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ZTE Axon 10 Pro review: It packs a huge punch
After suffering a brief U.S. ban and consequently facing some hefty fines last year, ZTE has since picked up the pieces and is now back in full force. The ZTE Axon 10 Pro is its latest smartphone in the flagship Axon line and is the successor to last year’s ZTE Axon 9 Pro.
There isn’t much about the ZTE Axon 10 Pro that is unique, but for the money, it packs quite the punch. You’re getting top-tier specifications, a large battery, triple cameras, an in-display fingerprint sensor, a clean Android software experience, and modern hardware. What’s it like using the ZTE Axon 10 Pro? And is it a worthy alternative to other competitively priced flagships?
This is Android Authority’s ZTE Axon Pro 10 Review.
ZTE Axon 10 Pro review: The big picture
ZTE’s Axon series has always provided excellent hardware at a superb value with very few compromises. At 599 euros, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro is priced to compete against the OnePlus 7 Pro and ASUS Zenfone 6. It’s a phone that falls in the flagship category without the flagship price. It should appeal to smartphone buyers who want a high caliber experience that doesn’t cost a thousand dollars or more.
At 599 euros, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro is priced to compete against the OnePlus 7 Pro and ASUS Zenfone 6.Lanh Nguyen
The ZTE Axon 10 Pro is already available in China and Europe, and there’s a 5G version for 899 euros shipping later this month if you’re interested in faster wireless speeds. A U.S. version isn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility, but I wouldn’t hold out for it until ZTE makes it official.
What’s in the box
- USB-C charging cable and wall adapter
- Clear TPU case
- 3.5mm adapter
ZTE bundles the Axon 10 Pro with the basics to get you started. There’s the usual USB-C charging cable, wall plug, SIM tool, and quick start guide. A generic clear case is included and will give you decent protection, but it’s nothing special. Since the ZTE Axon 10 Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack, you also get a 3.5mm adapter that you can use to plug in the included earbuds, or, better yet, your favorite pair of headphones.
- 3D Quad-Curved Gorilla Glass
- 159.2 x 73.4 x 7.9mm
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- No headphone jack
- MicroSD slot
- Colors: Blue
Thin, sleek, and elegant are three words that best describe the design of the ZTE Axon 10 Pro.Lanh Nguyen
- 2340 x 1080, 19.5:9
- Always-on display
We look at and interact with the display more than anything else on our smartphone so it’s important that the display is of high quality. I’m happy to say that the Axon 10 Pro delivers on this aspect. The AMOLED screen produces nice colors and has excellent contrast due to its natural deep dark blacks. The colors aren’t quite as vibrant as a Samsung display but there’s still enough punch to make the screen pop.
The always-on display takes perfect advantage of the AMOLED technology. You can quickly glance at useful information such as the time, date, battery percentage, and notifications without waking up the phone or wasting any battery. The display does offer some customization. There’s a display optimization setting that slightly boosts contrast and saturation and the ability to adjust the color temperature of the display.
- Snapdragon 855
- Adreno 640
- 6GB, 8GB, or 12GB of RAM
- 128GB or 256GB of storage
- MicroSD card slot
- Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0, 18W charger
- 15W Qi wireless charging
Battery life on the ZTE Axon 10 Pro was equally great. I was able to get between five and six hours of screen-on time. These numbers don’t sound insanely high when compared to the eight-plus hours that we got on the HUAWEI P30 Pro, but I found it to be more than sufficient. I was able to get through a full day comfortably. A typical day for me consists of checking three email accounts, browsing social media, watching YouTube, and playing games for a couple of hours. The phone was connected to Wi-Fi whenever I was at home and screen brightness was manually set to 50 percent. I didn’t use the performance or battery saver modes.
Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 is the Axon 10 Pro’s fast-charging method of choice. It takes about two hours to charge the phone to full. You also have the option to charge the device through Qi wireless charging. I’ve never considered wireless charging to be a necessary feature, but it is convenient if you’re not in a rush.
- Standard: 48MP Samsung GM1, f/1.7
- Pixel-binned 12MP images
- 20MP wide-angle lens, f/2.2, 125-degree FoV
- 8MP telephoto, f/2.4, 3x optical zoom
- 5x hybrid zoom, 10x digital zoom
- 20MP selfie camera
This year there have been a bunch of smartphones with three rear cameras (or more!) and the ZTE Axon 10 Pro is another you can add to that list. The ZTE Axon 10 Pro’s triple-camera system offers different focal lengths. The 48MP camera is the primary sensor and the one that you’ll use most often. In the Axon 10 Pro’s case, ZTE opted for the Samsung GM1.
Having a great sensor is only half the battle. Image processing is really what makes or breaks a photo. Images from the ZTE Axon 10 Pro are generally good with crisp details, neutral white balance, and even exposure across the frame. It does have a couple of issues. Colors are a little flat for my tastes and could use a bit of a boost in vibrancy. Dynamic range is also not as wide as I’d like. Shadows typically appear too dark, causing those areas to lack detail.
I’m a fan of wide-angle lenses and the one on the ZTE Axon 10 Pro is just as great as any other for capturing group photos or landscapes. Anti-distortion is built into the lens and works really well at keeping the edges of the photos perfectly straight. The downside to this lens is it doesn’t produce images that are nearly as sharp as the main lens. Details look smudgy and there’s a noticeable softness you can see without zooming in.
The telephoto lens is capable of 3X optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom that combines data from all three lenses, and 10x digital zoom. Its focal range is not as impressive as the more expensive HUAWEI P30 Pro or OPPO Reno 10x Zoom, but it works well for most situations. Being able to get closer to your subject without physically moving is extremely useful, and images still look incredibly sharp at 3X. Photos taken at 5X are a little softer, though only slightly.
Low-light performance is the camera’s biggest weakness and the lack of OIS really shows. Colors are good and images generally come out bright, but the detail is severely lacking. Photos just don’t look sharp at all. The night mode helps with bringing back some of the lost shadow and highlight detail, but it doesn’t do much else. The photos still appear soft and colors more muted. It also takes several seconds to capture and, without optical image stabilization, you really need a steady hand.
- Android 9.0 Pie
- Near-stock OS
If you’re an avid fan of pure Android experiences like myself, you’ll love the software on the ZTE Axon 10 Pro. Out of the box, it’s a near-stock build of Android 9 Pie, which keeps the experience simple, clean, and fast. In mid-January 2020, ZTE kicked off the OTA update bringing Android 10 to the Axon 10 Pro.
ZTE does include a handful of its own features, but they’re integrated in a seamless manner, similar to how OnePlus handles OxygenOS.
The software is much like what you'd see on a Google Pixel.Lanh Nguyen
All of ZTE’s customizations are neatly tucked away in the features section of the settings menu. There are some useful gestures, a one-handed mode, a built-in screen recorder, and the ability to pick between traditional on-screen buttons or gesture-based navigation. Otherwise, the software is much like what you’d see on a Google Pixel. There’s no extra bloatware and ZTE uses many of Google’s apps like Dialer, Photos, and Messages as the default applications.
- No headphone jack
- Dual speakers
- DTS: X Ultra surround sound
Not having a headphone jack will be disappointing for some, but the ZTE Axon 10 Pro makes up for it in other ways. The dual speakers include a main bottom firing speaker and the earpiece is used as the secondary speaker. The speakers are loud with no signs of distortion at max volume, but the experience suffers from the same issue I had with the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom — the bottom speaker is much louder than the earpiece. This ends up creating a lopsided stereo sound that doesn’t sound pleasing, especially when the phone is held in landscape orientation.
On the bright side, the DTS: X surround sound is supported by both the phone’s speakers and headphones. This gives the speakers or your headphones a little more oomph to the audio. As the name suggests, it attempts to create a surround sound effect that’s a little bit louder and more full. It isn’t easy to appreciate via the phone’s speakers, but it works great with a pair of quality headphones.
|ZTE Axon 10 Pro
92-percent screen to body ratio
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
8 GB / 12 GB
Yes (up to 2TB)
4,000 mAh Lithium ion
Qualcomm Quickcharge 4.0
Main: 48 MP Samsung GM1, f/1.7 aperture
Wide: 20 MP wide angle with 125-degree FoV and f/2.2 aperture
Telephoto: 8 MP 3x optical telephoto with f/2.4 aperture
Selfie: 20 MP
Yes (IP rating TBC)
DL 3CA, DL 2CA, UL 2CA
Stock+ Launcher based on Android 9 Pie
Dimensions and weight
159.2mm x 73.4mm x 7.9mm
Value for the money
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 599 euros/3,199 yen
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro 8GB RAM, 256GB ROM — 3,699 yen
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro 12GB RAM, 256GB ROM — 4,199 yen
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 899 euros
Starting at 599 euros, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro is an insane value. The price puts it directly between the base model of the ASUS Zenfone 6 (499 euros) and OnePlus 7 Pro (709 euros). The extra 100 euros that you spend over the ASUS Zenfone 6 gets you wireless charging, IP53 certification, and a telephoto zoom lens — all of which the Zenfone 6 lacks.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is also missing wireless charging and IP certification, even though it costs 110 euros more. Spending more for the OnePlus 7 Pro does have some advantages. It has a bigger and higher refresh rate screen and faster charging with Warp Charge. Otherwise, these two phones are very evenly matched on the spec sheet. It will really come down to which features you care about more when deciding which phone fits you best.
ZTE Axon 10 Pro review: The verdict
Aside from some camera issues, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses. You’re getting the same core specifications and features you would find on more expensive flagships, including the Snapdragon 855 and in-display fingerprint sensor. Also, there aren’t many phones that I can think of in this price range that offer both wireless charging and IP certification.
It may not do too much to differentiate itself but not everyone cares about unique features or gimmicks. This is a phone that focuses on delivering a fast and reliable experience, and most of the features are practical. The ZTE Axon 10 Pro certainly nails those aspects and is a great bargain that shouldn’t be overlooked.