Over the past few weeks my daily driver has been the ZTE Axon 7. How have I gotten on with this new flagship? Find out in the following review.
The ZTE Axon 7 is the latest Android flagship from ZTE’s Axon range. Like other models in the Axon range, the 7 is available in China and also in certain international markets including the U.S and Europe.
ZTE Axon 7 Review – Design
Axon carved out their own design language last year with the first Axon phones, and the Axon 7 is an evolution of those earlier models.
It’s clear that this is an Axon phone with it’s gold finish (grey is available too) and dual front facing speakers, but the new phone receives a much better looking and higher quality design. Gone is the fake leather of old, and now the entire rear of the device is alloy.
Keeping with the rear the actual look is very similar to a Meizu body, with rounded sides and corner, and single camera. Beneath the camera is a fingerprint scanner and between those two units is a dual LED, dual tone flash.
While the back of the phone has a matt gold finish, upper and lower sections of the front receive a brushed finish. It’s a rather nice look and I often wonder why the entire phone wasn’t offered like this.
Those brushed sections are where the front facing Dolby Atmos speakers live and (at the top) a front facing camera.
Black borders, a 2.5D glass panel and 5.5-inch display make up the rest of the face of the ZTE.
Most new phones now are coming with USB Type C and the Axon is no exception, plus it is nice that the phone retains a 3.5mm headphone jack. There are also physical buttons for the volume and power, along with a SIM slot on the left.
The high quality of the design, finish and materials is apparent as soon as you pick the Axon 7 up, as is the weight of the phone, you certainly notice the few hundred extra grams this phone has over similar 5.5inch devices.
ZTE Axon 7 Review – Hardware and performance
It’s hardly surprising that for their flagship, Axon went for a Snapdragon 820 chipset. This is the current gold standard and performance is good, but not blistering. The chipset has 4GB RAM to play with (average by today’s standards) and my version of the phone get’s 64GB internal memory.
This match up of RAM and SOC has been seen in plenty of phones this year, but ZTE don’t seem to be getting as much from the processing package as other manufacturers. It’s a very notable slow down when going to the Axon 7 from other phones, especially if you are more accustom to the speed of the OP3 and it’s 6GB RAM.
The flagship hardware features continue with a 5.5-inch 2K display. Its a stunning panel, one of the best I have used, but those extra pixels do take their toll on battery life and I wonder if the higher resolution screen might the be the reason for the slightly slower reaction times from the device.
External features include a 20 mega-pixel rear camera with OIS, a front 8 mega-pixel camera, dual front speakers and fingerprint scanner.
The fingerprint scanner is on the rear and offers great accuracy and decent speed. If I was to compare the Axon’s fingerprint scanner to the OP3 then the ZTE has the better performance, but it’s still Vivo who are lightyears ahead of the pack.
Speaker on the Axon 7 are well above average and with the option to turn on Dolby Atmos your ears are in for a real treat. With headphones plugged in the audio remains very good but again Vivo is a shade better here too.
ZTE Axon 7 Review – Camera
With OIS and a 20 mega-pixel sensor, plus very high quality lenses the Axon 7 is capable of some really very good photos.
If you like to take landscapes, low light photos, and enjoy having a ton of features on tap (including a Star Spiral mode) then the Axon 7 is going to impress and give you hours of photographic fun.
There are limitations to the camera though. The speed of the sensor is slower than other devices I’ve tested this year. If for example you need to take a photo of child running, or hope to grab a once in a life time snap, the 7 might not impress. Camera speed is way better from the OnePlus 3, and a million times better on the Xiaomi Mi5.
ZTE Axon 7 photo samples
ZTE Axon 7 review – Gallery
ZTE Axon 7 review – software
Software is the major issue that ZTE has with the Axon 7. So far I have not received a single update in the month I have had this phone, and I am not convinced any will come anytime soon, and this is a major worry.
From the get go, the Axon 7’s dodgy OS has been a little irritating. The start up wizard constantly crashed when first setting the phone up, and what should have been a 5 minute process turned in to an hour slog.
I’ve had issues with notifications not coming through all the time (similar issue to the OP3), but my major complain is the caller ID doesn’t work. Although my contacts are in the phone I never know who is calling, yet the call history words as you would expect.
ZTE Axon 7 Review – Conclusion
Although I’ve had issues with the OS, I have learned to live with the Axon 7 and enjoy it. I’ve taken some stunning photos with the phone, and it does everything I ask of it without issue.
The high quality build is reassuring and the phone has survived a good few knock to concrete without any major damage. I also love the fact that the Axon 7 has every hardware feature we have come to expect from a flagship phone too (NFC, OIS, etc).
I think I can happily with the with Axon 7 and I believe that if you chose this device for yourself you won’t be disappointed. It does need those updates though and I hope they will come soon.
In conclusion one of the best all rounded phones from a build and hardware perspective, but not the fastest of the current crop of phones.