Review: Nubia Z11 Mini is a rare compact Android phone

Nubia Z11 Mini marks the entrance of another Chinese phonemaker which seems to have got most things right with its first solo venture


The Nubia Z11 Mini smartphone, priced at Rs14,500, will only be sold online in India for the time being.
The Nubia Z11 Mini smartphone, priced at Rs14,500, will only be sold online in India for the time being.

Chinese phonemaker Nubia, which made its debut in the Indian market last year with ZTE, has decided to go on its own this time around. The Nubia Z11 Mini smartphone is priced at Rs.14,500. Weirdly, this phone will only be sold online in India for the time being, but Nubia has not announced the exclusive partner yet.

The glass back and the curved aluminium frame along the side panel give it a dash of premiumness
The glass back and the curved aluminium frame along the side panel give it a dash of premiumness

Design: Compact and stylish

It is now hard to place a phone in any price segment by just looking at it, because designs have improved significantly. The Z11 Mini is no different. It belongs to the budget segment, but it has all the physical attributes of a high end phone.The glass back and the curved aluminium frame along the side panel give it a dash of premiumness. Though the phone has a compact (141x70x8mm) and light form factor (138g), one can’t overlook the glossiness on the back that makes it slippery and prone to smudges. The smartphone also has a fingerprint sensor, which rests on the back panel and adds a layer of extra security on the phone. It’s accurate and spot on. The phone buttons are placed outside the screen and every time the screen switches on the red backlight beneath it glows too. The USB Type-C connecter and the two speakers are placed at the base. The sound quality from the speakers is average.

The display has a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 as a protection against scratches
The display has a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 as a protection against scratches

Display: Small but bright

The Z11 Mini’s 5-inch screen size is a reminder that small screen phones are still in vogue. We have seen several small screen phones of late. The display has a resolution of 1,920x1,080p and pixel density of 480ppi, which is impressive for a budget smartphone. It is a sharp looking display which handles colours very well, which makes movie playback, gaming or web browsing an enjoyable experience. The IPS panel ensure visibility is not affected when the screen viewed from wide angles.

The display also has a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 as a protection against scratches. One of the highlights of this display is the option in the settings where you can modify the hue and saturation levels of the screen s per your convenience. The pocket mode which prevents accidental dialling of numbers while the phone is in pocket is quite handy.

Software: Old Android but has some cool features

Though the phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop but there is nothing on the interface that betrays it. Like all Chinese phonemakers there is a heavily customised user interface sitting on top of the Android OS. The fact that it runs a two year old OS is a bit surprising at a time when phones with Android Marshmallow are common and Android Nougat has been announced for several phones as well.

The apps are arranged on multiple home screens, instead of being put in a separate app drawer. You can change the look and feel by applying new themes and icons. There are some interesting gesture controls, which we haven’t seen in any smartphone before. For instance Swiping along the edge of the screen opens all the background apps one by one. This is a cool and more convenient way of multi-tasking compared to hard pressing or double tapping the multi-tasking button. The split screen mode allows user to carry two tasks side by side. However, this is not as straightforward as the split screen mode in the Galaxy Note series phone. This one splits the screen into two parts and anything you open in the one half will run side by side with the task on the other half.

Performance: Works smoothly, average battery

Powering the device is Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor which is clubbed with 3GB RAM. The phone was able to handle switching between multi-tasking and gaming without any jitters or heating up on the back panel, as some sleek phones tend to do.

Overall performance has been niggle free and at par with phones selling in the same price segment. In terms of storage it gives you 32GB of internal storage and the flexibility to add another 200GB using a microSD card. However, the microSD slot is built on one of the SIM slots. This means you can’t use the two SIM slots and the microSD card slot at the same time.

It is a 4G ready device and supports all 4G networks. The phone’s 2,800mAh battery is quite average and barely lasted a whole day on single charge even on modest use.

Camera: Impresses with colour

The phone’s big attraction is its 16-megapixel camera which can deliver good quality shots even in inadequate light. Outdoor shots look well detailed and colourful. It was able to handle colour contrast very well too. However, you need steady hands to get a stable shot as there is no optical image stabilisation to do it for you. The low-light shots, were surprisingly good and don’t look pixelated on a big screen right away. The camera packs in plenty of camera modes and filters such as time lapse, black and white, multi-exposure and slow shutter for camera buffs. The 8-megapixel selfie camera is wide enough for group selfies while the picture quality is good enough for social media posts.

Verdict

Nubia Z11 Mini is a solid addition to the budget segment but misses out on some basic elements such as the version of Android and average battery. If you can spend a little more you can consider the Lenovo Z2 Plus (Rs. 17,999) which offers more battery, runs new and clutter-free Android and is powered by a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. If you want a big screen phone at the same price point, the Moto G4 Plus (Rs. 13,499) is a better option for its new big screen, smooth performance, ergonomic design, splash resistant body, and clean Android.

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