ZTE has just released another Axon phone to extend the coverage of its lineup. The ZTE Axon 7 mini is a 5.2-inch screen Android phone that will complement the Axon 7 that was released earlier this year. The idea behind the Axon line is to offer “flagship-level specs and experience” at an affordable price. This is a segment of the market where several Chinese brands have been successful, thus, attracting more.
Obviously, ZTE isn’t new to the market and its products spans from infrastructure to handsets. It is large enough and has deep enough pockets to study the likes of OnePlus or Xiaomi, and take the fight to them. The Axon line of product competes directly on that extremely competitive market.
To do so, ZTE has built an all-aluminum unibody with no edges. It is something that popular phones such as the LG G5 have done successfully, and it’s true that the lack of edges is agreeable when holding the handset in your hand. The particular unit we played with was a “gold” model, but there are other options in case you are wondering.
ZTE has worked with Designworks (a BMW subsidiary) on the design, which pushes the “no edge” idea to the point of using 2.5D glass, which is a beveled glass for the display.
ZTE is also betting big on audio quality. The company has worked with the Golden Ears Conservatory of Music to design and tweak the phone’s audio. The front speaker design also helps increase the quality and avoid blasting sound away from the user. The Axon 7 mini supports Hi-Fi out of the box, thanks to an Asahi Kasei Microdevices chip. The Axon 7 mini is certified Dolby Atmos as well, and the 3D sound demo was quite convincing.
While this is a good thing, better Audio has been historically a tough sell. HTC has been trying to promote this for a while, and LG is somewhat pushing Hi-Fi too. At the moment, I think that most people consider this a “nice to have” but there’s a lot of education and promotion that is needed before Hi-Fi becomes a sway factor in a purchase.
The Axon 7 mini has a 5.2” AMOLED 1920×1080 display. At ~424 PPI, its sharpness should be more than sufficient in most cases. It’s always nice to have a higher PPI, but only if you are willing to pay for it – and the primary goal of this handset is to make the best of your budget by selecting good tradeoffs. This is one of them. The image quality seemed very good, but even AMOLED displays aren’t all the same. What they all share is an excellent contrast ratio and black levels.
The Axon 7 mini is powered by a Snapdragon 617 SoC which features two groups of 4 cores each. Using the big.LITTLE technology from ARM, each group of cores is designed for a different power level: high-performance or low-power. They can switch in and out as the OS deem it appropriate. If there is a massively parallel CPU workload they can all be turned on at once, although it’s not a realistic scenario.
There’s 3GB of RAM, which is pretty decent for multitasking. Keep in mind that the more RAM there is, and the less likely the system will have to access the Flash storage, which is not as fast. The less RAM and the more likely the handset might become sluggish if there is a background task running, or while switching apps.
The 2705 mAh battery capacity is good, but not impressive in absolute terms. We would need to know the final price to see what battery capacity you get for each dollar spent. ZTE says that the phone can charge from 0% to 46% within 30 minutes (we haven’t tested this ourselves). This means that it charges at a speed of 41 mAh/min, which is considered to be “fast charging”. However, the fastest phones can top 50 to 54 mAh/min in our tests.
Interestingly enough, ZTE says that its Axon 7 phone can charge to 83% in 30mn, which would lead to an unbelievable speed of 90mAh/min, which we have yet to see in the real world, so I would be cautious in until we can measure this ourselves.
The main camera is a 16 Megapixel camera, while the front Camera has 8 Megapixel. The main Camera has an aperture of f1.9, a digital image stabilization system, a sapphire lens and a dual LED flash. Without knowing which sensor is used it’s hard to estimate the level of image quality, but I would guess that it’s quite decent.
In conclusion, the ZTE Axon 7 mini will probably push the Axon brand down to the ~$300 level, and it is a very good spot to aim at. At this price point, the obvious competition would be the Google Nexus 5, the Sony XPERIA Z3+ and HTC One M9 and all of those have very good user reviews. It looks like a good topic for research.