camera took excellent photos. The colors showed up well and the saturation was excellent. The detail could have been better, but the pictures still looked very good. Even in somewhat low-light settings, the camera did a great job. It's not going to be able to compete with an iPhone or the Galaxy S II, but it's one of the best cameras I've tested on a low-end smartphone. One negative point is that it doesn't capture HD video, only VGA. Also, there's no front-facing camera.

Battery life with the Fury has been great. It ships with a 1500 mAh battery which seems small for an Android smartphone; however, considering the phone's small, low-resolution display and its lack of 4G support, battery life shouldn't be a problem. I was able to get through a full day with normal or heavy use.

 

Conclusion

The Fury may not blow you away with an awesome display and super-fast data speeds, but for twenty bucks on contract, it's the best deal on Sprint. I wish it had a larger screen but that's personal preference. If you need a budget-friendly phone that won't make you want to pull your hair out, the ZTE Fury is a great option. It's not perfect, but it does its job and it does it well.

 

Wrap-Up

The Good: Great overall performance; excellent camera; stock Android 2.3; good battery life.

The Bad: Small display; poor 3G speeds.

The Verdict: You're going to miss out on a few features when you go for an inexpensive phone like the Fury. There's the small display, no HD video capture, no 4G, and no front-facing camera. However, it has the features you need at a great price.


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