ZTE Axon Mini review
Last year’s ZTE Axon and Axon Pro were a delightful surprise – nicely spec’d out smartphones with vanilla Android on board all at very competitive price points. A couple of months ago, the company launched the Axon Mini. Not to be mistaken with a miniature version of the Axon Pro, this handset sits somewhere in the upper-midrange smartphone sector, with a middle-of-the-road processor and exotic features such as a fingerprint scanner and Force Touch screen. Last, but most certainly not least, the stock Android experience has been replaced by a complete re-skin with lots of new features, named MiFavor UI.
The Axon Mini isn't sold in the US, and most probably won't be. It's meant for the Asian markets, but daring tech lovers can still buy and import it from 3rd party websites. Prices vary, generally hovering around the $400 mark, but mind you, that's before shipping and tax. So, let’s see if what this smartphone has in stock is worth the trouble!
In the box:
- ZTE Axon Mini
- microUSB data cable
- Wall charger
- In-ear headphones
- Plastic back cover
- Quick start guide
- SIM ejector tool
Smaller, but still shiny
The ZTE Axon Mini certainly doesn’t look or feel like anything short of a well-made smartphone. Its back is covered in metal, save for a couple of faux leather strips nested at the top and bottom the panel, giving it a distinct touch. On the front, the display’s glass has more of an “island” look to it, as it doesn’t stretch to the very ends of the phone, but rounds off and stops just before the top and bottom bezels. In these spots, the uncovered metal body is engraved with symmetrical speaker grilles, bearing the Axon signature triangular patterns. These are not front-firing stereo speakers — the bottom grille holds a single driver, while the top one is reserved for the earpiece.
In terms of weight and ergonomics, we certainly like how the Axon Mini handles. Its power button is nested on the right, above the phone’s center and our fingers had no trouble finding it in any situation. The volume rocker is not hard to reach and operate, thanks to the handset’s rather compact size, but we found it to be a bit too high for our liking. The power and volume buttons all have a reassuring click to them, but an annoying wobble, too.
A subdued AMOLED panel
The Axon Mini sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution. This gives it a pretty sharp picture with a pixel density of 424 PPI. ZTE did a great job at subduing the oversaturation and punchiness that the AMOLED panels are known for. The display’s settings hold three color modes, named “Natural”, “Colorful”, and “Gorgeous”. They are basically three stages of color saturation, starting from a tame one to full-on vivid and overblown.
The screen’s greens and reds are noticeably not on point and its color temperature measures at 8,108 K. That’s quite far off from the reference value of 6,500 K, and we did perceive the display as noticeably cold, sucking the life out of some colors.
The viewing angles are excellent, with minimum color distortion present when we look at the screen from the sides. Its maximum brightness measures at 343 nits, which doesn’t sound great on paper, but we had no issue operating the smartphone on a sunny day. The minimum it would go to is 5 nits, which is OK, but not great for nighttime usage.