ZTE Axon 30 5G review: the master of the sub-screen camera

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(Pocket-lint) – pesky notch digging into your phone’s big screen view and annoying you? Well, the ZTE Axon 30 5G says goodbye to the notch by placing its selfie camera behind the display.

No, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an underscreen camera – and it sure won’t be the last – but this ZTE certainly houses the best implementation of this technology yet, making it less noticeable than its first release. in the Axon 20, and goes beyond what even Samsung can offer in its Z Fold 3.

While the under-display camera is certainly the ZTE’s main feature, the Axon 30 5G – which positions itself as a mid-range in terms of price – can it offer all the other important features to make it a worthy bet. for your pocket?

Design and display

  • 6.92 inch AMOLED display, 2460 x 1080 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
  • Dimensions: 170 x 78 x 7.8 mm / Weight: 189 g
  • Fingerprint scanner under the screen
  • Finishes: Black, Aqua

We’ve been using this ZTE for an unusually long time for a review, having moved into the device before taking annual leave and really living with this device as if it were our own. This was especially helpful in highlighting its positives and pitfalls.

Pocket plushZTE Axon 30 5G review photo 1

There’s no denying that this ZTE is a pretty big device, to begin with, with its very dominant 6.92-inch display and a bit larger aspect ratio than many current flagships on the market. However, if you want something that is all about the screen, this device certainly meets that need.

The under-screen camera also allows this screen to sing, as the second-generation technology is much improved over its first-generation appearance. Previously, you would see an almost “on / off” pixel grid in front of the camera lens; The Axon 30 5G, however, does a much better job of more delicately hiding the lens behind a rectangular “screen” section where the image is slightly toned down but not as drastically different. Sometimes you can see the camera lens, depending on the external lighting conditions and the reflection, but when there is an image in front of it on the screen it is handled very well – by far the best. that we’ve seen on any device to date.

What’s a little confusing, however, is that ZTE has put such desirable high-end tech into an otherwise fairly mediocre device. Design-wise, for example, the Axon 30 just isn’t that exciting – its rear is all plastic and ultimately feels it, for example, while the cameras (which we’ll detail later) lack. just the kind of influence you find in bigger flagships.

Pocket plushZTE Axon 30 5G review photo 6

At least the phone maker has shrunk the overall frame around the screen this time around, allowing that screen to be the shining star of this device. It’s also a pretty decent panel, an AMOLED panel with sufficient resolution, sufficient brightness (with software improvements meaning less severe automatic adjustment this time around), and a compelling color scheme. It’s also a minus so as not to distort the visuals, which also makes it ideal for playing games.

And with other great features like an under-screen fingerprint scanner and expandable (or dual-SIM) storage, this big device certainly has its benefits when you break down the overall list of features.

Performance and battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor, 8 GB RAM
  • 4200mAh battery capacity, 65W fast charge
  • Android 11 software with ZTE MyOS 11
  • 128 GB storage, microSD expansion
  • 5G connectivity

While the build might not be the boldest aspect of this phone, from an internal hardware perspective, there’s enough to get a general boost. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor at its core isn’t high-end here and now, but it’s more than powerful enough to handle everyday tasks, including gaming, with little hassle. Housed in this plastic shell, there is also no problem of overheating.

Pocket plushZTE Axon 30 5G review photo 9

We pushed through South Park: Phone Destroyer sessions as is our go-to, which works well and smoothly. However, when activating the ZTE’s screen recording feature while gaming, this results in a marked drop in frame rate – something you won’t see in some more powerful devices, including some older generation phones, so there is a cap on how much power is available and how it’s handled.

Despite good performance in general, navigation is not perfectly smooth. The Axon 30 5G just lacks a certain degree of finish in terms of functionality and software, which would really help to boost the appeal of this phone. The MyOS 11 software, for example, seems to cause some irritation with Google’s Android 11 base – the sometimes lack of notifications being the most prominent example.

With apps like Outlook, we rarely got new mail notifications, while our Ring doorbell app failed to show alert messages in a timely manner – it often took a few minutes to show, if at all. There are different settings per app that can be tinkered with in the settings, but we didn’t find that it always succeeds in setting everything up and working as we expected.

Other quirks, such as the app drawer available via swiping that doesn’t work sporadically, continue to show that software combined with hardware is just a bit irrelevant.

Battery life is also a bit undercooked overall. That’s not to say that the 4200mAh cell here won’t get you through a day, it’s just that its percentage is dropping faster than you might expect from such a device. We hit bedtime after 16 hours of using the device on and off – and it’s usually around 20% left. Charging is fast, however, thanks to the 65W fast charging – but there’s no wireless charging here.

Cameras

  • Quadruple rear cameras:
    • Main (25mm): 64 megapixels, f / 1.8 aperture, 0.8 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus (PDAF)
    • Wide (16mm): 8 MP, f / 2.2 / Macro: 5 MP, f / 2.4 / Depth: 2 MP, f / 2.4
  • Single front camera (under display design):
    • 16 megapixels, f / 2.5 aperture, below screen

When it comes to cameras, we’ve already explored the main takeaway from this phone – the under-screen selfie camera. It’s impressive in terms of being semi-invisible, in a way you won’t see on any other phone on the market right now.

Pocket plushZTE Axon 30 5G review photo 4

The cameras on the back are of course more visible, although without a particularly high setup there isn’t the excessive protrusion that you will find in so many competitors. The reason ZTE went for a so-called four-camera setup is more for the appeal of the numbers than the numbers, it seems, as the performance and variety aren’t that impressive.

The presence of the macro and depth sensors, for example, does not help: the macro that you will never know is there or probably how to activate it; while the depth sensor often automatically applies processing to images, blurring various patches completely when that is not your desire or intention at all. If these two lenses were removed, that would likely only be an advantage for the Axon 30.

The two to remember are the main ones: the main sensor, at 64 megapixels; and wide-angle optics, at 8 megapixels. The latter is not particularly solved, increases the contrast of the images too much and the edge distortions are a bit of a problem. The former, although it can take good photos from time to time, largely lacks the ability to resolve details particularly well – partly due to the optics, partly the processing – which gives average results in all.

What makes the ZTE Axon 30 5G’s camera setup confusing: after all, its underscreen selfie camera is the best of its kind (in terms of implementation rather than lens), so it’s clearly a device that wants to show off the technology, but does not confirm this with the presence of more powerful optics and sensors in the camera department – when it really should to give more credit to this under-screen camera.

Verdict

The ZTE Axon 30 5G is a mix of good points and pitfalls. On the plus side, the under-display camera is by far the best of its kind yet, even surpassing Samsung’s efforts in the Z Fold 3 by far. It lets the ZTE’s big screen shine, so if you want an advanced display design, the Axon 30 has it in buckets.

On the pitfall side, however, is the lack of cohesion in some of the Axon 30’s reflections. The cameras, for example, are average – which, while acceptable at this price point, seems quite at odds with it. a device defending a sub-screen optic in such a refined form. Meanwhile, the software has some issues when it comes to notifications, which occasionally puts an unwanted pause in the proceedings. And the design just isn’t that exciting.

In all our time with the ZTE Axon 30 5G, we hardly ever noticed the camera below the screen. What is ideal, job done – that he can deliver this technology so convincingly is superb testimony from ZTE’s research and development department. It’s just that the rest of the phone, while broadly acceptable given the price, just doesn’t live up to that level of awesome overall.

Also consider

Pocket plushalternative photo 1

OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus is now immersed in the game, offering much more responsive software – and that’s what really helps sell this mid-range handset. Of course, you’ll have to live with a corner punch hole disrupting the screen, but you might find that acceptable.

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Written by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .


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