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Is ZTE's $99 Obsidian Smartphone a Good Deal?

Want a new smartphone for less than $100? ZTE and T-Mobile today (Aug. 6) announced that the ZTE Obsidian will be available from Aug. 13 on the Uncarrier for $99 unlocked. That's a compelling price for an LTE-capable Android Lollipop device, but is the Obsidian worth your bucks?

First, don't expect too much power. The Obsidian is powered by a 1-GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor, backed by 1GB of RAM. That may let you multitask smoothly, but it might not be as zippy as the octa-core CPUs found on phones such as the Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 or the Samsung Galaxy S6.

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The ZTE phone's 4.5-inch, 856 x 480 display is not as sharp as the larger, 1080p screens on today's flagships, but it is common of phones in this price range. Alcatel's new $99 Conquest (on Boost Mobile) has the same size screen at the same resolution. This means some videos or pictures on websites may look fuzzy on the Obsidian, but isn't bad for the price.

You'll also get a 5-megapixel rear and 2-MP front camera setup, which will snap good enough pictures for Facebook and Instagram. That's also the same configuration as on the Alcatel Onetouch Conquest.

The Obsidian joins T-Mobile's lineup of value smartphones, which includes the now-$99 LG Leon LTE, a phone with a less-sharp selfie cam and similar display. T-Mobile also offers the $130 Microsoft Lumia 640, which has a higher-resolution 5-inch display and sharper 8-MP camera for $40 more, but it runs Windows Phone — a less popular operating system.

For twice the price, you can get the new Moto G, which is our favorite value smartphone right now. It offers a larger, sharper display, more RAM for better multitasking and a long-lasting battery.

However, if your budget is just $100 and you want to be on T-Mobile's speedy 4G network, the ZTE Obsidian is a good deal.

Staff writer Cherlynn Low writes about smartphones, wearables and apps. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.