There’s no question ZTE has been setting their sights on the high-end smartphone market. With the company’s latest flagship the ZTE Axon 7 — set to officially release later this month in the US — the world’s fourth largest smartphone manufacturer looks poised to take on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S. However, it wasn’t an impressive spec list or flawless design that helped ZTE to make such impressive inroads in the US market. Instead, it’s been the company’s relentless pursuit of value. The ZTE brand has become well known for its quality affordable entry-level smartphones. Earlier this week marked a return to form for the Chinese manufacturers as they introduced the ZTE Zmax Pro.
The 6-inch Android phablet looks to blend affordability and performance running on the latest version of Android Marshmallow (6.0) ) OS, with an impressive 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of built-in storage for only $99 (after instant rebate). Add in the 13MP rear-facing camera, fingerprint scanner, and Type C USB 2.0 fast charging port and you have one heck of a deal.
Looking at the complete package it’s hard to believe that the ZTE Zmax Pro only costs $100. Given the impressive spec list, NBR was a bit worried that ZTE may have skimped on build quality to help bring the cost of the handset down. Luckily those fears were unfounded.
First Look: Build & Design
The ZTE Zmax Pro sports an attractive glossy black plastic with relatively thin bezels along the front of the device. A cobalt colored textured plastic sits at the back of the device. The contrasting look helps to tie the aesthetic together, and the textured surface makes the phone easier to grip. Still at 6-inches with a 0.35-inch thickness the phone may prove a bit unwieldy for some users, especially when trying use the device with a single hand.
The ZTE Zmax Pro features a 6-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 resolution (367 PPI pixel density) LCD display. The protective Gorilla Glass 3 coating helps to protect the screen from impact and scratches. The screen itself appears serviceable (especially given the $100 price tag), with clear crisp images and text. However, we couldn’t help but notice that the max brightness on the display was a bit dim. It’s likely that the limited brightness could cause issues with outdoor performance in direct sunlight, and also cause colors to appear washed out when viewing the device from wide angles.
As we mentioned NBR was more than satisfied by the spec sheet offered in the ZTE Zmax Pro. Armed with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of built-in storage, the ZTE Zmax Pro is more than capable of handling the basics of web browsing and running your standards suite of apps. The smartphone may struggle with more demanding tasks, such as graphically intensive games or comprehensive productivity apps, but it will be difficult for NBR to make a definitive judgment till we spend more time with the device. Still, for its sub-$100 price point, that’s impressive, matching competitors such as the Honor 5X, which is currently listed at double the price.
The ZTE ZMax Pro also has a number of premium features including a 13MP rear-facing camera, along with a 5MP front-facing camera. The Zmax Pro houses a fingerprint scanner directly below the rear-facing camera. The location makes the scanner easy to access and use. The phone utilizes a Type C USB 2.0 port for fast charging and has a removable storage microSD slot next to its sim card capable of expanding the memory an additional 128GB. That’s a lot of extra bells and whistles for an entry-level device.
Even though our time with the ZTE Zmax Pro was limited, it’s hard not to love this device. It may not be the most impressive handset on the market, but ZTE is offering a remarkable value with this device. Sure there are some flaws. The display can be a bit glossy indirect light, and the specs aren’t intended for more demanding tasks, but you will not find a better bang for your buck.
Instead, the bigger issue is the carrier restrictions. Currently, the ZTE Zmax Pro is only offered through MetroPCS. In fact, part of the reason the cost is so low is Metro is offering a $100 instant rebate, which allows the device to hit that elusive sub-$100 price point.
The ZTE ZMax Pro is a great device and an unbelievable value, but it’s unlikely that consumers will want to change carriers, just to get their hands on an excellent entry-level handset.
The ZTE ZMax Pro is currently available for preorder and will be made available for purchase starting on August 1st at MetroPCS for $99 (with a $100 instant rebate).