When you think of flagship smartphones you probably tend to associate them with high price tags ranging from $600 or $700 and beyond. But in recent years’ things have started to change. There’s an interesting new category on the block – the so called “affordable flagships” – phones sold for around $400 that come equipped with very-close-to flagship specs. And they are getting a lot of attention.

So what follows we are going to take a closer look at two of the best models on the cheap flagship market –  ZTE Axon 7 and OnePlus 3T – and see how they compare against each other.


5.5-inch AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution vs 5.5-inch optic AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution

538ppi vs 401ppi

The ZTE Axon 7 features a true flagship display with advanced resolution just like the Pixel XL. By contrast the OnePlus 3T features only 1080p resolution. Given that both phones come equipped with a 5.5-inch panel, the Axon 7’s is bound to be crisper and more detailed. The ZTE Axon 7 also features skinner bezels on top and on the bottom (but spacious enough to house the speaker grills).

Furthermore, the Axon 7 doesn’t come with a physical home button, while the OnePlus 3T does.

Computing power

Snapdragon 820 vs Snapdragon 821

Adreno 530 vs Adreno 530

4GB of RAM vs 6GB of RAM

The OnePlus 3T takes advantage of Qualcomm’s newer Snapdragon 821, while the Axon 7 is supported by a Snapdragon 820. The Snapdragon 820 takes advantage of four custom made Kyro cores divided into two different clusters – the first runs at max clock speed of 2.15GHz while the other duo dedicated to power efficiency can run up to 1.6GHz.

The Snapdragon 821 is also a quad-core affair, with the performance cores running at up to 2.4GHz, while the battery saving cores max out at 2.0GHz. Basically the Snapdragon 821 offers a 10% increase in performance – so you should find the OnePlus 3T to be a bit snappier, especially since it boasts 6GB of RAM too. However, both affordable flagships will be able to handle most of the tasks you throw at them without problem.


20MP/8MP vs 16MP/16MP

The ZTE Axon 7 features a main 20MP camera with f/1.8 phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual-LED (dual tone) flash plus an 8MP selfie snapper.

As we found in our review of the ZTE Axon 7 the phone is capable of taking some exquisite pictures day light, however it does tend to struggle in low lighting environments:

The phone’s camera does struggle at night; much more than other high-end phones I’ve used. When capturing our school’s library at night, the lights are easily seen, but not much else even with HDR mode enabled. Detail on the townhouses shown above aren’t very impressive either, and the lights are way overexposed.

The OnePlus 3T has a 16MP main camera with f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash and a more advanced 16MP selfie camera – which is going to be the delight of selfie lovers everywhere.


Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow vs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Even if both phones shipped out with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box, owners can update them to Android 7.0 Nougat. Actually the Nougat update for the Axon 7 started rolling out not so long ago and brought Daydream View headset support along with it (something that the OnePlus 3T doesn’t have).

ZTE’s own UI skin does come with a few particularities of its own, just like OxygenOS. For example, on the ZTE Axon 7 the pull-down notification bar and quick settings change color with the wallpaper. There’s also the Mi-POP – a software navigation button that can be dragged around the screen in case you don’t want to make use of the capacitive keys.

As for the software onboard the OnePlus 3T, it lets you do things like drawn an “O” to launch the camera or customize notification colors.


3,250 mAh vs 3,400 mAh

Both phones feature non-removable batteries, but the OnePlus 3T has a larger one. This in combination with the less demanding 1080p display will probably ensure the OnePlus 3T will have a longer life than the ZTE Axon 7.

In our review of the Axon 7 we found the phone was able to last through a day on a single charge on moderate to heavy use.

We also ranked the Axon 7 lower than the OnePlus 3 (which has a 3,000 mAh battery), so the OnePlus 3T will certainly fair out better than any of the two.

Other features

64GB of internal storage vs 64GB/128GB of internal storage

The OnePlus 3T does offer two storage options, but it does not come with a microSD card slot. In contrast the ZTE Axon 7 does offer the services of a microSD card which allows for memory expansion up to 256GB.

Both the Axon 7 and OnePlus 3T feature USB Type-C ports and fingerprint sensors. The one on the Axon 7 is one the back while the OnePlus 3T’s lives up front.


$399 vs $439

As you can see, the Axon 7 is a bit cheaper, but the difference isn’t too grand. Customers might be inclined to get the Axon 7 because it offers better resolution, a more advanced main camera, a microSD card slot and Google Daydream View support. However, the OnePlus 3T features a newer Snapdragon 821 processor and more RAM. It also has a larger battery and a better selfie snapper.

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  1. I don’t get it. How can you review the zte axon 7 without mentioning its most important feature. Dual dac hifi with dolby atmos. Believe me, it makes a big difference. No other phone can boast a sound system like this.

  2. Axon 7 clear winner. Dual front facing speakers with a quadHD display for less money than onePlus3t… Not to mention the 2year warranty with a deductible for accidental damages vs OnePlus nightmare customer service department… The op mentioned that both phones come with USB type C charger, but forgot to mention that Axon 7 has a QuickCharge 3.0 widely available standard charger. OnePlus comes with it’s proprietary dash charger that’s specific to OPO.

  3. I’ve had my axon 7 for 2 months now and I love it. No regrets on selecting it over the oneplus. Also no glitches with the android 7 update. I ordered the daydream headset yesterday, so hopefully the axon 7 will do well with it!

    • Daydream is awesome on Axon 7, just don’t plan on hours of VR at a time. Axon 7, like every other phone, heats up. With the update to 7.1.1 the experience in daydream has been upgraded.

  4. Interesting that you omitted the best feature of the Axon 7, the Hi-Fi audio DAC and dual front facing stereo speakers. The best audio experience on any smartphone.

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