Nubia Z17 Mini Review: Potential Mid-Segment Champ
A solid performer with great cameras
It is raining dual camera smartphones and we do not see this monsoon ending anytime soon. Many companies have launched dual camera phones and the Chinese player Nubia has just joined the club (in India, at least). Nubia recently introduced the Nubia Z17 Mini and guess what? It comes with a dual camera on the back. The Nubia Z17 Mini comes with dual 13-megapixel cameras and has been launched in the mid-range segment for Rs. 19,999. But is the new Nubia ship going to sail smoothly on the dual camera waves or is it going to sink because of the competition iceberg?
Predictable but solid design
Looks and design is one area where we do not really see any dramatic changes unless the devices belong to the premium segment. In the more humble mid-segment, we generally see just a few changes that help us differentiate one device from the other. Well, the Z17 Mini’s case is no different. While Nubia has its own stamps which say “Nubia,” the device does not “really” stand out in terms of design. We received the gold and white version which looked relatively routine, but we have heard that the black one looks stunning.
The Nubia Z17 Mini sports a 5.2 inch full HD display with 2.5D curved glass which is protected by Corning Gorilla glass. The screen dominates the front of the phone. Below the screen are three capacitive buttons on the chin, with the one in the center is the typical circular, red Nubia home button. All the three buttons are backlit with red light. Right above the display, the company has placed the secondary camera, the proximity sensor, and the earpiece. The phone has got a white front while the back is gold in color.
While we are talking about the back, the matte gold back carries the flash and the dual primary camera with a beautiful red outline on the top left side. There are two plain antenna bands on the back, unlike the shiny ones we see on some devices these days. The first one goes through (and around) the camera and the flash while the second one is placed on the lower end. The company has also placed the fingerprint sensor below the first antenna band, and just below this sensor is the Nubia logo.
The hybrid SIM card slot pops out from the left side while the right side holds the volume button and the lock/ power button. Nubia has placed the 3.5 mm audio jack on the top while the speaker and the USB Type-C port are placed on the base.
Because the phone has a 5.2-inch screen, it is neither too big, nor too small. It fits in all hands easily and has a good hand feel to it. A person can operate the phone with one hand. The phone measures 146.7 x 72.5 x 7.5 mm and weighs 155 grams. It really is not the thinnest or the lightest phone around but definitely has a feel-good factor to it and feels solid too.
The Nubia Z17 Mini runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset bundled with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage which one can expand up to 256 GB by using a microSD card.
In terms of performance, we were pretty impressed with the Z17 Mini. The phone flew through our daily routines and tasks and did not slow down at all even when we had as many as 15 apps opened in the background. While mostly all the phones breeze through casual gaming but lag when it comes to high-end games, the Z17 Mini had a different story. The phone not only managed to run smoothly through casual games like Temple Run 2, Subway Surfer and Colour Switch but we even had a lag free and very smooth high-end gaming experience when we tried games like Asphalt Xtreme and NFS. It did slow down, and the heavy games took a bit more time than usual to launch sometimes when we had a few apps running in the background, but we did not face any midway crashes or stutters while playing the games. It ran up a respectable (if not exceptional) score in the benchmarks.
Consistent, feature rich cameras
The dual cameras are THE USP of the Nubia Z17 Mini. The smartphone is equipped with dual 13.0-megapixel primary cameras with PDAF, dual LED flash, and there is a 16.0-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies and video calling.
Nubia’s camera performance has pretty much remained above the line in most cases, and the Z17 Mini is no different. The camera captured great detail and zooming into the picture did not butcher detail the way we have seen in some other devices. The color reproduction by the camera seemed to be tilting towards the warmer side where the reds, oranges and the pink looked seemed a little over the top, and other colors also seemed oversaturated. But the camera performs well in daylight conditions and is extremely consistent. That said, taking a picture of a moving object looked a little difficult, and such pictures often ended up being blurry. The low light performance of the camera also seemed strictly average. The 16.0-megapixel front camera also is a smasher. Although the colors seemed a little too popped up here as well, Nubia hit a home run on the detailing strike.
The camera interface also offers as many as 16 modes that are very easy to understand and use, which are grouped under Camera Family. You also get four other options including Portrait which means blurring out the background and Pro mode. The UI also provides you with different filters and allows you to fiddle around with settings. All in all, the cameras perform well and are consistent, which is a massive deal for us, really because with most cameras at this price point, you know what you are going to get. Yes, it can be a little off-track in terms of colour reproduction but with the feature-rich UI and the camera performance, we will not shy away from saying that the Z17 Mini is perhaps one of the best camera phones present in this segment, comfortably outgunning even the likes of the Moto G5 Plus and the dual camera Huawei 6X.
Gimme more juice
Supporting all the great performance is 2950 mAh battery under the Z17 Mini’s hood. And while everything about this device is one hit after another, we think the battery just was not on the same level. It is not as if the battery on the Z17 Mini is a bad one. The phone easily lasts for 15-18 hours straight under heavy usage and can easily see more than a day when used moderately. The phone also supports fast charging which gives you couple of hours worth of battery life in just 15-20 minutes. But with performance like that, we just wanted a bit more from the battery of the device (this is us being greedy), especially when you consider that other devices in this price range come with large batteries. The connectivity options on the phone include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. The smartphone supports 4G VoLTE and connectivity on the Nubia Z17 Mini seemed good as we did not experience any call drop issues.
The “much features much confusion” UI
The Z17 Mini runs on Android Marshmallow 6.0 and has layer of Nubia UI on top. This is really where the Nubia ship gets a little leaky. First, the Android version running on the Nubia is dated – most of the new smartphones are coming with Android Nougat. And while we do not have a major issue with it, the topping is what makes the taste a little bitter for us.
We have not really been fans of the Nubia UI. The UI is feature rich…perhaps too rich for our liking. There is just too much happening sometimes – whether it is taking photographs when you hit the fingerprint sensor, the edge gestures, and other abracadabra-like stuff can intimidate and confuse a few people. On the brighter side, some of the features on the Nubia UI are pretty sweet like the split screen feature (yes, even on Android 6.0) or the dual instance feature that allows you to keep two versions of the same app on the phone. But the good features get overshadowed by the sheer confusion caused by the UI. The UI is otherwise clean, but although it is clutter free, it certainly is not simple and people may take some time to get used to it.
One of the best in its segment? Yup!
We are saying it aloud – the Nubia Z17 Mini is one of the best devices present in sub Rs. 20,000 category. The phone performs well in all segments – exceptionally so in the camera department – and did not really disappoint us at any stage. Yes, the battery could have been better and the UI needs a bit of simplifying but other than that, the Z17 Mini is a very solid device. The phone goes up against the likes of the Honor 6X, Moto G5 Plus, Mi A1 and its own cousin, the Nubia Z11 Mini which has a 23.0- megapixel primary camera. The competition in the sub-Rs. 20,000 is stiff and we do not know how well the Z17 Mini will do in the market but in our tests, the phone passed with more than just flying colours. It might not have the hype and hoopla that accompanies some of its competitors, but if you are looking for a great camera phone for under Rs 20,000, then the Nubia Z17 Mini is definitely one of the better options around.