ZTE ZMax 2 (AT&T) review: Super simple, super cheap

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The Good The ZTE ZMax 2 packages a big screen and reliable call quality with a competitively low price tag.

The Bad The handset is heavy and its camera takes inconsistent photos.

The Bottom Line The ZTE ZMax 2's mediocre camera quality is a notable drag, but it's a capable phone if you're on a tight budget.

6.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 6
  • Battery 7

Even with its initial $150 price tag, the 5.5-inch ZTE ZMax 2 is a cheaper alternative to high-priced big-screen devices like the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy Note 5, both of which can cost between $400 to $740 at full retail. Currently priced at $100 on AT&T's GoPhone off-contract lineup, the ZMax 2 is even more of a considerable value.

Of course, it doesn't have the ultrasharp screen and ample internal storage of a top-tier handset, and the color accuracy of its 8-megapixel camera is inconsistent (a real problem for enthusiastic shutterbugs). But if you simply want to browse the Internet, make calls and take a few informal snapshots on a generously-sized phone, the ZMax 2 will chug along nicely.

Design and software

  • 5.5-inch display with 1,280x720-pixel resolution
  • 6.06 by 2.99 by 0.37 inches
  • 6 ounces
  • Google Android 5.1 Lollipop

As a big-screen device, the ZMax 2 can be unwieldy if you have small hands. And even for a 5.5-inch phone, it feels heavy in the hand in your pocket. However, the faux-leather back plate helps out with grip, and I like how it adds a bit of flair to the handset's overall design compared to a typical plastic-cladded cover.

With its 720p resolution, the screen isn't the sharpest around. But it's bright and clear enough to read text, view images and watch videos comfortably. It's also sensitive and reactive to the touch, so you can swipe and tap through functions easily.

The handset's faux-leather backing adds a subtle premium touch.

Josh Miller/CNET

Below the display are three hotkeys for navigating around. The keys are geometrically shaped (a triangle, circle and square), and undoubtedly inspired by Google's own on-screen design for the same buttons. I do like the consistent Android experience of this, but I can imagine how outdated the phone will immediately feel when Google decides to change the look of the keys in the future.

Speaking of Android, the ZMax 2 runs Google Android 5.1 Lollipop, which isn't the most recent Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The carrier included some of its apps too, such as AT&T Navigator, DriveMode and myAT&T, where you can check account statements and balances. There are also some third-party apps like Amazon, Uber and the Yellow Pages. Unfortunately, many of these apps can't be completely uninstalled (only disabled), which makes for annoying bloatware that takes a cumulative chunk out of your on-hand storage capacity.

Cameras and video

  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 2-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Records 1,080p (rear) and 1,080p (front) video

Photo quality was passable, but there were some issues with color accuracy. For instance, on some of the photos I shot, the indoor fluorescent lights were rendered nice and white, but the sunlight coming out of the window was all blue. Another indoor photo I took casted a yellowish hue against the white background.

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