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July 15, 2013

ZTE Geek U988S Launched

With today's Geek U988S launch, it's established that ZTE is using the word "Geek" to brand smartphones driven by exotic or unconventional hardware, chosen only by, well, geeks who know how to read a specs sheet. While older Geek series smartphones are driven by Intel's "Clovertrail" Atom SoCs, the new U988S is the world's first smartphone to implement NVIDIA Tegra 4.

Tegra 4 follows NVIDIA's 4+1 energy-saving core approach to mobile multi-core CPUs, which the company claimed on several occasions to be better than even ARM big.LITTLE. Aside from the fifth energy-saving core that keeps the device ticking while four ARM Cortex-A15 cores stay at a power-gated sleep state, the CPU features a clock speed of 1.80 GHz. Other components of the SoC include NVIDIA's GeForce ULV graphics with 72 cores. This GPU is capable of handling display resolutions as high as 3200 x 2000 pixels.

The Tegra 4 SoC should be normally wired to NVIDIA's i500 soft-modem that's LTE-capable, but we suspect that in the interests of cost-cutting, ZTE could be using a cheap Qualcomm-made soft-modem that's compatible with Chinese TS-CDMA networks, and the general lack of LTE connectivity in the country.

Geek U988S is a 5-inch smartphone, its IPS LCD display features 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution that the GeForce ULV graphics can handle effortlessly. Its primary camera is a rather bland 8-megapixel shooter with LED flash, flanked by a 2-megapixel front camera. The device is clad in rubberized plastic, that comes in a fiery (or gaudy, depending on your taste) red. Under the hood, the Tegra 4 SoC is backed by 2 GB of RAM, and 8 to 16 GB of expandable storage. There's no clarity on which version of Android it's running, but we suspect it's Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean."

Recent leaked benchmarks of the U988S show that its Tegra 4 SoC performs very close to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip, as implemented on Sony's Xperia Z Ultra.