The Axon 7 ships in a very stylish box, which is at the same time looking modest. However, that's far from what ZTE has included inside.
In addition to the phone, you get the Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter (3A - 5.0V / 2A - 9.0V), USB Type-C cable, and premium headphones with a design inspired by the Apple EarPods. Lifting the manual on the left unfolds a USB Type-C to microUSB adapter, SIM slot ejector tool tucked in a rubber keychain, and at the bottom of it all, there's a silicone case.
The ZTE Axon 7 measures 151.7 x 75 x 7.9 mm and weighs 175 grams - narrower and shorter than the OnePlus 3, but quite heavier as well.
The Axon 7 follows the design foundation laid by the original ZTE Axon, which came out back in October last year. Back then, we admired the breath of fresh air exuded by the company, and now we're glad to see this design evolve.
The evolution is marked with a big dose of maturity, as the flamboyant design elements from the Axon 7's predecessor are gone now. No more triangle cutouts, dual-tone accents or an excellent blue paint job are present.
Whether that's a good or a bad thing is a matter of taste, and as far as our goes, we like the result. Both the original Axon and this new one have a character of their own, which works equally well. Kudos for ZTE for pulling off both an outlandish and a stylish design equally well.
The Axon 7 looks and feels premium, and that's paramount. The aluminum unibody design takes care of that, while the subtle lines and well laid out hardware leaves you with the rightful impression that ZTE has given this phone a plethora of attention in the design process.
The front of the phone houses the dual stereo speaker setup with a subtle dot pattern. Squished in between them and the display are two narrow black lines: the bottom features capacitive navigation buttons, while the top one has only the notification LED light. It could've easily been in one of the speaker holes, but that'd have mixed the balance of the phone.
Sadly, the aluminum unibody of the Axon 7 proves to be slippery more often than not. The rounded sides of the phone don't help much with the handling, especially in conjunction with the slim profile. The included silicone case improves this, though.
Above the 5.5" QHD display, there's an 8MP selfie snapper and below it is a couple of sensors (they're hard to see sitting on that black line).
Below the display, there are the aforementioned capacitive keys. For some reason, ZTE hasn't managed to light them up, so they are hard to use in the dark. Quite a bummer, really.
The left side is where the hybrid card slot is. It can accommodate two nano-SIM cards, or you can swap the second one for a microSD card. Sure, it limits the options, but at least you have options, right?
The volume rocker and the power key, both made of metal, are on the right. They're pleasantly clicky, too.
The top houses the audio jack and the second mic, while the bottom has the USB Type-C port and the primary mic.
Around the back we find the more grown-up design approach ZTE took with the Axon 7, compared to its predecessor. The 20MP camera has a noticeable bump - it's not a big deal when the phone lies on its back, and is somewhat tolerable when you start tapping the screen in that position.
The fingerprint sensor is right below the camera, and it's of the "always-on" variety so it would wake and unlock the phone even when the screen is turned off. The reader is accurate and it unlocks the phone lightning fast.