ZTE Axon 20 5G review: Good smartphone with an invisible front camera
The ZTE Axon 20 5G is the first smartphone with a camera under the display. I think almost everyone should have noticed by now, but is the smartphone also convincing in other ways?
We want to address exactly this question in the following lines, because at least on paper it has a very strong overall package for a relatively low price of less than 400 euros.
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Haptics, design & processing
With dimensions of 172,1 x 77,9 x 8,0 mm, the ZTE Axon 20 5G is currently one of the largest smartphones on the market. Personally, it's a bit too much for me, but if you are into large smartphones, you will get your money's worth here. The weight of 198 grams is absolutely okay for the size.
The smartphone is comfortable and easy to grip, which is partly due to the rounded edges and the materials used. While both the back and the front are made of glass, unfortunately only plastic with a high-gloss finish is used for the frame. I would have liked to see an aluminum frame, but the Axon 20 5G still feels high-quality and doesn't have to hide from many other smartphones in this price range.
When it comes to colors, buyers here in Europe unfortunately only have one option, namely black, which attracts fingerprints almost magically and has interesting patterns depending on the incidence of light. Also noticeable is the rectangular camera design in the upper left corner, which we see from almost all manufacturers these days. If we turn the smartphone around, we are greeted by a huge display, which is not interrupted by any notch or punch hole. The front camera sits invisibly under the panel, which we will go into in more detail later. Unfortunately, ZTE obviously failed to make the lower edge of the screen a little smaller. This could also be a bit thinner for about 400 euros and so tarnishes the actually beautiful, clean design a bit.
There is no reason to criticize the workmanship. The device appears stable, the keys sit firmly in the case and have a very good pressure point.
As already mentioned, ZTE has installed a huge 6,92 inch OLED display, which has a pleasantly sharp resolution of 2.460 x 1.080 pixels (Full HD). In addition, it also supports a smooth refresh rate of 90 Hertz, which means that animations are displayed more smoothly.
Both the black value, the white value and the contrast values are really excellent and above average for the price. This is a thing of the past when it comes to color display, because colors are rendered far too oversaturated for my taste, even though I have the option in the settings for the display Standard have chosen. Sure, you always have to keep the price in mind, but the cheaper one Live Y70 has a slightly more realistic color representation. The situation is different with the maximum brightness, because it can convince across the board and I never had it even in brighter surroundings Proproblems with readability. Last but not least, I would also like to praise the solid viewing angle stability.
The highlight: the front camera under the display
The panel of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is really good for the price, but the highlight is of course the front camera under the display. To make this possible, the manufacturer uses a special OLED display to allow enough light to fall on the sensor. The area of the front camera, unlike the rest of the panel, has a different pixel structure and this can also be seen very well in the pictures below. With dark backgrounds, the area is almost never noticeable, unless the light shines directly on it from a special angle. However, the tide turns with lighter backgrounds, for example when night mode is deactivated. Then the area is sometimes more noticeable, whereby the camera makes it look a bit more blatant in the first picture than in reality.
If we use a macro lens to view the area from a close angle, even the individual pixels and the front camera are visible. The following pictures illustrate this quite well, even if the quality of the pictures is not optimal (it was very difficult to take these pictures):
ZTE has implemented this very well for the first generation of this new technology and I am curious to see when we will see the next smartphones with a front camera under the display in the future. It's not all perfect (more in a moment), but I still praise it.
The in-house user interface MiFavor 10.5, based on Android 10, is used as software. Our device is an imported product from China, since the 5G version is unfortunately not available here, and therefore you can only choose between English and Chinese as the system language in the settings.
In principle, I liked the software very much, it is simple and looks relatively chic. Only I don't like the notification bar that much. ZTE also has an excellent night mode, well-implemented gesture control and various additional functions in the settings, where you can change the animation when unlocking via the fingerprint sensor, for example.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G works under the hood, which we find, for example, from the more expensive one Lg wing, but also know from the OnePlus Nord. This is a 5G-enabled mid-rangeProprocessor manufactured using the energy-saving 7-nanometer process. Depending on the version, there is 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of flash memory.
The operating speed of the Axon is at a very high level and thanks to the smooth refresh rate of 90 Hertz, it also looks nice and fluid. There were hardly any stutters or delays and games also run without major ones Protrouble. Of course, this is where the difference to more expensive smartphones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is most noticeable, but for around 400 euros you can't complain. That's a class Processor, which will probably still have enough power for the next two years.
The battery has a capacity of 4.220 mAh, which is relatively small for such a large device. I would have expected a little more, even if the battery life is completely satisfactory. In everyday life I always came with activated 90 Hertz protrouble-free through a day and even 1,5 days were mostly not Proproblem At the end of the day I had an average of 10 to 30 left Procent battery left with a screen-on-time of about 5 to 7 hours. Up to 10 hours weren't even when only using the WLAN Proproblem Overall, I was satisfied here, even if a lot more would have been possible with a larger battery.
With the supplied 30 watt power supply and the corresponding USB-C cable, the smartphone can be charged quickly and does not get uncomfortably warm. Wireless charging is unfortunately not possible, which is still bearable for 400 euros.
On the back there are four sensors in a rather conspicuous rectangle: a 64 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel ultra wide-angle camera and two sensors with 2 megapixels each for macro shots and depth information. The front camera has a resolution of 32 megapixels.
Let's start with the main camera, which undoubtedly delivers the best results of all the sensors installed. In daylight it takes beautifully realistic pictures with a decent dynamic range. There is still some room for improvement in terms of sharpness, which is particularly noticeable in the edge areas. As soon as the lighting conditions get worse, the quality also decreases visibly, which is still okay for the price. The night mode brings some visible improvements, but the recordings are still too blurry and start to rustle very quickly. That's okay for 350 to 400 euros, but a Google Pixel 4a delivers significantly better results and, in my opinion, a OnePlus Nord as well.
As with all other smartphones, the quality of the ultra-wide-angle camera is of course noticeably worse. The color display differs significantly from the main camera and darker areas (e.g. forests) are rendered a little too dark. Nevertheless, I was relatively satisfied; other smartphones with similar prices are not really better here either.
I was rather disappointed with the macro camera. You can get very close to objects, but the images are always too blurry and far too pale.
Front camera quality disappointed
As beautiful and impressive as a front camera under the display is, the final image quality suffers a lot. The photos quickly start to rustle, are rendered too blurry and clearly too soft. You always have the feeling that there is a dirty film on the camera. As soon as the lighting conditions are only slightly worse, the recordings are almost unusable.
If a front camera is important to you and would like to take lots of photos and videos with it, you will unfortunately not be happy with the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Almost all of the competition in this price range is much further ahead here.
Test photos of the ZTE Axon 20 5G
Let's take a look at a few more test photos. The following images are absolutely unprocessed, but compressed without loss in order to keep the loading times and memory consumption of the website low.
I found the speaker to be rather average. It does get loud enough, but at a higher volume it sounds rather tinny and just not very good. In my opinion, stereo speakers could have been thought of for 400 euros.
The same goes for the built-in vibration motor, which feels solid, but is a bit too loud for my taste.
The device can be unlocked with a fingerprint sensor in the display, which is easy to reach, works quickly and relatively reliably.
I really liked the ZTE Axon 20 5G, because for less than 400 euros it offers a good overall package without major weaknesses. Sure, the quality of the front camera is very disappointing, but otherwise the rest can convince across the board, especially the design, feel, display, battery life, performance and the camera is okay. So if you can live with the enormous size and the poor front camera, you get a lot for the price.
However, if the front camera is important to you and would like an even better camera, you will probably get one Google Pixel 4a or OnePlus North get a little happier.
Finally, of course, there is the question of whether you should go for the version with 5G or the global Axon 20 without 5G. Since both smartphones currently cost about the same with 128 GB, I would definitely recommend the 5G version, as it has a better one Proprocessor and 90 hertz. However, the user only has the choice between English and Chinese as the system language and who uses it Proproblems should then rather resort to the global variant.
Finally, I would like to praise ZTE for being the first to manage to bring a smartphone with a front camera under the display onto the market. For the first generation of this new technology, the whole thing is really impressive, they only have to work on the quality of the front camera. I'm curious to see how long it will be before we see the next smartphones with an invisible front camera, because that is definitely the future.
We would like to thank TradingShenzhen for providing the ZTE Axon 20 5G! This test or my opinion was of course not influenced in any way despite the cooperation with TradingShenzhen.
ZTE Axon 20 5G
The 5G variant, which is unfortunately not officially available in Europe, is available in the online shop TradingShenzhen available. Compared to the global model, the 5G version offers a better Proprocessor, 5G and a smooth refresh rate of 90 Hertz. The ZTE Axon 20 5G with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB flash memory costs 337 euros and the more powerful model with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB flash memory is available for 70 euros more.