“The Axon 9 Pro is packed to the gills with top-of-the-line specs”

Chinese brand ZTE is facing regulatory hurdles in the USA, but that hasn’t stopped the phonemaker from bringing out loaded new smartphones. Its Axon 7 – launched in 2016 – was received well by users and critics alike, and at the ongoing IFA, the company has announced a successor in the form of the Axon 9 Pro. The handset is a quintessential flagship of 2018 with specs and features to match its rivals. But can it stand out? I tried to answer that and more while giving the smartphone a hands-on treatment.

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The first key pillar for flagship phones is a powerful chipset… and the Axon 9 Pro delivers that with its octa-core Snapdragon 845 SoC. The processor works alongside 6GB of RAM and during my brief usage, the phone was able to offer flawless performance without any trace of lag. Taking care of your storage requirements is 128GB of built-in memory, which isn’t expandable further.

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The second requirement for a high-end smartphone is powerful cameras, and on that front, the ZTE Axon 9 Pro ships with a 12-megapixel snapper accompanied by a 20-meg shooter on the rear. The secondary sensor can capture monochrome info, and the camera app also lets you control the intensity of the Red, Green or Blue hues in the scene, which is quite interesting. The dual cameras also combine to offer portrait mode. A 20MP camera at the fascia fulfils your cravings for selfies.

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We’re seeing more and more flagships shipping with beefy batteries, and the latest phone from ZTE’s stables also follows that route. The smartphone utlises 4,000mAh battery that can be juiced up quickly thanks to Quick Charge support.

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As far as the looks are concerned, the Axon 9 Pro continues to follow the trends… a display notch and glass back. Sadly though, the cut-out on top of the phone’s screen is quite wide and hence, unmissable. I got to play with the premium-looking blue colour of the handset, but sadly the glass finish means that the device struggles to keep the fingerprints and smudges at bay. In fact, the phone got smudged within seconds of using it. The good thing however, is the fact that phone has curved back, which offers superb ergonomics.

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Coming to the button and port placement, the Axon 9 Pro offers the usual assortment, except for the 3.5mm audio interface, which is missing. However, to appease audiophiles, the phone ships with Dolby support and sports dual stereo speakers. Even in the noisy demo area, the audio output seemed quite loud.

The ZTE Axon 9 Pro’s window to the world is a 6.21-inch AMOLED display with a notch up top. The screen bears an FHD+ resolution with an aspect ratio of 18.7:9, and offers impressive viewing angles and crisp visuals.

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On the software side of things, the Axon 9 Pro boots Android 8.1 Oreo in its stock avatar. This is quite interesting as the brand’s smartphones usually come with its proprietary skin on top. There are hardly any preloaded apps either.

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While ZTE’s Axon 9 Pro is a true-blue flagship, it has also been priced like one. The smartphone carries a price tag of €649 (approx. Rs 54,000), a sticker price which makes the handset seem expensive when compared to a deluge of affordable flagships in the market these days. The Axon 9 Pro will go on sale in Europe next month, though there’s no confirmation about it coming to India anytime soon.