Let’s take a look at our review for the ZTE ZMax – a newly launched “phablet” with an attractive price.
Pros: Affordable prepaid price, nice display, decent battery.
Cons: Hefty weight, large size which is uncomfortable on hands, dimming screen and NFC is not supported.
Bottom line: this phablet is worth to consider with an attractive price even though there are still some flaws about the outlook.
Generally, we cannot say ZTE Zmax is the best smartphone with big screen in the mid-end smartphone range. With the big screen size – which is at 5.7 inches, the phone is so heavy and thus, not comfortable to hold by one hand. The camera is just at decent level, not great at all. And even though the screen display is at 720p – the standard resolution for budget-friendly phablets, the display of the screen is quite dimmer than the others with similar size and similar price.
However, the ZTE ZMax is pretty cheap, on T-Mobile, you just have to pay $10.5 monthly in 24 months off-contract (which is totally $252). This price tag is so attractive especially when you compare to the high-end phablets with average cost to be $750 and the mid-end phablets with average cost to be $400.
Another good thing is the performance of the ZMax is decent, which is better than we expect with gadget at this price. Of course, with such price, the specification of the device cannot be on the top impressive, the processor cannot be the strongest and the operating system is not the most updated Android version. But after all, the phone handles well with your demand of basic daily tasks such as: web browsing, call making without issues. Therefore, in conclusion, among the budget-end phablets, the ZMax is a reliable choice.
The dimension of the ZMax is at 6.4 x 3.3 x 0.35 inch (length x width x thickness) and 6.7 ounces in weight with thick top and bottom bezels, which brings a hefty feeling for the users. In comparison with AT&T’s LG G Vista, which also has the same 5.7 inches screen display, the LG phone is 0.77 ounces lighter and 0.41 inch shorter than the ZMax. With such a massive size and also the flat back, it will be quite difficult for user to manage the phablet with only 1 hand unless they also have a massive palm size. Surely, don’t expect it to be fit with your pockets
The volume rocker and the slot for microSD card are located on the left side of the device while the power/ lock button and SIM card are located on the opposite side. On the top is the headphone jack and the bottom houses the port for charging. In order to approach the SIMcard and microSD card, a small pin key included shall be needed for popping out the tray. Like every other smart devices, the main camera of ZTE Zmax sits on the back cover with the flash and audio speaker’s slit. Be aware that the battery is non-removable as the back cover is totally embedded.
Another thing I do not like is the fingerprint collective back plate as the material used for the back plate is slick plastic. Thus, the device looks oily almost all the time and I even feel like I will drop this phablet very easily, especially when I hold it with 1 hand.
The arrangement on the front is as follow: the front cams sits above the screen display and on the display bottom sit the 3 softkeys (setting, home, back). You can long-press setting key to get straight to recent apps. The screen display of Zmax has resolution at 1280 x 720 pixel and it uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3. As mentioned before, 720 p resolution is standard for such kind of phablet, but the 1080 p surely looks much better with such screen size.
For me, I really not impressed with the Zmax’s screen. Even thought the screen is responsive with sharp text and icons, the color display is washed out with grayish white and lacks of vibrancy. When putting the LG G Vista and the ZMax side by side, even with the same resolution, difference is noticeable as the G Vista of LG has more superior display with bright and vivid colors.
The operating system being shipped with the ZMax is the Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is lightly skinned OS. With this OS, you will have the assist of Google’s package such as: Google Chrome, Google Now, Gmail, Google Drive, Hang outs, Maps, Search and Youtube. Via Google Play, you can also access to many kinds of Google’s service such as Newsstand, Books, Movies, Music or Game.
There are also many pre-installed apps from T-mobile such as My T-Mobile Account (which let you know our data plan), T-Mobile TV (which streams ESPN, Fox News… channel) and from other 3rd Party like Amazon’s app and Lookout – the security service app.
Apps for basic tasks such as: calendar, clock, alarm, calculator, email, notepad, sound recorder, video and music player, file manager and task manager are also available and can be easily approached like in other devices. There are also an useful tools called App Source, which lets users categorize and tidily organize their apps.
Other features to mention here is the 2GB RAM, the 16GB of internal storage space (with up to 32 GB expandable by microSD card) and the support of Bluetooth 4.0. However, it’s pretty weird when NFC is not supported in the ZTE Zmax as this technology is commonly found in many mid-range smart devices even though is not widely used.
Camera and video
The quality of photo taken by rear cam of the ZTE is up to 8 mega pixels. This number is just decent, not impressive at all for devices at this range. Overall, pictures taken are clear and in-focus. However, for objects located outside of center focus area, they appear blurry. The color display also lacks of vibrancy as colors appear muted. Even in the environment with plentiful lighting condition, artifacts and digital noise are very noticeable. When flash is on, the taken picture shall be in bluish hue, especially in white background.
The above situations happen similarly with video capturing. Good thing is both still and moving objects are clear and in-focus although the camera takes few seconds to adjust for new focus points and new lighting conditions. The camera also picks up the audio well. There are also not much lag between the viewfinder and the camera movement.
Features available for cameras are: timer, geo-tagging, digital zoom at 4x, grid lines, time-lapse mode for video capturing and screen shot while video recording. There are also many (up to 18) shooting modes for users to choose to suit with their capturing purposes such as: HDR, panorama, Instagramesque filters, sunset and macro… Picture sizes are also various to choose from (9 sizes) and video resolutions are similar (5 resolutions). The front-cam has 2 picture sizes and 3 video qualities to choose from.
Editing options are also very versatile as you can rotate, crop, decorate your photos by tinkering it in the gallery app.
As my test in San Francisco, the call quality is quite good. No call was dropped with continuous and consistent connection. However, audio should be clearer as I still can hear my partner’s voice fine by actually her voice is a bit low and slightly thin.
Talking about the data speed test, the result is not really positive. On Ookla test, the average download rate is shown at 4.93 Mbps while the upload rate is shown at 7.53 Mbps on T-Mobile 4G LTE network. It’s quite lagging since as my experience with the same network on LG G3, the speed is very impressive.
To load the New York Times, it takes 6 seconds and 9 seconds for desktop Site and mobile Site respectively. While with the CNET’s site, the results are 14 and 9 secs for desktop and mobile version respectively. Finally, the Temple Run 2, which weighs 45.8 MB, was completely downloaded and installed after 2 mins and 16 secs.
The engine of the ZTE Zmax is featured with 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor (which is similar to other mid-range handsets). With this processor, simple and basic tasks can be easily handled without problems. Even intensive graphics game like the Riptide GP2 can be also played smoothly without sluttering.
The device’s battery is powered at 3,400mAh and can last for up to 14 hours of talking time.
Although there are still many flaws to mention with the ZTE ZMax, with this attractive price tag, this phablet is still a worth-considering option for you. Especially for users who just demand simple and basic daily tasks.