Axon 7 – A True Flagship Contender
I have had the ZTE Axon 7 for the past 2 weeks. I have found it to be a solid device that can keep up with similar devices at a fraction of the cost. In today’s review I cover some of what I believe, are key points to consider if you looking at purchasing the Axon 7.
The phone comes with high-end specs and features a Snapdragon 820 CPU and an Adreno 530 GPU. It comes with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal storage, NFC, OIS and a fingerprint scanner (rear mounted). It also features a Dual Sim tray, with one of the slots doubles as a MicroSD card slot. I have used the Axon 7 on T-Mobile US, but it is an unlocked phone that supports 33 bands, including band 12. There are a mix of reports from Sprint and Verizon users. In theory the Axon 7 does have the required bands, if those carriers ever approve the phone for use. Otherwise any GSM based service should have no issues.
The body is a full aluminum metal unibody that looks and feels great. There are no rough edges and everything blends together perfectly. The body was designed with the help of BMW. The camera sticks out just a bit, directly below that is the fingerprint scanner, with a slight indent that makes it easy to find. The front of the phone features dual front facing speakers and has little wasted space. There are non-backlit capacitive keys under the screen, with programmable buttons on either side of the home button.
The Axon 7 comes with an amazing 5.5 inch AMOLED display. It is made from Gorilla Glass 4 in a 2.5d configuration. The PPI comes out to 538, thanks to the 2560×1440 pixels. This makes for a pleasurable viewing experience, especially when using VR. This is marketed as the first “Daydream Ready” phone when Google releases it in the coming months. The AMOLED screen looks great outdoors, just a step below Samsung flagships. Ironically, it is Samsung who makes this screen used on the Axon 7. Something to note, is that with some phones, the screen was not generally visible when you are also wearing polarized glasses. The polarization of this screen does not limit visibility unless the phone is held at a 45-degree angle. While minor, it is great to be able to use the phone with polarized glasses on.
The Axon 7 has a 20-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera with a sapphire lens. It supports OIS and phase detection autofocus. It has dual LED flash and auto HDR. It is capable of recording video in 4k at 30 fps, 1080p FHD in 30 or 60 fps. The front facing “Selfie” camera is an 8-megapixel f/2.2 and features a “Beautify” option. We’ll dive in to this a bit more in a separate article featuring pictures I have taken.
The battery on the Axon 7 is a 3250 mAH sealed battery and can charge in just 100 minutes. ZTE says it will last for 16 hours of talk time and 360 hours of standby time. Battery life for me has been great, I have had 6 hours of screen on time on one charge! It will get most users through a full day of usage, and if you need to charge it, the Quick Charge 3.0 will make sure it does so rapidly.
As of the time of this article, the Axon 7 is running Android 6.0.1 with MiFavor UI 4.0. MiFavor could use some work, such as the notification bell on the lock screen hiding all notifications with no option to turn it off. This is incredibly annoying when listening to music and you just want to skip a song. You have to press the bell first to see the player controls. Another annoyance is with Double Tap To Wake, it is slow and does not check the proximity sensor. This causes the screen to turn on in your pocket. Since this phone is marketed as daydream ready, I really hope it gets the Android 7.0 update by the end of the year.
ZTE has made audio a major selling point for the Axon 7. And rightfully so, they did a spectacular job with the 32-bit high-resolution audio. The dual front facing speakers are the best I have owned, better than the last HTC I owned (M8) and Nexus 6. It features two audio processors, one is dedicated to the headphone jack.
I received a free pair of Monster N-Pulse headphones with the Axon 7 since I pre-ordered it from Newegg. When paired with these higher end headphones the sound was amazing! I can hear things I did not hear before. I am no Audiophile, but the audio is amazing. It features Dolby ATMOS with various profiles to choose from.
In the box is a Quick Charge 3.0 charger with a USB type C cable. According to ZTE it is capable of charging your phone 60% in 30 minutes. I have not used the included headphones, they are the all plastic type and are uncomfortable to me. The headphones came in a nice reusable case which is a bonus. The phone also comes with a SIM tray eject tool. It is probably the nicest I have seen and it includes a ring to put it on your key chain if needed.
ZTE was nice enough to also, include a few unusual bonus accessories: A case, screen protector, and a Micro USB to USB type C adaptor. The case I am not using as it is too flimsy for my taste, but it is a clear TPU case that will work until you get a better case. I have not used the screen protector; it is the cheaper, flexible kind and not tempered glass. The Micro USB to USB type C is great to help you transition to the type C connectors by retrofitting your Micro USB cords.
For no extra costs ZTE also includes the ZTE Passport 2.0 warranty, that covers things such as broken screens and water damage (with a $79 deductible) for two years. ZTE will help you unlock your bootloader, if that’s your sort of thing, but it does void your Passport 2.0 warranty. If you have any issues or requests, over on the ZTE forums they listen to the consumers and that cannot be said for many other manufacturers.
The ZTE Axon 7 is an excellent device in almost all areas, but it just falls short with the camera performance when compared to more expensive devices. The software could use some improvement, and on the ZTE forums it has already been acknowledged and will be addressed in software updates and it’s great to see ZTE listen to the consumers. Otherwise the screen, body, audio, battery life and performance are top of the line. If you are looking for a high-end phone, the Axon 7 is proof you don’t need to spend $600 and up to get one. It really deserves more attention than it has gotten.
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