If the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is on your wish list but out of your budget, you might like the look of the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, a new Android phone from Chinese tech giant ZTE that’s a bit of a letdown for Samsung’s flagship.
While the S22 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, the Axon 40 Ultra offers the same specs for just $799 / £709 (around AU$1,200).
The phones aren’t hugely different in most other respects either. Design-wise, both Samsung and ZTE phones have “waterfall” screens that curve at the edges, the same screen size and refresh rate, the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and a 5,000mAh battery.
The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a few features that the Galaxy doesn’t have: it has a selfie camera under the screen, so you won’t miss a screen, and it charges at 65W.
Admittedly, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the better phone overall — it comes with a stylus and has much better cameras. But we’ve tested both smartphones extensively, and the ZTE certainly isn’t the $400 / £400 one.
Analysis: ZTE is a real contender for ‘best phone’
We’re not quite done with our in-depth ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review, 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 currently tops that list, both in terms of hand feel and performance — and those are the two main features of the phone we pay the most attention to.
Faster charging, and no “hole” hole in the screen contribute to a solid all-round user experience.
What holds the phone back is the camera setup — it’s not bad, but it’s not good enough to compete with Samsung, or with newer iPhones. The AI scene optimization isn’t great, and the autofocus is also slow. The front camera is particularly disappointing, likely thanks to its placement under the screen, and shots look incredibly soft with an odd halo effect around subjects.
We found ourselves missing Samsung’s S Pen as well – the lack of a stylus isn’t usually an issue on smartphones, but with our hands telling our minds ‘this is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’ we found ourselves reaching for the stylus on a couple of occasions, and the feeling Disappointed for not having it.
Another negative is the battery life, as the phone didn’t always last through a day of use without needing to recharge.
But with the Galaxy S22 Ultra doppelganger costing almost as much as the Samsung Galaxy S22, Xiaomi 12, or iPhone 13, it’s easy enough to get past some of the tricky spots. Look out for our full review very soon.