ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

GSMArena Team, 11 June 2022.

Design, build quality, handling

The Axon 40 Pro is all about the camera and makes no attempts to hide it. On the contrary - it's flaunting it. It's not like the camera island on the previous model was hard to miss, but this one is even more of a statement.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

The three camera modules are lined up to the left side - ultrawide, main ('Humanity'), and telephoto, each getting an oversized ring that sticks out from the main surface of the whole assembly. To the right, a 3x64MP badge reminds of the hardware inside, as do the lens specs above it. A laser autofocusing window, mic opening and an LED flash/flicker sensor combo complete the list of bits.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

It may sound like a lot of clutter, but it's, in fact, a pretty neat, logically laid out setup - tidier than on the Axon 30 Ultra, though that one did have one extra camera to fit in there. The 'Neovision photography' label is still here, if a little differently styled.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra reviewZTE Axon 40 Ultra (left) next to the Axon 30 Ultra

The camera island sticks out by almost exactly 2mm (we do whip out the calipers every now and again), and if you leave the phone on a table, it's already leaning sideways. It will then wobble if you tap it slightly off that balance diagonal. That only bothers a certain type of people, though, so it's hardly an issue.

Somewhat more irksome is the fact that the chamfered edges of the glass camera plate tend to feel a bit too sharp. Not that they would cut your skin or anything, but still not entirely pleasing.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

The rear panel of the phone is made of glass, too, though ZTE does not specify a make and model. It has that frosted finish that's super slippery but does not hold on to fingerprints - you can't have it all. It's a lot like the vivo X80 Pro we recently had over - shine a bright light at that panel, and it looks like the aftermath of a glitter bomb (but in a good way, we like it).

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

Another signature touch of the Axon 40 Ultra hides in plain sight. The selfie camera is where most selfie cameras are - near the top edge of the display, in the middle. But it's an under-display camera, and it takes deliberate effort to see it, even more so to photograph it - in general operation, it's essentially invisible.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

That leaves the 6.8-inch OLED display entirely unobstructed. Add to that the slimmest of top and bottom bezels and the curved side edges, and the Axon is a sight to behold.

All sorts of arguments stemming from reason along the lines of 'curved displays are impractical', and 'under-display cameras take bad pictures' may be valid to one extent or another, but from the standpoint of looks, the Axon 40 Ultra is pretty stunning.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

Going back to practicality, the handset has no official IP rating in the spec sheets available to us. As is often the case, however, the SIM slot does feature a gasket to keep dust and water out. Speaking of, it's a dual nano SIM slot, so you don't get to add your own storage. With that in mind, perhaps you'd be wise to consider upgrading from the base 128GB storage option that the global model has.

Also on the bottom, you'll find the USB-C port, a mic, and one of the loudspeakers.

Up top, there's the other loudspeaker and something that looks a lot like an IR emitter, but we see no mention of it in specs. We didn't find an app preinstalled that can utilize it, and third-party apps say there's no IR emitter on the phone.

SIM slot on the bottom - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Speaker up top - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
SIM slot on the bottom • Speaker up top

The right side is where the physical buttons can be found on the Axon 40 Pro in a slightly thickened section of the frame that starts just above the midpoint. The power button is textured for tactile feedback, and both it and the volume rocker click positively and quietly.

The aluminum frame of the Axon 40 Ultra is given a satin finish as opposed to the glossy polish of the 30 Ultra, and it's nicer, we think.

Power button and volume rocker on the right - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Nothing but antenna lines on the left - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Power button and volume rocker on the right • Nothing but antenna lines on the left

This year's Axon Ultra has grown in size but not by much. The slightly larger display has barely had an impact on the footprint (the new model is less than 2mm taller and just half a mil wider), while the modest increase in battery capacity can probably account for the 0.4mm increase in thickness. Both can jointly take responsibility for the 16g of added weight, bringing the number up to 204g.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

What we're getting at is that the new model feels larger than the old one but isn't unreasonably so - it's certainly no Galaxy S22 Ultra or iPhone 13 Pro Max. It's not competing with those, really, but the likes of the Xiaomi 12 Pro and the OnePlus 10 Pro are virtually the same size and weight as the ZTE.

Reader comments

I think it has now been established that it is a 1/1.73" type sensor. Before launch it was rumoured to be a larger sensor but after the launch in China many sources stated it's 1/1.73". I've copied a translation from a Chinese so...

  • Rich
  • 17 Jul 2022
  • LdE

I have new Nubia Z40 Pro , it's a same phone?

I don't experience any of these problems. Apart from the weakness of the selfie camera, it's a very good phone!