Opmerking: dit is de Engels versie van mijn review. Klik hier voor de Nederlandse review:
productreview: ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini Zwart review door benbaba
Design and body
Extras (additional links, photos and comparison)
The Nubia brand is probably unknown to many Europeans. However, loyal China-Phone followers will know it. Nubia Technology Co., Ltd. (Nubia) is in fact a subsidiary of the well-known ZTE Corporation; a Chinese telecommunication multinational. On October 31, 2012 ZTE officially announced its sub-brand Nubia. Nubia wanted to redefine user experience and they wanted to focus on online sales primarily. Nubia only produces high-end smartphones and focuses on design, quality, service and good photographic capabilities (features).
One year after the brands official announcement the company introduced its first smartphone called the Nubia Z5. It was designed by the Italian designer Stefano Giovannoni, and the Z5 was also the first Chinese device with OIS. The Z5 was a success and the company continued producing other devices in the Z5, Z7 and X6 series. In 2015 they introduced the brand new Z9 series. The Z9 series consists of three devices: the Z9, the Z9 Max and Z9 Mini. They divide it like this in order to meet the needs of different users. The Z9 is the company’s flagship model, the Max is less luxurious and the Z9 Mini has a smaller screen and different specifications.
This review is about the Nubia Z9 Mini; the cheapest version of the Z9 series. My unit comes from from pandawill.com and I have pruchased it for $ 274. It was shipped by DPD and I took about 10 days. - Click for productpage Pandawill.com -
The main features of the Z9 Mini are the 5.0-inch Full-HD IPS screen, the 16MP Sony IMX234 sensor and the 64-bit Snapdragon 615 chipset that is supported by 2GB RAM. Furthermore, the device supports 2 nano-SIM cards and one microSD card. The Z9 Mini runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop with Nubia's own user interface on top. The Z9 Mini is sold for around 250 euros internationally. The Z9 Mini is basically an upper-midrange device and it has the following specifications:
5.0 "Full HD Sharp CGS IPS OGS screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Physical home, back and menu buttons (breath indicator light)
64-bit octa-core processor: Snapdraong 615 1.5Ghz (MSM8939)
Adreno 405 GPU
Android - 5.0.2 Lollipop with Nubia UI 2.8
16MP camera f / 2.0 (Sony IMX234) with 1080p video recording
8MP front camera (Sony IMX179)
16GB of storage space and a microSD card slot
2GB of RAM
Dual SIM with 4G support, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi ac and a microUSB 2.0 port
It is currently only available in black, but the white version will be available too in the (near) future.
The Nubia Z9 Mini comes in a stylish and minimalistic designed box. The box is quite large, luxurious and it’s made of sturdy cardboard. The outside of the box consists of two black parts, and between them, you’ll notice a small red strip which is formed by the carton on the inside. On the upper side you’ll find the Nubia logo and at the bottom and you’ll only find a sticker with product specifications, numbers and some logos. Te specifications on the box are printed in Chinese, but also in English.
Take of the top and you’ll see the device and beside it they printed its model number, Take off the first cardboard on the inside and you’ll see a red USB cable and the black charger. It is a flat USB cable and it looks like the cable that comes with the OnePlus One, but the ends are black instead of white. The adapter is 1500mA and has 2 flat pins.
Between the phone and the above mentioned accessories you’ll find a flat envelope-like box. In here they included the SIM tray ejector and a Chinese manual. The box looks nice, but it could have been a tad smaller.
The Z9 Mini is nicely designed and it looks very good in my opinion. The device feels and looks premium. The front is completely flat, only the edges of the screen are very slightly raised. However, this is hardly noticeable. The Z9 Mini comes with a pre-installed screen protector. The front side does not have the regular capacitive Android buttons. The only thing you see is a red ring at the position of the home button. Nubia uses this on all its devices and they call it ''breath light''. If you tap the screen you’ll see the ring ‘breath’ and next to it on the left and right you’ll see two red dots. This gives the front a very clean look. Above the screen you’ll find the front camera sensor, next to a speaker and above the speaker two sensors.
When turned off the screen looks very dark and the ring is basically the only thing noticeable. The earlier mentioned ring or the home button also functions as notification LED, and you can adjust its brightness. The two red dots next to it function as menu or back button. You can decide their function yourself, but the red ring stays the home button in any case.
The body of the phone has a length of 141.3mm, a width of 69.8mm and a thickness of 8.1mm. These are pretty good measurements for a 5-inch device. The Z9 Mini weighs 147 grams. This is not light nor very heavy. The phone feels pretty solid because of its weight and material. One handed use is also not a real problem. However, the body warms up a bit – probably due to the 615 – but it never gets uncomfortable or extreme.
The back of the device is something special. The back cover is as flat as the front and its shape is basically a copy of the front only without a screen. The back cover has the same edges as the front and it seems to be made of glass, because it shines like glass. However, it isn’t glass – it is plastic, but according to Nubia not regular plastic - I quote: made with a laser engraving Technology that includes Crystal UV protective paint, metal gasification, color locking, toning and primary coat. In practice this means that the back of the phone has a glassy look and it becomes smudged with fingerprints easily. It has a special structure and I can describe it as dark black dots that alternate with smaller dots.
Nubia placed the 16MP camera in the top corner and fortunately it does not protrude. The lens is surrounded by a red rim and next to the lens you’ll find a (single) flash. The flash has a silver rim and centred in the middle you’ll find Nubia’s logo (vertically). Chinese characters, a model number and two logos are printed at the bottom.
The sides stick out a tiny bit and they are flat. They have a grey color and they look and feel pretty solid. The sides look and feel like metal but they are not made of metal. It is processed plastic, which is toughened and painted and it therefore feels and looks like aluminium, at least this is what most users claim and I tend to agree because the material doesn’t get as cold at times like real metal would. Nevertheless, the sides look good and feel solid. According to JD.com the inner-frame or body is made of aluminum alloy and the outer-frame is made of polycarbonate which is reinforced by glass fiber.
The volume rocker and the power button are placed on the right side. Both buttons have a silver color and no structure. The placement is fine and the buttons feel good too, but the on/off button seems to be placed a bit looser. The left side is completely flat, but it contains a sim tray and you can open it with the supplied sim tool.
The bottom contains a microphone and next to it micro-USB connector. The USB connector has a separate border and on the other side of the bottom you’ll find a 11x15mm speaker.
At the top Nubia placed a 3.5mm audio jack and not far from it a second microphone.
Under the removable back cover you’ll find a non-removable battery. The housing looks clean and well made because of the various screws. The only useful thing in here is the micro usb slot. Next to the micro usb slot Nubia has printed an exclamation mark and some Chinese text, but I have no idea what it means. Additionally, Nubia also sells various kinds of back covers, including bamboo and a couple of other types.
The 5-inch screen and fairly compact body make one handed operation pretty convenient. The Z9 Mini feels okay in the hand, not bad nor great, at least in my opinion. This is probably due to the overall shape and the slightly sharp edges of the screen and the back cover. As previously described, the device looks premium and it feels pretty premium too. The device is pretty well made and finished. The design does have one disadvantage though; it attracts dust and fingerprints very easily. The back cover of my unit does not sit entirely tight against the housing- I can press it down slightly above the Nubia logo - at the bottom and in the corners this is not the case and pressing it down there doesn’t do anything, so it isn’t a real problem,
The screen is made by Sharp and it’s a CGS (Continuous Grain Silicon) LCD panel. CGS has a design in which the panel's peripheral circuits and functional elements are integrated into the panel itself. According to Sharp these panels combines high resolution, excellent reliability, stunning display performance and low power consumption in a thin, light an compact package.
The Z9 Mini has a good to excellent display especially considering its price. A resolution of 1920x1080 pixels ensures great sharpness. The colors look vivid and the viewing angles are excellent. The brightness lowers a bit at an angle, but this is almost inevitable. The contrast and color saturation also decrease slightly at an angle, but less than I'm used to see from other screens. A thing that I noticed - with some backgrounds - is that the screen shows a very small horizontal glow at the top which is probably caused by the backlight.
Nubia has added several display modes in the settings menu. The menu is divided into two categories, each with three options. In the ''saturation'' settings you can pick three settings: glow, standard and soft. In the ''hue'' settings you can pick three settings too: cool tone, natural and warm tone. I could not test the screen myself, but I have found some screen test results of a Chinese review. I’ve included them below.
Maximum brightness: show the maximum brightness of a screen and its displayed as nits. The Z9 Mini has a maximum brightness of 417 nits. This is not exceptionally high, but (just) bright enough to be labelled as good, at least when it’s on 'Warm Tone' settings. If you change it to the other two settings the maximum brightness becomes average.
Gamma: shows whether a screen produces an adequate amount of brightness while showing different colors and shades. The screen of the Z9 Mini scores a great value with 2.29 (2.2 is the preferred value).
Color Temperature: shows the balance of colors and it’s expressed in Kelvins. 6504 kelvin is the best score and the Z9 Mini scores 6968 kelvin which is pretty good. However, if you set the screen on ''natural'' the color balance decreases a bit and on 'cool tone' it becomes bad or in other words way to blueish.
Grayscale tracking: simply put, this shows the average color error (color accuracy ). Every score below the value of 2 is considered excellent and till 5 is considered acceptable. The Z9 Mini scores 5.79 which is a bit above the "danger zone" which means that the colors are not entirely accurate. Fortunately, it has decent gamma values and the majority of the user will not notice the color inaccuracy.
As described previously the device includes some saturation options too. The three options are: glow, standard and soft. You can find the results of these settings below.
The screen does not preform great in every aspect. However, most colors remain below the limit of 5 DeltaE 1994 points, only blue is a bit beyond. This means that all colors except blue are accurate enough to be considered acceptable. When you take all screen results and factors into account you can label the display performance and the screen as pretty good. You’ll get the best results by settings the screen on soft and warm tone. This creates above average brightness, good gamma values and fairly accurate colors.
The Z9 Mini has a non-replaceable battery with a capacity of 2900mAh. This amount is very good considering the Z9 Mini’s measurements. Nubia, has managed to keep the phone fairly thin. The Cortex-A53 cores of the 615 and the energy efficient Sharp panel should have a positive impact on the battery life too.
The Z9 Mini fully charges in about 2 hours and 10 minutes using the original charger. This basically means that the phone charges approx. 10% every 10 minutes. This makes rather quick charging during the day possible and useful. Nubia claims an average talk time of 43 hours and a standby time of 750 hours.
In practice, the Z9 Mini keeps around 20% charge after a full day of regular to fairly heavy use. Usually with a screen-on time around 4,5 hours. Gaming has the greatest impact on battery life with a maximum of around 30% per hour. This means that you could game non-stop for around 3 hours. The camera also consumes a lot of energy. If you’re planning to take pictures the entire day keep in mind that your battery will drop approximately 25% every hour. I also ran the PCMark battery test which simulates daily usage. The Z9 Mini was rated 6 hours and 24 minutes. All in all, the majority of the users will reach the end of the day with fairly moderate to slightly heavy usage. You can reach 1.5 to 2 days if you’re not using it that often.
The Z9 Mini is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615-soc. The SoC was one of the first octa cores of Qualcomm and it was announced last year. Compared to the MediaTek MT6572 the 615 is not a true octa core, which means that all 8-cores cannot work at the exact same time. The 615 contains eight cores, but in two clusters of four. One cluster can work up to 1Ghz and the second cluster up to 1.7GHz. However, Nubia has limited the frequency of the second cluster to 1.5GHz.
All processor cores are of the new Cortex-A53 type. This is the successor of the Cortex A7 core and the new A53 version supports ARM's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. According to the chip designer, the cores are about 40 to 50% faster than the old A7. The processor cores are supported by an Adreno 405 GPU that works at 550MHz. The SoC is connected to 2GB lpddr3 (800MHz) using a 32 bit single-channel memory controller.
The Z9 Mini contains 16GB of NAND eMMC 4.5 storage and it also supports supports dual-band Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and 4G (LTE). Furntunatley, Nubia did not forget to include a micro SD slot and it has space for two sim-cards too. The device has pretty much everything you would expect from an upper-midrange smartphone.
The Z9 Nubia works pretty smooth in everyday use. However, it isn’t as fast or snappy as well-optimized high-end phones. This is probably due to the 615 which isn’t that powerful and proper software optimization, but the Z9 Mini should be fast enough for the things that most people do on a phone.
Note: the Nubia Z9 Mini does not support all 4G (LTE) bands / frequencies and this can be a problem in some (European) countries, for example, the Netherlands. Make sure you double-check the supported frequencies in your country and the ones of the Z9 Mini.
Due to the relatively fast hardware the device works fine in daily usage. However, in benchmarks you can clearly see that the 615 lacks real power. The processor cores are less powerful than the cores of the 805 and 801, but significantly faster than the 410. However, the 615 has less power in every aspect than its competitor the Mediatek MT6752. The MT6752 scores better in all benchmarks which means it has more raw power.
The results will not mean much to some people, but to help them I have compared the results to other phones. I’ve picked the LG G4, Xiaomi Mi 4i, Lenovo K3 Note and the OnePlus One. All devices have different hardware configurations, as you can see below.
The Z9 Mini comes with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and on top of it with Nubia’s own 2.8 UI. Nubia UI isn’t very different from stock Android and you’ll get used to it quickly. The manufacturer has changed a number of things including the launcher, the icons, the colors, the notificatiebar and some other things here and there. However, there are no major changes as, for example, MIUI or Flyme OS
It has a custom boot animation too: showing a collage of many photos on different pages. During the very first boot you are welcomed by a language selection screen. The official Nubia rom will only show English and Chinese here, but most resellers – including pandawill – provide it with a Multilanguage rom. After picking a language you can set the date and time, connect to wifi, log into (or create) Nubia account and finally you can tap start to begin.
The lock-screen works and looks pretty regular. At the top you’ll see the date and time, and at the bottom you can unlock to the main screen, but also directly to the dialer or camera. Nubia has removed the app-drawer and the apps are placed in a grid of 4 to 5 on four pages.
The multi-language rom that Pandawill installs contains a number of additional applications. Notable additions are DU battery (booster), I love wallpapers, homily chart and antivirus. Some apps can be removed and some not. For instance, DU Battery is not removable and it replaces the regual battery option in the menu. The official Nubia ROM does not include the above mentioned apps, but it does contain a number of Chinese apps. However, almost all Chinese apps are easily removable, but you’ll have to install GAPPS yourself (the multi-rom contains playstore). In addition, many people also use Cuoco ROM. This contains many language and no Chinese applications.
The notification have a white background with black text and red icons. The dropdown menu shows 3 toggles, but if you swipe down again it will show you a total of 11 toggles. The brightness is also adjustable via the brightness bar and you can tap the settings icon in the upper right corner to open the settings menu.
The settings menu looks slightly different than stock Android. Its background is white and the text is mostly black, but the names wireless, personal and sytem have a red color. Nubia has also added a number of additional options. For instance, a display menu in which you can pick a screen preference and you can also adjust the brightness of the breath light (home button). Another additions is ''feature'' in which you can pick several profiles or other features, for example, split screen, gestures and smart sensing.
There is also a theme app in which you change your theme, wallpaper or ringtone. The device does not come rooted and the translation of the multilingual ROM is not noticeable everywhere. For instance, the setup menu remains English – if set Dutch for example - and the same applies to the dialer. The roms don’t contain too much pre-installed apps, however this varies from rom to rom. For instance, the official Nubia rom does contain Chinese apps, but most them are removable. All in all, the software works okay and it is user friendly.
The Nubia Z9 Mini comes with the default Nubia camera app called NeoVision 5.0 The app works smoothly and it’s easy to use, despite the many options. The top contains four icons. One of them is the settings icon in which you can, for example, activate HDR or change the resolution. Next to the settings icon you’ll find the flashlight icon, timer icon and FrontCam icon. On the other side of the screen you'll find four round icons. From left to right you’ll see a preview of the picture you took, the video icon, the camera button and a blue pro mode icon. Above (or next to) the previously mentioned icons you’ll find text displaying various types information, for example, exposure, ET, white balance, ISO and focus. These are also the five options that you can change in pro mode. The FrontCam and the video recorder have fewer options, but their lay-out and operation is the same.
Nubia picked a 16MP camera coming from Sony. It’s is the Sony Exmor R IMX-234 sensor. The same 1 / 2.6 "sensor is also used in the LG G4, but the G4 has a better lens. The aperture of the Z9 Mini is f /2.0 (instead of f/1.8 on the G4) and recording can be done 1080p. The front camera is also from Sony. It is the 8MP Sony Exmor R IMX-179. The back camera takes pictures at a resolution of 5312 x 2988 pixels and the details show a focal length of 4mm.
This looks promising on paper, but how is it in practice? The autofocus is very fast and taking a picture quickly is also not a problem. The sensor captures a lot of detail due to the high resolution and its macro performance is also very good. Close ups look very good. The colors are generally very bright and saturated. The Z9 Mini takes decent pictures in low light conditions. You’ll see some noise, but it remains acceptable. Its flashlight works okay, but occasionally it causes a yellow-greenish tint.
I have compared the camera with the camera of the Xiaomi M2a. The top (or 1st) photo of each shot is taken by the Z9 Mini and the lower one (or 2nd) with the M2A. The pictures are made with auto settings, which means 16MP 16:9 for the Z9 Mini and 8MP 4:3 for the M2a.
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/145 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/322 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/212 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/464 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/311 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/699 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/100 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/178 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/212 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/909 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/260 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/621 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/231 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/446 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/100 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/154 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/33 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/60 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/20 sec | ISO-100 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/15 sec| ISO-100 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/25 sec | ISO-200 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/24 sec| ISO-123 | 8MP 4:3
Top Z9 Mini: ET 1/14 sec | ISO-4000 | 16MP 16:9
Bottom Mi 2A: ET 1/24 sec| ISO-126 | 8MP 4:3
The above pictures are not edited, but only reduced to a width of 620px.
Click the following link to watch the pics in full size:
I have also collected other camera samples from other reviews/users.
The album contains 140 samples click following link to see:
The wireless receiver in the Z9 Mini does its job very well. The wireless signal is stable and it has a good range. Its range is better than average and its comparable with the decent receiver of the Lenovo K3 Note. It has similar performance, but the Z9 Mini manages to get faster speeds.
Usually you don’t have to worry about the GPS reception of Chinese Qualcomm devices. The Z9 Mini proves this – its GPS reception is very good. Indoors it has 23 satellites in view and it connects to 8-9. Both the signal strength and the accuracy are solid.
All results are from inside the house.
Coverage and call quality
Its coverage is great and the call quality is (above) average. A plus is that the device has two microphones.
The sound that the speaker produces is clear and it has a very high maximum volume. The speaker produces a lot more sound than I’m used to hear. At the maximum level, it start to sound a bit distorted ,but if you lower the volume a bit it sounds great. There is little bass, but this is normal for a phone speaker and as mentioned before the little speaker is pretty powerful. The 3.5mm headphone jack performs average not bad and not great either.
The looks of the Z9 Mini are a big plus in my opinion. It looks luxurious and it feels solid too. One handed use shouldn’t be a real problem due to the screen size and measurements. The device sports a nice full HD display and decent Sony camera’s. The Snapdragon 615 should be fast enough for most people and many users will appreciate the dual-sim slot and the micro SD slot.
Battery life is satisfactory and it will get you through the day – 2 days should be possible too with light usage. The back is removable, but the battery isn’t. However, a removable backcover gives you to ability to switch back covers to give it a unique look, but quickly replacing the battery is not possible.
In most cases the Z9 Mini will come with a multi-language ROM. Unfortunately, the translation is not always noticeable, and there are some useless apps pre-installed. The official ROM only contains English and Chinese and it contains a number of Chinese apps. Fortunately, 90% of them are easy to remove, but you’ll have to install GAPPS yourself. The multi-language rom has GAPPS (playstore) installed. Nubia UI looks nice and on the whole it works reasonably fast.
The shiny plastic on the back easily attracts smudges, fingerprints and dust. You can solve this by cleaning it a lot or you can purchase a different (alternative) back cover. The body becomes moderately hot, at least warmer than I'm used to. It doesn’t become unconformable or extreme, but it is noticeable. This could be solved or reduced by software updates.
The Nubia Z9 Mini is quite expensive for a Chinese midrange device. Devices with similar performance and hardware, for example, MT6752 devices have a much lower price tags. The higher price of the Z9 Mini is probably due to its design, material, and the two Sony camera sensors. However, all in all the Z9 Mini should be a good option for people who look for a high-quality and nicely designed smartphone with good photographic features and decent battery life.
Sources used for review
(Info, screentest and samples)
Camera pics review full size: http://imgur.com/a/DLy2o
140 camera samples: http://imgur.com/a/93AQB