ZTE's Axon 7 Mini smartphone won't wow you, but it's cheap

For less than $350, I'll even tolerate calling a 5.2-inch screen ‘mini.'

ZTE's Axon 7 was a surprisingly good phone, which proved that the Chinese company is capable of delivering on its "affordable premium" promise. In order to capitalize on that success, ZTE is offering a cheaper, more petite version. The Axon 7 Mini will arrive stateside in October, and while US pricing hasn't been announced, it will retail in Europe for 299 euros. That's about $330, which is $70 less than the original, as well as the OnePlus 3 and Alcatel Idol 4S.

I briefly played with the Axon 7 Mini and found it to be a capable variant for the price but altogether unexciting.

Like a fun-sized candy bar, the Mini resembles a compressed version of the original Axon 7. They both have the same handsome design and feel equally solid and smooth. The new phone also has dual stereo speakers that ZTE said are actually louder.

The similarities end there, though. The Mini has a 5.2-inch full HD display compared to its big brother's 5.5-inch 2K screen, leaving it with a lower pixel density (424 ppi). That's still pretty decent, and I didn't notice a huge difference between the two device's panels.

ZTE didn't just shrink the Axon 7's display and price; you'll also find a smaller battery (2,705mAh versus 3,250mAh) and less-sharp rear camera. Despite the loss of megapixels, the Mini's 16MP camera still took decent pictures that looked crisp and vibrant. The camera up front retains the same 8MP resolution, and it delivered selfies that were clear and bright. In low light, though, the Mini's single-tone LED flash may lead to less accurate colors than the Axon 7's dual-tone light.

The biggest trade-off ZTE had to make to bring the Mini's price down was in the processor. Instead of the premium Snapdragon 820 that powers the Axon 7, the smaller phone is equipped with a lower-end Snapdragon 617 chip. It also offers less RAM and storage (3GB and 32GB, respectively), but I didn't notice any lag during my time with the phone.

The Mini will also take a longer time to recharge than the original, since it supports Quick Charge 2.0 instead of the newer 3.0. This means it'll get to 46 percent in 30 minutes of charging versus 83 percent in the same time on its larger counterpart.

Overall, the Axon 7 Mini is an affordable phone worth considering, especially for those who don't want a hefty handset. And at about $330, it could be the best phone for the price. But ZTE isn't surprising anyone here. Releasing two sizes of a flagship is basically an industry standard at this point. We're far more interested to see what ZTE will produce out of its attempt to crowdsource a mobile device through its Project CSX campaign, where the company will let the public submit and vote on ideas for a mobile device that it will produce by 2017.

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ZTE Axon 7 Mini: Hands-on