You’ve seen the unboxing and my noob thoughts on ZTE ZMAX already but this is official review which will be coupled with a video very shortly (please check the channel). The ZTE ZMAX was a trip into uncharted territory for me. I’m used to phones with 5″ or smaller screens and are overall smaller than the ZTE ZMAX in general. Owning a Note or Dell Streak before-hand would’ve made working this phone right out the box a lot easier but since I didn’t I just jumped in with an open mind and hope.
ZTE ZMAX SPECS
- OS:Android 4.4.2 KitKat
- CPU: 1.2Ghz Qaulcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8926
- Battery: 3400mAH
- Storage: 16GB
- SD: up to 32GB
- Camera:8MP Rear/1.6MP Front
- Bluetooth: 4.0
- Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz & 802.11 a/n 5GHz
- Height: 6.4″
- Width: 3.3″
- Weight: 6.7oz
The square plastic body is big, heavy, and for some might prove unwieldy but for me the ZMAX couldn’t feel anymore premium and the size did bother me at 1st but after a couple days I was not only used to the size but I welcomed the extra real estate to type and game. The button placement as I stated in the unboxing is perfect. I had no problems reaching the power, volume or menu buttons when using this phone with one hand. Reaching the notifications bar on the other hand, was a scary thing since it required shuffling the phone in my hand in order to reach it. If this were a phone like the Note 3, Note 4, or just a phone with a less slippery back instead of straight hard plastic then it wouldn’t be so bad. The remedy for this was the overpriced, thin rubber case I bought with this phone from T-Mobile. At 1st, I thought I wasted money but as soon I threw this on and headed to work I found my experience was enhanced by having a much better grip on the phone which gave me the confidence to shuffle and maneuver the phone with one hand with no fear of dropping it whatsoever. In other words, most of the problems I had with “one-handing” the phone was mental. ZTE couldn’t have really made this phone any easier to use without a bunch multi-tasking features like Samsung and other manufactures. Most of which I wouldn’t have used anyways and would just add to the bloatware which there isn’t much of.
“In other words, most of the problems I had with “one-handing” the phone was mental.”
The 5.7″ display doesn’t get as bright as previous phones I’ve reviewed but due to the size, I find it gets bright enough. I don’t like having my screens on 100% brightness anyways and everything looks amazing at just 60-70% with the 720p HD screen. Everything from watching YouTube, browsing the web, to playing games became more enjoyable due to the screen size and the bezels not being too intrusive. I’m definitely not a color guru like Erica Griffin but colors pop off this LCD screen. You definitely won’t have any problems here unless you’re very picky or your unit is defective. You will definitely notice a difference if you’re coming from a higher end phone, I guess. However,I didn’t have any on hand to test.
The 2GB of RAM with the Snapdragon 400 in the ZMAX keeps it very snappy and I had very little lag moving around the OS, playing games, or switching in and out of apps. I’ve even taken a liking to typing up notes in Google Docs using this phone. I also had no problem with games resetting on me due to not being able to stay in my Recents after having to switch to another app to read my messages or email. I can literally jump out of game, reply to some text messages, browse the web, forget about the game, and come back 20-30min later and it still be in the same spot I left it. A task 1GB phones like the LG L90 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus, struggle to do. It also helps that this phone has a light, near stock Kit Kat rom on it out the box so you have a lot of that 2GB of memory left for your apps. I have about 1.3GB of memory free at all times.
One thing to note, is the ZMAX comes with a very basic messaging app, I’ve voiced my problems with hangout on my LG L90 review so I prefer the stock messaging app over it but for some reason ZTE decided to keep the 160 character limitation without converting to the message to MMS so it seems like you’re sending a tweet instead of texting. Yes, it does save on data to not use MMS for long messages but I find the savings to be negligible at best and now I have to install a separate messaging app just for this one feature.
The battery life is nothing short of incredible on the ZMAX with a beefy 3400mah beast inside keeping everything powered for nothing less than 10-12+hrs. I tried everything I could to drain this battery completely within 12hrs and I simply couldn’t. Playing games (even leaving them running) , watching YouTube, taking pics, browsing the web, playing music, taking phone calls, texting, and I even went as far to download a news reader app to read some news I didn’t care about. I ended the day with roughly 20% charge left which is approximately ~3hrs of use. Just crazy! I also didn’t have any problems with the ZMAX getting hot to the touch when charging like my last phone. It did get a little warm but nothing to complain about. If you’re carrying your charger with this phone, you’re doing it “just in case” cause you surely don’t need it unless you didn’t charge it the previous night or work really long hours like in a hospital or something.
CALL QUALITY & SIGNAL
Everyone I talked to came through clear and they reported the same of my voice. Of course, with the dual mic technology that comes built into the ZMAX, I expected no less. I didn’t notice a big difference in clarity when it came to Wifi Calling but I encourage anyone and everyone to use it (if they have the feature available) cause you can’t complain with anything that helps you save data. 🙂 Due to the weight of the phone, long calls can be painful, literally. If you’re like me with bad joints and shoulders, then the weight of your phone is important. Long calls will happen and once they do, that small, lightweight phone will transform into a heavy boombox after 20-30min. This is not just a big drawback for the ZMAX but for all phones over 5.5 inches. As you can see in the picture above, 4G LTE was super fast on the T-Mobile network here in my area. Data speeds are a BIG part of your mobile experience. If the data speed is slow in your area, even a high end phone will seem like crap cause you can’t load web pages or any apps that need data in any decent amount of time.
Data speeds are a BIG part of your mobile experience. If the data speed is slow in your area, even a high end phone will seem like crap cause you can’t load web pages or any apps the need data in any decent amount of time.
The ZMAX has an 8MP shooter on the back that can do 1080p video and comes with a range of different modes to help you get the best shot possible and I welcome that but there’s only so much you can do with such a small sensor. The shutter is very quick when not using any fancy modes and I like how they give you just the right amount of modes to cover various situations and not just shove a bunch useless crap in here. You can do panorama, HDR, and low lights shots among others and they will be decent but never great. I also found the HDR mode to add a lot of noise into the shots on top of the nice bump in contrast. If you don’t have a dedicated camera handy than it will get the job done in most cases.
FEATURES AND STUFF
The ZMAX comes with other decent features as well such as Dolby DM3+ sound enhancement which has a pretty neat widget that allowed me to quickly turn it off and on as needed. I found myself turning it on when I was viewing my YouTube videos and turning it off when listening to music where I preferred unaltered sound. The long-press lockscreen is nice and quick but I really wish it would have a transparent option for the background instead of having to set both background for the home screen and the lock screen to the same image to get that effect.
One last thing about the ZMAX, as of this review you can not root this phone. It seems that this device is difficult to root and the developers are struggling to figure out how to root the phone. Root is how you gain admin access to the phone so you can remove bloatware, increase performance, and in Kit Kat’s case, regain the ability to write to your SD card which you really can’t do on a Kit Kat phone currently. You have to plug the phone into the PC to edit files on your SD card. Nonsense. 😐
ZTE built a great media powerhouse. For less than $200 on with financing, the ZMAX comes with a big screen coupled, quad core qualcomm cpu and 2GB of ram for all your media needs. They even took it a step further with a near stock KitKat rom for easy customization and home screen replacement if you really want to. A small amount of bloatware from T-Mobile (thank god), so the phone is not bogged down with loads of useless carrier apps. You also get all that with a big sturdy build coupled with a good 5.7″ screen.
I’ll just leave these here cause I know how much you love these pointless things!
Edit 06/12/15 – All references to aluminum taken out cause this phone is built with PLASTIC