ZTE Blade Z Max Review: Big phone, bigger value

Every year several flagship phones come out and steal all the headlines, but there are many more phones released each year — such as the ZTE Blade Z Max — that you probably don’t hear about. These are mostly midrange and budget level phones meant for those of us who either don’t need a flagship phone or can’t justify the price of one. Most times these phones don’t have much to get excited about, but sometimes one comes along that surprises you. The ZTE Blade Z Max is one of those phones that stands out and is my favorite budget level phone out right now.

Design

The ZTE Blade Z Max features a whopping 6-inch 1080p screen that uses Dragontrail glass instead of the more popular Gorilla Glass. The screen is very bright and looks better than any $99 dollar phone I’ve ever seen. Under the screen is a set of capacitive keys for navigating the phone. The frame is plastic and the back panel is covered in a textured rubber that helps with wielding this 6-inch monster.

Two of the most impressive features are the fingerprint scanner and dual camera setup found on the back of the Blade Z Max. It’s rare to find such amenities on a phone at this price level and they help ZTE stand out from the crowd. Another bonus I’m not used to seeing at this price is a USB-C port. I give ZTE a lot of credit for not cheaping out with micro USB and embracing the new standard which many omit for budget level phones. There is also a headphone jack, so no need for any dongles for listening to your favorite music.



I was uncertain about the use of Dragontrail glass and honestly, I noticed some light scratches after a couple months of use. These scratches appeared before I dropped the phone while filming the review. Yup, that’s right I dropped it while trying to handle camera gear with one hand and the phone with the other. Sometimes a 6-inch phone can still be a little too much to handle with one hand, even with the help of a textured back.

The good news is the phone took a 3-foot fall onto asphalt and came out with only a couple of battle scars. Picking it up I feared the worst but was very impressed how durable the phone is at this price. Still, I’d recommend buying a screen protector to prevent scratches.

Software

The Blade Z Max is running Android 7.1.1 out of the box without a skin which keeps it lightweight and close to stock Android. There aren’t many added features or bloat outside of the MetroPCS apps which is a good thing. It does feature Dolby sound enhancement for the speaker on the back and the ability to swap the location of the home and recent apps buttons. Unfortunately, one missing feature I would have liked to see was a blue light filter. I’ve seen this on other budget level phones and it would have been a nice addition for this nice bright 6-inch screen.

Performance

Despite having a lightweight version of Android performance is not one of the Blade Z Max’s strengths. Using a Snapdragon 435 and 2GB of RAM causes some serious lag. Apps will take a while to launch and when switching apps you’re going to be waiting for it to reload. That being said, the Blade Z Max is perfectly capable of running your apps and even graphic intensive games. Just don’t expect it to be a speed demon, but this is similar to many phones in this price category not just the Blade Z Max.

Camera

The Blade Z Max features a dual camera system with a 16MP and 2MP duo using an f/2.0 aperture. ZTE utilized an RGB+Monochrome sensor array for their dual camera system. This allows you to take photos with blurred out backgrounds similar to SLR cameras as well as photos with isolated color. For instance, you can take a black and white photo while only allowing the red, green or blue colors show up in the scene.

Overall, the photos lacked a little in dynamic range and color saturation but offered perfectly acceptable performance for a phone in this price range. Low light phones were cleaner than I expected but there was still noise present. Just remember, without optical image stabilization you will need steady hands taking photos in low light.

In Portrait and Bokeh modes the Blade Z Max blurs the background and the performance was very similar to other more expensive phones I’ve tried. That is to say, it’s not perfect by any means but it’s still fun to play with and looks pretty decent. Even better, after taking the photos you can change the focus point and level of blur in the gallery app.

The Monocolor mode was not one of my favorite modes but can still be used for interesting effects and for more artistic looking photos. I didn’t use it often but it is another feature that adds more versatility to the Blade Z Max’s dual camera system.

Battery Life

The Blade Z Max is an absolute battery champ. With its large 4080mAh battery, I was able to go 4 days without charging with light usage. Even with heavier usage I easily made it 2 days without plugging in the phone. This is fantastic for anyone who loves big screens and hates charging their phone. When you do need to charge it also supports fast charging so you won’t have a long wait to fill up that 4080mAh battery.

Final Thoughts

The ZTE Blade Z Max won’t steal any headlines this year but it is still a standout phone by offering so much value at an affordable price. For the $99 price tag, you get a 6-inch Full HD screen, fingerprint scanner, dual camera, amazing battery life, and Android Nougat. It’s definitely not the fastest phone out there, but no phone really is at this price level. The Blade Z Max still offers lots of bang for your buck and about the only complaint I have at this price is the fact it’s only on MetroPCS. If you happen to be a MetroPCS customer, then you’re in luck because you can get one of the best bargains out there. A big thanks to the Z-Community for sending over the Blade Z Max, head on over to the community if you’d like more information on it or any other ZTE phone.

Buy from MetroPCS