ZTE Axon 30 5G review: Second generation under display camera is better than Samsung's

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ZTE Axon 30 5G review: Second generation under display camera is better than Samsung's

Late last year we had the chance to spend a couple of weeks with the ZTE Axon 20 5G with the world’s first under display camera. Samsung launched the Z Fold 3 with a UDC, but it’s just a 4MP shooter and should really just be used for video calls. ZTE launched the ZTE Axon 30 5G with its second generation UDC and it’s hard to even see the camera area on a light color display.

The ZTE Axon 30 5G is our best look yet at what a phone with a nearly full front display looks like. Unlike last year, even with a white background you can barely see the UDC as ZTE has done some magic with the pixels to make the camera nearly invisible. While there is no official screen-to-body ratio on the ZTE site, it has to be close to 100% with minimal bezels around the large, gorgeous 6.92-inch display.

Unlike the ZTE Axon 20, you will be able to order the ZTE Axon 30 5G in the US starting on September 9th. The 8GB/128GB model is priced at $499 and the 12GB/256GB model is $599. It will be available in Black (the one we tested) and Aqua.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 870
  • Display: 6.92-inch 2460 x 1080 pixels resolution AMOLED
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • RAM: 8/12 GB LPDDR5 options
  • Storage: 128/256 GB internal options with microSD card support
  • Cameras: Rear quad camera system with 64MP, 8MP ultra wide-angle with 120 degree view, 2MP depth lens, and 5MP macro lens. 16MP front-facing camera positioned under the display.
  • Wireless technology: 5G, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS
  • NA LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 26, 28, 66
  • strong>NA 5G bands: Sub-6GHz 5G supported on bands n41, n78, n1, n28, n3, n66
  • Battery: 4200 mAh with 65W quick charging support
  • Dimensions: 170.2 x 77.8 x 7.8 mm and 189 grams
  • Colors: Black and Aqua

Hardware

The ZTE Axon 30 5G is a big phone with a 6.92-inch display and it feels even a bit bigger given that nearly the entire front of the phone is a massive viewable display with no interferences. The ZTE Axon 30 is an affordable phone with a $500 starting price that is packed with solid internal components that includes the fastest RAM and internal storage. 5G is still a bit of compromise in the US with limited band support on T-Mobile, but the LTE service is solid for GSM networks.

The large AMOLED display is lovely and made even better with the completely hidden under display camera. The display refresh rate has been improved over the ZTE Axon 20 with the available 120Hz option. You can toggle between 60Hz and 120Hz or flip on the Auto switch for it to be handled by the phone’s software. ZTE also offers triple eye comfort certifications for the display with blue light reduction.

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The resolution has been reduced from 32MP to 16MP, but this year’s version has a larger pixel size with 4-in-1 technology. Like the new Z Fold 3, the Axon 20 under display camera was visible on light backgrounds with lots of pixels showing in the camera area. Once you turn on the new Axon 30, you cannot even see where the camera is located. ZTE bumped up the pixel density over the camera from 200 PPI to 400 PPI and the improvement is considerable. Once you enable the front-facing camera then the pixels over it turn off and the dark circle of the camera is visible.

I took a few samples photos and the Axon 30 selfie camera is clearly better than the 4MP UDC on the Z Fold 3. It’s not as good as other dedicated front-facing cameras, but if you are looking for a full screen display experience for Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, enjoying movie content, or gaming then you may want to consider the ZTE Axon 30.

While viewing content on the large, unfettered display was lovely, there is also just a single bottom-firing speaker so listening through a headset is a better experience. The single speaker is loud and does a good job, but stereo speakers are better.

zte-axon-30-1.jpg

The power and volume buttons are on the right side with nothing positioned on the top or left side. The USB-C port, SIM/microSD tray, and speaker are on the bottom. Swinging around the back we see an interesting plastic composite material with the Axon branding and some design flair.

In the top left corner of the back, we find a unique camera setup with two large circles. The top circle holds the main 64MP camera while the bottom circle contains the three other cameras. The flashlight is positioned below this circle. It’s an interesting look with the sides of the rectangular array having rather sharp edges.

Photos captured with this rear quad camera system have been competitive with other phones. The camera software is loaded with advanced features to help you be creative with the Axon 30 and capture interesting content. The software includes still and video effects, transitions, and features.

Software

The ZTE Axon 30 5G launches with Android 11 and the July 1, 2021, Android security patch. MyOS 11 is the UI that is used by ZTE, but it offers a fairly stock Android experience with no bloatware or extra apps. Most of the UI customization is in the settings and extra utilities.

Always-on display mode is available, you can toggle 60Hz or 120Hz for the refresh rate, a Z-POP utility lets you quickly launch your favorite apps (similar to Samsung Edge), face recognition can be used for less secure access, and other typical Android customization options are present.

Daily usage experiences

While the ZTE Axon 30 is launching in the US and does have 5G support, that is limited to band n41. This is the mid-band spectrum picked up by T-Mobile through the purchase of Sprint. T-Mobile’s broad low-band coverage is on band n71 (600 MHz), but support for n71 is not provided on this phone.

The phone is very responsive, the display looks amazing, battery life has been solid, and it has performed as well as other mid-range $500 phones I have tested out. The limited 5G support means it is not a phone for me personally, but if you don’t care much about 5G and want a big screen phone experience then you may want to consider it.

The ZTE Axon 30 is a big phone, but it is fairly light so it is not too heavy. There is no support for wireless charging or any level of dust/water resistance, but that isn’t common in a $500 phone either. The under display camera and under display fingerprint sensor provide you with a phone that has an uncluttered display experience and that’s really the only reason to consider the ZTE Axon 30 5G.

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