Introduction

The Axon Pro is ZTE’s ambitious entry into the fiercely competitive market for high-end smartphones in the United States. Before the newcomer’s arrival, the Chinese manufacturer has been moving mostly low-end and mid-range handsets across the Atlantic.

Zte Axon Pro

As the first member of the brand new flagship family, the Axon Pro aims to make a splash by combining premium design and build quality, high-end specs. They include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 13MP main camera with dual sensor, and 5.5″ QHD display, tucked into a metal body.

ZTE has topped the high-end specs of the Axon Pro up with an attractive off-contract price tag and unprecedented for the segment two-year warranty. Check out the device’s key features, followed by some of its main disadvantages below.

Key features

    • 5.5″ CGS TFT LCD display by Sharp with QHD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels); 534ppi; Corning Gorilla Glass 3
    • 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset; 2GHz octa-core CPU; Adreno 430 GPU; 4GB of RAM
    • 13MP main camera with dual-LED flash; 2MP secondary sensor; dedicated camera button
    • 4K video capture at 30fps; 1080p video capture at 30fps; 720p video capture at 120fps
    • 8MP front-facing camera
    • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with light custom UI
    • 32GB of built-in storage
    • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSPA+; 4G LTE connectivity
    • Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC; FM radio; microUSB port; GPS with A-GPS
    • Dual-microphone active noise canceling
    • Attractive off-contract price tag and unprecedented two-year warranty
    • A duo of dedicated audio chipsets (ADC and DAC)
    • Bundled premium in-ear headphones by JBL
    • 3,000mAh non-removable battery

Main disadvantages

    • No fingerprint sensor (the Chinese variant of the smartphone has one)
    • Only 32GB of built-in memory available; no microSD card slot
    • Battery is not user-replaceable
    • No stereo speakers

A quick glance at the key features of the Axon Pro reveals that ZTE has really focused on making the smartphone a multimedia powerhouse. The device’s audio hardware and the bundled premium handset all but promise to keep it head and shoulders above its competitors in this department.

As controversial as it has been, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset promises that the Axon Pro will be anything but a slouch in terms of performance, especially when coupled with 4GB of RAM.

The light UI on top of Android 5.1.1 looks quite promising too. The same goes for the secondary camera sensor below the 13MP main camera.

Lack of expandable memory is a big question mark in the device’s spec sheet. The same goes for the sole option of 32GB of built-in memory.

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ZTE Axon Pro official photos

As always, we will kick our review off with unboxing of the smartphone, followed by our take on its design and build quality. Head over to the next page for a closer look at the ZTE Axon Pro!

Unboxing

The retail package of ZTE Axon Pro is as high-end as its aspirations. Inside the nicely textured white box, you will find the handset, a couple of booklets, a tool to eject the nano-SIM, and a pair of high-end in-ear headphones by JBL.

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An impressive retail package

It is worth noting that few handsets in this price range come with a bundled pair of headphones out of the box, much less a premium one by JBL. ZTE surely deserves a hat tip for shipping the accessory alongside the Axon Pro.

Design and build quality

ZTE has already proven that it can churn out well-designed phones with the Nubia product range, so it is hardly a surprise that the Axon Pro is quite a looker in the flesh. Designed specifically with the US market in mind, the handset is available in three fashionable color schemes – Ion Gold, Chromium Silver, and the epically named Phthalo Blue found in our review unit.

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The Axon Pro is quite a looker in the flesh

The body of the smartphone is dominated by premium textures, as well as a plethora of small details. The latter include fantastic looking small triangular elements throughout the earpiece, the speaker grille, and the camera of the Axon Pro.

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Tiny design details add a lot of character

The blue variant also features nicely contrasting matte gold touches around its camera and side buttons. Overall, the attention to detail exhibited throughout the design of the Axon Pro is nothing short of impressive, especially considering the device’s price range.

Build quality of the Axon Pro is excellent. The handset features metal body, polycarbonate speaker inserts in the front, and display covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, so it will certainly hold up well even in the hands of a power user.

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The Axon Pro is built solid

To show how serious it is about attracting customers, ZTE offers the Axon Pro with an eye-popping two-year warranty that includes free shipping both ways, as well as advanced exchanges. Even more impressively, the Chinese manufacturer’s coverage includes any damage to the phone, including cracked screen and water havoc.

Physical measures of the ZTE Axon Pro are 154 x 75 x 9.3 mm, while its weight tips the scale at a solid 175 grams. All in all, the handset is not for people who are looking for a compact smartphone.

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ZTE Axon Pro sized up against LG G4

The Axon Pro is surely not the easiest 5.5″ smartphone to handle. Its considerable measures and slippery metal body require a bit more attention than we wished for and two hands at almost all times.

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Handling the Axon Pro

Display

ZTE Axon Pro features a 5.5″ TFT LCD display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. The unit’s pixel density a flagship smartphone-worthy 534ppi.

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The screen is made by Sharp

Made by Sharp, the screen of the device features Continuous Grain Silicon tech. The latter reportedly allows faster electron rates when compared to conventional LCD panels, as well as fewer individual components.

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A closer look at the display

The display of the smartphone boasts impressive brightness and viewing angles. Its contrast doesn’t quite match that of an AMOLED unit, but is stellar nonetheless. Overall, the screen of the Axon Pro is arguably one of the best solutions you can find on a sub-$450 smartphone.

Controls

The earpiece of the Axon Pro sits under the grille above the display. The 8MP front-facing snapper, the ambient light sensor, as well as the proximity sensor of the smartphone are also located above the screen.

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A look above the display

Below the screen is where the device’s three capacitive buttons for navigating your way around Android reside. The sole loudspeaker of the Axon Pro is also part of the setup.

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The view below the screen

The volume button sits alone on the left side of the smartphone. The power/lock key and the nano-SIM card tray are located on the right.

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The sides of the Axon Pro

On the back of the Axon Pro, you will find the 13MP main camera, its 2MP companion sensor, and the dual-LED flash. A ZTE and Axon logo keep them company.

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The back of the handset

Battery performance

ZTE Axon Pro is powered by a non-removable 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 support. The manufacturer promises up to 10 days of standby and 12 hours of talk time.

We put the Axon Pro through the paces of our battery test. The handset achieved an endurance rating of 60 hours, thus meaning that it can easily make it past two days of use if you opt for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily.

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We tested the Axon Pro on T-Mobile’s superb 4G LTE network in New York City and were pleased to find out that, in terms of talk time, the handset did even better than the manufacturer’s estimate. The same goes for its standby performance, though it’s worth noting that this particular aspect depends heavily on the number of accounts synced with the smartphone and the use of location services among other factors.

Poor video playback and web browsing battery performance prevented the handset from achieving a better endurance rating. However, we found the brightness of the display to be a bit too high at 50%, so real-life performance with automatic brightness is all but certain to be better.

Connectivity

ZTE Axon Pro has all the bases covered in terms of connectivity. The basics include quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and 3G globally, as well as 4G LTE connectivity with support for AT&T and T-Mobile bands in the United States.

Also on board is Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC alongside Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac with Wireless Hotspot support. Wired connectivity is covered by a microUSB 2.0 port with USB host. GPS with A-GPS is also on board.

An FM radio is also part of the device’s connectivity package. As always, it requires a wired headset to act as an antenna.

An IR-port would have been a welcome sight in the device’s spec sheet but, at this price point, it’s a tad too much to ask for. Overall, the Axon Pro won’t leave you hanging in the connectivity department.

User interface

ZTE Axon Pro boots Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. The OS features has been lightly skinned by the Chinese manufacturer and can easily be mistaken for a stock build, even though it actually isn’t. Take a look at the firmware in action in the short clip below.

The lockscreen holds no surprises. It displays notifications and contains shortcuts to the phone dialer and then camera.

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The lockscreen

At a quick glance, the homescreen looks like a usual Android affair – you change wallpapers, add/remove widgets, create shortcuts. However, ZTE has also added the option to change the device’s theme, as well as its transition animation.

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The default homescreen • changing transitions

ZTE has preloaded three different themes on the Axon Pro, with the default one closely resembling stock Android Lollipop. The second is dubbed “Fancy” and removes the app drawer of the device. The third theme is called “Sports,” but you are not likely to use it unless you are thirteen or younger.

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The available themes

All the apps in the default theme are stored into a comfy app drawer, sorted alphabetically. There is no option for custom order.

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The app drawer

One finger swipe from the top of the homescreen will open the notification area, which features a clean look. Additional swipe reveals customizable quick toggles that include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, screen auto-rotate, flashlight, and location on/off among others. Of course, you can also adjust the brightness of the screen and go into the settings menu too.

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The notification area

The app switcher has a card interface that allows you to select the app you need by swiping up or down. You can close apps by swiping left or right, or by hitting the dedicated button on the top right corner of each card. ZTE has also added a shortcut to the task manager, as well as a button to clear all cards.

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The app switcher • the task manager

Finally, Google Now is summoned by long pressing and upward swiping from the home key. A shorter press and swipe up open a ZTE shortcut screen to your music player, favorite contacts, Yahoo Sports, and the preloaded fitness tracker by Azumio.

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Google Now • ZTE quick shortcuts

We found the default user interface of the Axon Pro to be light and pleasantly functional. The available themes, coupled with the slew of quality Android launchers in Goole Play allow users to have the UI of the smartphone any way they like in case the default setup does not float their boat.

Web browser and other apps

Google Chrome is the default browser in the ZTE Axon Pro. Its design matches the material look and feel of Android Lollipop.

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Google Chrome

One of Chrome’s strengths is its ability to seamlessly sync with the desktop version, using nothing but your Google account. This allows you to open an article on your PC and finish reading it on your mobile phone. It also syncs your bookmarks and favorite sites.

Oddly, rather than using the stock Android calendar, calculator, and clock, ZTE has opted for its own alternatives. The latter look like clones of Google’s solutions in both design and functionality.

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Calendar • Calculator • Clock

There is a powerful file manager available out of the box. An office editor is not preloaded, through Google’s own Docs are really available for free in the Play Store.

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The file manager

Argus by Azumio is a capable fitness tracking app with social network integration that’s preloaded on the Axon Pro. RockMyRun another fitness solution that’s available on the smartphone.

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Argus and RockMyRun

Synthetic benchmarks

ZTE Axon Pro packs the controversial Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset. The SoC consists of a 2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 plus 1.5 GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, Adreno 430 GPU, and a generous 4GB of RAM.

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We ran the entire battery of tests we typically do, and a few things became evident. One is that the phone quickly heats up when subjected to a serious load, but that was to be expected given the internals and the metal body.

Things are not as bad as we’ve witnessed and the phone doesn’t get as hot as to be unusable. However, you will definitely feel it when it warms up under heavy loads.

With the above in mind, we can now move on to actual scores. First up is the CPU-centric Geekbench test, where the ZTE Axon Pro did better than similarly equipped devices, likely due to the extra RAM memory on board.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active5246
  • Samsung Galaxy S65215
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge5095
  • HTC One E9+4796
  • ZTE Axon Pro4574
  • HTC One M93761
  • LG G43522
  • Sony Xperia Z3+3402
  • Huawei P83380
  • Motorola Nexus 63285
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML2922

The trend continued with the AnTuTU 5 benchmark. Once again, the Axon Pro posted a better result than other Snapdragon 810 devices, falling short of the marks achieved by the Samsung Galaxy S6 family.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active70938
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge70053
  • Samsung Galaxy S669396
  • ZTE Axon Pro55956
  • HTC One M951427
  • Huawei P850876
  • HTC One E9+50753
  • Motorola Nexus 649803
  • Sony Xperia Z3+49441
  • LG G448693
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML48361

Basemark II 2.0 is next in line of the compound benchmarks. On this instance, the Axon Pro trailed only behind the Samsung Galaxy S6 family.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge1826
  • Samsung Galaxy S61769
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active1650
  • ZTE Axon Pro1565
  • HTC One M91526
  • Motorola Nexus 61509
  • Sony Xperia Z3+1410
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML1267
  • HTC One E9+1109
  • Huawei P81056

The single-core Basemark OS 2.0 score painted a similar picture. In the multi-core section of the benchmark however, the Axon Pro fell behind a number of competitors, including HTC One M9 and Motorola’s Nexus 6.

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S63497
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active3489
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge3372
  • ZTE Axon Pro2673
  • HTC One E9+2439
  • HTC One M92401
  • Huawei P82111
  • Motorola Nexus 61967
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML1853
  • Sony Xperia Z3+1453

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active18536
  • Samsung Galaxy S616986
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge16856
  • HTC One E9+16580
  • Huawei P814046
  • HTC One M910128
  • Motorola Nexus 69915
  • ZTE Axon Pro8833
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML7002
  • Sony Xperia Z3+6995

Graphics performance puts the Axon Pro towards the top of the charts on most instances, thanks to the Adreno 430 GPU. Naturally, the onscreen tests revealed poorer scores due to the high resolution of the handset’s display.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge59
  • Samsung Galaxy S659
  • ZTE Axon Pro55
  • Sony Xperia Z3+50
  • HTC One M949
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active45
  • Motorola Nexus 638.9
  • LG G434
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML30
  • HTC One E9+15
  • Huawei P810

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M950
  • Sony Xperia Z3+46
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge39
  • Samsung Galaxy S638
  • ZTE Axon Pro35
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML30
  • Motorola Nexus 627.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active25
  • LG G425
  • Huawei P810.7
  • HTC One E9+10

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge26
  • ZTE Axon Pro25
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active25
  • Samsung Galaxy S624
  • HTC One M923
  • Sony Xperia Z3+21
  • Motorola Nexus 618.6
  • LG G415
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML13
  • HTC One E9+6.6
  • Huawei P85.4

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M924
  • Sony Xperia Z3+21
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge15
  • ZTE Axon Pro15
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active15
  • Samsung Galaxy S614
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML12
  • Motorola Nexus 611.9
  • LG G49.4
  • Huawei P85.7
  • HTC One E9+5.4

Basemark X is another GPU benchmark the Axon Pro excelled at. Only the Galaxy S6 family topped the newcomer.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active27188
  • Samsung Galaxy S627169
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge27046
  • ZTE Axon Pro22928
  • Motorola Nexus 620901
  • Sony Xperia Z3+20767
  • HTC One M919848
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML13414
  • HTC One E9+9639
  • Huawei P86307

ZTE Axon Pro ran in the middle of the pack in the browser-centric benchmarks. It didn’t set any of them on fire, but it didn’t disappoint either.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active3975
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge3989
  • Samsung Galaxy S64154
  • LG G44639
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML5057
  • ZTE Axon Pro5374
  • HTC One M95500
  • Motorola Nexus 66088
  • Sony Xperia Z3+9204
  • Huawei P811867
  • HTC One E9+17430

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S62718
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge2702
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Active2321
  • LG G41992
  • ZTE Axon Pro1957
  • Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML1853
  • HTC One M91681
  • Motorola Nexus 61447
  • Sony Xperia Z3+1436
  • HTC One E9+1279
  • Huawei P8764

The benchmark scores of the Axon Pro fell right in line with our expectations. Controversial or not, the Snapdragon 810 chipset is no slouch. When coupled with 4GB of RAM, the chipset will handle any benchmark with ease, getting the device warm in the process.

In real life, the smartphone felt fast and responsive. At no point in time did we feel that we need extra oomph to perform the task on hand.

Telephony and messaging

ZTE Axon Pro features a stock Android contacts’ manager, which displays all contacts and favorites. You can sync with multiple accounts including Google and Exchange. A button to add a new contact is constantly present in the bottom right corner – you can choose which account to sync the new addition with.

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The contacts’ manager

The phone app is also stock and comes with tabbed interface for speed dial, recent calls and all contacts. The dialer is invoked by taping on its dedicated key and supports smart dialing.

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Stock Android dialer

Phone calls on the ZTE Axon Pro sound loud and clear. The sole loudspeaker of smartphone is sufficiently powerful for all but the most extreme daily use scenarios.

Messaging is pretty much as straightforward an affair as on every other droid out there. ZTE has added its own email app, though you, as you probably know by now, Gmail for Android handles the most commonly used account types, so you are not likely to need it.

ZTE has implemented its own messaging app, which mirrors Google Messenger in appearance and functionality. We prefer the search giant’s solution for the faster updates from Google Play.

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Messaging ZTE style

As expected, the default Google keyboard is on board as well. It offers two sleek-looking, brand new skins – Material Dark and Material Light. The duo matches the new look of Android Lollipop.

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Stock Android keyboard

Multimedia

ZTE ships the Axon Pro with a proprietary gallery application. The latter organizes images by album, location, time, and tags.

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ZTE gallery

The app has powerful editor built-in as well. It even allows users to create collages and GIF images.

Google Photos is onboard as well with unlimited backup of your images. Upon opening the app you’ll see two tabs – one for all photos and another one for highlights.

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Google Photos

Viewing a single photo gives you a number of options. You can share it, set it as wallpaper or contact photo, or edit it. The built-in Photos editor is incredibly powerful too.

The preloaded video player in the ZTE Axon Pro has intuitive controls and will play all major file formats. Picture-in-picture view is also supported.

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The video player

Users can trim their videos if they so desire. A dedicated button for capturing screenshots of the video footage is available too.

ZTE has included its own music player with the Axon Pro, which supports playback of high-resolution FLAC riles. A couple of such tracks come preloaded on the device in order to showcase its audio chops.

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The music player

Interface of the audio player basic and intuitive. In case you don’t like it, you can always opt for Google Play Music, which is also preloaded.

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Google Play Music

Equalizer settings are handled by a system-wide Dolby Audio application. The latter includes presets for music, movies, gaming, and voice. Two slots for custom settings are also available.

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Dolby Audio app

Finally, ZTE Axon Pro features FM radio as well. As always, it requires a wired headset to act as an antenna.

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FM radio at your service

Audio quality is impressive for the most part

The ZTE Axon Pro aced the first part of our audio quality test. When connected to an active external amplifier the smartphone posted excellent scores top to bottom and garnished them with nicely loud output for a properly impressive performance.

Plugging in our standard headphones caused a rather large hike in stereo crosstalk, meaning you aren’t getting as good stereo quality as with other flagships. The other readings remained excellent though and the volume level was unchanged, so it’s still a very good showing by the Axon Pro.

Anyway, here go the results so you can do your comparisons.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
ZTE Axon Pro +0.04, -0.86 -94.0 93.9 0.0011 0.0066 -95.5
ZTE Axon Pro (headphones) +0.05, -0.86 -94.1 94.0 0.0018 0.0063 -47.2
Samsung Galaxy S6 active +0.05, -0.20 -95.8 93.0 0.0028 0.0083 -95.1
Samsung Galaxy S6 active (headphones) +0.02, -0.04 -92.7 93.1 0.0052 0.030 -60.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge +0.03, -0.01 -95.6 92.8 0.0023 0.0078 -95.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge (headphones) +0.05, -0.02 -92.6 92.5 0.0028 0.044 -76.9
Samsung Galaxy S6 +0.01, -0.04 -95.6 92.8 0.0024 0.0094 -94.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 (headphones) +0.02, -0.05 -92.6 91.9 0.0025 0.042 -83.4
LG G4 +0.04, -0.07 -93.4 93.3 0.0021 0.050 -92.6
LG G4 (headphones) +0.93, -0.13 – 91.4 91.9 0.013 0.244 -50.4
HTC One M9 +0.02, -0.06 -94.8 93.0 0.0049 0.026 -93.7
HTC One M9 (headphones) +0.03, – 0.05 -93.7 92.7 0.0082 0.030 -91.6
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1

ZTE Axon Pro frequency response
ZTE Axon Pro frequency response frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

A 13MP main camera with dual sensor

ZTE Axon Pro packs a 13MP main camera with dual-LED flash and 2MP secondary sensor. The setup is provided by the same company that equipped last year’s HTC One (M8) camera, so we’ve seen it in action in the past. The front-facing camera is an 8MP unit.

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By default, the camera interface of the smartphone starts in auto mode, so all a user needs to do is press the red button to take a picture. The Axon Pro also has a dedicated shutter button, which is a rarity these days and a pleasure to use.

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Clean camera interface

The secondary sensor of the smartphone supports a number of creative effects that include multi exposure and slow-motion. Full manual control is also available – it allows users to tweak ISO (up to 1600), shutter speed, exposure, and white balance.

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Some of the available image capture effects

Bokeh mode blurs the background behind the object of an image, simulating a wide aperture. The trick is done after the image is captured thanks to data gathered by the secondary sensor. Users can (artificially of course) reduce the aperture down to f/1.0.

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Bokeh mode

Camera quality

The ZTE Axon Pro has a 13MP camera but the maximum resolution is available only if you use the camera sensor native aspect ratio, which is 4:3. Unfortunately we went out and shot a whole bunch of photos in the camera default aspect setting, which is 9.5MP 16:9. The resulting photos are entirely representative of the image quality you might get in 13MP 4:3 mode, as the loss of resolution is merely a consequence of some cropping of the top and bottom parts of the image.

Speaking if image quality, we’re quite impressed by image quality the ZTE Axon Pro produces. Exposure, colors and dynamic range are very good and the level of detail is pleasing as well. When viewed at pixel level the image processing of the fine details doesn’t look as mature and clean as we would have preferred, but we guess most people won’t be pixel-peeping but will instead looking at the images fitted to the resolution of their monitors, which is far from 1:1.

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9.5MP camera samples shot by ZTE Axon Pro in the default 16:9 aspect ratio

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Camera samples shot by ZTE Axon Pro in 4:3 aspect ratio

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HDR mode: Off • On

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Low light camera sample shot by ZTE Axon Pro

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Low light camera sample shot by ZTE Axon Pro

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Bokeh effect: Standard (F/1.8) • Interpolated No Bokeh (F/2.0) • Interpolated Bokeh (F/1.4) • Interpolated Bokeh (F/1.0)

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A camera sample shot by the front camera of ZTE Axon Pro

Check out this panorama shot with the Axon Pro too:

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ZTE Axon Pro panorama

Video quality

The camcorder of the Axon Pro is capable of capturing 4K video. Its interface is the same as that of the still camera.

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Capturing video with the Axon Pro • some of the available camcorder settings

Video quality is really high, the only downside is the lack of any sort of stabilization system – the handheld videos come out quite shaky. Other than that detail is really good, the action is smooth, and the exposure and colors are spot on.

You can check out a 2160p video shot by the Axon Pro here on YouTube.

You can also check out a separate 1080p video sample.

You can also download an untouched [email protected] video sample (10s ~ 52MB), as well as a[email protected] video sample (15s ~ 37MB).

Final words

ZTE surely took its time to enter the high-end smartphone market in the United States, but the Axon Pro proves that the weight has been well worth it. The newcomer presents a convincing package of well thought-out looks, superb build quality, high-end specs, and yet to be matched after sales support.

Zte Axon Pro

The design of the smartphone impressed us with attention to detail that’s not to be expected in the price range the Axon Pro inhibits. The same goes for the quality of the device’s overall fit and finish.

Hardware-wise, the Axon Pro is a proper Android flagship any way you slice it. The latest iteration of the controversial Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC and 4GB of RAM ensure that you are never lacking oomph, while the dual-sensor main camera promises to appeal to the creative types out there.

On the multimedia front, the gorgeous 5.5″ QHD display of the Axon Pro promises to keep the competition at bay, as do the device’s audio credentials. The bundled stereo headset is a sweet perk.

Key test findings

    • Design and build quality are impressive, especially in the device’s price range.
    • The Axon Pro is bulky and a tad difficult to handle.
    • A sharp, high-quality display unit, especially for the money.
    • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop is lightly skinned and easy to customize to one’s liking.
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 doesn’t lack in raw power, but still runs a tad warmer than we would like.
    • Impressive multimedia package is cut a bit short by the lack of stereo speakers.
    • The warranty and after sales support is arguably the best in the business.
    • Stellar audio quality.
    • 32GB of built-in memory is not sufficient for a device with such multimedia chops; a microSD card would have been a welcome addition.

Lack of expandable memory is among the biggest gripes we have with the Axon Pro, as is a missing 64GB option for built-in memory. Considering the 4K video capture and FLAC audio playback the device is capable of (a song in FLAC format is roughly 50MB in size), we reckon that the 25GB available to the user will quickly run out.

Still, despite its memory shortcoming, it is hard to argue that, at $449.99 with no contract, the ZTE Axon Pro is a mighty attractive option for users looking for value. The major online retailer Newegg will even throw in a wireless speaker and a 13,000mAh external battery, thus making the smartphone an even sweeter proposition.

As always, we took a look around for some alternatives to the ZTE Axon Pro in its price range. Here are some of the worthy alternatives.

Before we continue with the Axon Pro rivals, we would like to remind you that a week after launching the subject of our review, ZTE released a version of the smartphone in China, complete with a microSD card slot, a fingerprint sensor, and 64GB of built-in memory. We are still scratching our heads as to why did this particular model not make it to the United States.

ZTE Axon Lux
ZTE Axon Lux

The soon to be available Moto X Style will be the biggest threat to the ZTE Axon in the United States. Motorola has equipped the smartphone with top notch hardware, customizable looks, and attractive price tag. However, the Axon counters it with superior warranty, bundled headphones, and (arguably) better chipset with more RAM.

Motorola Moto X Style
Motorola Moto X Style

OnePlus 2 is another solid rival with more built-in memory and lower price tag. However, its screen resolution lags behind the Axon Pro’s, as does its after sales support. You might also have a hard time in getting your hands one for a while.

OnePlus 2
OnePlus 2

LG G Flex 2 is a bit of a dark horse in this company. As the first smartphone with Snapdragon 810, the curved handset took the most… should we say… heat… related to the shortcomings of its chipset. However, the device’s excellent specs and sub-$350 price tag off-contract should not be overlooked.

LG G Flex2
LG G Flex2

A bona fide Android royalty, the Nexus 6 by Motorola is now only $50 more expensive than the Axon Pro. The phablet features slightly inferior hardware, but will appeal to purists with stock Android with quick updates, as well as stereo speakers.

Motorola Nexus 6
Motorola Nexus 6

Asus ZenFone 2 is for those looking for most bang for their buck. The the 5.5″ Intel-powered device is not as powerful or well-equipped as the Axon Pro, but it makes up for the shortage of horsepower with 64GB of expandable memory and $299.99 price tag.

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML

The Axon Pro is undeniably the most appealing smartphone from the ZTE to launch in the United States. By combining good looks, high-end hardware, and value for money, the device is a solid proposition in this crowded segment. It is also a sure sign that the Chinese tech giant is serous about shaking up the high-end smartphone market status quo it in America.