ZTE Kis 3 Max review

More fudges than features with this budget handset

ZTE Kis 3 Max review
It's got the price right, but not enough else

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Because of the low price of the ZTE Kis 3 Max I wasn't expecting an impressive spec list. Compromises have obviously been made to keep the asking price as low as possible, which is why the Kis 3 Max ships with just a dual core 1.3GHz processor and 512MB of RAM.

These are similar specs to its closest competitors, but with the Kis 3 Max running the recent Android 4.4 operating system I was worried that the handset's performance would suffer.

In day-to-day use of the stock Android installed on the Kis 3 Max there is noticeable lag when moving through menus or opening apps. For example, the YouTube app took around three seconds to load when launched.

ZTE Kis 3 Max review

The limited power in the Kis 3 Max's frame leaves apps lagging

Once loaded, YouTube videos seemed to play fine, though there is a pause of a second or so when you turn the phone to a landscape position to view videos in full screen.

I also encountered a few Wi-Fi problems and in the end resorted to using the mobile data connection instead. The ZTE Kis 3 Max isn't 4G capable, so if you're after a fast mobile internet connection it's worth paying a bit more for a budget 4G handset like the EE Kestrel which has better specs, fast 4G LTE connectivity and costs £99 (including £10 of EE credit).

I then fired up the Facebook app, which also comes preinstalled. As with the YouTube app, it took a few seconds to load and then a few more to connect to Facebook and display the information. Scrolling down my timeline was a bit of a chore, with frequent stuttering.

These pauses were only brief, but they were frequent enough to mar the experience. Posts with photos would often take a second to load the images, and overall it felt that the Kis 3 Max was struggling to keep up with even basic use.

The fact that slight pauses were common when using apps and the operating system made using the Kis 3 Max rather frustrating. For example, clicking the home button doesn't take you back to the home screen straight away. Instead, there is a slight pause. During one of these pauses I ended up irritably tapping the home button, which didn't help matters.

If you're the patient sort then you might be more forgiving of the Kis 3 Max's performance. However, if you want a smartphone that quickly brings up apps, social media, websites and more for a quick browse before you put it back in your pocket, you'll be sorely disappointed with the Kis 3 Max.

I fired up the graphically intensive Real Racing 3 driving game to see if the Kis 3 Max's Mali-400 GPU could handle it. It soon became apparent that it couldn't. After a long wait for the game to load, the opening cutscene juddered into life with a pretty poor frame rate. I wasn't actually able to play any of the game as the app soon crashed, throwing me back to the home screen.

ZTE Kis 3 Max review

The Kis 3 Max is exclusive to Virgin

The Kis 3 Max is exclusive to Virgin Media and although the stock Android doesn't come with any ZTE or Virgin-flavoured interfaces, it does include a number of pre-installed Virgin Media apps.

These apps include Simple Wi-Fi which runs in the background and connects the device to appropriate Wi-Fi hotspots when you're out and about.

The Virgin Cloud app lets you store files in online storage (which is actually run by F-Secure). Virgin Media customers get 5GB of storage free. You can buy larger capacity, with prices starting at £3.99 for 50GB of storage, which isn't too bad at all.

The Virgin Media TV Anywhere apps is probably the most interesting. It allows Virgin Media customers to watch live TV on the handset as well as manage their TiVo set-top box to arrange recordings.

It's a useful app but not really a selling point for the ZTE Kis 3 Max as it can be installed from both the Google Play Store and iTunes on to other devices. Because the Kis 3 Max is 3G only, you'll probably not use this app quite as much as Virgin Media hopes.

I found the performance of the ZTE Kis 3 Max during regular use isn't too great, and when I ran the Geekbench 3 benchmarks to see how it compares to its competitors, the results confirmed by impressions. The Kis 3 Max scored 585 in the multi-core tests, putting it behing the Huawei Ascend Y530, which scored 605.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.