One of the biggest advantages of the open nature of Android is that it allows for its use and application in a variety of product, and has led to a unique line of devices from ZTE. Like its predecessor, the latest iteration of the company’s portable projector and mobile hotspot combo brings to the table some different and useful capabilities, while featuring major improvements in all key aspects when compared to the original. What does an Android-powered device such as this have to offer, and who is the intended target? We find that out, and more, in this comprehensive ZTE SPro 2 review!
The ZTE SPro 2 retains a lot of the design language of the original, and is basically just a large square with rounded corners and flat sides, and is slightly bigger and thicker than its predecessor, at 1.5-inches thick. The shape will remind of you the Amazon Fire TV, with the SPro 2 of course being much bigger, given the large display, battery, and projector that it features. The build material is mostly metal, with the bottom of the device being the exception, and weighs a little over a pound. That’s hardly what you’d call heavy, and the weight actually makes it feel more substantial in the hand than the previous iteration.
Taking a look around the device, the buttons to control the volume are found on the left side with the power button placed on top, and all of them are very easy to press and offer a good tactile feel. On the right is a fan to keep things cool, and on the back are the proprietary charging port, HDMI port, USB 3.0 port, and headphone jack, below all of which are the microSIM card and microSD card slots. On the bottom are little rubber feet to keep the projector from sliding around, a standard tripod mount, and a rather small kickstand, the helps you prop the device up at an angle for easier viewing.
The display on top has been given a nice bump in size and resolution, with it now being a 5-inch panel with a 720p resolution, with a pixel density of 293 ppi. It’s not the highest resolution or pixel density around, but with a device such as this, it doesn’t need to be, as you won’t be using the display much, especially if you use the SPro 2 most of the top as a projector or a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is still nice that ZTE decided to include an HD display though, bringing with it bright, vivid colors and good viewing angles. So if you do decide to use the device to play games, browse the web, or read emails, this display is certainly more than good enough for that.
It’s somewhat odd to discuss the hardware features of a projector, but under the hood, the ZTE SPro 2 does pack some power, with its quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Adreno 330 GPU, and 2 GB of RAM. This processing package may seem a little dated given the current trends in the smartphone and tablet market, but is definitely more than capable of handling the standard aspects of the Android experience that is available on this device. Performance remains smooth during everyday tasks like web browsing, reading mails, and some multi-tasking, and also does very well with everything but the most graphic-intensive of games. Keep in mind though that certain games and applications may be a little awkward to use on this device due to their portrait orientations.
The ZTE SPro 2 comes with the usual array of connectivity options, including 4G LTE support, and also functions as a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows a connection for up to 10 devices. The available 16 GB of on-board storage may not seem like a lot, given the media-centric nature of the device, but expandable storage via microSD card is possible. Also, being that it has a built in USB port, it’s likely that they are intending for this to be used in conjunction with a portable hard drive, which is a nice feature to have.
For audio, an internal speaker is found at the bottom of the device that does get very loud and with more clarity than expected from a single speaker, but a better option may still be to use headphones or external speakers than can be connected via the headphone jack or Bluetooth.
On the battery front, the SPro 2 packs a rather large 6,300 mAh unit the ZTE promises will provide up to 3 hours of use as a projector, and 10 hours when functioning as a Wi-Fi hotspot. So far in my testing, ZTE claims have certainly held true, with just above 20% of battery remaining after watching a movie with a duration of two and a half hours, and in some instances, I was able to squeeze past the three hour mark as well. The performance of the battery is definitely a big improvement over its predecessor and its maximum of two hours of use as a projector. As a side note, it has to be mentioned that projector use shows up as screen on time as can be seen in the battery screenshots above.
We now take a look at the the projector, something that is essentially the star of the show, and the main reason why anyone would buy this device. It is a DLP projector that comes with a brightness of 200 lumens, doubling what was found with the original, and is capable of outputting a 720p image with a screen size up to 120 inches. The projector is pretty bright and fairly easy to see even in a well lit room, but unfortunately, in order to take advantage of the highest brightness setting, the device has to be plugged into an AC power source.
The SPro 2 also features keystone correction, which basically means that the image will always maintain a rectangular form even if the projector is not perfectly horizontal, avoiding the trapezoid effect that will otherwise be seen without this feature. The device also doesn’t come with a physical wheel or button to control focus, which is all handled through the software now. Be default, the projector focuses automatically with a few seconds and works extremely well. If you do prefer setting the focus manually though, it is still possible within the projector settings.
Projected content is made available in three ways, first by streaming or being stored and played locally directly from the device itself, secondly via Miracast, and finally, by connecting another device using the HDMI port. Streaming or playing locally store content directly is definitely the easiest method to use, with no extra wires or additional setups required. Transferring content isn’t always ideal though, and that is where HDMI and Miracast opens things up.
The HDMI port allows laptops, or any other devices that support HDMI, to be hooked up, which is a great option not just for watching videos, but also viewing webpages or presentations. Miracast allows for any device that supports it, like most smartphones and tablets, to be used to project content. Once connected, any content from your device will be shown through the projector, and it actually works surprisingly well, with very little latency between the connected device and the projector.
On the software side of things, the ZTE SPro 2 is running Android 4.4 KitKat, but unlike last year’s device that offered a stock experience, the SPro 2 now comes with a custom skin that is definitely more suited to be used with a projector. The interface features large tiles, grids of icons, and individual tabs at the top to easily find what you’re looking for, with additional tabs also easy to create for any applications that you may want to group together. A floating bubble makes it very easy to turn on the projector, regardless of whether you’re using an application or at the homescreen, and is incredibly useful to quickly turn on the projector.
The ZTE SPro 2 will be available exclusively from AT&T for $399.99 with a 2-year contract, or $499.99 off-contract, with a $10 monthly fee to add it to a new or existing Mobile Share Value plan. The price is definitely steep to justify a purchase for just casual media consumption, but if you do see its use at work as well, the device could be a good buy.
So, there you have it – a quick look at the ZTE SPro 2! There’s no denying that this device is a niche product, but it does what it is designed to do extremely well. The SPro 2 addresses a lot of the negatives found with its predecessor, and is certainly a good option for anyone looking for a simple, but powerful, and portable projector, with some additional features, such as its Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities and almost standard Android experience, tacked on.