The smartphone landscape tends to be defined by the big player flagships such as Galaxy, iPhone, Nexus and the list goes on. The spotlight the flagship devices get is blinding, so much so that smaller nuggets tend to get lost in the flash. Not everyone can dish out the bucks for a flagship device, nor can they get credit necessary to lease a flagship phone from a carrier. This is where AT&T’s GoPhone comes in. They offer reasonably priced devices with a refillable SIM card. ZTE is one of the device makers who offers phones on GoPhone, and this is the ZTE ZMAX 2 review.
Alright, I admit that I wasn’t expecting much from a smartphone being sold under the GoPhone program from AT&T. Honestly, you don’t expect to see really nice stuff from budget phones. I was very surprised by what I encountered. Yes, the phone is pretty much made of all plastic, minus the Gorilla Glass 3 front panel. But the plastic isn’t cheap feeling and actually is very nice in the hand. The body of the phone isn’t the thinnest in the world, but it does have a 3,000mAh battery inside that chassis. It’s lightweight and doesn’t feel like you’re carrying a brick around.
The phone is nice, surprisingly nice. The volume rocker and power buttons have a nice tactile feel to them, not mushy feeling, and deliver a great feel back. I feel like the ZMAX 2 would handle itself well in a small tumble if dropped. Not that you wouldn’t need a case, but as funny as it sounds, this phone probably would survive a tumble an uncased iPhone wouldn’t. ZTE also included expandable storage up to 32GB, which is good considering the onboard 16GB probably won’t be enough. Overall the design is your basic smartphone slab but not cheap feeling and for the budget price, that’s pretty great.
The ZMAX 2 does offer a 720×1280 HD and 267PPI display that honestly isn’t bad at all for a budget phone. The display is wrapped in Corning Gorilla glass 3 which helps with light scratching. But like any other glass, it isn’t indestructible. At 5.5″ this display falls squarely in phablet territory and, honestly, most smartphone makers are likely going to continue making 5″ and above devices. The ZMAX 2 surprisingly doesn’t feel that large in the hand.
The ZMAX 2 actually feels almost the same as an iPhone 6s Plus, but is actually shorter. It is about the same width and also slightly thicker than the iPhone but feels easier to handle. The display is also the same size as the iPhone’s but of course with less pixels and not as high a definition. The screen works fairly well in direct sunlight. It’s probably not top of the heap but it is passable. Viewing angles on the display aren’t horrible, not the best but not awful either. Overall the screen is really good for this class of device and you should be comfortable with the specs it has to offer.
The ZMAX 2 runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and we’re not certain it will see the upgrade to 6.0 Marshmallow. With this being a budget phone, it is likely that you won’t see this going beyond Lollipop. Android is fairly untouched here; although, there is no Google Now Launcher but instead the ZTE Launcher. You can, of course, download an alternative launcher, including Google’s, should you choose. Other than the launcher being different, the OS isn’t really all that skinned and is nearly stock Android.
There is the normal amount of AT&T bloatware (and Uber preinstalled??), which cannot be uninstalled but can be disabled. ZTE also manages to throw in a few of their own software bits like a video player and dolby equalizer and a few other things. Again, these can’t be uninstalled but can be disabled in settings. Other than the bloatware on the phone, Android 5.1 runs nice and smooth without issue and has very little lag that I experienced. Overall it was a pleasant experience and really isn’t horrible (other than bloatware) for a budget phone.
The ZMAX 2 is rocking a Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 8916 with 2GB of RAM, respectable specs for a budget phone. The phone performed wonderfully and handled everything I threw at it. Games and videos played well while more intensive games did manage to heat up the phone a little and there was a bit of stuttering after some time. But again, overall, this is a budget priced phone and the performance is respectable for the price tag and specs inside this guy. Overall performance is acceptable and unless you’re a hardcore mobile gamer, the ZMAX 2 shouldn’t give you any issues.
Shockingly decent. Even though the speakers are rear facing there are two of them and they sound surprisingly good. The Nexus 6P front facing speakers sound awesome and I’d put these speakers just a couple notches below them. If ZTE had placed them in the front they might even have been better.
With a 2MP front facing camera and an 8 MP rear facing camera the ZMAX 2 isn’t going to win any photography contests. The camera does decently well in sunlight and with a well-lit subject but loses luster in low-light. Well-lit photos look good. Zooming in reveals some noise, and it gets a bit worse with low-light photos, even without zooming the noise is evident. The camera isn’t horrible, and it’s not the worst I’ve seen. For a budget phone it’s not all that bad but it would be nice to have gotten a better low-light sensor.
Call quality is more than acceptable on the ZMAX 2 and even better when using speaker phone. The rear speakers are really great for that function.
Packing in a 3000 mAh battery the ZTE ZMAX 2 performs exceedingly well. I got about 16 hours on one charge under normal use, which is pretty much my whole day. Under a heavier load, gaming and watching videos, the battery life obviously goes down.
The MSRP on the ZTE ZMAX 2 is $259.99 but you can find it on Amazon for $160 and Walmart for $129 which is an amazing deal for what you’re getting in this phone. Battery life is great, display is respectable, performance is solid. We could do without the added AT&T bloatware and extra ZTE software, but it is a budget phone after all. This is a phone you should be looking at if you’re thinking of a GoPhone.