Xiaomi and Realme are two big brands that often dominate headlines when it comes to phone launches in the mainstream and mid-range segments. Due to the rapid pace at which these brands keep launching new products, it's easy to overlook the smaller players which sometimes tend to have very interesting products. The Infinix Zero 5G is one of them as it's currently the only smartphone priced under Rs. 20,000 that I'm aware of with a 2X optical zoom telephoto camera. The Zero 5G also happens to be the company's first 5G offering. It launched in February 2022 and boasts of a good mix of features.
While it's true that there's no shortage of 5G smartphones around the Rs. 20,000 price point, does the Infinix Zero 5G have enough good qualities to make it worthy of a recommendation? Let's find out.
Infinix Zero 5G price in India
Infinix has launched the Zero 5G in a single configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's officially priced at Rs. 19,999, although Flipkart is currently listing it for Rs. 17,999. The phone is available in three colours, Cosmic Black, Horizon Blue, and Skylight Orange.
Infinix Zero 5G design
The Infinix Zero 5G is a tall smartphone which makes one-handed use next to impossible. In fact, it's a little bit taller than an iPhone 13 Pro Max (Review), which says a lot. Thankfully, it's not very thick at 8.77mm and the weight is a manageable 199g. The all-plastic body of the black variant has a glossy finish which attracts fingerprints very easily. Smudges are instantly noticeable and don't wipe off easily either, making it quite a task to maintain a clean look.
The design of the rear camera module reminds me a lot of the Oppo Find X5 Pro (First look) as it appears to rise through the back panel. It looks nice and makes the Zero 5G somewhat distinct compared to the rest of the phones in its class. The back panel is made out of polycarbonate though, and after a few weeks of using this phone without a case, my unit did pick up minor scuff marks along the bottom.
The rear of the Infinix Zero 5G has strong Oppo Find X5 Pro vibes
The volume and power buttons are on the right side of the phone but sit a bit too flush with the frame, so tactile feedback isn't great. The power button has a fingerprint sensor embedded in it but it can be hard to find at times by touch alone. The tray on the left side of the Infinix Zero 5G supports two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card for storage expansion. The bottom of the frame has a headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and speaker.
The Infinix Zero 5G has a 6.78-inch IPS LCD with a full-HD+ resolution. It also supports a 120Hz refresh rate, a 240Hz touch sampling rate, and a peak brightness of 500 nits. Infinix hasn't specified whether it has used any scratch-protective glass over the display. The bezels around the display aren't very intrusive but the cutout for the camera could have been a bit smaller.
In the box, the Infinix Zero 5G comes with a 33W charger, Type-A to Type-C cable, screen protector, transparent silicone case, and SIM eject tool.
Infinix Zero 5G specifications and software
Infinix has picked a pretty powerful SoC for the Zero 5G. The MediaTek Dimensity 900 SoC is a fairly recent and power-efficient chip usually seen in more expensive phones such as the OnePlus Nord CE 2 (Review) and Oppo Reno 6 (Review). In the Zero 5G, this SoC supports a total of 13 5G bands along with dual-5G standby. Now that we have more clarity on when we can actually expect 5G in India, it might be worth paying close attention to this for your next purchase. Infinix also says it has used LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage, which is not often seen in this price segment.
The Infinix Zero 5G supports the usual sensors and satellite navigation systems. You get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. The phone misses out on stereo speakers and an official IP rating, but it does have FM radio. The Zero 5G has a pretty chunky 5,000mAh battery which should help it last for at least one full day, if not more.
XOS 10 on the Infinix Zero 5G is a bit too busy for my liking and can be very distracting
The Zero 5G runs Infinix's custom Android skin called XOS 10, however this is still based on Android 11. The good news is that Infinix has already committed to releasing the Android 12 update, but it won't be out till August 2022. I have to say, XOS isn't my favourite Android skin as the UI elements are a bit too busy for my taste, and at times it can be tough to find what you're looking for.
There are a lot of preinstalled apps which have a tendency to clutter your notification shade with unsolicited alerts. I also noticed that quite a few apps such as AHA Games, Palm Store, Hi Browser, InSync, etc are redundant and can't be uninstalled. Certain basic settings such as the battery usage graph are unnecessarily buried within menus, making them hard to find unless you use the search function.
I did like some aspects of the UI such as the games app, called XArena, which looks slick and lets you tweak certain UI settings from within games. However it also detected Twitter and Google Photos as games, which was strange. I'm hoping the Android 12 update includes a better functioning skin.
Infinix Zero 5G performance and battery life
Once you get past the little UI quirks of XOS, the Infinix Zero 5G is not a bad phone to live with. I would suggest staying away from this black colour, especially if you're a neat freak, as it's very difficult to keep fingerprints off it. The blue and orange colours should be more forgiving, going by pictures. The display of the Zero 5G gets very bright and I had no trouble using it outdoors, even under sunlight. However, the overall size of this phone makes it difficult to use comfortably with one hand, unless you enable one-handed mode.
Streamed videos looked good on the phone's display, with good colours and sufficient brightness. HDR video playback is not supported and such videos have a washed-out look. The single speaker gets fairly loud but I missed an immersive stereo sound. The refresh rate of the display isn't dynamic which means if it's set to 120Hz, it will stay at that rate even if you don't interact with the screen.
I noticed if you leave the refresh rate at ‘Auto', it only runs at 120Hz on the homescreen and in the Gallery app, and switches to 60Hz in other apps. To get smoother scrolling within apps, you'll need to force the refresh rate to 120Hz, in which case, you get 120Hz or 90Hz (depending on the app) in apps too.
Gaming performance on the Infinix Zero 5G is good and so is the battery life
The Infinix Zero 5G is a good performer. Benchmark numbers were pretty decent given the SoC it has. In AnTuTu, the phone scored 475,637 points and it also returned a decent 730 and 2,037 points in Geekbench's single and multi-core tests, respectively. Games such as Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty: Mobile ran very well too, with good graphics and playable frame rates. The back of the phone did get a little warm after a 30-minute gaming session but it never got uncomfortable to hold.
The battery life of the Infinix Zero 5G was pretty good during my review period. The phone easily lasted for one full day even with heavy use and would typically go beyond that with moderate to light usage. In our HD video loop test, the phone lasted for 16 hours, 35 minutes which is above average. The bundled charger charges the phone pretty quickly too. The battery charged up to 92 percent in an hour, which was not bad considering the size of the battery.
Infinix Zero 5G cameras
The telephoto camera of the Infinix Zero 5G is a big talking point since it makes this phone stand out in its segment. The camera has a 13-megapixel resolution with autofocus and an f/2.46 aperture. It's capable of 2X optical zoom and a maximum of 30X digital zoom.
Infinix Zero 5G telephoto camera samples (tap to see full size)
When shooting during the day, telephoto performance was actually very good. This camera captured decent detail with both landscape and close-up subjects. Exposure was handled well and the subject in focus was quite sharp. I found detail to be decent till about 10X magnification, but the quality of photos degraded quickly as I zoomed in more. At 30X, textures appeared grainy and objects were just about recognisable. Telephoto performance in low light was not great even at 2X, and only got worse as I zoomed further.
Infinix Zero 5G main camera sample (tap to see full size)
The other two cameras on the back of the Infinix Zero 5G are a 48-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. There's no ultra-wide-angle camera. The main camera turned out to be a little disappointing since the exposures of photos taken during the day were often quite off. When presented with open landscapes and bright sunlight, the Zero 5G's main camera would often capture hazy and washed-out shots. The telephoto camera often captured better detail than the main one.
Infinix Zero 5G low-light camera samples (tap to see full size)
Low-light landscapes looked too dark and lacked good detail, unless I used the phone's Super Night mode, which made a noticeable difference. I quite liked shots taken with Portrait mode as objects had a pleasing level of background blur and edge detection was mostly on point.
Infinix Zero 5G selfie camera samples
The 16-megapixel selfie camera wasn't too impressive whether I was shooting during the day or at night. I managed to get a few usable shots but most of my daytime selfies had poor exposure, weak colours, and unnatural-looking skin tones. Low-light selfies looked grainy and dark, and while Super Night mode did help with brightness, detail was still weak and colours looked skewed.
The Infinix Zero 5G can record videos at up to 4K 30fps, but without any stabilisation. Colours tended look oversaturated in clips recorded during the day. Low-light footage was a bit grainy and often had poor white balance. Video quality didn't improve much at 1080p and footage was still not stabilised. The only way to get get smoother footage is to enable the ‘Ultra steady' toggle but this crops the frame and the resolution is limited to 1080p 30fps.
The Infinix Zero 5G offers a good combination of features on paper, which is what got my attention in the first place. The things going in its favour are the powerful 5G SoC with support for a good number of 5G bands, good battery life with relatively quick charging, and an above-average telephoto camera. However, the performance of the rest of the cameras and the awkward software experience make this phone hard to recommend.
If you're really after a good telephoto camera at around this price range, then I recommend spending a bit more and getting the Motorola Edge 20 (Review). It has an equally powerful 5G SoC but with a 3X telephoto camera, a 144Hz AMOLED display, and an IP52 rating. If you need to stick to a budget of Rs. 20,000, then you have excellent options such as the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G (Review) and Realme 9 5G Speed Edition (Review) to choose from.