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ZTE ZMax Pro review: Big phone, small price

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The Good The ZTE ZMax Pro has a solid build, an expansive screen, and an exceptionally low price tag.

The Bad It's only available on MetroPCS for now, it doesn't have NFC, and the battery charges slowly.

The Bottom Line If you're willing to use MetroPCS' network, the ZTE ZMax Pro is a great big-screen phone for cheap.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 7

When it comes to large-screen phones with displays that measure 5.7 inches or longer (otherwise known as "phablets") there aren't a lot of cheap choices The Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, for instance, start at $700 to $800, and even more affordable devices like the Google Nexus 6P fall at the $500 range.

Enter the ZTE ZMax Pro ($225 at Amazon). It costs just $100 and features a 6-inch screen, fingerprint reader, a 13-megapixel camera and runs Android Marshmallow (not the latest version of Android, but recent enough).

So what's the catch? Well, it's only available on the prepaid carrier MetroPCS for now, which uses T-Mobile's network. It's no real speed demon, it doesn't have a near-field communication chip (meaning you can't use things like Google's Android Pay digital wallet) and it's nonremovable battery could last longer and charge faster.

Even given all these compromises, the ZMax Pro is definitely worth considering. And if you're in the market for a cheap big-screen device and don't mind being on MetroPCS, this should be your top choice.

Design: Big, solid build

With its 6-inch display, the handset is big -- really big, and it reminds me a lot of 2014's Google Nexus 6. Due to its size, it won't fit easily in your pants pockets and if you have a small grip like me, holding it with one hand won't be comfortable, so prepare to use both hands for navigating. In addition, the phone's back cover is matte blue and collects a lot of fingerprint smudges that I had to wipe away constantly.

But other than that, the ZMax Pro's design is good. It's solidly built and I especially like the subtle rosy color accents around the buttons, camera and fingerprint scanner. And though it only has a 1,080-pixel display (in high-end devices, a display this size would have a 1,440p resolution), text, images and movies are still sharp and easily viewable.

With its 6-inch display, the handset is a whopper of a phone.

Josh Miller/CNET

Software: Just the basics

The handset runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1, which has features like the more robust search assistant Now on Tap and added user security with app permissions. Marshmallow also supports the digital payment system Android Pay, but since the phone doesn't have an NFC, you can't use it. Otherwise, ZTE kept the ZMax Pro's software and interface pretty light. There are a handful of preloaded MetroPCS apps though, and since you can't uninstall them, they'll have to stay put inside your device.

The ZMax Pro's simple interface (left) and lack of Android Pay support (right).

Lynn La/CNET

Camera: For your casual photo needs

The ZMax Pro's 13-megapixel camera is a pretty sufficient shooter. Some images did end up over-exposed and the camera's burst shot feature (aka the ability to take lots of pictures rapidly in succession) takes a beat to fire up. But in general, the camera works well, especially for the kind of informal pictures you would take daily. Photos are clear and bright and retain a lot of detail at max resolution. For more about photo quality, check out the images below and click on them to view them at their full resolution.

The camera has a few useful tools too, like a manual mode that lets you adjust brightness, ISO levels, shutter speed and more. You can capture panoramic photos, slow-motion video and pictures with multi-exposures overlaid on top of one another.

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