ZTE Axon 7 Mini – Software
At the time of review, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini runs Android 6.0.1, and there’s a pretty meddlesome ZTE interface pasted on top.
It’s similar to Huawei’s EmotionUI in that it gets rid of the apps menu, leaving you with just homescreens. To make the phone work well day to day, you need to organise your apps into folders or just rely on muscle memory to remember exactly where app X ended up.
This will likely be an audience divider. Some people are fine with this style, but others hate it. My own reservations are much simpler, though. I don’t think the interface looks good. The ZTE Axon 7 Mini has fairly ugly app icons. And while there are several icon packs that change their colour scheme, all have the same lumpen quality.
Turning the phone on for the first time, my reaction was: “Ick, what have they done here?” However, the effect fades a little as you install your own apps and as your eyes just get used to the style.
This isn’t the most polished UI in other respects, either. The keyboard tends to hang around too long, for example, blocking half the screen when it should have zipped off a second or two earlier. It leaves the ZTE Axon 7 Mini with a slightly clunky feel.
ZTE does have a crack at adding other features, but the main one doesn’t feel entirely necessary in the Axon 7 Mini. Mi Pop is a movable toolbox that opens up to provide buttons for taking screenshots, locking the screen, switching to mute mode and so on. I find it gets in the way more than it helps, though, so after a day or two playing with it I switched it off.
This sort of feature is potentially worthwhile in a larger phone that feels a stretch to use one-handed. 5.2-inch phones with slim frames don’t. You can turn Mi Pop off from the notifications drop-down in a second, so it’s no big deal.
ZTE Axon 7 Mini – Performance
The ZTE Axon 7 Mini has a Snapdragon 617 CPU with 3GB of RAM. It’s a decent spec for the price, but not a bargain of the level of the OnePlus 3 (RIP).
This is an octa-core CPU, but one without the high-performance cores you get with a more expensive phone. All are Cortex-A53s, and the GPU is a fairly unremarkable Adreno 405.
In Geekbench 4 it scores 2,127 points (702 points per core) – classic solid mid-range performance. It’s no less or more than we expect for the money.
More importantly, it’s enough to keep the phone running fairly quickly, so that the only real niggles you notice are the UI quirks that trip you up, such as the annoying keyboard.
Play a high-end game like Asphalt 8 with the graphics maxed out and you can tell the frame rate isn’t quite as high as that of a more powerful phone, but it’s nothing to spoil enjoyment of these games for most people.
How we test phones
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.