ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

GSMArena Team, 11 June 2022.

MyOS 12 on top of Android 12

The Axon 40 Ultra runs Android 12, enhanced by a layer of in-house MyOS, also labeled 12. In most visual respects, MyOS 12 is identical to the previous iteration that we saw on the Axon 30 Ultra.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

One of the most prominent ZTE interventions that used to differ from stock Android and other makers' overlays were in the quick toggles area, where the initial swipe would get you 4 large bubbles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile data, and flashlight (of all things). That's still the case on MyOS 12, but whaddayaknow - now that's the 'default' Android 12 look, too.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

There's also a large brightness slider with an Auto toggle. You still can't change the four bubbles, but you can rearrange the regular-sized toggles that appear on the second swipe.

The settings menu is also custom, with ZTE opting for their own iconography and colors and a menu system that's different from Google's but still entirely logical. The About screen is ZTE's own and is pretty nice.

Quick toggles - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Quick toggles - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Quick toggles - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review About screen - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Quick toggles • Quick toggles • Quick toggles • Settings • About screen

ZTE has enhanced the customization options for this version, and all of them are grouped in the Personalization settings submenu. That's where you'll find the Always-on display settings - the feature can be that can be set to show all the time, according to a schedule, or just for 10 seconds after a tap - standard stuff. You get a host of different clock styles, which you can further customize. The fingerprint recognition animation is also customizable.

Always-on display - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Always-on display - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Always-on display - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Always-on display - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Always-on display - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Always-on display

Also, here you'll find the themes of which there are three pre-installed and no obvious way to get more. You can change app icon shapes and the shapes and colors of other UI elements independently; you can choose between different clock styles for the lockscreen. There's an easy way to set the animation speed without going into developer options.

Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Personalization settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Personalization settings

Fingerprint recognition is the obvious way to unlock the Axon. It uses an optical sensor, and we had no unusual run-ins with its operation - it unlocks quickly and virtually every time. We appreciate the relatively high position, even though it may require some getting used to.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

There's a feature that lets you assign up to 5 app shortcuts that will be available directly after unlocking when you press and hold the fingerprint sensor. It's somewhat quirky because the phone unlocks and takes you to the homescreen for a brief instant first and only then shows you the shortcuts, but it could be handy for the right situations.

You can also set up face recognition as the sole authentication method or have it work in conjunction with the fingerprint reader - whichever works first. Of course, this being a simple 2D camera-only face recognition, it's less secure than the fingerprint option.

Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Passwords and security - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Passwords and security

The lockscreen has a clock-style setting of its own and offers standard functionality, including a camera shortcut in the lower right corner. In the lower left, there's a pull-up tab of sorts, which gives you shortcuts to the flashlight (again) and a voice recorder, but no dialer or a way to change these.

The homescreens are simple, and the leftmost pane is the Google feed which you can disable. ZTE hasn't implemented the Android 12 enhanced widget interface. You can choose whether to have all your apps on your homescreens or take the two-tiered approach with homescreens for shortcuts and an app drawer to keep all apps. The app drawer does none of that MIUI category sorting, nor is there a row of frequently used apps, but you can sort it by frequency of use.

Lockscreen - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Lockscreen shortcuts - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Homescreen - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Folder view - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Google feed - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review App drawer - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Lockscreen • Lockscreen shortcuts • Homescreen • Folder view • Google feed • App drawer

The task switcher is nothing out of the ordinary, and neither is the notification shade (when it comes to the actual notification cards, that is). Notification history has made an appearance, a native Android 11 feature, which ZTE hadn't implemented in the previous MyOS release. They've been speedier with the introduction of the Android 12 Privacy dashboard, though, which is nice.

There are few in-house apps on the Axon. Most key functionality is outsourced to Google's apps, including Photos, Contacts, and Messages, but the File manager is custom.

File manager - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Storage settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Battery settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Privacy dashboard - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review RAM expansion - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
File manager • Storage settings • Battery settings • Privacy dashboard • RAM expansion

There is a fair number of proprietary features in the Features menu in Settings. That includes the Z-POP arrow shortcut that gives you access to some actions from the sides, but we found that to clash with the back gesture for navigation, plus it feels like a fairly niche feature to begin with.

A standard set of gestures is available, including raise to wake, and flip to mute. There's also a double-shake to start the flashlight from the lockscreen, and that's the third way to access the flashlight so far. This one is kinda picky though because it only works on the lockscreen - not on the always-on display and not with the phone already unlocked.

There's a mistouch prevention setting, too, if you're one to have trouble with the display's curved edges. There are three pre-set levels and a 0-10 slider but going too far to the right is counterproductive - it's almost enough to make the end keys in the keyboard inoperable. The default 'Light' setting (which corresponds to a 1 on the slider) worked fine for this reviewer's palms.

Z-POP - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Z-POP settings - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Screen recorder - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Gestures - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Mistouch prevention - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review Mistouch prevention - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
Z-POP • Z-POP settings • Screen recorder • Gestures • Mistouch prevention

Performance and benchmarks

The Axon 40 Ultra is using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 as most high-end Android phones this year. There's hardly anything we can tell you about Qualcomm's chip that you don't already know, but we'll rehash the specs - octa-core CPU in a 1+3+4 configuration with the prime core topping at 3.0GHz, Adreno 730 GPU.

RAM and storage configurations span a wide range, starting from our 8GB/128GB review unit, and going all the way up to 16GB/1TB, though the global version may only get 12GB/256GB in addition to our review spec, while the rest will probably remain confined to China.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review

The Axon 40 Ultra posted somewhat inconsistent results across the benchmarks we threw at it. A fairly high single-core score in GeekBench came together with a noticeably low for its chip multi-core result.

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Poco F4 GT
    1244
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    1238
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    1231
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    1207
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    1196
  • vivo X80 Pro
    1184
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    1176
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    1169
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    1165
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    1127
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    1124
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    975
  • Realme GT Neo3
    968
  • OnePlus 10R
    881

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT Neo3
    4079
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    3708
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    3682
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    3665
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    3658
  • Poco F4 GT
    3637
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    3582
  • OnePlus 10R
    3564
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    3528
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    3512
  • vivo X80 Pro
    3505
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    3501
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    3447
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    3189

The Antutu result was similarly one of the lowest ones we've gotten out of an SD 8 Gen 1 handset, though still better than what we squeezed out of the Dimensity 8100 inside the Realme GT Neo3.

AnTuTu 9

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    1007133
  • vivo X80 Pro
    1002570
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    997948
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    985226
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    980755
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    966251
  • Poco F4 GT
    952124
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    941895
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    886916
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    886248
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    884923
  • Realme GT Neo3
    819348
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    804626
  • OnePlus 10R
    759929

Graphics benchmarks paint a similar picture - the Axon 40 Ultra is underdelivering for what its hardware suggests it should be capable of. Others seem to be more adept at extracting higher results from similar bits.

GFX Aztek ES 3.1 High (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    61
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    59
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    50
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    46
  • Realme GT Neo3
    42
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    40
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    39
  • OnePlus 10R
    39
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    37
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    36
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    36
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    36
  • vivo X80 Pro
    34

GFX Aztek ES 3.1 High (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    43
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    42
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    41
  • vivo X80 Pro
    41
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    41
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    40
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    40
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    39
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    35
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    31
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    27
  • Realme GT Neo3
    27
  • OnePlus 10R
    26

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    61
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    60
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    51
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    45
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    45
  • Realme GT Neo3
    43
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    41
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    41
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    39
  • OnePlus 10R
    39
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    37
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    37
  • vivo X80 Pro
    34

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    48
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    46
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    45
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    45
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    44
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    44
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    42
  • vivo X80 Pro
    37
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    34
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    32
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    29
  • Realme GT Neo3
    28
  • OnePlus 10R
    26

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    82
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    78
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    68
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    59
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    58
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    54
  • Realme GT Neo3
    53
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    48
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    48
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    46
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    46
  • vivo X80 Pro
    44
  • OnePlus 10R
    42

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    97
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    96
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    96
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    95
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    95
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    95
  • vivo X80 Pro
    90
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    80
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    76
  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    72
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    69
  • Realme GT Neo3
    60
  • OnePlus 10R
    48

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Honor Magic4 Pro
    10183
  • Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
    10008
  • vivo X80 Pro
    9778
  • iQOO 9 Pro
    9673
  • Xiaomi 12 Pro
    9664
  • OnePlus 10 Pro
    9610
  • Realme GT2 Pro
    9487
  • Motorola Edge 30 Pro
    9406
  • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
    8670
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
    7405
  • ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G
    5714
  • OnePlus 10R
    5600
  • Realme GT Neo3
    5428

For what it's worth, the Axon 40 Ultra showed remarkable stability under prolonged maximum CPU load - an 88% result in the CPU throttling test with no significant dips in performance is not a trivial achievement for a top-end chipset. More in line with other SD 8 Gen 1 flagships were the 64% stability rating from the 3DMark Wild Life stress test - not great, not terrible.

With that said, the Axon ran super hot in these sustained load benchmarks, reporting temperatures in excess of 60 degrees. It was also so hot on the outside that it was impossible to hold in your hand. You could argue that it's the thermal dissipation solution doing its thing to the max and getting heat away from the components that generate it, and that's evidently the case, but that doesn't change how hot the handset got to the touch. On the flipside, 100% CPU and GPU loads are not what a phone normally experiences in real life, so you shouldn't actually be worried about skin burns.

CPU Throttling test - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review
CPU Throttling test • 3DMark Wild Life stress test

Reader comments

  • shu
  • 18 Nov 2022
  • IbK

why does the audio suck on gsm review for video tests but not on techtablets or bens gadget review?

I just recommended to activate developer mode and kill all background processes which works for me but for me this will affect notifications from social media apps. To avoid this, do not follow that recommendation and instead allow the apps to run in...

Hi everyone, I would like to share my experience with the Axon 40 ultra after using it for two weeks note that I am using the Chinese ROM because I reside in China. For the first week I was really disappointed because of the unusual arrange...