The ZTE Avid Trio is a classic case of getting what you pay for. For $96 you get an entry-level smartphone that has 4G LTE, good call quality, and excellent battery life. You also get lackluster performance, limited internal storage, and a grainy display. If you’re looking for a prepaid phone on T-Mobile and don’t want to shell out more than $100, the Avid Trio is fine. But if you can afford a bit more and don’t mind a larger phone, the ZTE Zmax Pro is a much stronger value.
Design, Features, and Display
The Avid Trio is all about utility, not looking pretty. There’s a thick black bezel around the display, mushy metallic-looking buttons on the sides, and a navy blue polycarbonate back panel with a soft-touch finish.
It measures 5.7 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.9 ounces. It’s heavy and thick compared with the Samsung Galaxy On5 (5.6 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches, 5.3 ounces) and most newer phones. In theory, it should be possible to use with one hand, but the large bezel makes it hard to fully reach across the screen so getting at the notification shade might be a bit of a challenge. It’s still a lot easier to handle than the massive Zmax Pro phablet (6.5 by 3.3 by 0.4 inches, 6.1 ounces).
There are no surprises when it comes to ports and buttons. There’s a power button sits on the right, a volume rocker on the left, a 3.5mm audio jack up top, and a micro USB charging port on the bottom. You can peel the back panel off to gain access to the removable battery, the SIM card slot, and the microSD card slot. The phone worked with a 256GB card, allowing us to format it as portable or internal storage.
The 5-inch, 854-by-480 display sits above three backlit capacitive buttons. The resolution is a sparse 196 pixels per inch (ppi), which is noticeably grainy compared with the 720p On5 (288ppi) and the 1080p Zmax Pro (367ppi). App icons look pixelated and text isn’t very crisp. Viewing angles aren’t great either. The screen washes out when viewed from the sides and it can be hard to make out text if you’re not looking at it head on. It’s reasonably bright, but not enough to be easily visible under direct sunlight.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The Avid Trio operates on T-Mobile’s network and supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS (2/4/5), and LTE bands (2/4/12). That’s standard banding for entry-level T-Mobile phones, and includes the important band 12, which helps improve range and connectivity. Network performance where I tested in midtown Manhattan was strong, with the phone registering 20.5Mbps down and 18.5Mbps up. Other connectivity protocols include Bluetooth 4.1 and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi.
Call quality is solid. Transmissions are clear and benefit from HD Voice, which cleans up some of the garbling you get on other inexpensive phones. Noise cancellation does a good job of blotting out most background noise, and earpiece volume is loud enough to carry on a conversation in a loud environment. The speaker on the back is tinny though.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Trio is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. On the AnTuTu benchmark, which measures overall system performance, it scores 32,443, higher than the Snapdragon 210-powered HTC Desire 530 (23,631) and the Exynos 3475-powered On5 (25,753). But it can’t keep up with the Zmax Pro (47,007), which has a faster Snapdragon 617 chip and more RAM.
The Trio has just 1GB of RAM, making multitasking more or less impossible. The Android OS has grown steadily more demanding over the years, and though the Trio runs older software, you’ll still find around 400MB of memory taken up by the OS. That doesn’t leave you with much in the way of system resources. Launching more than one or two apps will cause noticeable slowdown, and trying to switch between apps will make the phone hang. Even simple functions like typing on the keyboard have significant latency, so don’t expect to be play many games.
On a positive note, the Trio clocked an impressive 7 hours, 45 minutes when we streamed full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness. That’s nearly two hours better than the Zmax Pro (6 hours) and the On5 (5 hours, 52 minutes). Part of that is due to the Trio’s low-res screen, which consumes less power. It should last you through the day without any trouble, and its 2,800mAh cell is removable so you can swap it out for a fresh battery if needed.
The 5-megapixel rear camera is poor. Photos taken indoors are almost universally soft and washed out, while outdoor snaps are noisy. Stabilization is an issue, as even the slightest shake of your hand will blur images. I was able to take some clear pictures in the controlled environment of our photo studio, but you’re unlikely to encounter such ideal circumstances in real-world use.
The 2-megapixel front-facing camera struggles with autoexposure, either casting your face into shadow or washing out everything behind you. Video records at 720p and 30fps, but it’s fairly jerky.
Software and Conclusions
The Trio comes running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box with an almost-stock UI. It’s a very dated version of Android, but that may be for the best because you don’t have much internal storage to work with.
Out of the 8GB available, there’s a paltry 2.14GB free, partially due to the eight T-Mobile apps you’ll find preinstalled. None can be removed, so if you plan to install more than a handful of apps you’ll need to use a microSD card.
The ZTE Avid Trio is a decent budget phone for voice calls. If you can afford to increase your budget and don’t mind a larger form factor, the $180 ZTE Zmax Pro has a sharper display, faster performance, and a better camera. If you prefer to stay within the $100 range, the LG Aristo looks promising. We haven’t reviewed it yet, but it offers a sharper screen, a higher-resolution camera, and newer Android software for $20 more than the Trio.