ZTE Axon 20 5G Review: First Selfie Cam Underneath Display!
ZTE Axon 20 5G is the first phone with a selfie camera underneath the display. ZTE Axon series has brought a lot of innovations in the past. And the newest ZTE Axon 20 5G ensures that the innovative streak continues.
For a phone that launched a while ago why is our review so late? Well for starters we only got it a couple of weeks ago. Turns out the strained USA/China relationship means only a few units are allowed which are slowly making rounds with the various reviewers.
For a phone with a radical new feature, there isn’t anything fancy with the box at all. The unboxing is decidedly a ho-hum affair. Box, phone, insert with case and SIM tool, fast charging brick, USB-C cable, and a headphone jack dongle. Everything in the box is in plain vanilla white. However, you get everything you need to get started which is a good thing I guess.
ZTE Axon 20 5G hardware is definitely premium looking
The ZTE Axon 20 5G has a glass front, glass back and a plastic frame. The device is built extremely well and looks-wise definitely feels premium. There are no obvious creaks or squeaks.
Since it has a glass back, it is slippery as an eel so for day-to-day use, it is best to slap on the nice matte texture case included in the box. The right-hand side rail houses the power button and the volume rocker. The power button has a slanted texture finish to help distinguish it from the volume buttons.
On the top frame, we get a microphone and nothing else. Moving along on the left-hand side rail is clean and then on the bottom rail, we have a microphone, USB-C port, and speaker grille.
Let’s take a look at the front of the device. Here we have no punch hole or notch in the display area thanks to the under-display selfie camera. The screen is gargantuan in size as it is almost 7 inches diagonally. One would think that with no camera cutout or notch it would be an all display look in the front. However, the slightly larger chin at the bottom is a lost opportunity by ZTE to achieve an almost full-screen look.
As we take a look at the back of this phone, you can’t help but notice the large rectangular quad-camera module. And with a large camera array, you get a lot of wobble on a flat surface which is a common phenomenon for smartphones that have large camera modules. Besides the camera module, there is the Axon 5G logo at the bottom and a ZTE logo just under the camera. Other than that there is some light CE marking opposite to the Axon 5G logo.
The back shows a slight surface color gradient depending on the lighting condition and viewing angle which is a nice touch. The color gradient is definitely more subtle than some other devices such as the Oppo Reno 5 Pro 5G. Oh and since it is a smooth glass back this phone is a fingerprint magnet, luckily ZTE includes a nice matte case in the box to help alleviate this problem.
The Axon 20 5G has a massive 6.92″ display and a 4220 mAh battery. Somehow though ZTE has managed to distribute the 198 grams quite evenly so the in-hand feel isn’t as weighty. Despite this observation, I feel that the device is a bit too large for my taste.
Two other quick things to bear in mind as far as hardware impressions go. I am not able to ascertain what sort of glass is protecting the display. In addition, my review unit came without a factory screen protector but that may not be the case with retail units.
ZTE is offering the Axon 20 5G in four colors – Purple, Orange, Blue, and Black. I also think that ZTE has priced the phone attractively for the various features it is offering besides the under-display selfie camera.
The 10-bit 90Hz refresh rate OLED Display is excellent
You have to admit, the best of this smartphone is the no-hole punch display. Aside from that headline, the Axon 20 5G packs a massive 6.92″ 90Hz refresh rate FHD+ OLED panel with a 388 ppi pixel density. It also features a 240Hz sampling rate which results in a smoother UI along with improved touch response.
Let’s talk about the 10-bit color depth display of the Axon 20 5G versus the standard 8-bit color depth displays. An 8-bit display has 256 gradations of red, blue, and green which gives us 256x256x256 or a total of 16.7 million possible colors. Now for 10-bit panels, each pixel shows 1024 versions of red, blue, and green which 1024^3 yields 1.07 BILLION possible colors. Needless to say, the OLED display panel on the Axon 20 5G is superb and has 100% DCI-P3 color gamut.
Rounding out the display specs we have a 20.5:9 tall aspect ratio and Always On Display (AOD) support. No official brightness numbers but in broad daylight outdoors at a farm, I had no issues with visibility when capturing pictures and video. So the peak brightness by my guesstimate is definitely around 1000 nits or more.
With a beautiful high refresh rate OLED display supporting 10-bit color depth means video and gaming experience is good. However, there are two issues that mar this visual experience. First is a pixelation in the area where the selfie camera is in white backgrounds. The second is a disappointing 84.8% screen-to-body ratio. For comparison purposes, my current daily driver S20 FE has the same screen-to-body ratio even with the hole punch. So I just wish ZTE had made the bottom chin a bit smaller.
Speaking of Display options, MiFavor UI has a lot of customization options. Screen refresh rate, improved contrast, dark mode, reading mode, night light, and screen color temperature can all be tweaked to your personal preference. So from a display settings perspective, ZTE allows a level of customization equal to other top-tier smartphone manufacturers.
I think ZTE should have made the device with really slim bezels like on their marketing materials. And I am bummed that ZTE missed out on capitalizing this despite the under-display selfie camera. The end result would have been a gorgeous large screen display since there is no hole punch or notch. Instead, there isn’t anything that makes the Axon 20 5G stand out when compared with other similarly priced devices. ZTE could have scored a home run but instead looks like they bunted for just first base.