October 28, 2016

ZTE ZMAX 2 Review - Tracfone Smartphone

Tracfone ZTE ZMAX 2 (Z955L) Full Review

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zte zmax 2 review
ZTE ZMAX 2 Review
The ZTE ZMAX 2 was released in late 2015, and came to Tracfone in mid 2016, but it is a phone that has some features many Tracfone users desire, and at a price that is nearly unbeatable.

Tracfone continues to release many new smartphones, and the ZMAX 2 was released several months back, but we are just now getting around to reviewing it. This is partially due to the great value for the price it offers, and also because Tracfone has released the 'big brother' to the ZMAX 2 in the form of the ZTE Max Duo.

In this review we will share the features and specs for the ZMAX 2, followed by the pro's and con's and finally where you can buy and how it compares to some other Tracfone devices.

Catch up on some of the other new phones Tracfone has been releasing by visiting our New LG/Samsung post, New ZTE/Alcatel phones, and New Apple iPhones available from Tracfone.

Before we get too far into this review, here are our quick facts about the ZTE ZMAX 2. This is to help give an idea about the main pro's or con's for this phone:

ZTE ZMAX 2 Quick Facts

The Good:
-5.5" Touchscreen
-Android 5.1
-16 GB Memory/ 2 GB RAM
-8 MP Camera with good features
-Great price - with airtime bundle for $150

The Not so Good:
-Not the best Battery Life
-Speaker Performance is just OK
-Processor is made for budget phones
(these are only slight negatives, especially if you're coming from an older smartphone)

We don't really have too much that is bad to say about this phone, but we will dive into some details further on. The key specs to take note of is the 16 GB internal memory and 2 GB RAM. These are features very few other Tracfone smartphones have, and allow the phone to be much more useful.

We recently reviewed the LG Premier and LG Stylo 2, which have screens of 5.3" and 5.7". But the LG phones only have half the internal memory or RAM, which limits their ability to multitask, or store very many apps and other data.

LG does have a reputation for quality and good performance in their phones while ZTE is less well known. ZTE is a Chinese manufacturing company and is one of the top mobile phone makers in China, and in the top 10 worldwide. They have increasingly been creating budget friendly phones that have good performance and features for distribution in the US and rest of the world.

The ZTE ZMAX 2 is a phone that hits some high marks with the features it offers for the price, and may prove to be a good option for many Tracfone users.

Let's get into the full list features and specs for the ZMAX 2 and see exactly what it offers.

Tracfone ZTE ZMAX 2 Features and Specs

Below are the phone's features, followed by the technical specs
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 4G LTE capable using GSM service (AT&T cell towers)
  • WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • MP3 Player
  • Alarm Clock
  • Access to over 1 MIllion apps on Google Play
  • Accelerometer, proximity sensor, compass
  • GPS
  • 8 MP Rear Camera with autofocus, flash, HDR, Panorama, Face detection and more
  • 2 MP Front Camera
  • Caller ID, Voicemail, SMS and MMS
  • Triple Minutes for Life (when adding regular airtime cards)
Tracfone ZTE ZMAX 2 Specs
  • Size: 6.06" x 2.99" x 0.37"
  • 5.5" Touchscreen with 720 x 1280 pixels (~267 pixel density)
  • 1.2 Ghz Quad Core Processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 410)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB Internal Memory (~9.5 GB usable, Micro SD card Slot up to 32 GB)
  • 3000 mAh Battery (removable) with about 17 hrs talk time, 10 days standby
There are some key features on the ZMAX 2 that make it stand out from most other budget phones from Tracfone (which we will go over a little further on). But what is really impressive is that the ZMAX 2 is about the same price, or even a little cheaper.

The Tracfone version of the ZTE ZMAX 2 is only available from HSN.com at this time, but you can also purchase unlocked versions of the phone(on amazon) and activate it with the BYOP program. Unlocked versions cost a little less, but don't come with the airtime bundle which is a $100 value.

Let's get into our full review of the ZTE ZMAX 2.

ZTE ZMAX 2 Full Review

We will share our key likes and dislikes about this phone below.

What we Like:
Many of the features and specs on the ZTE ZMAX 2 are as good or better than many of the other Tracfone smartphones in this price range. The two most important features are the memory and RAM that come with this phone. Also impressive is the screen, camera and price.

Many Tracfone smartphone users have found it annoying that Tracfone keeps releasing new phones with only 8 GB internal memory, and just 1 GB RAM. The ZMAX 2 doubles that, with 16 GB internal memory and 2 GB RAM. You end up with about 10 GB available space to store apps, photos, videos, music and anything else. This will likely be enough for most users unless you download lots of videos or music. 2 GB RAM makes this phone better at multitasking - it can run more apps at once before it starts to lag.

We are surprised that the ZMAX  is one of very few options from Tracfone at this time with 16 GB memory. We think Tracfone will add more budget phones with 16 GB memory, but at this point the ZMAX 2 is one of the cheapest phones with this feature.

The RAM and memory the ZMAX 2 has is about the minimum a moderate smartphone user would want in order to load the apps, music and pictures on their phone, and not have it slow down.
ZTE ZMAX 2 tracfone review
Tracfone ZTE ZMAX 2 Front, Side and Back

Beyond the internal memory, the ZMAX 2 also has a large 5.5" touchscreen with a resolution of 1280x720 that is not bad considering the price of the phone. You don't get a full HD display, but it looks good and renders colors well.

The camera on the ZMAX 2 is 8 MP on the back, 2 MP on the front. Neither is especially amazing, but they get the job done if you want to snap a few photos to share with friends. The camera actually does have a number of useful features, like panorama, HDR, face detection and touch focusing. You can also record video in 1080p 30fps HD resolution

We like that the ZTE ZMAX 2 come with Android 5.1, but there are some phones coming from Tracfone that are running the newer, Android 6.0. With Tracfone, you can't upgrade the OS, so whatever version the phone comes with you are stuck using. Android 5.1 is relatively recent, but if you want to get OS updates, you should use an unlocked smartphone with the BYOP program.

That concludes our list of the main aspects of this phone we found impressive. Now we want to cover some things that didn't quite impress us.

What we Don't Like about the ZTE ZMAX 2:
There is a lot to like about the ZMAX 2 when compared with similarly priced smartphones, so it is hard to find any serious negatives about this phone. However, we do want to make a few points clear to help our readers understand exactly what they are getting if they buy this phone.

The speaker, battery, camera and screen are all pretty good at this price point and compared to the other smartphone's Tracfone offers like the LG Premier or ZTE Quartz, yet they have some drawbacks.

The processor is 1.2 Ghz Quad-core, which is good, but also meant for budget phones. The battery is 3000 mAh, and can last all day with moderate use, but, as is to be expected, the large screen size does tend to drain the battery quickly if used constantly.

It is hard to compare the ZMAX to other Tracfone devices because the ZMAX is generally a nice improvement. So why not try comparing it to one of the most popular unlocked smartphones currently available? That will help us see any significant negatives.

If you were willing to spend a little more, you could get an unlocked phone like the Moto G4 ($200), which has a 5.5" screen at 1080x1920 full HD resolution, 13 MP camera, and uses a faster, Octa-core processor. The Moto G4 will also get Android 7.0 when that is released.

The ZMAX 2 retails for $150, but that includes an airtime bundle worth $100, so you get the phone for just $50. If you buy the Moto G4, it is $200 with no additional airtime, so it actually costs $150 more.

Looking at how the ZMAX 2 compares to the Moto G4, we see that spending a bit more money does get you better features, but the ZMAX 2 is also a great deal at the price.

One final bit of information to point out  there is only one speaker at the bottom of the phone, so the sound can be muffled if set down with the speaker covered, but you can customize some of the settings and adjust the sound.

That's it for our likes and dislikes. The ZMAX 2 comes with a lot of good specs at this price.

Overview and Where to Buy the ZTE ZMAX 2

The ZTE ZMAX 2 is ideal for moderate smartphone users who want to use a handful of apps and are also looking for a large display. It is a great value for the money, with better performance and specs than many of Tracfone's other similarly priced smartphones.

Many of the recent Samsung and LG phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Luna, LG Treasure, LG Premier and others, have just half the memory and RAM of the ZMAX 2.

For heavy smartphone users, who may play graphics-heavy apps or run lots of apps at once, it would probably be worthwhile spending a bit more money to get a more powerful device (like the Moto G4).

The Tracfone ZTE ZMAX 2 is available from HSN with 1200 minutes for $150. It is also sometimes on sale for $129.

Take a look at the Interactive Tutorial for a closer look at how the phone works.

We hope the information provided in this review is helpful, and please leave a comment with any thoughts or questions.

We also want to include some additional helpful information about Tracfone smartphones.


Helpful Information about Using Tracfone Smartphones

Using Tracfone Smartphones (or devices on the BYOP program) has certain unique characteristics we want to go over to help clear up any confusion

There are regular airtime cards and smartphone-only airtime cards. You can use both with Tracfone smartphones.

Regular airtime cards such as the 60, 120, 200 minute cards, triple on all smartphones. Smartphone-only airtime cards do not triple.

Promo Codes do not work on Tracfone smartphones (although occasionally they do...)

Airtime is split into three 'pools' of talk, text and data. When you add airtime, you usually get a certain amount of each. Send a text will only use your text 'pool', just like calling will use your talk time, and surfing the web or other online activities will use your data (if you are not on WiFi).

For more about using Tracfone smartphones, take a look at some of our other resources:

How Airtime works on Tracfone Smartphones
4 Ways to Check your Airtime Balance
Comparison of New Smartphone Cards to Regular Airtime Cards
How to Add only Texts to your Smartphone
How to Add Data to your Smartphone (and how Data works)

We will also be reviewing the ZTE Max Duo in the near future, so keep an eye for that especially if you're looking for a phone with a 6" screen.

Don't forget to check out our list of Great Deals, Discounts and Sales including some of the best unlocked phones to use with the BYOP program.

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