An underscreen camera that stays out of sight, out of mind
Pop-up cameras and notches are more or less a thing of the past, and the hole-punch camera has taken their place. While it’s nowhere near as aesthetic as a purely bezel-less experience, they’ve been the best option for anyone looking for a minimal bezel in a smartphone over the past year or so. However, the ZTE Axon 20 offered one of the first under-display cameras in a smartphone on the market last year, although it was somewhat disappointing. Now his successor is here, and it’s a much bigger improvement than I had hoped for.
The ZTE Axon 30 is not the most flagship smartphones – you’ll want to go to the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra for that – but the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 that powers this particular device is certainly good enough. Think of it as a bloated version of the Snapdragon 865 that powered flagships last year; this is more than enough.
About this practice: ZTE sent the Axon 30 to us for review on August 16. ZTE had no input regarding the content of this article.
ZTE Axon 30: Specifications
|specification||ZTE Axon 30|
|Dimensions and weight||
|RAM and storage||8 GB of RAM + 128 GB of UFS 3.1 storage|
|Ports||USB Type-C port|
|Security||Integrated fingerprint reader|
|Software||Android 11 with MyOS 11|
The screen of the ZTE Axon 30 is much improved
The ZTE Axon 30’s notch-free experience is one of my favorite parts of this smartphone, and it’s something I haven’t really experienced in a long time. It is alone 1080p, which is a bit of a letdown (but of course pretty much any display this size), and it makes up for that by being a 120Hz AMOLED panel that still looks pretty good even on the big screen of 6.7 inch. It offers an enjoyable viewing experience as is, and watching Netflix and YouTube on the ZTE Axon 30 is an almost unmatched experience solely due to the lack of any punctures or notches. Very few devices on the market actually have under-display cameras, and the Xiaomi Mix 4 and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 are two of the few out there.
The notch-free display experience on the ZTE Axon 30 is much improved over the Axon 20. If you remember, the status bar on the Axon 20 was always black by default. However, on the Axon 30, it’s clear that ZTE is much more confident in its design. The notch-less display is on by default, so the matrix the front camera goes on is slightly visible, but only if you’re looking for it. It’s hard to see, especially when the screen is bright, unlike the Axon 20 where the screen pixel density on the camera was much lower to allow more light to pass through.
The screen is reminiscent of pop-up cameras like the OnePlus 7 Pro, which had one of my favorite screens on a smartphone. I’m a huge fan of a completely unfettered content experience, although the hole-punch camera is sometimes easy to overlook.
The front camera itself is dull …
Here’s the problem with front cameras – they have to look through the glass screen to take a photo of you, which also includes looking through part of the screen. The front camera of the ZTE Axon 30 is quite blurry and has a “flowery” effect like on the Axon 20. If I’m honest, it feels like the same camera as on the Axon 20. The quality looks more or less the same, and the biggest improvement is the way the camera is hidden in general use. Even compared to the Xiaomi Mix 4 the difference is just day and night.
All of the photos below are compressed, but the overall quality of the photos is still easy to see.
The ZTE Axon 30 blooms a parcel, and really struggles with additional light sources. “Bloom” in photographs refers to the halo-like effect that is visible around light sources in photographs and is a problem especially on under-display cameras. In the photos above, the light sources appear as a halo of light with flaws surrounding it, and that’s quite normal when it comes to these types of cameras.
Plus, the photos themselves appear smoothed out without any sharp details, making them unappealing to look at. It really is a phone with a selfie camera for people who don’t like taking selfies, although I can understand the appeal of that to some people. I would never use this phone camera for taking selfies with friends and family, but I can see it being used for video calls and the like. If photo quality is your prerogative, then I would definitely look elsewhere. If you really don’t care about the selfie camera, then it’s honestly not a bad option for an all-screen display in 2021.
Compared to other underscreen cameras, it’s clear that the Mix 4’s selfie camera is beyond what the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Axon 30 produce. However, the Axon 30 is, in my opinion, above what the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can do, but Samsung’s latest foldable obviously has the advantage of being able to use the external primary camera as a selfie camera. if you really want to.
But the rear camera is excellent
The main sensor on the back really impressed me and I liked it a lot more than I expected. It’s definitely a top quality camera and you can’t really be disappointed. It’s clear ZTE understands photography, and the very improvements in the Axon 30’s selfie camera over last year’s Axon 20 show the company is serious about improving.
The photos below are compressed, but give you an idea of the dynamic range and color output that the Axon 30 is capable of.
MyOS 11 looks exactly like Android 12, even though it’s based on Android 11
ZTE’s custom Android variant isn’t that bad, and that’s thanks to MyOS 11 which looks more or less exactly like the more recent beta versions of Android 12. That’s a pretty clear influence, and I have had a lot more fun using it than I actually thought. It has a lot of useful features and looks pretty, although it’s worth mentioning that ZTE isn’t known for its excellent support windows. Software updates can be scarce at times, but if that’s okay with you, there aren’t any other real complaints I have here.
The Axon 30 performs as well as any other reasonably powerful device released in 2021. It is certainly nowhere near as far-fetched as some Android variants from other OEMs, and it’s an improvement over the old one. MyOS from ZTE launched by the Axon 20. with which I already liked. The phone’s performance is also exactly on par with what to expect from the Snapdragon 870 – it’s a step above last year’s 865+, but not in a noticeable way. It is certainly good enough for anyone.
Finally, the company also packs a 65W charger in the box, charging the phone from 0% to full in about 40 minutes.
The ZTE Axon 30 remains a niche smartphone
The Axon 30’s selfie camera is way out of sight, out of mind, but it’s still nowhere near the capacities of ordinary front cameras. It gets the job done for video calls and quick photos, but I would never rely on it to take snapshots of anything “important”. It’s a way to come to an end in order to have a completely frameless, perforation-free experience, and it does that very well as a result. If you appreciate a selfie camera, I can’t stress enough that this phone is not for you.
However, if you don’t care about the selfie camera, then there’s no reason not to get the Axon 30. The area above the camera is no longer an eyesore and blends in with the rest of the screen, and it’s good enough for casual video calling if needed. The main camera is excellent, performance thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 is also excellent and a starting price of 499 € puts this device in a fairly competitive space.