To anyone keeping up with the smartphone market, the Chinese manufacturer ZTE won't be entirely unknown. Specialising in affordable handsets, the company has now turned its hand to budget tablets and the result, the ZTE Light Tab 2, isn't a bad offering.

It's solidly constructed and surprisingly zippy. The only problem is the operating system is well out of date and, more importantly, there's no sign of Google Play.

Although this is one of the more pricey budget Android tablets, you get a fair amount for your cash. There's a 1,024 x 600 capacitive touchscreen, while power is provided by a Qualcomm 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM.

Unfortunately though, the ZTE Light Tab 2 is saddled with Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, rather than the tablet-focused Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich iterations. Gingerbread was released in 2010 and ported to tablets from smartphones, and there's no getting away from the fact it seems dated.

Interestingly, the ZTE Light Tab will allow you to insert a SIM card for 3G and, if you're so inclined, phone calls. Holding it to your ear is a little bit impractical though, given the 202 x 122 x 13mm dimensions.

At 395g the ZTE Light Tab isn't heavy, but the BlackBerry Playbook and Tablo are lighter and therefore easier to use long-term. Some may argue that a little extra weight adds a sense of quality to a gadget, and the ZTE certainly feels strong and well constructed.

There's a fairly thick bezel wrapped around the screen, with touch-sensitive Android buttons for Home, Menu and Back. The rear of the tablet features a matte plastic covering that comes away to reveal the 3,400mAh Li-Ion battery and slots for a SIM and MicroSD card.

With only 4GB of on-board storage, half of which is taken up with the OS and pre-installed apps, you'll want to accessorise the ZTE Light Tab 2 with a MicroSD card if you want to store your media collection.

The ZTE Light Tab 2 handles media well. The smaller size might not be to everyone's taste, but it's perfectly serviceable for small bursts of entertainment. The built-in browser supports Flash playback, so you can visit sites like YouTube and iPlayer and watch embedded video right on the page.

ZTE Light Tab 2

All work, no Play

While that sounds like a good thing, it is in fact masking the biggest drawback of the ZTE Light Tab 2 - the lack of a pre-installed Google Play app store. Of course, if you're a dedicated tech head there are ways around this, but for the vast majority of us, Google Play is a must-have addition. The fact that the ZTE doesn't come with it is a black mark on its record.

It comes with lots of pre-installed apps, including some good ones like Documents to Go (an Office app), FM radio, email and several games, but with no option of adding more, this tablet has a limited lifespan.

If you're less keen on apps and are instead looking for a device for watching media and browsing on the move, the ZTE Light Tab is a good choice. The 3G capability and excellent screen are clear standout points, but the lack of Google Play and the outdated OS make it somewhat hard to recommend.

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