ZTE Axon 7 review: A stylish phone that punches above its price

Nick Broughall 3 March 2017 NEWS

Quick Verdict
Anyone looking for a premium phone at a mid-range price should consider the ZTE Axon 7.

Strengths

  • Clean, smart design
  • Those Dolby Atmos speakers are loud
  • Fast fingerprint scanner
  • Dual SIM card slots
  • Full Australian network support
  • The screen is pretty
  • Fast charging works well
  • Solid performance

Could be better

  • The camera isn't as good as the specs suggest
  • Battery life isn't amazing
  • MiFavor User Interface


ZTE has squeezed flagship Smartphone specs into a mid-range-priced product. Even so, is it worth the money with so many new phones about to land?

The ZTE brand doesn't have the same kind of recognition in Australia as some of its Chinese rivals. While Huawei leveraged its partnership with Google for the Nexus 6P to increase its local phone presence, and Oppo has consistently found inspiration in the design of others, ZTE built its Australian business developing low-cost hardware for third parties such as Telstra and Optus.

While this isn't ZTE's first branded device for Australia, it's the first of its flagship models to stand a chance of competing with the top dogs from Samsung and HTC, and it does so at a mid-range price point. From a specs perspective the ZTE Axon 7 is packed to the gills. It has unique features such as Dolby Atmos speakers; standard inclusions like the chipset and screen are well designed; and as you'd expect from a flagship model, it charges quickly and includes a fingerprint scanner.

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While it may not blow us away when it comes to performance, the Axon 7 certainly does a good enough job to make it a worthwhile purchase for the asking price.

ZTE Axon 7 review

Why you'd want the ZTE Axon 7

  • Clean, smart design. The Axon 7 doesn't offer anything new on the design front, but it's still a sleek-looking phone. ZTE joined forces with BMW subsidiary DreamWorks to develop its metallic unibody construction. The front speaker grills are reminiscent of an HTC device, while the back is more like Google's Nexus handsets, especially with the placement of the fingerprint sensor. The phone has a noticeable weight, but feels solidly constructed and comfortable to hold.
  • Those Dolby Atmos speakers are loud. Having dual front-facing speakers on a Smartphone isn't exactly new; HTC has been doing it for some years with its BoomSound feature, which other manufacturers have blatantly copied. However, ZTE has taken things a step further by integrating Dolby Atmos certification, which is a first for a Smartphone. It has dedicated hardware audio chips to ensure the sound is crisp, clear and loud, regardless of the content. However, although the Dolby speakers are capable of replacing a small Bluetooth speaker, this is more of a niche feature and not something most people will take advantage of.
  • Fast fingerprint scanner. Place your digit on the rear fingerprint scanner and the phone unlocks, generally before you can get it out of your pocket. This is on a par with the likes of the Pixel and Mate 9 Smartphones, but it's still a nice inclusion for a phone at this price.
  • Dual SIM card slots. Frequent traveller? Need to combine your work device and personal device in one? Then the Axon 7's dual SIM card slot is worth considering. Admittedly, you can't run two SIMs and a microSD card; it's an either/or situation. But it's rare to see dual SIM featured in a premium-designed handset.
  • Full Australian network support. This one's a little technical, but the gist is that the Axon 7 will work comfortably on any network, without sacrificing performance. The 4G chipset will connect to every network band used by Aussie telcos, except the 3500MHz frequency Optus is currently using to test 5G. The phone also supports Category 6 speeds, which theoretically means up to 300Mbps downloads (though real-world speeds don't touch that).
  • The screen is pretty. The ZTE features a 2560x1440 AMOLED display, and it looks great. Side by side with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, it's a little darker, with whites appearing a little more washed out than the Samsung, and the viewing angles aren't as wide. But watching YouTube clips in HD is enjoyable, as is standard web browsing and social networking.
  • Fast charging works well. The Axon 7's battery life didn't really blow us away (as you'll see below), but the disappointment was offset by the inclusion of fast charging. From completely dead, the battery gets to about half full in half an hour, and full in a little over an hour and a half.
  • Solid performance. The ZTE Axon 7 is packing a SnapDragon 820 processor, which is the same as many of last year's flagships from the HTC 10 to the LG G5. As such, you'd expect performance to be on a par with those devices, and to our pleasant surprise the Axon 7 actually outperformed devices like the Pixel XL, which runs the more recent SnapDragon 821.
Handset Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
Apple iPhone 7 3452 5599
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 3374 5649
Huawei Mate 9 1925 6068
ZTE Axon 7 1721 4089
Sony Xperia XZ 1636 3604
Google Pixel XL 1629 4051
Motorola Moto Z 1477 3853
Samsung Galaxy S7 1378 4718
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 1359 5333
Sony Xperia X 1122 2626
Huawei Nova Plus 843 2985

The competition was a little fiercer when it came to the 3D Mark IceStorm Unlimited test for gaming performance, but the Axon 7 still managed to give us pretty solid results.

Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 37956
Apple iPhone 7 37717
LG G5 29597
Samsung Galaxy S7 28903
Google Pixel XL 28458
Huawei Mate 9 28457
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 28402
HTC 10 27392
Sony Xperia XZ 26279
Sony Xperia X Performance 26125
Motorola Moto Z 25629
ZTE Axon 7 23955
Sony Xperia X 16648
Huawei Nova Plus 13969
Oppo R9s 13691
Samsung Galaxy A7 13629
Sony Xperia XA 11173

ZTE Axon 7 review-3

Why you might not want the Axon 7

  • The camera isn't as good as the specs suggest. The phone has a 20-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilisation, an f/1.8 aperture, live photo mode and dedicated night shooting settings. Actually shooting with the Axon 7 delivers perfectly serviceable photos in good lighting conditions; they aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, if it's even a little dark, the results are below par. And even the best shot for the Axon can't compete with the photos from last year's Galaxy S7 family, let alone the iPhone 7 Plus, or even the recently launched Huawei Mate 9. After reading the specs we expected more, and while the results match the price point, we did end up disappointed.
  • Battery life isn't amazing. Again, the results here are far from terrible, but the battery life test results for the Axon 7 were middle of the road.
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score
LG X Power 14:50:30 5714
Huawei Nova Plus 13:21:20 8013
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 11:55:00 7150
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 11:11:20 6713
Sony Xperia X 10:40:40 6406
Samsung Galaxy S7 10:01:20 6013
Motorola Moto X Force 9:46:50 3914
Motorola Moto G Play 9:36:00 3840
Google Pixel XL 9:14:20 5543
Huawei Mate 9 9:00:30 5330
Huawei P9 8:26:30 4948
Sony Xperia XZ 8:24:20 5042
ZTE Axon 7 7:56:20 4763
Apple iPhone 7 7:50:10 4701
LG G5 7:36:10 4561
HTC One X9 7:03:10 3971
HTC 10 6:54:30 4145
Sony Xperia X Performance 6:46:51 4068
Moto Z 6:38:10 3981
  • MiFavor User Interface. In an era of Android launchers on the Google Play store, this isn't too big of an issue, but the MiFavor user interface ZTE uses as a skin over Android doesn't inspire affection. It's still functional, but the design feels listless.

ZTE Axon 7 review-5

Who is the ZTE Axon 7 best suited for?

Anyone looking for a premium phone at a mid-range price should consider the ZTE Axon 7. You might want to download a fresh launcher before you set up anything else on the phone. If you are looking for a premium photography experience, look elsewhere. However, the Axon 7 is a remarkably solid purchase.

If the prospect of buying a phone from a little-known Chinese manufacturer scares you, you could consider the better known Huawei's Mate 9, although it does cost a little extra. Alternatively, you can shop around for the 12-month-old Samsung Galaxy S7, which gives a slightly better performance at around the same price.

Where can I get the ZTE Axon 7?

The Axon 7 is available exclusively through JB Hi-Fi stores, and has an RRP of $699.

ZTE Axon 7 specifications

ZTE AXON 7
Display 5.5in
Resolution 1440x2560
PPI 534
Software Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
Storage 64GB
RAM 4GB
Battery 3250mAh
Front Camera 8MP
Rear Camera 20MP
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Size 151.7 x 75 x 7.9mm
Weight 175g

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    PaulMarch 21, 2018

    Does the ZTE Axon 7 support Android Auto and Mirrorlink. Thanks in anticipation.

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniMarch 21, 2018Staff

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder. I have read from some forums that they were able to run Android auto in their ZTE Axon 7 however I still suggest that you check out the latest support materials for this device from their website. Download user manuals, read FAQs, and proceed with upgrading this device’s software. Please note that we are not affiliated to any company we feature on our site.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

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