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Review: ZTE ZMax Pro for MetroPCS

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  

Jul 29, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Editor's Choice
ZTE ZMAX Pro

The ZMax Pro is an Android smartphone that delivers a premium experience and powerful performance at an affordable price point. This budget-minded handset is no cheap simpleton. The ZMax Pro is a well-rounded addition to MetroPCS' roster of phones. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth repot.

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Is It Your Type?

The ZTE ZMax Pro is a budget phablet like no other. It boasts a compelling design, a strong spec sheet, and an impressively low price point. MetroPCS customers would be hard-pressed to find a better bargain than the ZMax Pro.

Body

The ZMax Pro is monstrously big, and sort of cool looking. The phone dwarfs nearly every other phone on my desk and yet it manages to stand out for reasons other than its size. The phone's design is relatively conservative, yet unique.

From a distance, the ZMax Pro could be a clone of the Grand X Max 2, also made by ZTE (sold by Cricket Wireless). The phones share black glass, gray fames, and blue-colored rear panels. The differences are small but important. On the functional side, the ZMax Pro has a fingerprint reader. On the design side, ZTE gave the Grand X Max 2 a glossy rear cover, while the ZMax Pro has a matte, soft-touch rear cover that catches the eye thanks to its deep hue.

The ZMax Pro has a huge 6-inch screen. It's a respectable 0.35 inches (8.9mm) thick. At 6.17 ounces, it is lighter than the Grand X Max 2, but not by much. The ZMax Pro is in no way a one-handed phone. My thumb can barely stretch across half the display, leaving the top portion unreachable. Many phones this size include a stylus, but that would have added to the cost here. The phone barely fits into jean pockets; even when it does, the phone isn't all that comfortable. For example, it jammed into my leg every time I sat down. It fits better in rear pockets, but putting your phone there carries serious risk.

The phone is made of decent materials, especially for this price point. The 2.5D curved glass feels smooth and strong, while the polycarbonate frame inspires confidence, and the rear panel is pleasing to the touch. My only complaint on build quality is the SIM card tray, which is noticeable thanks to some gaps. Otherwise, the phone is put together tightly; it doesn't look nor feel cheap.

Body  

Like so many other phones, the display consumes most of the front surface. The display doesn't blend in perfectly with the surrounding bezel, but it comes close. The glass is curved along the edges to help round out the profile a bit. Below the display, three circles mark the back, home, and multitask capacitive keys. These buttons worked well.

ZTE gave the plastic frame a nice metallic grain, which every so often catches light and shines brightly. It's no substitute for actual metal, but it still looks good. The SIM/memory card tray is the only element on the left side of the phone. I found it easy to remove with a paperclip. The screen lock and volume buttons are on the right edge. The former is just above the phone's waistline, while the latter is closer to the top. The screen lock key has an excellent profile and a ribbed texture to help set it apart. The volume buttons have somewhat less of a profile and smooth textures. These controls are simple to find and use effectively, and the buttons deliver great feedback. As per the norm, you'll see the headphone jack perched on the top edge and the USB-C port tucked into the bottom. (Note that USB-C is still new, so compatible accessories may be harder to find until it becomes more common.)

The ZMax Pro's rear surface is curved gently, which helps the phone sit just a bit deeper in the palm. The seam where it meets the frame is nice and even. The contrast between the dark blue and gray is appealing. ZTE made sure the function elements of the phone stand out from a design perspective. A trio of circles — camera, flash, and fingerprint reader — is lined up right along the center. All three have a rose gold rim that makes them pop visually. The camera module protrudes just a little bit. The fingerprint reader is recessed a bit. Like most rear-mounted readers, it takes a bit of practice to learn where to find it without looking but becomes second nature soon enough. The speakerphone is also located on the back.

Some will no doubt be distressed to learn that the ZMax Pro's battery is sealed inside. Sorry, folks: there'll be no swapping out batteries on this one.

Screen

Like the Grand X Max 2, the ZMax Pro has a 6-inch full HD display. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the panels are identical. The 1080p resolution is plenty to give the ZMax Pro a sharp screen. (Actually, at this size, that resolution might be a minimum.) The screen looks good and delivers high-quality text and imagery. The display is bright, but outdoor viewability could be better. I consistently had to turn up the brightness when outside. I was pleased with viewing angles, too. The color stays on point and brightness drops only a small amount when the phone is tilted around. Buyers at this level can't ask for a better screen.

Signal

MetroPCS operates on T-Mobile's network around the U.S. The device performed at the same level as other MetroPCS handsets in the greater New York area. The ZMax Pro did a good job connecting calls throughout Manhattan, and was able to maintain calls at highways speeds without problem. The phone didn't drop nor miss any calls while I tested it. Data performance was quite good. Speeds were excellent and meant the phone was able to stream video and music over the network with ease. Image- and video-intensive apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all flowed well, and apps downloaded expediently.

Sound

Most people will be pleased with the ZMax Pro's ability to make phone calls. The phone produces clean, punchy audio through the earpiece that is audible in most places. Clarity is consistent at low and high volumes, as the earpiece did not produce any distortion when set all the way up. I didn't have any trouble hearing calls walking around Manhattan or my local mall, but you might find yourself stepping out of a room full of screaming kids or your local bar on a Friday night in order to hear calls. Those I spoke to through the ZMax Pro said I sounded great.

The speakerphone is adequate. The rear-mounted speaker delivers the best quality when the phone is sitting on a hard, flat surface such as a table or desk. Clarity is acceptable, but there's definitely some audio distortion. Volume is decent, but not good enough for the car or noisy spaces.

For what it's worth, I made calls over the cellular network and over WiFi connections. I couldn't discern any difference in call quality between the two.

Ringers and alerts are quite loud, and the vibrate alert was strong enough to get my attention most of the time.

Battery

ZTE squeezed a 3,400 mAh power supply into the ZMax Pro, the same as the Grand X Max 2. Like its close cousin, the Z Max Pro easily provided a full day of battery life. At the end of the day it typically still had 25% to 30% left. Not once did I run into trouble while testing the ZMax Pro, even when using network-intensive apps like YouTube. The phone's big battery gets the job done

The Z Max Pro includes the basic Android battery saver tool. You can turn it on manually or set it to come on automatically when the battery reaches a predetermined percentage (15% or 5%). It limits the processor, reduces screen brightness, and dials back screen-illuminating notifications. You probably won't need it.

The ZMax Pro does support rapid charging, but the company hasn't published any claims as to just how rapidly. I found the battery took just over two hours to charge completely from 0%.

Battery  

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The ZMax Pro's Bluetooth radio functions as it should. The phone paired with a range of Bluetooth accessories, including headsets, speakers, and so on. The device offered up average quality calls through headsets and my car's hands-free system. Music sounded decent via Bluetooth speakers, but I wasn't particularly bowled over.

The Z Max Pro didn't have any trouble providing my general location, but accuracy was not as good as I like it to be. Most of the time, the phone put me 50 to 100 feet from my actual location. Many of today's best phones hone it to closer than 25 feet. Despite the lack of absolutely precise locationing, Google Maps worked perfectly well as a driving navigation tool.

The WiFi radio worked very well. The Z Max Pro doesn't have NFC.

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