ZTE Axon 40 Ultra Review

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra (credit from Manufacturer)

After nearly 5.5 years of using the OnePlus 5, I decided it was time to retire it due to the battery getting old and not nearly as reliable as I need it to be. I picked up the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, which released globally in June 2022. There are two variations available for the phone and they are the 8 GB RAM/ 128GB Storage for $799 USD or 12GB RAM/256GB Storage for $899 USD. I picked up the 12GB RAM/256GB Storage variant on my own dime.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra Unboxing Video

A brief overview of the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra’s specs include alot of flagship goodies. It has the Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8gen1 processor and Adreno 730 graphics. It has a 6.8″ AMOLED display running at 120hz, 1116x2480px resolution (400 ppi). Battery is rated at 5,000mAh and can fast charge at 65W and has an under display fingerprint reader. Stereo speakers are on this device, one speaker on the top and bottom.

Design-wise, it’s a pretty handset taking cues from recent Samsung phones. A large AMOLED 6.8″ screen with no interruptions from a notch or punch hole camera. The sides do curve/taper off and I prefer to not have the curved edge, but that’s a personal preference. In certain situations, you can notice where the under display camera is located. In very dark situations with a solid colour on screen, you can see a slight smudge on screen where the UDC is located. There is a somewhat large sized camera bump for the lens housing with all three lenses lined up vertically. The back is a glass panel with a matte finish, so it doesn’t pick up fingerprints as easily. The included TPU phone case works well and provides more grip compared to just the glass backing. That is much needed as phones in the past few years have grown quite large, even with the bezels getting small.

There is one speaker on the top of the phone. On the bottom, there is the second speaker, USB C port, SIM slot and a mic. Unfortunately, like most new phones, there is no 3.5mm audio jack and that is greatly missed. They do provide a USB C to 3.5mm adapter, but it’s inconvenient to need a dongle that’s easily lost. On the right side is where you find your audio and power button.

Day to day use, it is a fast and smooth experience using the phone. It connects to cell network and wifi quite easily. Unfortunately my cell network provider doesn’t have 5G at this time (Fido, it’s time to bring it on, even as a flanker brand for Rogers) and cannot comment on 5G network experience. Connections for calls and data use has been pretty reliable. This issue mostly happens when cell signal is weak or there is an obstructed view to the nearest cell tower. The under display fingerprint reader is good and has not had issues for me. The screen is smooth, responsive and bright and thanks to the selfie camera being hidden away, there are no interruptions to the edge to edge display. It’s a touch less bright as some of it’s competitors, but still gorgeous and very usable.

I played a bit of Genshin Impact to test out the phone and it can handle it quite well as it’s running on a new chipset and 12 GB RAM. Audio wise, the dual speakers are decent, but will give you a slight tinny quality as they are phone speakers and they tend to be small. If you like good audio, you will want to hook it up to an external speaker or headphones. On the topic of battery life, a full day of moderate usage still leaves me with some charge left when I get home. The included 65W fast charger makes quick work on charging the big 5,000 mAh battery, as it’s a much needed feature in the fast paced world we live in.

For the main cameras, there are three 64 MP cameras as follows, main camera nicknamed Humanity Camera is f/1.6 @ 35mm, telephoto f/3.5 @ 91mm and a wide angle at f/2.4 @ 16mm. The selfie camera is 16 MP f/2.4 @ 26mm and is hidden underneath the screen for an uninterrupted edge to edge display. The main cameras can capture videos at 8k/30fps, 4k @ 30/60/120 fps and FHD @ 30/60fps.

On to the cameras. The main cameras are 64MP Sony IMX787 sensors. Photos are set up to run through a pixel binning process to give you 16MP images. With the July update, you are now able to shoot videos in 8k resolution as well as 4k and Full HD. Video turns out good. 8k video sizes are monstrously big, so I would recommend to keep at 4k resolution unless you have lots of space in cloud storage or hard drives. Video quality is good enough for most users.

The above photos in the gallery are raw untouched shots from the phone. Daytime shots are nicely saturated and sharp. Night shots are a little more muted. The selfie camera is where camera quality suffers as it is under the display.

Within the camera app itself, you get a good amount of the standard camera modes like Street, Night, Portrait and Pro modes. ZTE also threw in a bucket of other modes under the Camera Family tab that include specialty night modes, slow motion, time lapse, panoramic, light draw, multi exposure, multi camera and a full size mode. Photos during the day turn out decently well. Highlights can get blown out in direct harsh lighting. It does take a touch longer than I like in low light for image capture, so having extra support from leaning on a solid object or a tripod can help with getting a better shot. Lowlight shots don’t pop as well as well lit shots. Selfie shots are underwhelming with the under display camera. As it is shooting through the screen, it does not produce nearly as sharp image sharpness and colour reproduction are not nearly as good as traditional non-UDC setups and images look a bit smudgy. If you like a phone with at least decent selfie camera, I would avoid this as the image quality is not there at this point.

Overall, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra is a good flagship phone with a much cheaper price tag. My only flaw with the phone is that under display selfie cameras are not quite ready for the spotlight quite yet. But otherwise, this is a great phone with a pretty edge-to-edge display, long battery life, good main cameras and a powerhouse of a processor. We’d give it a 8.5/10 rating and would recommend it on the caveat that selfie pics aren’t that important to you.

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