ZTE AXON Elite Review: New premium smartphone contender in town
ZTE launched the AXON Elite in Singapore last month, and you would have seen ads for it around the country. Before you dismiss it as another Xiaomi or Oppo wannabe in the market, the phone was named by Digital Trends as the top 10 smartphones at IFA 2015, one of the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics. Axon Elite is the international version of ZTE’s flagship smartphone AXON, and the first high-end phone from the company to be launched outside of China.
If you are wondering what ZTE is, it is China’s largest listed telecommunications equipment and mobile devices company, and is headquartered in Shenzhen. It is also listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges.
The AXON Elite boasts pretty niffy specs. It is a dual SIM phone with 32GB internal memory (expandable up to 128GB with microSD) and Quick Charge 2.0. It has an 5.5″ LCD screen made of Corning’s antimicrobial Gorilla Glass, which is supposed to protect the screen from stain and odour-causing bacteria.
When I first unboxed the phone, the gold phone drew collective “ooohs” from everyone around me. The pale gold colour lent a classy, unstated touch to what could have been gaudy.
The speakers were covered with a triangular-lattice design that looked very vintage, and this design detail was also on the top volume button and on the panel between the camera lenses.
However, the faux leather and stitching at the back felt like a design mismatch for me, and I would have preferred to see more of the lattice pattern.
It weighs pretty light for a phone of its size. One factor is likely due to the aluminium body made from Boeing 787 aircraft grade aluminum-magnesium alloy. ZTE says it increases durability of 80%, but this is a review unit, so I didn’t dare to do a drop test.
UI and Skin
The AXON Elite is running on Android 5.0.2, and uses its own MiFavor UI. It may take a bit of getting used to if you are used to the user interfaces of major flagship brands. For starters, the back button is also the button for the app drawer, while the right button houses the voice commands (ZTE’s Siri) and also customisation settings for the home page.
The icons in default ‘AXON Classic’ style on left, and switching the design to ‘Classic’ on right.
The default skin was a bit off-putting at first with bevelled icons (I thought that was gone with Android Gingerbread). But that is where MiFavor and Android’s customisation teamwork comes into play. You can choose among four options for what you want your icons to look like. Classic and Fantasy themes have more of an Android Material colour scheme and minimalistic touch.
If security is one of your main concerns, this phone will make you feel like a spy. It has almost every single lock technology in it—pin code and pattern are so passé. There is a Fingerprint Scanner that allows five fingers to be stored, an EyePrint ID (Sky Eye under Settings) and Voice Unlocking. One thing to note for bespectacled users, you can still wear your glasses even though you’ve registered your eye without wearing them. However, it only works for glasses with larger frames.
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Snapdragon 810 processor
When I saw the phone’s specs, my major concern was the Snapdragon 810 processor. It is said to have overheating issues. I tried stress testing it. First, I watched 4-hours straight of YouTube videos, besides being slightly warm after the first hour, it had no issues. Battery life was also great. I was down to 69% from 98%. Next, I tried to play some Temple Run, it started heating up a minute into the game, but it didn’t get any warmer. Compared to my LG G4, it is actually less warm with similar usage.
Battery-wise, it is pretty decent. On standby with minimal use of about 30 minutes screen-on time daily, it lasted for 6 days. I am a pretty heavy phone user, and the phone lasted a full day without charging. Even with a 5-hour screen-on time, there was still 41% left.
One thing I love about the phone is the screenshot function. You can crop the image in three different ways: By dragging the sides, placing a circle over, or drawing a freeform shape. You can also annotate the image by choosing colour, instrument and size. After that, you can immediately share it with your friend.
The rear-facing camera has two lens, 13MP and 2MP, with dual flash and 4K HD resolution. It has a few pre-set modes: Bokeh, Panorama, Sport, Multi Exposure, Slow Motion and Interval.
The front-facing camera has an 8MP wide-angle lens, and has Smile Capture and Beauty Mode. You can adjust how much you want to be “beautified”. It basically makes your skin look smoother (and also a little blurry) and make your eyes bigger by increasing the size of your iris.
Multi Exposure shot
If you love taking fun photobooth shots, there is a few more effects such as mirror, fish eye and comic. You can also shoot videos with those filters.
The ZTE Axon Elite packs in a lot of other features. It has the Mi-Assistant, which contains tools such as a virus scanner, cache cleaner, and interesting feature called Private Space. It is exactly what its name suggests. You can hide contacts, text messages, call logs, images, and files.
You can also schedule the phone to power on and off at a set timing. You can also set it to automatically switch to airplane mode at a specific timing as well.
For $699 non-contract price, it puts the phone in the range of Moto X Style and One Plus 2. It is pretty value for money, running top specs. The deciding factor boils down to whichever UI you prefer.
AXON Elite is available at M1 outlets, Challenger, Gain City and www.abonlineshop.com.