Telstra Tough Max 3 – you can beat it - literally
4.4Overall Score
Name: Telstra Tough Max 3
Price (RRP): $499
Manufacturer: Telstra/ZTE

The Telstra Tough Max 3 is a tradie’s phone. Rugged, unassuming and highly functional – just like a tradie.

We put the Telstra Tough Max 3 through its paces including an IP68 test and because we did not have to return it – some rough and tumble treatment. It passed and even went for a swim.

When you buy a tough phone, you expect a few compromises, but the Telstra Tough Max 3 turns out to be a well-featured phone made for Telstra by ZTE.

Telstra Tough Max 3 LTE-A AU a.k.a. ZTE T86

  • Telstra Website here
  • ZTE Australian website here
  • Price: $498.96 over 24 or 36 months plus a monthly data plan from $50/15GB to $100/150GB. It can be purchased outright and used with an external MVNO plan.
  • Warranty: 2-years

Telstra has a promotion to win an Isuzu D-max – buy before 30/3/20.

Base specs – all pretty good

  • Qualcomm SD665 (same as OPPO A9 – review here)
  • 4GB/64GB/microSD to 256GB
  • Single Sim, VoLTE and VoWiFi, Telstra Blue-Tick and External RF antenna port
  • 5.65-inch, 2160 x 1080 pixels, 427ppi
  • Wi-Fi AC, BT 4.2, FM Radio, GPS, NFC
  • 3920mAh battery, USB-C PD charger 18W
  • Android 9
  • Glass screen protector (not fitted)

Screen – PASS

It is a 1080p screen, so text and images are crisp. But it lacks brightness (about 250 nits) and contrast (1000:1) for direct daylight use. It is not bad, but you will need to shade the screen. We did not measure colour gamma or Delta E as this is not a requirement of a tough phone.

It has good haptic feedback, although no glove mode for tradies. It has a low 67.6% STBR – massive top, chin and side bezels.

The screen is a fingerprint magnet – we did not add the glass protector for the test. It has Gorilla Glass 3, so it is relatively scratch, but not impact resistant.

You can unlock via 2D face unlock. We found it reliable in daylight and poor in low light.

CPU Throttling – PASS

Capable of 144,000GIPS but after four minutes drops to around 102,000GIPS. Average of the 15-minute test was 118K and a low of 102K (72% of its maximum performance).

We expected that as the case is IP68 rated and cooling is harder in a sealed environment. Still, it is quite acceptable.

Geekbench 5 single/multi-core 313/1389 comparable to a Samsung Galaxy S8 circa 2017.


While it is a game capable GPU, there is no ‘game’ mode to boost frame rates. It will play most modern mobile 1080p games at 24fps or better.

  • Ram: 4GB LPDDR4-1866 3.635GB free
  • 128GB eMMC (48.77GB free)

Comms – PASS

Wi-Fi AC 1×1– it has a single Wi-Fi antenna and reaches the maximum of 433Mbps/-53dBm at 2m from our NETGEAR AX12 router.

While the Qualcomm SoC supports BT 5.0, this only implements 4.2. The main difference would have been longer distances between the phone and a BT device.

NFC- it supports Google Pay.