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Axon 30 with camera below the screen: a practical mini overview


A few weeks ago, ZTE announced a new device in its flagship line, the new Axon 30. The phone is an interesting device for several reasons: it is one of the few devices this year to choose to use the Snapdragon 870 instead of the newer Snapdragon 888 chip, which is also more aggressive compared to the premium Axon 30 Ultra we reviewed about a month ago.

What also makes the Axon 30 interesting is the fact that this is now the second generation of under-screen camera implementation from ZTE. While we’ve never had a chance to experience the first-generation Axon 20, we’re now starting to see an increasing number of manufacturers try to apply the new technology to their new devices, and the Axon 30 is a good opportunity to literally take a closer look at how these cameras work below the screen.

ZTE Axon 30 series
Axon 30 Ultra Axon 30
SoC Snapdragon 888
1x Cortex-X1 at 2.84 GHz
3x Cortex-A78 at 2.42GHz
4x Cortex-A55 at 1.80 GHz

Adreno 660 at 840MHz

Snapdragon 870
1x Cortex A77
@ 3.2 GHz

3x Cortex A77 @ 2.42GHz

4x Cortex A55 @ 1.80GHz

Adreno 650 @? MHz

DRAM 8/12 GB LPDDR5
Storage 128 / 256GB UFS 3.1
Display 6.67 “AMOLED
2400 x 1080 (20: 9)
144Hz

300Hz Touch

6.92 “AMOLED
2460 x 1080 (20.5: 9)
120Hz

360Hz touch

Size Height 161.53 mm 170.2 mm
Width 72.96 mm 77.8 mm
Depth 8.0 mm 7.8 mm
Weight 188 grams 189 grams
Battery capacity 4600mAh

Charging 65 W (PD3.0)

4200mAh

Charging 65 W (PD3.0)

Wireless charging
Rear cameras
Wide 64MP IMX686
0.8µm pixels (1.6µm 4: 1 16MP)

f / 1.6 w / OIS
26 mm eq.

64MP IMX686
0.8µm pixels (1.6µm 4: 1 16MP)

f / 1.8 w / OIS
26 mm eq.

Main 64MP GW3

0.7µm pixels (1.4µm 4: 1 16MP)

f / 1.9
35 mm eq.

Extremely wide 64MP GW3

0.7µm pixels (1.4µm 4: 1 16MP)

f / 2.2
13 mm eq.

8MP

f / 2.2
13 mm eq.

Telephoto 8MP

f / 3.4 w / OIS
(Periscope design)
120 mm eq.

Extra Macro of 5 MP

2MP DoF

Front camera 16MP
f / 2.5
16MP (4MP 2.24µm)
f / 2.45
I / O USB-C 3.1 USB-C 3.0
Wireless (local) 802.11ax WiFi-6E
Bluetooth 5.2 LE + NFC
802.11ax WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.1 LE + NFC
Other features Dual speakers
Optical fingerprint sensor below the screen
Optical fingerprint sensor below the screen
Dual SIM Double nanoSIM Double nanoSIM
Starting price 8 + 128 GB: 749 USD / 649 £ / 749 €
12 + 256 GB: 849 USD / 739 £ / 849 €
8 + 128 GB: 499 USD / 499 €
12 + 256 GB: 599 USD / 599 EUR

The Axon 30, as already mentioned, is one of the few devices released this year with the Snapdragon 870 SoC. Recall, the 870 is a higher binned variant of the Snapdragon 865 and 865+, this time increasing the CPU frequency on the fastest Cortex-A77 core to 3.2 GHz — significantly faster than the 2.84 GHz X1 core Snapdragon 888 and even faster than the 3GHz Snapdragon 888+. Due to the regression of energy efficiency or the progress of the Snapdragon 888 production node, the Snapdragon 870 should still be a perfectly sustainable and competent SoC in the leading device 2021.

The device comes in 8 + 128 or 12 + 256GB options, similar to the Axon 30 Ultra. The rest of the phone’s interior is a bit more conservative compared to the Ultra variant, such as the lack of WiFi 6E, only USB 3.0 connectivity and some significant features that are missing, such as just one lower-release speaker.

The screen is a very large 6.92-inch AMOLED with a resolution of 2460 x 1080. It still has a high refresh rate of up to 120Hz, but even now it increases the touch sampling rate to 360Hz to reduce latency and increase responsiveness.

The phone is extremely large; with a width of 77.8 mm, it is significantly wider than even most “large” devices that exist, and definitely obscures the Axon 30 Ultra. Thanks to the rather thin side frame and curved rear window, as well as the rather thin 7.8 mm case, the phone still manages to handle well and feels less than it really is.

The back of the phone is defined by the camera setting: It is mostly just a device with two cameras for all practical purposes. The main sensor is the same as on the Axon 30 Ultra, IMX686 resolution 64MP, which in normal shots is reduced to 16MP 1.6μm. The difference is that the Axon 30 has smaller f / 1.8 aperture optics compared to the Axon 30 Ultra.

Next to the main camera is a small ultra-wide 8 MP unit with f / 2.2 optics. There are also 5 MP macro resolution and 2 MP DoMP cameras but these are generally irrelevant for photography in most use cases. Overall, the Axon 30 obviously puts much less focus on the camera system than the Axon 30 Ultra.

The phone has another practical drawback compared to the Axon 30 Ultra, and that is that it only has one lower speaker. The Axon 30 Ultra could use the headphone speaker as a stereo unit, although the quality was not good, at least it is better than just mono speakers like on the Axon 30.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of the phone is the fact that it is one of the few devices today with a camera under the screen. While this isn’t ZTE’s first foray into technology, it’s definitely a much more mature and interesting implementation that we’ll take a closer look at.

The Axon 30 is much cheaper than the Axon 30 Ultra, starting at just $ 499 / € – which puts it well below the usual price of a flagship device, so we should adjust our expectations accordingly.



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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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