ZTE Axon 9 Pro

Specs

  • Colors: Blau
  • Display: 6.21" AMOLED, 2248*1080 Pixel, HDR10
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Memory: 6GB (, 8GB)
  • Storage: 128GB (, 256GB)
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Camera: 12MP AF + 20MP FF (wide angel)
  • Selfie camera: 20MP


For this review an Axon 9 Pro with 6GB RAM (and 128GB memory) was used.


Abstract / Conclusion

With the current Octa-Core Snapdragon 845 and large 6GB RAM, the Axon 9 Pro is technically and practically comparable to the current flagships of other manufacturers. The screen displays images and videos very well thanks to factory calibration and HDR10 support. In addition, a video interpolation chip offers smooth playback and visible improvements for image and video material as well as games. With a current price of 649€, the Axon 9 Pro is on a par with a Huawei P20 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S9+.

Another strong competitor is the recently released Oneplus 6T. You can get this for about 100€ less, but it has neither an inductive charging function (Qi) nor an IP protection class certification.


One advantage for the Axon series is the voluntary manufacturer warranty: Like with the Axon 7 ZTE offers a warranty service called "VIP warranty". This extends the warranty claim by 1 year to a total of 3 years. The one-time repair of a water damage is also included during the entire period. In addition to that a display damage is repaired free of charge within the first 6 months after the purchase. (This information is for models sold in Germany, in other countries the warranty may vary, also due to local laws).


The Axon 9 Pro could also surprise us with some features that were not advertised in some cases. This includes the following points:


HDMI via USB-C is possible, during a test of a USB-C hub [1] with HDMI, USB 3.0 and power input with USB-PD we where able to use both the USB port and HDMI with picture and sound while the Axon 9 Pro is charging at the same time. All I have here is the Pixel 2 XL charger as a Power Delivery capable power supply. However, it doesn't seem to be able to deliver enough power, so the Axon 9 Pro displays "normal charging". We suspect that stronger USB-PD power supplies also support fast charging. Nevertheless, thanks to QC4+ technology and backward compatibility, power supplies with QuickCharge technology can also be used to quick charge. This also applies to the included charger, which already supports QC3, like the one from the Axon 7.


Neither the Axon 7 nor the Pixel 2 XL support USB-C video output.


The analog audio signal via USB-C can be used with the included headphones. This means that unlike smartphones such as the Google Pixel devices, analog audio accessories can be connected. In addition, most USB-C jack adapters should work with the Axon 9 Pro. (Analog and Digital)


Thanks to Widevine Level 1 certification, even HDR10 content can be easily played via streaming providers such as Netflix via the Axon 9 Pro.


Using the popular Camera 2 API, it is possible to use third-party apps with the Axon 9 Pro



Pro Contra
- Widevine Level 1 Certification
- Camera2 API
- Good HDR10 AMOLED display
- Qi Standard for Wireless Charging
- wide-angle camera
- HDMI support via USB C port
- dual sim
- Stereo speakers
- No headphone jack plug
- Side stereo speaker
- fingerprint magnet
- hybrid sim slot
- currently no Daydream certification


Design


Axon 9 Pro Front Axon 9 Pro Back


Unlike its predecessor, the Axon 7, the Axon 9 Pro is housed in a glass case. Both the front and the rear are completely made of glass, while a metal frame was installed on the side. This looks good on the one hand and allows the use of wireless charging. On the other hand, it also has disadvantages. Especially the backside of the glass is a fingerprint magnet and is slippery on smooth undersides. This can be prevented using a case.


The speaker at the bottom side of the phone is located on the bottom side instead on the front of the phone. Unfortunately, it can quickly happen that the speaker is covered by your hand when playing videos.

Screen

A striking difference compared to the Axon 7 is of course the Notch. It's not exactly small either. In the Notch there is a notification LED, the Selfie camera, an RGB sensor as well as the proximity sensor. Besides the Notch there is unfortunately not much room for notifications. Here only one notification icon is displayed at a time. Further notifications are displayed with a dot to the right of the first icon. The symbols for GPS, Bluetooth etc. are shown in an animation on the right side when a change is made and are thus recognizable.


The display of the Axon 9 Pro with 2248*1080 pixels has a lower resolution than the predecessor Axon 7 as well as some current flagships. ZTE follows a similar path as e.g. OnePlus. In practice, at least I personally don't notice the difference in the display size. Due to the AMOLED display the colours are strong and the contrasts clear. Especially together with HDR content, the Axon 9 Pro shows a clean, clear and pleasant picture. The lower resolution could also result in a better battery life, but this is only a guess.


In general, ZTE focused on a good image reproduction. Under the name "Axon Vision" some functions are working together to create a better viewing experience. The display of the Axon 9 Pro is calibrated with a colour accuracy of ∆E<2 and supports HDR 10. An RGB sensor also adjusts the colour temperature of the display to the ambient light. Videos are optionally processed with the help of a MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation) with up to 500 megapixels per second. The MEMC chip generates additional intermediate images for videos with 24 to 30 frames per second in order to correct them to 60 frames per second. This should lead to less motion blur and a more pleasant viewing experience.


In this context it may be worth mentioning, that the Axon 9 Pro comes with a Widevine L1 license. Netflix in HD and HDR can thus be enjoyed in full quality.

Performance

The Axon 9 Pro with its Snapdragon 845 and the 6GB RAM can keep up well with the current top devices. Switching between different apps is smooth. In addition, apps are stored in the cache for a long time. Even current games are no problem for the Axon 9 Pro. Below the benchmark values of Antutu, 3DMark and Geekbench. In my opinion, the result is impressive.



Axon 9 Pro - Geekbench - Singlecore Geekbench Singlecore Axon 9 Pro - Geekbench - Multicore Geekbench Multicore Axon 9 Pro Benchmark AnTuTu AnTuTu Benchmark Axon 9 Pro Benchmark 3DMark Slingshot Axon 9 Pro



In games, the Axon 9 Pro doesn't warm up much and the large battery really lasts a long time. In the last weeks we've also used the Axon 9 Pro here for the good old Pokèmon Go, too. Even though localization was enabled, almost 7 hours of SoT (Screen on Time) came together at the end of the day.


The dual SIM slot offers dual standby with dual LTE, so both SIM cards can be reached via LTE. This was not the case with for example the Axon 7. One of the SIM card slots alternatively serves as an SD card slot.

Connectivity

The Axon 9 Pro offers the following interfaces: NFC (e.g., for contactless payment with Google Pay), Bluetooth 5.0, dual band WLAN with 2x2 MIMO (maximum speed: 866Mbit/s), USB type C. The USB Type C port also comes with support for analogue audio signals and video output and is internally connected to USB 3.0, thus reaching 5Gb/s.

Camera

The camera test is a bit more detailed. Here the camera of the Axon 9 Pro had to compete against the Axon 7, the Pixel 2 XL. All cameras were operated in automatic mode for comparison purposes.

The pictures of the ZTE devices are marked with a watermark. No changes have been made.

The original version can be viewed in the gallery.


An archive of all comparison images is also available at the following address:

z-union_axon9pro_comparison.zip


The archive also contains pictures of a beginner DSLR in the form of a Nikon D3400 in automatic or P mode.



More pictures (shot on the Axon 9 Pro) can also be downloaded here:

z-union_axon9pro_pictures.zip



What immediately catches the eye with the camera in comparison with the Axon 7 and the Pixel 2: The Axon 9 Pro uses a 4:3 format in contrast to the 16:9 format of the two comparison devices. It is possible to shoot in 16:9, but the resolution is reduced to 9MP. In my opinion it makes more sense to take the pictures directly with the full resolution and crop them if necessary.


Additional note: All smartphones had Auto HDR mode enabled.

Heidelberg University Library

Axon 9 Pro Normal - University Library Heidelberg Axon 9 Pro - Normal Axon 9 Pro wide-angel - University Library Heidelberg Axon 9 Pro wide-angle camera Pixel 2 XL - University Library Heidelberg Pixel 2 XL Axon 7 Normal - University Library Heidelberg Axon 7

Landscape Photography

Axon 9 Pro wide-angle - Landscape Photography Axon 9 Pro wide-angle camera Axon 9 Pro - Landscape Photography Axon 9 Pro Axon 7 - Landscape Photography Axon 7 Pixel 2 XL - Landscape Photography Pixel 2 XL



The different colouring of the pictures is particularly noticeable here. While the Pixel 2 XL and the Axon 7 are similar in color, the images of the Axon 9 Pro look much more "colored". In addition, the wide-angle camera has a much larger blue component here.

Macro / natural bokeh

Axon 9 Pro - Macro Axon 9 Pro Axon 9 wide-angle - Macro Axon 9 wide-angle Axon 7 - Macro Axon 7 Pixel 2 XL - Macro Pixel 2 XL



Here you can see that the focus point of the fixed focus of the wide-angle camera is further away than the photo subject. The background is sharp, the foreground is a bit blurry. But of course one has to say that a wide-angle camera is not necessarily intended for the macro range.

The colours of the Axon 9 Pro are once again more pronounced than those of the Axon 7 and the Pixel 2 XL.

More pictures

A selection of further test images with the Axon 9 Pro:

Moving Objects

Axon 9 Pro: Waterfall This picture shows that the Axon 9 can handle moving objects like water.



Backlight

Axon 9 Pro wide-angel: backlighting Wide-angle camera with backlighting Axon 9 Pro: backlight Backlight without wide angle



In backlighting there is a well visible Lens-flare effect, but the subject is otherwise still surprisingly detailed. Here the automatic mode does a good job


Golden hour

Axon 9 Pro Wide Angle: Golden Hour Wide-angle camera Axon 9 Pro: Golden Hour Without wide-angle camera



Here is a comparison between the wide-angle camera and the "normal" camera at the golden hour. The Axon 9 Pro takes really nice pictures here.

Twilight

Axon 9 Pro: Dawn Picture 1 Axon 9 Pro: Twilight Picture 2



Even at dusk the Axon 9 Pro doesn't have to hide yet. Both pictures were shot out of hand and still offer good and detailed results despite the increasingly difficult lighting conditions.

Night

Axon 9 Pro: Night



At night, the Axon 9 Pro reaches its limits especially in difficult lighting conditions. Despite the difficult lighting conditions, all objects are still visible, but you can also clearly see some noise in this picture. Due to the apparently longer exposure time, some details also appear somewhat blurred.

Selfie Camera

We haven't tested the Selfie camera separately yet. But if there should be a need we can give it a test later. However, there is also some information here that I would like to tell you. With the Selfie camera may behave somewhat unexpected: The indicated 20MP of the camera cannot be used (at least at the time of writing). There are only 4MP selectable. By default, the camera is set to "smart automatic mode". In Smart mode, the resolution is adjusted, presumably based on the available environmental light. The lower resolution is probably due to the fact that a 2*2 binning is used here. I.e. 4 pixels of the 20MP camera are used as one. This should allow better pictures especially in darker areas. Especially with face recognition this works surprisingly well, it even works in areas where most cameras are not able to recognize anything.

Price and availability

The Axon 9 is currently available from German resellers for 649€ in the version with 6GB RAM to buy.


[1] The following Hub was used: Anker 3-in-1 USB-C Hub Adapter