ZTE is a smartphone company that probably exists on the periphery of your consciousness. They're as well known as any other Chinese mobile brand, which is to say not very much at all. But the company wants to change things up by bringing its affordable phablet to the United States. The ZTE ZMax is coming to T-Mobile.
With a 5.7-inch 720p display, the ZMax is a whole inch larger than the company's other handset destined for the US: the ZTE Nubia 5s mini it announced last month. Here, ZTE packs in a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, a 3400mAh battery, an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, and 16GB of storage expandable to 32GB.
The phone is big, so unless you're definitely in the market for a phablet, you'll probably find it a little hard to handle. The entire device is wrapped in plastic, and not soft-touch either, just regular plastic. The entire design comes off a little subdued and bland, but not exactly ugly. You won't be turning any heads with this handset.
ZTE describes their the ZMax as running a "pretty stock" version of Android, and for the most part, that's true. The ZMax runs Android 4.4.2 and looks 100 percent stock aside from its own custom camera UI (and a few T-Mobile apps). As for the camera, I could only test the 8 megapixel lens in low-light conditions (It was pretty dark at the ZTE event.). The pictures had a bit of noise but overall the camera seemed capable.
Right now, a lot of phablets share one common characteristic: they're kind of expensive off-contract. They've also generally got higher-end specs, but if you want the benefits of big screen without the big bill, ZTE's ZMax could be worth your consideration.
The ZMax will be available on T-Mobile for $252 off-contract, or $10.50 a month for 24 months starting Sept. 24. Additionally, the ZMax will benefit from the Wi-Fi Unleashed program that T-Mobile announced last week, which brings Wi-Fi calling to every new handset on the carrier.