ZTE’s Axon 7 is part of an exceptional class of Android phones released in 2016 with flagship hardware and a premium design for around $400. Now we have the Axon 7 Mini, which promises to offer the same high-end experience while pushing the price even lower. Can ZTE produce a compromise-free smartphone for less than $400? It’s still too soon to say for sure, but the Axon 7 Mini definitely makes a great first impression.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Axon 7 Mini is that it’s not really that “mini.” The device sports a 5.2-inch 1080p display (down from the 5.5-inch Quad HD panel on the Axon 7). Side-by-side, the two phones almost look identical, and when I placed the Axon 7 Mini on top of its flagship sibling it almost covered the larger phone entirely.
ZTE says it chose a 5.2-inch panel to get the best possible price. It turns out that smaller doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper, and pushing the phone down to a clean 5 inches might have actually raised the price by $50 or so. The larger design also leaves room for all the other specs crammed inside the phone’s metal frame.
Speaking of which, the Axon 7 Mini downgrades to a Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (the flagship Axon 7 sports a Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage). You still get microSD support, so storage shouldn’t be an issue, but I’m a little worried about performance. The phone seemed to perform great during my demo, but running multiple big apps at the same time could be an issue.
One area where ZTE didn’t make any compromises is audio. The Axon 7 Mini sports the same front facing stereo speakers located above and below the display, and they sound great. The company says it was forced to refine its audio chip technology so it could squeeze it into the smaller handset, and it actually sounds slightly better as a result.
The Axon 7 Mini design also stands up well to its flagship sibling. Both phones feature the same sleek unibody metal frame. The slightly smaller footprint means it’s also slightly easier to use with just one hand.
Before we wrap things up, it’s worth noting that the Axon 7 Mini will never support Google Daydream. ZTE says the phone isn’t powerful enough to handle the upcoming virtual reality platform, so if you’re eager to try the upcoming VR software, this isn’t the phone for you. As for the Axon 7, it’s still on track to get Daydream, but it might not happen until late 2016 or even early next year.
The Axon 7 Mini is set to launch in China and Europe first, and it should be available in the U.S. in October. It costs 299 euros unlocked, but the company hasn’t said how much it plans to charge in America.