ZTE Nubia Z11 first impressions: A OnePlus 3 competitor that's worth keeping an eye on

ZTE just launched its flagship smartphone, the Nubia Z11, which is clearly being pitted against the OnePlus 3. Here are my impressions of the device.

When it comes to the mobile industry, ZTE is one of the oldest companies around. For those of you who don't know, it is one of the biggest manufacturer of telecom equipment worldwide. Along with that, ZTE been making mobile handsets for quite sometime now and in the past couple of years, it has launched some promising smartphones.

Their sub-brand called Nubia was introduced in India last year in May with the Nubia Z9 mini. The company has struggled to keep up with the plethora of brands and to be honest, I haven't seen anyone actually going out and buying a Nubia phone. Having said that, I think they have some really good products. ZTE's Blade and the new Axon series are definitely worth checking out.

Being absent from the Indian market for a while, the company is making a comeback. It just launched its flagship smartphone, the Nubia Z11, which has clearly been pitted against the OnePlus 3. Here is a quick first look at the new offering from ZTE.

Design and build

We saw Xiaomi launching the Mi Mix this year with its killer bezel-less display offering over 90 percent screen to body ratio. Sadly that is not coming to India. The Nubia Z11 is an attempt in the same direction. There are no bezels on either side of the display. You only get a forehead and a chin which are fairly in proportion. The front panel looks and even feels brilliant as the glass slightly curves at the edges.

ZTE Nubia Z11 first impressions: A OnePlus 3 competitor thats worth keeping an eye on

The rest of the body is made out of metal with a matte finish along with chrome lining across the edges, antenna bands and the fingerprint scanner. It feels solid in the hand and for a 5.5-inch device, it isn't bulky.

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As for the elements, the power button and volume rocker buttons sit on the right edge while the SIM tray is on the left edge. On top is the 3.5mm audio jack and the Infrared port, while the speaker and the USB Type-C port take a seat on the bottom edge. Moving to the back, the camera along with the dual-LED flash sit on the top left corner, the fingerprint scanner is placed in the middle and the Nubia branding at the bottom.

I always love how all Nubia phones have a glowing red home-button ring. It's a tiny addition but it looks so neat.

Display

One of the most attractive features of the smartphone is its display. Measuring at 5.5-inches it comes with a Full HD 1920×1080 resolution translating to 403 ppi. It is an IPS LCD panel with a curved Gorilla Glass 3 on top for protection. As I mentioned before, there are minimal bezels on the sides which not only makes it a treat to look at but also reduces the overall footprint of the smartphone. According to the company it was able to do this by curving down the sides of the screen.

In terms of quality, the panel is quite good offering rich colours and high contrast. Viewing angles and sharpness was impressive as well. The company has also capitalised on the lack of bezels by adding some useful features which it calls Frame Interactive Technology or FiT 2.0. Basically you can slide on the edges to control brightness, switch between apps and even double tap to go back. It definitely needs time to get used to, but it's a cool addition.

Chipset, storage and RAM

The Z11 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.15GHz quad-core processor on the inside paired with 6GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is expandable using microSD cards of up to 200GB in capacity. The high-end processor has been used by many flagship smartphones this year, including the OnePlus 3.

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OS and software

ZTE, like other Chinese smartphone vendors, has used its own UI called Nubia UI 4.0. Based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it comes with features like multi-window, scrollable screenshots, swipe gestures and more to enhance the experience. Overall it is quite heavily customised, but for the little time I used the handset, it felt smooth and sturdy, showing no signs of lag.

Camera

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The Nubia Z11 features a 16MP rear camera that comes with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto-focus, OIS and a dual-LED flash. On the front there is an 8MP camera with an f/2.4 aperture. The rear camera can shoot 4K video and the front can shoot 1080p videos. The company has always focused on providing a good camera experience and I remember the Nubia Z9 mini from last year being one of the best ones in its range. As for the camera software there are loads of modes and features include multi exposure, pro mode, clone camera, peaking focus,  panorama, HDR, long exposure and also an electronic aperture control. The camera did seem to have potential but that is me judging on a few pictures I took at the launch event. A thorough testing has to be done to get a better idea of the camera performance.

Battery and connectivity

There is a 3,000mAh battery to juice up the smartphone and thanks to the USB Type-C port, there is Quick Charge 3.0 support. The company claims that light usage offers up to 2 days of battery life, which is something that I'll have to check on once I properly review the device.

In the connectivity department you get dual SIM (hybrid) support, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1,  Wi-Fi, GPS/ A-GPS/GLONASS, Infrared and NFC. Other notable features include Dolby Atmos audio and a fingerprint scanner at the back.

Conclusion

ZTE has played a bold game here. The sub Rs 30,000 domain has been taken over by the OnePlus 3 and the OnePlus 3T. With the Nubia Z11, it is directly competing with its Chinese rival. The Z11 comes with similar specs as the OnePlus 3 and is a notch behind the 3T. But that bezel-less display is just gorgeous to look at and definitely a plus point for the Z11.

Of course I can't say which one is better until I test the new Nubia smartphone. The only area I believe where the Z11 might disappoint is the software. OnePlus is offering a more stock-based Android OS and will roll out the new Nougat update this month. I am not very confident if ZTE would do the same anytime soon. Another point to note here is that OnePlus has become a reputed brand, while ZTE/Nubia is still not preferred over others, at least in India.

As for the price, I think a Rs 29,999 tag is just about right. Although somewhere around the Rs 25,000 mark would've given ZTE an upper hand.

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