Nubia Z17 mini Review: The Best Mid-Range Dual Camera Smartphone

A report released by Canalys yesterday revealed that Chinese smartphone brands account more than 50 percent market share in India at the moment, which is not at all surprising. For years now, Samsung has been the leader in the Indian market, which might be changed in coming years.

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The Chinese brands ruling the Indian market are Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, and Lenovo (includes Motorola). One brand who is looking to break into that list is the ZTE-owned Nubia, which is yet another Chinese brand. Back at the Nubia Z11’s launch in December 2016, the brand said that they are eying for a decent market share by the end of 2017 by releasing more smartphones.

Sticking to its words, Nubia has launched a plethora of smartphones since the start of 2017, with the latest one being the Nubia Z17 mini (first impressions). The Z17 mini is priced at Rs. 19,999 and carries dual rear cameras. Here’s my full review of the Nubia Z17 mini after using it extensively for more than three weeks.

Design and Display

The highlight of the Nubia Z17 mini is the design of the phone because the phone has the same design language as the flagship phone Nubia Z11. The phone has slim bezels and has complete metal construction.

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Nubia has gone with hardware capacitive keys for the Z17 mini. A red-coloured circle home button is visible at the front, below the display. This button is flanked by two hardware keys, which lit up only when you touch the screen. The red-coloured home button also has a LED light beneath, which is helpful to indicate when the device is charging or when a notification arrives.

The annoying thing with these hardware keys is that Nubia did not add an option for opening recent apps with the hardware keys. You have to press the back key button long to show the recent apps menu, and there’s no way to customise this option.

Looking at the rear of the phone, the Z17 mini has two cameras, encased with a red strip, which adds premium look. The antenna bands are visible on the top and bottom. The fingerprint sensor is placed below the camera model, followed by a Nubia logo. The scanner is accurate in day-to-day usage and unlocks the phone very quickly.

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The speaker grille, USB Type-C port is present at the bottom. The volume rockers and power button are placed on the right, whereas the SIM card & microSD card tray is present on the left. And yes, the Z17 mini has a 3.5mm headphone jack, positioned at the top side of the phone.

The smartphone has a compact 5.2-inch Full HD display, carrying a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and 424 PPI. The screen is vivid, and the viewing angles are decent as well. What standouts in the device is its compact form factor. With a small display and 155grams weight, the Z17 mini feels light in the hands. A thumbs up to the Nubia engineering team for evenly distributing the weight.

Overall, the Z17 mini has a distinct design, and compact display & light weight makes it one of the best in the price segment.

Hardware

Being able to keep the cost at Rs. 19,999, Nubia has added competitive and mid-range hardware to the phone. At the heart of the phone is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chip, paired with 4GB of RAM and Adreno 510 GPU. The Snapdragon 652 is an octa-core chip with four cores clocked at 1.95GHz and other four cores clocked at 1.4GHz.

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The Snapdragon 652 chip was earlier used in smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy A9, Xiaomi Mi Max Prime, LeEco Le 2, etc. All the devices are well-known for their all round performance, and so does the Nubia Z17 mini. The device never showed any signs of lags, even with heavy usage.

Also, it handled the intensive titles such as Asphalt Xtreme, Mortal Combat 5, Nova 3 without any issues. Nevertheless, the device gets a bit warm with continuous gaming for an hour. However, it doesn’t affect the performance of the phone.

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Nubia has added 64GB of internal storage with the phone, which will serve your needs. Also, there’s a microSD card slot for storage expansion up to 128GB. However, you need to sacrifice the secondary SIM card to expand the storage.

Camera

Nubia has been touting its cameras in the Z17 mini, same as its other smartphones. The Z17 mini fully justifies the asking price, and in fact, it is the best dual camera smartphone under the sub Rs. 20,000 price point. Furthermore, the Z17 mini is Nubia’s first camera smartphone to launch in India.

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The device has two 13MP sensors at the rear, of which one captures coloured shots, while the other sensor captures black and white (monochrome) pictures. The dual cameras are paired with an LED flash for adding light in the images when there’s less light.

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Images captured with the Z17 mini arrived with a good amount of details and true to life colours. The Z17 mini’s camera excels when there’s good light because it produces accurate colours, and the HDR mode captures more details. The low-light images are decent as well.

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With the other 13MP sensor, you can capture monochrome shots, or there’s a Portrait mode for adding depth to the pictures. The monochrome images are awe-inspiring, but the portrait mode disappoints a bit. The focus isn’t as good as other smartphones such as the Honor 8 Pro. However, it can get better with software updates.

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Moreover, with the Z17 mini, you can capture RAW images. Nubia has added a decent 16MP selfie snapper to the Z17 mini, which also captures excellent images. Having said that, Nubia is further enhancing the usage of Z17 mini cameras by adding different camera modes.

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Besides the standard Pro mode, the camera app (also called as Neovision 6) has some unique modes such as Light Draw, Multi Exposure, Slow Shutter, Star Trail, Video Maker, Clone, Panorama, 3D mode, etc.

Software

The Nubia Z17 mini runs the dated Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow based Nubia UI 4.0. The Android version might be an older one, but Nubia UI 4.0 is not short of features. Google introduced the split screen mode feature with Android 7.0 Nougat, however, Nubia has already added the feature to Nubia UI 4.0.

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The split screen feature can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the display, and it works well. Unlike the Google’s implementation, Nubia has just divided the screen the into two, when the split screen mode is enabled. That said, every application installed on the phone will work flawlessly with the split screen mode.

Nubia UI is full of features such as super screenshot (three finger drag on the screen to capture a screenshot), dual instance (create dual apps), smart sensing (flip to mute/pause a call, shake to clear notifications, etc.), touch gestures, etc. There are some Edge gestures as well such as hold and swipe the inward to open a desktop, swipe up/down from the edge to switch between apps, etc.

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The UI is not the smoothest one out there because I noticed some lag here and there. The annoying part with the UI is that you have to press and hold the back capacitive button to enter the recent apps menu, and there’s no option to customise this as well, as said earlier. All said, the Nubia UI is full of features, and it doesn’t make your worry about the fact of using a dated Android Marshmallow device.

Battery

The Nubia Z17 mini comes with a smaller 2950mAh battery with Quick Charge support. The smartphone will easily last for a complete day with moderate usage, thanks to the Snapdragon 652 chip here. With intensive usage, you have to charge the device before your day ends.

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With the bundled charger, the Z17 mini fully charges from zero to 100 percent in less than two hours. Nubia has added a few battery saving modes. For example, you can choose between various battery profiles such as performance mode or power saving control mode. In the performance mode, you can select some applications which will run without any issues when the mode is activated. These modes will help in extending the battery life of the phone a bit further.

Conclusion

Nubia is going aggressive in the market, but what separates the company’s smartphones from the competition is the design and cameras. This dual camera Z17 mini is the best one in the price point. The Z17 mini also excels with its unique design, software features, but it has its own negative points as well.

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For example, with its battery life, the Z17 mini doesn’t stand against the smartphones such as the Moto G5 Plus or even the half-priced Redmi Note 4, because they both use the power efficient Snapdragon 625 chip.

The performance of the phone matches the competition, in fact, better than its Chinese counterpart phones such as the Oppo F3 and Vivo V5s. Overall, the Nubia Z17 mini is a good mid-range smartphone, but you should ignore it if you’re looking for a battery device. The smartphone is exclusively available in Amazon India for Rs. 19,999.

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