Hands On with the ZTE Z Max Pro for MetroPCS
ZTE showed off the Z Max Pro today, a huge Android handset for MetroPCS. This phablet packs a reasonable set of specs for less than $100, including a 6-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera. Here are our initial impressions of the Z Max Pro from ZTE.
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The Z Max Pro hits way above its price point. In fact, for $99 it may give competing handsets good reason to worry. The Z Max Pro is the latest low-cost Android smartphone from ZTE and it promises to shake things up when it arrives in MetroPCS stores later this summer.
The Z Max Pro is slim and attractive. The 6-inch screen makes for a large footprint, but ZTE was able to keep the overall feel of the phone in check thanks to a slim waistline and curves in all the right places. For example, the display makes use of "2.5D glass," which means it has slight curves right where it joins the frame. The rear side tapers a bit, too, as it approaches the frame in order to help minimize the bulk. It's still large, but not brick-in-your-pants large.
The front is nearly all screen. The full HD display looks nice. I wasn't able to see any individual pixels, and brightness was certainly good enough for the darkened room in which we examined the phone. I noticed a small amount of blue shift and brightness drop when the phone was tilted side to side, but both were minor. Three dots above the display mark the earpiece and three glowing dots below the display mark the back, home, and multitask buttons. The capacitive buttons functioned fine. The glass surrounding the screen is colored black.
The phone's frame is made from polycarbonate. The material looks sparkly and is smooth all the way around. It's more gray than chrome, and the color works for this phone. ZTE positioned the screen lock and volume toggles on the right edge. The buttons are certainly easy to find thanks to their sharp edges. The screen lock button has decent travel, but the volume toggle was a bit mushy as far as I am concerned. You'll find the standard headset jack on top and the USB Type-C connector on the bottom. The SIM card tray is tucked into the left edge.
ZTE did a great job with the rear panel. It may be made of plastic, but it has a soft-touch coating that gives it a pleasing, grippy texture. The color is a really attractive deep blue. You'll note a small set of drilled holes that form the grille for the speakerphone. The panel itself fits into the frame tightly.
The Z Max Pro has one novel feature for a phone at this price point: a fingerprint reader positioned on the back. I can't think of any $99 handsets that include biometrics. The fingerprint reader and camera are both circles, positioned close to the top of the rear surface. Each has a shiny rim to help set them apart visually. The camera, flash, and fingerprint reader make for a nice trio of circles along the back.
The Z Max Pro's hardware is quite impressive, given the low price tag.
ZTE pushed Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the phone and it ran well enough on the demo units we saw in New York. The UI is a mishmash of ZTE icons and animations as stock Marshmallow. It's actually a bit disjointed. For example, the app drawer and settings menus are stock, but the home screen panels and the notification shade are stylized by ZTE. Still, the OS ran smoothly.
MetroPCS said the Z Max Pro will street on August 1 for $99 after an instant rebate. The company didn't say how deep the rebate is, nor how long it will be available. Either way, the Z Max Pro should have other, pricer phones quaking in their boots.
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