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ZTE Axon vs the competition

We examine how the new ZTE Axon flagship smartphone stacks up against the best handsets that 2015 has to offer, at least on paper.
By
July 14, 2015

ZTE has its sights set on third place in the US market and its new Axon phone wants to bring some additional competition to the established brands in the market. So let’s take a look at how the ZTE Axon’s hardware stacks up against the best of 2015’s flagship smartphones.

Beginning with the processing hardware, ZTE has opted for Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 810 processor, which is built from four ARM Cortex-A57 and four Cortex-A53 cores configured in a big.LITTLE arrangement. This set-up is used throughout the 2015 flagships, even in Samsung’s Exynos chip, with the exception of the LG G4, which uses the cooler running hexa-core Snapdragon 808.

ZTE AxonGalaxy S6One M9Xperia Z3+LG G4
Display
ZTE Axon
5.5-inch LCD
QHD (2560x1440)
Galaxy S6
5.1-inch AMOLED
QHD (2560x1440)
One M9
5-inch LCD
FullHD (1920x1080)
Xperia Z3+
5.2-inch LCD
FullHD (1920x1080)
LG G4
5.5-inch LCD
QHD (2560x1440)
SoC
ZTE Axon
Snapdragon 810
Galaxy S6
Exynos 7420
One M9
Snapdragon 810
Xperia Z3+
Snapdragon 810
LG G4
Snapdragon 808
CPU
ZTE Axon
4x 2.0GHz Cortex-A57
4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
Galaxy S6
4x 2.1GHz Cortex-A57
4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
One M9
4x 2.0GHz Cortex-A57
4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
Xperia Z3+
4x 2.0GHz Cortex-A57
4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
LG G4
2x 1.8GHz Cortex-A57
4x 1.4GHz Cortex-A53
GPU
ZTE Axon
Adreno 430
Galaxy S6
Mali-T760 MP8
One M9
Adreno 430
Xperia Z3+
Adreno 430
LG G4
Adreno 418
RAM
ZTE Axon
4GB
Galaxy S6
3GB
One M9
3GB
Xperia Z3+
3GB
LG G4
3GB
Storage
ZTE Axon
32GB
Galaxy S6
32/64/128GB
One M9
32GB
Xperia Z3+
32GB
LG G4
32GB
MicroSD
ZTE Axon
No
Galaxy S6
No
One M9
Yes, up to 128GB
Xperia Z3+
Yes, up to 128GB
LG G4
Yes, up to 128GB

On the GPU side we see an Adreno 430 GPU, which should be able to provide some extra graphics grunt to push additional pixels to the QHD display. This should give the handset an edge over the G4’s Adreno 418, but the lower display resolution of the One M9 or Xperia Z3+ will result in better frame rates for gamers.

While we’re on the subject of displays, the ZTE Axon matches the leaders in the field with a huge QHD (2560×1440) display resolution. At 5.5-inches, the G4 is the Axon’s closest competitor in screen size. The display is based on Sharp’s rather good LCD technology, but it probably won’t end up with as wide of a color gamut as Samsung’s AMOLED.

ZTE AXON Phone vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Quick Look-6
The Axon’s QHD display resolution matches that of the Galaxy S6, Note 4, LG G4 and Nexus 6.

The one area that ZTE has decided to go above any beyond the competition is with an extra GB of RAM, bringing the total up to 4GB compared with 3GB for every other major flagship. Android has become a bit more of a memory hog these days, but you’re not going to see much of a noticeable improvement in performance by moving from 3GB to 4GB. However, very heavily multi-taskers may find that apps open a little quicker, as there’s extra room to keep these in the background on ZTE’s handset.

In terms of internal storage, ZTE’s Axon matches the 32GB of internal memory offered by most 2015 flagships. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be support for a microSD card, which might leave the phone lacking space if you’re a big media consumer. Samsung opted not to include a microSD card slot with the Galaxy S6, but at least there are models with 64 and 128GB of memory available.

In terms of performance, the ZTE Axon looks able to match the very best Android phones on the market right now.

ZTE AxonGalaxy S6One M9Xperia Z3+LG G4
Camera
ZTE Axon
dual rear (13MP, and 2MP)
8MP front
Galaxy S6
16MP rear
5MP front
One M9
20MP rear
4MP front
Xperia Z3+
20.7MP rear
5MP front
LG G4
16MP dual rear
8MP front
Battery
ZTE Axon
3,000mAh
Galaxy S6
2,500mAh
One M9
2,840mAh
Xperia Z3+
2,930mAh
LG G4
3,000mAh
LTE
ZTE Axon
Category 6
Galaxy S6
Category 6
One M9
Category 6
Xperia Z3+
Category 6
LG G4
Category 6
Fast Charging?
ZTE Axon
Quick Charge 2.0
Galaxy S6
No
One M9
Quick Charge 2.0
Xperia Z3+
Quick Charge 2.0
LG G4
Quick Charge 2.0
Wireless Charging?
ZTE Axon
No
Galaxy S6
PMA and Qi
One M9
No
Xperia Z3+
No
LG G4
Qi (optional cases)
Dimensions
ZTE Axon
154 x 75 x 9.3mm
Galaxy S6
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
One M9
144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm
Xperia Z3+
146 x 72 x 6.9 mm
LG G4
148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm
Weight
ZTE Axon
175g
Galaxy S6
138g
One M9
157g
Xperia Z3+
144g
LG G4
155g
Unlocked Price
ZTE Axon
$499
Galaxy S6
$700
One M9
$650
Xperia Z3+
$650
LG G4
$540

Moving on to the smartphone’s additional hardware features, we can see a number of high-end features packed in. There’s no support for wireless charging or an infrared port, but the Axon does support NFC, fast LTE data speeds, and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology. ZTE also touts “Hi-Fi audio” via its AKM 4961 codec, which boasts a 32-bit 192 kHz DAC, but there’s actually only one speaker at the bottom of the phone. We certainly won’t attempt to make any calls about quality without a good listen, but it will be interesting to hear how the phone stacks up with the One M9.

ZTE has also paid a lot of attention to this year’s hotly contested smartphone camera feature list. There’s a dual rear camera setup, which sports a 13 megapixel camera with a secondary 2MP cam, allowing for depth refocusing, a feature that was quite popular last generation.

ZTE Axon camera sample images
The Axon’s camera sample images show some impressive low light shots.

Delving a little deeper into the camera specifications we note a BSI sensor which is accompanied by a 6 element lens and f/1.8 aperture, which matches the LG G4. The aperture can also apparently span to f/1.0 for superior image in low-light settings. The Axon has also opted for a higher resolution 8MP front facing camera with 88 degree wide angle lens. Again, we can’t call camera quality without some hands-on time, but the spec sheet suggests that ZTE’s phone will give Samsung, HTC, Sony and LG a run for their money.

The only marginal complaint about the paper specs seems to be that the ZTE Axon is a bit taller than other handsets of a similar size and it also weighs a little bit more. We’re really looking at a phone closer in size to the Galaxy Note 4, which some will love but others may find a little too large.

ZTE AXON Phone Hands On-27

Overall, an initial look at the hardware suggests that ZTE has doubled down with the Axon and has produced a phone that appears to offer the cutting edge hardware that you would expect from a flagship smartphone at a retail price that substantially undercuts most of the competition. The LG G4 is probably the Axon’s closest rival for value for money. At $500, US consumers might be tempted to overlook ZTE’s past reputation to grab a bargain. (Update: actual price for the Axon is $450 as it turns out, not $500).