We had a little fun with the ZTE Axon 20 5G, the first smartphone with a selfie sensor placed under the screen so as to be invisible to the eye. Here is our feedback on the integration of this component as well as on the quality of the photos that we can take.
What is the first photo sensor integrated in the screen of a smartphone worth? This is necessarily the main question we ask ourselves when discovering the ZTE Axon 205G. This smartphone, made official last summer, is available in China and has been talked about again after having passed through the hands of a few American testers.
Across the Atlantic, specialists were rather unanimous: the innovative ZTE Axon 20 5G was not very good for taking selfies. Ouch. Intrigued by this smartphone, the editorial staff of Frandroid still wanted to check the thing out for themselves. So we bought this product.
In this paper, we will not offer you a complete test of the beast, far from it. Not officially available in France, this device remains inaccessible to the vast majority of people who read us. However, we wanted to offer you our detailed feedback on the integration of the front sensor into the Axon 20 5G panel and on the quality of the resulting images.
ZTE Axon 20 5G Datasheet
NB. This handling was performed with a ZTE Axon 20 5G purchased online.
A photo sensor not very good at hide and seek
As you will have understood, this grip will not dwell very long on the design of the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Note all the same that the smartphone is very large with its diagonal of 6.92 inches, but that it remains light enough for a device of this size with its 198 grams. It’s a very relative lightness, I grant you that.
The glossy glass back benefits from some nice reflections for the eyes and a quadruple photo module nestled vertically in the upper left corner. On this reverse side, nothing is really out of the ordinary. Our curiosity is much more piqued by the ZTE Axon 20 on its front panel.
Yes, the front photo sensor is nestled in the slab to avoid the notch, the punch or the motorized system or slider. I will try to avoid the verb “hide”, because discretion is not the strong point of this component. In order for this camera to see through the smartphone screen, this part of the display area must necessarily be more transparent to a certain extent.
However, on this ZTE Axon 20 5G, this technical constraint is clearly visible. It suffices to let your eyes hang out a little on the top of the screen to see the small square that tries to hide the photo sensor. Even on a black background, it remains clearly visible, because the area in question does not reflect light in the same way and therefore appears darker.
On a lighter background, the hiding place of this front camera is even less discreet. The small square suffers from a more or less pronounced sparkle effect depending on the viewing angle.
In any case, it is not very pretty to see and we do not really see how this solution is more pleasant for the eyes than a classic notch in the shape of a drop of water.
In short, it is not very convincing as an integration. Especially since the border below the smartphone screen remains quite thick, which is in contradiction with the desire to put the photo sensor under the screen to obtain a larger display area.
ZTE put a 32-megapixel front sensor in their phone. Unfortunately, the latter does not behave as it would if it were integrated in a classic way. We really feel that the screen in front of him disturbs his understanding of the scenes we want to immortalize.
Overall, a sort of white veil is observed very regularly in the images. Depending on the situation, it is mostly felt either on the face or on the background … and sometimes on both.
We also see how the selfies of the ZTE Axon 20 5G tend to excessively smooth the image. In many photos, my skin lacks relief and detail, in addition to being, on top of that, often bleached.
When doing these small tests, I had the Galaxy S21 Ultra with me and I used it to be able to compare the behavior of the two smartphones. It’s day and night. Samsung’s device is far above it in terms of details, sharpness and colorimetric processing. The gap here cannot simply be attributed to the more premium price segment targeted by the South Korean.
Another comparison with the Galaxy S21 Ultra below. Here I wanted to take a photo that was a bit difficult with artificial lighting above me, but a background exposed to natural light. An exercise far too difficult for the ZTE Axon 20 5G to manage.
I also tried portrait mode, but it is still very risky. Even in the most unsuccessful photos, the outline of my face is very rough. In a photo, a good part of my forehead is blurred, as if it were part of the background. One can thus wonder if the so particular integration of the sensor does not hamper it in its appreciation of the distances and therefore of the depth of field.
Note also that the video result is not better. Here is, for example, a video made in the courtyard of my building in 1080p at 30 frames per second (you can’t enjoy better recording quality).
See how hard the ZTE Axon 20 5G struggles to properly handle exposure. Too bad.
There is no doubt that the integration of photo sensors under the screen will one day pose more problems. Remember that fingerprint scanners received the same treatment a few years ago and pose less of a concern in terms of efficiency over time.
However, this ZTE Axon 20 5G really comes across as a rushed device, driven by racing against the competition rather than looking for a truly well-finished product. Of course, in the future, we can always remember that the Chinese manufacturer was the first to really introduce the camera under the screen on the market, but in the long term, users will rather retain the name of the first manufacturer to have really mastered this technology.
It is there, the real sinews of war. Let us wait patiently: one day we will be able to take full advantage of it.