We took a lot of selfies with the first photo sensor under the screen of a smartphone and it's not terrible

Introduction

We had a little fun with the ZTE Axon 20 5G, the first smartphone with a selfie sensor placed under the screen so that it was 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.

Selfie avec le ZTE Axon 20 5G

A selfie with the ZTE Axon 20 5G // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

What is the first photo sensor integrated in the screen of a smartphone worth? This is obviously 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 at 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.

Face avant du ZTE Axon 20 5G

The front of the ZTE Axon 20 5G // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

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 provide you with 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

Model ZTE Axon 20 5G
OS version Android 10 Q
Manufacturer interface MiFlavor
Screen size 6.92 inches
Definition 2460 x 1080 pixels
Pixel density 388 dpi
Technology OLED
SoC Snapdragon 765G
Graphics Chip (GPU) Qualcomm Adreno 620
Random access memory (RAM) 6 GB, 8 GB
Internal memory (flash) 128 GB, 256 GB
Camera (back) Sensor 1: 64 Mpx
Sensor 2: 8 Mpx
Sensor 3: 2 Mpx
Sensor 4: 2 Mpx
Camera (front) 32 Mpx
Video recording 4K @ 60 IPS
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 5 (ac)
Bluetooth 5.1
Supported bands 2100 MHz (B1), 800 MHz (B20), 1800 MHz (B3), 2600 MHz (B7)
NFC Yes
Fingerprint sensor Under the screen
Ports (inputs / outputs) USB Type-C
Battery 4220 mAh
Dimensions 77.9 x 172.1 x 8mm
Weight 198 grams
Colors Black, Gold, Purple, Blue, Yellow
Price 0 ¤
Product sheet
See the test

NB. This operation was performed with a ZTE Axon 20 5G purchased online .

A photo sensor not very good at hide and seek

So you will understand, this grip will not dwell very long on the design of the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Note, however, 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 admit.

The glossy glass back benefits from some eye-friendly reflections and a quadruple photo module tucked 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.

Dos du ZTE Axon 20 5G

The back of the ZTE Axon 20 5G // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Yes, the front photo sensor is tucked into the slab to avoid the notch, punch or motorized system or slider . I will try to avoid the verb “hide”, as discretion is not the strong point of this component. For this camera to be able to see through the screen of the smartphone, this part of the display area must be more transparent to some extent.

However, on this ZTE Axon 20 5G, this technical constraint is clearly visible. All you have to do is 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.

ZTE Axon 20 5G

The location of the front photo sensor remains visible on the ZTE Axon 20 5G (brightness modified in post-production to better transcribe what the human eye sees) // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Against 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 angle of view.

In any case, it is not very pretty to see and we do not really see how this solution is more pleasant on the eyes than a classic notch in the shape of a drop of water.

Caméra frontale du ZTE Axon 20 5G sur fond blanc

On a white background, the front photo sensor under the screen of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is not very discreet (brightness modified in post-production to better transcribe what it sees. human eye) // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

In short, it is not very convincing as an integration. Especially since the border below the screen of the smartphone remains quite thick, which is in contradiction with the desire to put the photo sensor under the screen to obtain a larger display area.

Painstaking selfies

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 conventional way. You really feel that the screen in front of him disrupts his understanding of the scenes you want to capture.

Overall, a sort of white veil is very regularly observed in the images. Depending on the situation, this is mostly felt either on the face or on the background … and sometimes on both.

We can also see how the selfies of the ZTE Axon 20 5G tend to exaggerately smooth the image. In many of the photos, my skin lacks relief and detail, in addition to being, on top of that, often bleached.

When I did these little 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 detail, sharpness and color processing. The gap here cannot simply be attributed to the more premium price segment the South Korean is targeting.

Another comparison with the Galaxy S21 Ultra below. Here, I wanted to take a somewhat difficult photo 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 one shot, a good part of my forehead is blurred, as if it were part of the background. We can therefore wonder if the very special integration of the sensor does not hamper his appreciation of distances and therefore depth of field.

Note also that the video result is not better. Here is an example of a video shot in the courtyard of my building in 1080p at 30 frames per second (you can’t get better recording quality).

YouTube link Subscribe to Frandroid

See how hard the ZTE Axon 20 5G is to handle exposure properly. Too bad.

Patience, patience

There is no doubt that the integration of photo sensors under the screen will one day be more problematic. Recall that fingerprint scanners were treated to the same treatment a few years ago and are less of a concern in terms of effectiveness 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.

There he is, the real sinews of war. Let us wait patiently: one day we will be able to take full advantage of it.

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