OnePlus 3 and ZTE Axon 7: Everything you need for less

by Haadi Bakar
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Here’s what you’d get when you pay top dollar for a high-end smartphone in 2016: premium build quality, the speediest pro- cessors, retina-scorching Quad HD displays, the best cameras and the latest fingerprint sensor tech.

If your budget doesn’t allow you it, there’s always the more affordable mid-range option, though you won’t be getting top-of-the-line specs and features in this range.

The mid-tier category isn’t really all that bad, especially if you’re looking at the 2016 line-up. Look hard enough and you’ll be surprised to find a number of affordable phones that can really take on the more expensive top-tier smartphones in terms of build quality, performance and features.

So save yourself that extra cash for a fancy dinner with your loved ones. The two affordable phones below has all the specs you’d come to expect from a $1,000 smartphone.

OnePlus 3

The One Plus 3 is the new budget king of smartphones. Image courtesy of One Plus.

A sequel to last year’s OnePlus 2, the new OnePlus 3 is a stunning $600 phone with a processor that’s miles faster than the $1,200 iPhone 6s Plus. I bet that it could still beat the iPhone 7’s performance when that phone comes out next month.

Now I know what you’re thinking: specs don’t matter, as long as it handles really well with minimal hiccups. Sure, but why would anyone still spend over a thousand dollars for a phone with three-year-old hardware??

The OnePlus 3 rocks a Snapdragon 820 quad-core CPU, the same processor that’s running the more expensive LG G5 and HTC 10. It’s also the only phone in the mid-range category to have 6GB RAM. That’s enough to power a Windows 10 PC!

Here’s what else you’ll be getting for about $600: a gorgeous 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen (not a Quad-HD panel, but still looks phenomenal), a fingerprint scanner for Android Pay and Secure Access, a 16 megapixel f/2.0 aperture camera (Sony’s sensor) with Optical Image Stabilisation and phase detection autofocus and 64GB of on-board storage.

This Android phone also uses the new reversible USB-C port and supports fast-charging. It doesn’t have expandable storage, but there’s a dual-SIM slot that’s pretty handy for frequent travellers.

The OnePlus 3 is also by far the most gorgeous-looking phone in the mid-tier category.

The brushed aluminium finish really give this phone a premium feel. I mean, really, at first glance, you would think this is a $1,000 smartphone!


ZTE Axon 7

The ZTE Axon 7 is is a strong contender to the One Plus 3, and is cheaper too. Image courtesy of ZTE.

Now this one really came out of nowhere. The ZTE Axon 7 ticks nearly all the boxes of a 2016 premium handset, but it’s not going to hurt your wallet either.

The ZTE Axon 7 also costs around $600, though it has a slight edge over the OnePlus 3 in display and storage.

The Axon 7 is currently the only mid-tier smartphone with a quad-HD 2560x1440p display! Those who like their phone screens as ultra-sharp as possible, this is the cheapest way to go. If you think about it, most phones in this price range do not even offer a 1080p display except OnePlus 3.

Also, the screen on the Axon 7 is a 5.5-inch AMOLED panel, with colours that really pop, just like on the high end Samsung phones.

Unlike the OnePlus, the Axon 7 has a microSD card slot on top of its 64GB internal storage. It also has two front facing speakers, something that you’d only find on premium lineups.

You’d think that this $600 phone would compromise on performance in favour of ultra-high resolution screens and quality speakers, but the Axon 7 is quite a beast.

Under the hood, this phone is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 820 chipset and 4GB of RAM. The 3250mAh battery also holds up pretty well, and the phone also supports fast charging via USB-C port.

This phone also sports a fingerprint sensor on the back, a placement similar to that of last year’s Nexus 6p. Like the OnePlus, the Axon 7 also has dual-SIM.

The 20 megapixel f/1.8 rear camera is also performs as good as any flagship phones on the market, delivering sharp and detailed images with good contrast and accurate colour reproduction, at least in good lighting.


Bottom line

Both OnePlus and ZTE offers the best bang for your buck, if you don’t mind the lesser-known branding (both are Chinese phone makers).

But hey, it’s cool to be the underdog. When everyone else carries iPhones or Galaxies, you’d stand out from the crowd.

The great thing about these two phones is that you no longer have to spend so much money for top-of-the-line specs.



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