ZTE just outed a new Axon 30 5G midrange sheriff in town, albeit one that is only said to be fully compatible with T-Mobile’s bands, despite the company’s 4G/5G network equipment prowess. Available for just $499, the ZTE Axon 30 is the most affordable handset with under-display camera you can now get, and it beats the Z Fold 3’s UPC selfie shooter in that respect.
ZTE Axon 30 screen and under-display camera design
The phone’s gargantuan 6.92″ 1080p display would typically mean one cumbersome to handle in the palm device, if it weren’t as tall and narrow, with a 20.5:9 aspect ratio. That doesn’t mean that the Axon 30 is not a big phone, at 6.70 x 3.06 x 0.31 inches (170.2 x 77.8 x 7.8 mm) in dimensions, just that it is manageable to use with one hand relative to its screen size.
The hard case that comes with the phone does add extra bulk but at least it is in the box, and is transparent, revealing the good job that ZTE did with the black or aqua color versions play over the Axon 30 body. When out of the case, the phone lies very well in the hand, too, as its rear has rounded sides and the build material enough traction in the palm to hold it securely at all times.
The volume rocker and power keys on the side also offer a good tactile feedback and ergonomic positioning. There is a fingerprint reader embedded under the screen, and it offers competitive unlocking and finger sensing speeds.
The display itself is sufficiently bright but, at the phone’s $499 price point you shouldn’t expect a 1000 peak nits or per-unit color calibration. The colors are a bit on the cold side of the spectrum in the standard color gamut, as you can see from our tests below, and the phone’s panel doesn’t return an “excellent” score in any of the color representation categories. It does offer a 100% wide P3 color gamut coverage, though, for those HDR flicks, and is eye-health certified for low emissions by TUV.
In essence, the Axon 30 offers a very good display which, while not very bright for comfortable usage outside under direct sunlight, is entirely sufficient as a daily driver otherwise, with adaptive 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling, gaming, and interface animations, a rarity at this price point.
To top it all off, the interface has a dark mode switch in the control panel, and offers night as well as reading modes there for easier access, for a complete roundup of modern phone display features.
ZTE Axon 30 interface and performance
Smooth moves, fast processing
Speaking of the interface, it is mostly stock Android 11, with 12 on the way, and a thin layer of ZTE’s own paint on the top, introducing features as the abovementioned night/reading/dark mode switches directly accessible from the control panel.
Add a full settings list and a few live wallpapers or themes thrown in for a good measure, and there is barely an extra feature you’d demand from the Axon 30’s Android overlay.
The new Snapdragon 870 processor that runs it also performs very well on the light interface, with no visible delays or stutters while navigating.
While a rehash of last year’s Snapdragon 865+ built on the 7nm process, the 870 is clocked at the whopping 3.2GHz peaks, and returns some very good benchmark scores. That’s why it seems to be a perfect solution for the upper midrange category, with ZTE even managing to shoehorn it in a sub-$500 phone.
ZTE Axon 30 camera samples
The best under-display camera, out of three
ZTE used a quality 64MP Sony IMX682 camera sensor for the main shooter, and an 8MP ultrawide angle camera. Sorry, no telephoto but the phone does offer 2x lossless crop magnification thanks to the large main sensor resolution.
The phone returns pretty accurate colors with the main camera, while the ultrawide is a bit on the warm side of the white balance spectrum. Areas towards the edges could be sharper on some photos, but that’s a common problem with high-res phone camera sensors paired to mainstream lenses.
As for the under-display camera – it’s not as good as the best selfie cameras out there, especially with tricky dynamic range situations like a light source behind the object – but it’s actually rather good when you consider its technology and when there is enough light around.
Video also turned out pretty good in its 4K 30fps mode, with no excessive artifacts, and very fast continuous autofocus.