ZTE's ZMax Pro dares to break the $100 smartphone barrier: hands-on from the launch event


The economics of smartphone manufacturing exhibit a fantastic trickle-down effect, where the components that helped build even the highest-end, most expensive flagship-class phones just a few short years back have now become commodified to the point where it's no sweat at all for a manufacturer to use them in some of the most affordable phones you can find. And as we noted when reviewing the new Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus, there's a fantastic amount of competition in the budget space where phone makers are eager to show who can build the highest-performance, most premium-feeling phone at a price that's practically giving the hardware away. ZTE may have just set the bar in this regard, as today the company introduced its stunningly affordable ZMax Pro for MetroPCS.

Following the ZMax and ZMax 2, the new ZMax Pro pushes the family to new phablet heights, with a six-inch 1080p display. The phone runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chip – a popular model with some of the better-performing mid-rangers out there – and comes in one storage configuration, getting 32GB of flash memory alongside 2GB of RAM. There's support for microSD expansion, and a 3,400mAh battery promises more than a day of solid talk time. The handset recharges over USB Type-C, though it's worth noting that this still uses an older USB 2.0 interface – no 3.0 here.

For imaging, ZTE's given the ZMax Pro a 13MP main camera with phase-detection auto-focus, joined by a 5MP front-facer for selfies. And around back you'll find a fingerprint scanner for all your authentication needs.

That all adds up to some decent-sounding hardware, and it's easy to draw comparisons to phones like those Moto G4s we just mentioned, which the ZMax Pro sounds like a slightly larger version of.

But then there's the price.

It's almost a shallow thing to put front and center as a new phone's primary selling point, but what a price! While those Moto G4s started at $200 (and even then you wouldn't have 32GB storage or a fingerprint scanner like ZTE's got here), the ZMax Pro easily undercuts that. Not by $25, and not by $50. Instead, MetroPCS is going to sell the ZMax Pro for what works out to just under $100 after instant rebate.

There have been plenty of sub-$100 phones before (and such models helped keep Windows Phone alive for as long as it has been), but we're not talking about 720p displays or Snapdragon 200-series chips here. The ZMax Pro is designed and built like a phone that normally goes for a lot more.

Sure, it's not some metal-clad ultra-high-end flagship, but it's not trying to be – instead the ZMax Pro is what sure feels like a decent $200 phone – only one where some poor retail clerk messed up and posted the wrong price tag on the shelf.

ZTE still has some work ahead of it in making the new ZMax a huge success, and while carrier involvement in general is usually a good thing for phones, MetroPCS is hardly the most illustrious brand – even parent carrier T-Mobile might have been an improvement. But with pre-registration open now ahead of early August availability (and register quick for the chance to score a free leather case), we're nearly about to see if this ZTE/MetroPCS teaming has what it takes to convince shoppers of the ZMax Pro's fantastic value.


Related phones

Zmax Pro
  • Display 6.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, Octa-core, 1500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3400 mAh(25h talk time)

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11 Comments

1. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

That's a great value and if I was in the market for a budget but good phablet I would get this right away. To bad it's a carrier exclusive, ZTE could have made a killing if not for that.

2. Elfmonster unregistered

Your move, every other phone maker in the world. This is disruption.

3. TrackPhoneUser

Posts: 256; Member since: Oct 21, 2015

Setting the bar.

4. mahima

Posts: 727; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

setting the bar... lower and lower

5. fyah_king unregistered

How the hell you get all of that for $100? I'll buy 3 and cancel service in a month and move to T-Mobile.:)

6. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

sadly only for metroPCS well be great if they release it internationally, even for $140 (more than that, I'll pick RN3pro, lol) btw it looks more beautiful than G4 with its huge chin and ugly square FPscanner

9. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

other site's article said that its $99 after $100 instant rebate.. that mean the real unlocked price is $199.. and even if its have USB-C and SD617, it doesnt support quick-charge.. (SD617 minus quick-charge is just SD616 :-/)

7. NoAllegiance unregistered

I have not heard of MetroPCS: Only AT&T, T-mobile, Verizon, Sprint, US cellular, Boost mobile. Guess, MetroPCS is paying the excess fees to get recognition and new users

8. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

google dict says: "MetroPCS is a prepaid wireless service brand in the United States operated by T-Mobile US" MPCS is under Tmo

10. MingLiangChen

Posts: 329; Member since: Jul 06, 2012

It's sad that at this price (including rebate), my "religion"- Moto can only offer a Moto E.

11. blackadamFTW

Posts: 28; Member since: Aug 27, 2015

What a steal!!! Wish more companies and carriers would offer such deals.

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