Product ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition
Specifications Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor (four 1.7GHz cores, four 1.2GHz cores), 3GB RAM, 5.2in display with Force Touch, 1920x1080 resolution, 424ppi, one microUSB port, dual SIM or single SIM and microSD, Android 5.1 Lollipop, 2,800mAh battery, 144x70x7.9mm, 140g
BEHOLD THE latest in a series of upstart smartphones attempting to undercut the top-end competition. Like the Honor 7 and OnePlus X, the ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition claims to offer high-ish specs and performance at a more mid-range price.
This handset differs in the inclusion of bona fide premium features such as a force-sensing screen and fingerprint and iris readers. Still, as it's going up against some great products, from the high-spec iPhone 6S to the bargain OnePlus X, the Axon Mini Premium Edition will need to add up to at least the sum of its parts if ZTE is to tighten its grip on the UK and Europe.
The chassis is built mainly from a strong and sturdy aluminium titanium alloy, which also helps keep the weight down to an airy 140g. Some nice visual flair comes from the triangle-peppered dual speakers and the faux leather strips across the top and bottom. These are discreet enough to provide a distinct aesthetic without the outright gaudiness of that other leather-backed smartphone, the LG G4.
The ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition is also fairly well proportioned, measuring 144x70x7.9mm. True, there are much thinner smartphones but, like the Huawei Mate S, a gently curving backplate makes it feel slimmer than it actually is while allowing it to sit very comfortably in the hand.
Another Huawei staple, the square rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, has been borrowed as well. Sadly, it's one of the slower and more finicky sensors we've used and successful scanning demands unusually careful finger placement, but it's a welcome feature nonetheless, as is the iris reader on the front. This, by contrast, works as quickly as even the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL's eye-scanner, and doesn't seem to struggle too much with glasses.
Finally, a dual-purpose card tray allows for two nano SIMs or one nano SIM and one microSD card. We'd prefer the extra storage, although dual-SIMs can prove very handy for frequent travellers abroad or those who own a single device for work and personal use.
Other than the slightly loose volume rocker and lock button, ZTE has pretty much succeeded in giving the Axon Mini Premium Edition a relatively upmarket feel. The use of a standard microUSB port instead of USB Type-C is a slight giveaway to its true middleweight nature, although the greater ease of finding spare microUSB cables more than makes up for it.
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