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One common area budget phones compromise is the camera and the ZTE Max XL is no exception. In ideal lighting conditions, the Max XL is actually capable of some good looking photos but the camera quickly falls on its face in low light. This is something that many flagship smartphones can’t get right, so it’s expected for a budget device to struggle especially here.
Even with photographic subjects in direct sunlight, the ZTE Max XL’s camera struggles with dynamic range, blowing out highlights or obscuring details in the shadows. Looking at photos at 100% crop, there’s a noticeable lack of sharpness with details blurring into one another.
The 5MP front facing camera is even worse, struggling to show any sort of dynamic range and sharpness. Selfies look like they’ve been put through a softness filter, though it does have a nice smile detection feature.
On the positive side, the camera software of the ZTE Max XL is good, offering a ton of customization for filters, HDR, self-timers, panoramas, timelapse and multiple exposures. There’s even a manual mode to adjust aperture, ISO, white balance, and exposure independently. These are nice features to have but users will quickly bump into the camera’s limitations.
Photos in perfect lighting conditions exhibit good colors and sharpness.
Notice the lack of dynamic range as the plants in the shadow are difficult to see and highlights from the sky are blown out.
With HDR enabled, the Max XL’s camera does a decent job of capturing all of the highlight and shadow details, but photos look artificially enhanced.
Macro photos look soft and warm. Notice the yellow cast of the image compared to previous shots.
Low light photos are blurry thanks to the lack of optical image stabilization and you can’t make out any details of the speaker on the right.
The front facing camera takes very soft photos and struggles with dynamic range. You can’t see anything outside the window behind me.
- Large 3,990mAh battery can last two days with moderate use
- Quick Charge 3.0 compatible
- Idling lost only 4% overnight
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the ZTE Max XL is its huge 3,990mAh battery. In our week of testing, we managed to get two full days of light use out of the Max XL. With heavier use like watching video and constant texting, you’ll still need to charge the phone overnight but most users will get through a typical day comfortably.
In terms of idling performance, the ZTE Max XL lost about 4% overnight, thanks to the battery optimizations done in Android 7.1.1 Nougat.
For those who are constantly on their phones, the ZTE Max XL comes with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 built-in so topping up from flat takes about less than 2 hours. ZTE includes a USB quick charger and USB-C cable in the box, which are nice additions for a phone this cheap.
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