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ZTE ZMAX Pro hands on | What is a $100 smartphone like?

ZTE’s past roots are firmly at the entry-level and the ZTE ZMax Pro is one of these offering a great package at a budget-friendly $100. Here’s our hands on.
By
July 19, 2016

You can say that ZTE is still figuring out a way to conquer the US smartphone market, especially when it comes to the high-end category. Most recently, the company announced its flagship smartphone in the ZTE Axon 7, a devilishly power-packed device meant to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10, LG G5, and much more.

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However, most people forget that ZTE has its roots established in the entry-level area of the market, a place they’ve been comfortably competing for a long time now. The game is changing, as we all know, seeing that companies have been relentless when it comes to delivering low-cost smartphones that don’t have too many compromises in them.

Well people, ZTE is ensuring that they’ll continue to remain relevant in this sector, as the company introduced its latest value-conscious Android smartphone in the ZTE ZMAX Pro.

Design

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First of all, it’s difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that this is a $100 phone we’re dealing with. That’s a bit unbelievable given the kind of guts and internals it has, but in looking at the design, we’re relieved that it doesn’t look or feel at all cheap. In fact, the soft touch finish of its rear adds a certain degree of grip to the hand – while also being fairly good at being smudge resistant.

Sure, the size is something to that some folks might have an issue with, but it doesn’t look like the majority of boring designs that typically accompanies sub-$100 smartphones. And that’s a good thing, mainly because the stigma behind “cheap” phones has been unbreakable for the most part. The ZTE MAX Pro will hopefully be the trendsetter in this category!

Display

The mammoth size of ZTE ZMAX Pro is attributed to the 6-inch TFT LCD it’s boasting, protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3. What’s worth mentioning here, though, is that the resolution is full HD – so that’s 1080 x 1920 pixels crammed in there. Quite frankly, it’s a rare sighting for phones even in the sub $200 range to be treated to full-HD, so it’s yet another attribute that the phone has over other comparable devices.

While it looks decent to look at from a normal distance, as the fine print below the icons in the apps panel are still easily deciphered, our only qualm in our quick look is its brightness output. It wasn’t too sunny outside, more like a cloudy day, but it was lacking the potency that’s needed to see it visibly – without having to shade it. On top of that, the screen seemed to be highly reflective at wide angles.

Performance and Hardware

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Due to its status as a value-conscious device, it should come as no surprise that the internals are entry-level spec’d. Specifically, it’s powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor coupled with 2GB of RAM and 32GB on internal storage. That’s nothing to write home about, but regardless of that, the ZTE MAX Pro showed some tight responses in our short time checking it out at ZTE’s event.

While it’s capable to doing the trivial stuff, like surfing the web and opening apps, we’re not too optimistic about its performance when it comes to more intensive stuff – like gaming or heavy multimedia editing. Then again, you never know, it can surprise us. We’ll save our final judgements until we’ve had additional time with it.

Complementing the 32GB of storage it has, there’s also a microSD card slot on hand to boost things in the event you need it. Now, what makes this phone so notable is the fact that it’s slapped with a fingerprint sensor in its rear – right below the camera to be exact. That’s noteworthy, even more when this is a sub-$100 phone we’re dealing with here.

Camera

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Just because it’s priced so low doesn’t mean it’s going to be fashioned with some gimpy camera. That’s certainly not the case, since it features a 13MP rear camera with phase detection auto-focus, as well as a 5MP front facing camera.

Indeed, the specs of the cameras seem compliant for a device of its caliber, but numbers have a way of being deceiving all at the same time. Based on the specs, and some of the quick snapshots we captured at the event, the quality appears to be sufficient. However, its true test is to take those samples and view them on a computer – to really see and dissect its performance.

Software

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Thankfully, ZTE tries to keep things simple with its software experience, which is running Marshmallow at the moment. While we can debate about the whether it’ll get the next version of Android, what’s more pressing here is that the interface appears to be mostly stock – with a few of MetroPCS’ software thrown in the there. Purists, of course, will appreciate this gesture of keeping things as faithful as possible.

Conclusion

Come on, it’s seriously tough knocking a smartphone that has a starting price of $99.00 right from the onset – more so when it features modern conveniences such as a fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C port, microSD slot, VoLTE, and HD Voice. MetroPCS customers will surely be delighted by what this brings to the table, in addition to the savings they’ll feel in the wallet.

The only limitation here with the ZTE ZMAX Pro is that it’s only going to be available to MetroPCS, so it’s not going to be able to accumulate the kind of sales and volume that other phones deliver. Still, if you’re on MetroPCS, this is something that might be worth checking out.

What do you think of the ZTE ZMax Pro and do you want ZTE to offer this on more networks than MetroPCS? Let us know your views in the comments below!