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ZTE ZMax Pro review: Big phone, small price

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.

In this well-lit indoor shot, objects and faces are generally clear, but can be sharper.

Lynn La/CNET

Though the flower petals in this closeup shot are vibrant, the light around it is blown out.

Lynn La/CNET

This outdoor image is bright, with objects that are in-focus and clear.

Lynn La/CNET

Performance and battery

The handset's Snapdragon 617 processor isn't the fastest or most advanced chipset around, but it's enough to power the phone comfortably. Apps launched and quit with relatively smoothness, and the fingerprint reader was prompt at scanning my print and unlocking the screen. And while daily tasks like calling up the keyboard, unlocking the display or switching orientations could execute a hair faster, it wasn't slow enough to bother me.

On paper, the device did great with our benchmark tests when we compared it to other $100-$200 handsets. It easily beat the Samsung Galaxy J3, the Blu R1 HD (which starts at $50 if you get it with Amazon-sponsored ads) and the Motorola Moto G4 Play on 3D Mark's Ice Storm Unlimited test. It also got higher marks than the latter two on Geekbench 4's single- and multi-core tests (the Galaxy J3 ($110 at Walmart) was not available for that test).

ZTE ZMax Pro Benchmark Scores

ZTE ZMax Pro
708
2244
9807
Samsung Galaxy J3
N/A
N/A
3789
Blu R1 HD
547
1580
5255
Motorla Moto G4 Play
506
1327
4376

Legend:

Geekbench 4 Single-Core
Geekbench 4 Multi-Core
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

In standby mode, the ZMax Pro's battery has enough capacity to survive the weekend without a charge. During our lab tests for battery life, it continuously played a video on loop for 10 hours and 18 minutes on Airplane mode. Because the phone doesn't have any fast-charging technology, juicing it up with the stock charger does take long. After 30 minutes the battery was at 32 percent, and it took about 2 hours for a full charge.

Compared to its alternatives, which have battery capacities ranging from 2,500 to 2,800mAh, the ZMax Pro's 3,400mAh battery was not able to edge them out in this regard. Indeed, all three devices lasted more than 11 hours, with the Galaxy J3 clocking in a 15+ hour battery time.

ZTE ZMax Pro spec comparison chart

ZTE ZMax Pro Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) Blu R1 HD Motorola Moto G4 Play
Display size, resolution 6-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels
Pixel density 367 ppi 294 ppi 294 ppi 294 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.50x3.30x0.35 inches 5.6x2.8x0.3 inches 5.65x2.83x0.34 inches 5.7x2.8x0.39 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 165.10x83.82x8.89 mm 142x71x7.9 mm 143.5x72x8.7 mm 144.4x72x9.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.7 oz; 190g 4.87 oz; 138g 5.01 oz; 142g 4.83 oz; 137g
Mobile software Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Camera 13-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel 2-megapixel 5-megapixel 5-megapixel
Video capture 1,080p 720p 1,080p 1,080p
Processor 1.5GHz eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor 1.2GHz four-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor 1.3GHz four-core processor 1.2GHz four-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor
Storage 32GB 16GB 8GB, 16GB 16GB
RAM 2GB 2GB 1GB, 2GB 2GB
Expandable storage Up to 128GB Up to 128GB Up to 64GB Up to 128GB
Battery 3,400mAh (nonremovable) 2,600mAh (removable) 2,500mAh (nonremovable) 2,800mAh (removable)
Fingerprint sensor Back cover None None None
Connector USB Type-C Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB
Special features N/A N/A N/A Splash-resistant
Price off-contract (USD) $100 $110-$180 (varies by carrier) $100 (8GB), $110 (16GB); $50 (8GB, with ads), $60 (16GB, with ads) $150

Big phone, big bargain

For $100, the phone's drawbacks may be worth it.

Josh Miller/CNET

The ZTE ZMax Pro has its fair share of drawbacks. It's not the fastest handset on paper, you can only get it on MetroPCS for the time being, there's no NFC and its battery charges relatively slowly. But for $100, I'm willing to overlook some of these flaws.

Especially when you consider the price of phablets, the device is a big bargain. Usually, a decent big-screen phone costs about $500 or more, with $800 being the common ceiling. Even amongst similarly-priced handsets like the Galaxy J3, the R1 HD (though as mentioned before, that phone starts at $50 if you get it with ads) and the Moto G4 Play, the ZMax Pro remains the largest and cheapest.

So if you're looking for a handset with a generously-size screen but don't want to cough up tons of cash, the ZMax Pro is a great candidate.

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