Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/7/2016 11:45:49 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Pressure-sensitive touchscreen | fingerprint sensor | non-phablet size is great
Design may not be for some | UI unnecessary |
I recently reviewed the ZTE Axon Elite (Premium Edition) and was left stumped by how the Chinese manufacturer could offer such top notch specs in a premium unimetal body phone for quite so little.
Well, I have just been sent the mini-me version of the phone, the ZTE Axon mini (Premium Edition) and have been using it for the past few weeks. I am still quite amazed by how little it costs as well as its unusual design.
Well, my review sample was gold- not a flashy glossy gold but a matt version called Ion Gold with the same metal lattice work covering the top and bottom speakers on the front of the phone as well as around the camera lens on the back. The fingerprint sensor sits squarely at the bottom of the two camera lens.
The faux stitching and leather detail from the flagship are replicated on the Axon mini, it is basically the same phone with a smaller size.
So instead of a 5.5-inch screen, you have a 5.2-inch one and this makes it ever so much easier to handle, whether it is during your commute or otherwise.
ZTE have used an aluminium titanium alloy for the phone, thisis the same material used in aircrafts and the link with flying machines doesnt end there. The Axon mini was designed wit the help of design company Teague that also designed, amongst other things, Air Force One (For the American President) and in 2008 winning the Red Dot Design award for Emirates Airline First-Class Cabin.
If you are slightly confused why they were asked to design the ZTE Axon range, Teague are also the design brains behind the XBox.
Back to the Axon mini, the power button has an extension of the latticed design feature with the triangles replicated on it as well as on the volume rocker on the other side of the phone. The microSD and SIM (nano) card go into the same drawer just above the power button and the 3.5mm headphones jack at the top of the device.
Although 'mini' by name, the phone cannot be called small by any stretch. It is the same size, slightly wider than an Apple iPhone 6. Reaching across the screen to type or access buttons on the other end was a lot less tricky than on a phablet.
The Axon mini has a Full HD AMOLED screen which is exactly as fantastic as you would expect it to be. With a 1920X1080 resolution, you get a pixel per inch density of 424 and while this is a lot less than the industry-topping 577ppi that you get on the Samsung Galaxy S6, it is the same as that of the Sony Xperia Z5.
Rich blacks and beautifully bright colours are realistically reproduced and the phone did a very good job while streaming media on the go.
While the Axon has a Snapdragon 810 processor, the one on the Axon mini is vastly under-specced with the Snapdragon 616. While it did well with day to day functions and tasks that I threw at it, during a Geekbench 3 test, it scored 36943. This was a lot less than what any of the flagships had scored with the Huawei Mate 8 at the top with 92000 odd.
During AnTuTu testing, it scored 699 on single-core and 3023 for multi-core functioning. While this may not mean much, the scores arent terrible for an under-£300 phone. The LG-manufactured Nexus 5X scored 860 while the Samsung Galaxy S5 got 2836.
The Axon mini, however still runs Android 5.1 and with Android 7 due to be launched come-May, ZTE need to make haste and roll out Android 6 to these devices soon for them to have an impact on the buying populace.
The battery at 2800mAH lasted a whole day and the phone went from having 74% charge left to 72% left after 15 minutes of streaming videos over wifi on Youtube with 100 percent brightness.
This is the first non-premium phone to sport a pressure-sensitive display and it does well on that front. Fire up the phone and the interactive fish wallpaper is the first example of it that you come across.
Press the fish to get bubbles going whereas a light tap makes it scoot away... I couldn't think of a better way to get users drawn into the tech and to explain the nuances of force-touch to those interested in it.
Huawei's Mate S in 128GB was the only Android phone to have this capability and sadly that never reached British shores. The latest iPhone variant obviously has pressure-touch as well but you will need to shell out more than £600 pounds for it.
Overall, it works well to cut down the steps of clicking through to apps but as with most tech it is a bit superfluous if you dont have any real uses for it. And sadly, right now force-touch is nothing more than a gimmick.
The scanner is sited on the back of the phone just below the lens and even though it misfires a lot while trying to read your prints, it does manage to unlock your phone in one go. Just pick up the phone and touch the scanner to have the phone ready to go.
You are further able to register your 'eyeprint' to access apps as well as voice to unlock your phone if you fancy a few looks on your commute while you try to scan your eyes or bark into your phone.
The camera is quite impressive. 13-MP by name and game, you get the usual apps and features including HDR and manual mode. The manual mode doesnt let you adjust the camera though-just give you a virtual line down the middle of the screen to help you take stright pictures.
The front-facing camera has a beauty mode and smile capture mode and worked pretty well when I tried it out.
Video recording is available in 1080, 720, VGA as well as QVGA modes and you can use the volume button to start and finish recording clips. You also get to have effects overlays on the videos you record and apart from the timelapse mode, you also get an HFR mode and a beauty mode.
This is a good phone in the under-£200 arena but there are several choice options present in that segment already. Honor 7, Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and Motorola Moto G 4G come to mind and these devices are award winners.
While the Axon mini is a better fit in the palm, nothing beats a bigger display for streaming on the go and with the other handsets being around for more than a year, I would feel more comfortable recommending those over the Axon mini.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the mini, it is just that it didnt blow me away, the design is too quirky, the processor too under-powered and the fingerprint scanner too sluggish making me want to look elsewhere.
OS: ColorOS 3.2, Android 5.1
Dimension: 143.5 x 70 x 7.9 mm
Display: 5.2 Super AMOLED Display
Resolution: 1920 by 1080
Processor: Snapdragon 616 1.5GHz Octa-core 64-bit
Camera: 13MP With 0.1 Second focus time; 8MP front-facing camera
Memory: 32 GB ROM + 3 GB RAM.
Misc: fingerprint scanner, eyeprint scanner, dual-SIM; hifi audio chipset