If the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is on your bucket list but beyond your budget, you might like the look and feel of the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, a new Android phone from Chinese tech company ZTE that is a dead sign for the flagship. from Samsung.
While the S22 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the Axon 40 Ultra offers the same specs for just $799 / £709 (approximately AU$1,200).
Phones aren’t too different in most other respects either. In terms of design, both the Samsung and ZTE phones have waterfall displays that curve around the edges, the same screen size and refresh rate, and the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and 5,000mAh capacity battery.
The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra still has some features that the Galaxy doesn’t: it has an under-screen selfie camera so you don’t miss any screens, and it charges quickly at 65W.
Admittedly, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best phone overall – it comes with a stylus and has much better cameras. But we’ve tested both smartphones extensively, and the ZTE is certainly no less than the $400/£400 value.
Review: ZTE is a true ‘best phone’ contender
We’re not done with our in-depth review of the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra yet, but based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s a good chance it will end up on our list of the best smartphones.
It looks a lot like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which is currently at the top of that list, both in terms of touch and performance – and those are the two main attributes of a phone that we pay the most attention to.
Its faster loading and lack of a ‘punched’ in-screen cutout also make for a full and solid user experience.
What lets the phone down is the camera setup – not bad, but not good enough to compete with Samsung or the newer iPhones. AI scene optimization isn’t great and autofocus is slow too. The front camera is especially disappointing, probably thanks to its placement under the screen, and the snaps feel incredibly smooth with a strange aura effect around subjects.
We also miss Samsung’s S Pen – the lack of a stylus isn’t normally an issue on smartphones, but with our hand telling our brain ‘this is a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’, we found ourselves reaching for the stylus a couple of times, and getting disappointed not to have it.
Another downside is the battery life, as the phone didn’t always last a day of use without needing to be recharged.
But with this Galaxy S22 Ultra doppelganger costing roughly the same as the Samsung Galaxy S22, Xiaomi 12, or iPhone 13, it’s easy to get past some hard spots. Look out for our full review soon.