ZTE Blade S6: Android 5.2.2 and MiFavor
The ZTE Blade S6 runs Android 5.2.2 (at present) with a custom ZTE interface called MiFavor 3.0. That’s a very up-to-date version of Android. Nice work ZTE.
However, we’re less convinced with what ZTE has piled on top. MiFavor 3.0 feels a bit like a community-made interface, the sort of home-brew UI you might download from Google Play onto to realise it just doesn’t have the gloss of what you used before.
It also gets rid of the apps menu, meaning everything sits on your homescreens. It’s unusual, but not unique. So what’s a bit off about MiFavor?
It actually keeps a fair bit of Lollipop, but the changes it does make, including the extra apps and the naff-as-anything screen transitions, just seem a bit amateur-hour. Like the front notification LED, the results are simply slightly off-target.
Of course, being the types that look at phones all year round, we’re liable tho be particularly picky about these things. And there are some nice touches too.
For example, take the ZTE Blade S6’s MiColor feature. Taking a bit of inspiration from Windows Phone, this makes your wallpaper a plain colour, making the interface text either black or white depending on what suits the colour best. It’s a touch of class in a patchy interface, and a neat feature if you like your phone to look pure and simple.
Aside from the front page, most of the ZTE Blade S6 is pure Android Lollipop. The Settings menu, the notification style and locks screen are all vanilla-style. Unusually, the notifications screen pulsates on and off after the phone is left on its side, kinda mimicking the pulse of the front LED (although not quite in time with it).
It’s a little distracting, more so than Microsoft’s Glance screen (which stays on consistently, and is seen in mid-range and high-end Lumias), but it will also be very useful for some of you. You can also uninstall some of the less useful preinstalled apps, such as Camera360 and Navigation. These are basically rubbish alternatives to Google’s own app suite, cheapening MiFavor as a whole.
There are some slightly odd app choices too. It appears to have the old ‘stock’ Android browser as well as Chrome, where most manufacturers dropped the stock version ages ago. A few times we were left wondering, “what were they thinking”. Not with much venom, mind.
ZTE Blade S6: Performance
When we first started using the ZTE Blade S6 it seemed a bit slow in spots. However, after an update it feels a lot smoother.
Is it lag-free? Not quite. There are odd spots of lag in some places, such as when browsing through photos when anything else is happening in the background, that may be a sign of spotty memory management and, as we’ll cover later, a rubbish camera app. But post-update the ZTE Blade S6 wasn’t frustrating to use in general.
It has pretty good specs too. The ZTE Blade S6 uses the Snapdragon 615 CPU, an octa-core processor that uses eight Cortex-A53 cores. You get four at 1GHz and four at 1.7GHz, where the lower-end Snapdragon 410 has four 1.2GHz Cortez-A53 brains.
It’s a 64-bit CPU and this is one of the cheaper phones to use it (not that all that many have yet). In Geekbench 3 it scores 2300 points, almost doubling the performance of something like the Motorola Moto G (which uses a Snapdragon 400 CPU).
To put it to the test we tried a few high-end games. A favourite to test a phone’s powers is Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, because it shows up little frame rate drops so clearly. The ZTE Blade S6 handles the default ‘medium’ detail mode of Asphalt 6 as well as a real top-end phone runs the game.
Switching to ‘high’ detail, which adds some more neat motion effects and more vehicle decals, we get the sort of performance you get with something like the Moto G running ‘medium’. There are very slight frame rate blips, but nothing to stop the game being fun.
Whatever else we might say, the ZTE Blade S6 makes a pretty good budget gaming phone. The one annoyance is that the internal speaker causes the back to buzz a bit, which feels a bit weird.
How we test phones
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.