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ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition, First Take: Affordable 5.2-inch Android with pressure-sensitive screen

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The ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition looks at first glance like a superb-value handset. For £229.99 (inc. VAT) you get a 5.2-inch handset in a solid metal chassis. It sports fingerprint recognition, eye scanning and voice control for unlocking and has a pressure-sensitive screen.

You might not like the lattice pattern above and below the screen, and between the rear camera and the flash, nor the bizarre faux-leather stitching on the back. Even if you do find these touches attractive, they don't really fit with the "Boeing 787 aircraft-grade aluminium-titanium" alloy that's used for the body. Still, the colour of the chassis, Ion Gold, is muted and not unattractive, and the whole design somehow hangs together.


The 140g Axon Mini has a 5.2-inch full-HD AMOLED screen with pressure sensitive functionality. There's an 8-megapixel front camera and a 13-megapixel camera at the back, with a fingerprint reader below it.

Images: ZTE

The Axon Mini feels like a tough handset, even though it weighs just 140g and is relatively thin at 7.9mm. The top and bottom screen bezels are on the large side, but the grille design disguises that, so the device's 143.5mm height seems reasonable. The phone is 70mm wide.

The power button on the right side stands out well from its surroundings and an indented design mimics the speaker grille pattern, as does the upper part of the volume rocker, also on the right side.

The Axon mini supports either two Nano-SIMs or one SIM and one Micro-SD card. We've noted before that we don't like this arrangement, because when a second SIM is in use you can't use the Micro-SD card.

Our review sample had 32GB of internal storage, with 22.5GB free, so you may not need Micro-SD card expansion. But if you do, dropping it for a second SIM will be irritating.

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The Axon Mini's 5.2-inch Super AMOLED display has full-HD (1,920 by 1,080) resolution and -- surprisingly on a handset at this price point -- incorporates pressure sensitivity. There are a few different use cases: for example, you can weigh items with a scale app that's accurate to 1 gram; and hard-pressing at different points on-screen can move you through gallery pictures or skip back and forth in video.

Another feature is the ability to press hard on an app icon to access certain features: press hard on the calendar app icon, for example, and you can then tap a little menu that pops up to add an appointment or view today's agenda; a similar action on the Gallery app icon lets you start a slideshow. It's a bit of a hassle, to be honest, and sometimes it's just as easy to open the app and access the features you need.

Security is a key feature of the Axon Mini Premium Edition. You can unlock the handset in a number of ways. Simple and complex passcodes are augmented by fingerprint recognition (via a scanner on the back of the device), eye scanning (via an app called Sky Eye and the front camera) and voice control. You can also use the screen's pressure sensitivity to generate a '3D' password.

ZTE has skinned Android 5.1 very heavily and there are lots of tweaks and extras, including 'look-and-feel' features. You can adjust the skinning by using a shortcut (three vertical dots) on the Android menu bar to select wallpapers and icons, and even pick wallpaper colours from the view through the rear camera.

The library of preinstalled apps includes TouchPal keyboard, which has a range of facilities to help with faster typing, and WPS Office. One superfluous extra is Mr Handwriting, which turns out to be a Chinese language app.

Both of the cameras -- 13-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front -- are good enough for everyday shooting, and I found the Axon Mini's 2,800mAh battery kept me going all day with a mainstream mix of productivity and entertainment usage. The handset's octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 SoC, supported by 3GB of RAM, kept things moving efficiently.

ZTE Axon Mini Premium Edition is a bit of a mixture. it has a good set of features, although I'm not sure I've yet found a use for the pressure-sensitive screen, and some of the bundled apps are surplus to requirements. Still, this is a well built and affordable Android 5.1 handset that should deliver all-day battery life for most users.

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Body Color Ion gold
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor
Additional Features Active noise-cancellation
Security Devices Fingerprint reader, voice authentication, eye scan
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type Smartphone
Navigation A-GPS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 5.1 Lolipop
User Interface Mifavor UI
SIM Card Type nano SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Sensors accelerometer, digital compass, gyro sensor, proximity sensor
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
Data Transmission Operating Frequency LTE 700/800/900/1800/2100/2600
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac, NFC
Clock Speed 1.5 GHz
Processor Number MSM8939
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Processor Core Qty Quad-core
Technology Super AMOLED
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Display Format Full HD
Pixel Density (ppi) 424
Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 13.2 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Color Support color
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Features Geo-tagging, Phase Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF), face detection, panoramic pictures, video recording
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MPEG-4, H.264
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, MP3, FLAC, eAAC+
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 405
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC, microSDXC - up to 128 GB
Technology Lithium ion
Run Time Details Talk: up to 1200 min
Standby: up to 450 hrs
Digital Camera
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Video Recorder Resolutions 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
Features Geo-tagging, Phase Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF), face detection, panoramic pictures, video recording
Brand ZTE
Product Line ZTE
Model Axon mini
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Sensors accelerometer, digital compass, gyro sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control
Additional Features Active noise-cancellation
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards FLAC, MP3, WAV, eAAC+
Supported Digital Video Standards H.264, MPEG-4
Sound Enhancements Hi-Fi Sound support
Installed Size 3 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 32 GB
Max Supported Size 128 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC, microSDXC
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 405
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 13 megapixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 8 Megapixel
Focus Adjustment focus free