Nubia Z17 Review: No Side Bezels, Smart Features & An Amazing Camera Makes It Worth Your Money

by Joe 23

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A few days ago, Nubia released its flagship smartphone, the Nubia Z17 at the Water Cube in Beijing. Nubia smartphones have impressed us in the past featuring an excellent combination of performance and hardware and we were glad to see that the Z17 continues the same tradition.

 

Nubia Z17 Design & Display

Nubia Z17 front
Nubia Z17 front

Nubia was one of the first mainstream smartphone brands to popularize the concept of bezel-less display on its flagship phones, starting with the Z9. The company has improved the technology in its third generation bezel-less flagship, the Nubia Z17, using a new version of its Refractive Conduction Technology to make the display pop out. The aRC technology is much more refined now and this has enabled the company to reduce the thickness of the phone giving a better in-hand feel. You can see how aRC works in the diagram down below.

arc Refractive Conduction Technical Principle
arc Refractive Conduction Technical Principle

While aRC tech makes the display really bezel-less, there’s more to these edges. The Nubia Z17 carries forward FiT (Frame Interactive Technology) to enable edge gestures. So, you can still adjust the brightness, go back, switch apps — all via simple gestures on the display edges. We have seen this feature work smoothly on earlier models and I was glad to see the same continues with the Z17. Apart from this, there’s an additional FiT card feature as well, which is basically a smart summary of everything on the phone. The FiT card contains a lot of useful information like your reminders, recent files etc and you have this just one swipe away. It’s pretty cool.

Z17 FIT Card

 

FIT Gesture Control
FiT Gesture Control

You can check out our Nubia Z17 hands-on gallery from below.

 

 

 

 

Nubia Z17 Dual Camera Performance

 

 

Nubia Z17 camera settings
Nubia Z17 camera settings

Another stand-out feature of Nubia phones has been innovative photography. The camera app offers shooting modes not available on other devices, such as electronic aperture, light painting, star track, time, cloning, delay photography, multiple exposure, etc. These features have been improved upon in the Z17.

Camera Features in one screen
Camera Features in one screen

One of my favorite feature on the phone is the clone camera. The app captures a person/ object in different parts of a frame and stitches them together to create one seamless photo. You’ll look like you have a team of clones – or twins – with you in one shot. Once you get the hang of this app and start posting it on social media, I am sure will get a lot of questions from your followers about your Z17.

Clone Camera
Clone Camera

The software has always played an important role in a smartphone camera, but the Z17 makes substantial improvements in the camera hardware as well. Adopting the trend, the new Nubia flagship comes with two powerful cameras at the back. Apart from improving the quality of the images captured, the two cameras at the back perform a very important function of creating a smooth SLR like depth of field effect. It’s worth adding that Nubia Z17 makes use of a smart AI technology to ensure the blurring effect is more natural.

If you really take the time to play with the Nubia Z17’s camera, you can capture some amazing bokeh photos. A few samples with depth of field effect are given below.

Blur Photo Sample
Blur Photo Sample 01
Blur Photo Sample 02
Blur Photo Sample 02

Nubia Z27 Portrait Mode Sample 01

Nubia Z27 Camera sample 01
Nubia Z27 Camera sample w/o bokeh effect

 

Nubia Z27 Camera sample w/ bokeh
Nubia Z27 Camera sample w/ bokeh

The dual rear cameras are 12 megapixels + 23 megapixels (yes, the 23MP sensor is the secondary camera), with 1.4μm single large size pixel similar to the Samsung Galaxy S8, sensor size is 1/2.55 inches, f1.8 big aperture, 2x dual-camera zoom, 10x dynamic zoom. The imaging quality, as you can see from samples, is excellent. The front camera is of 16 million pixels.

Z17's dual cameras
Z17’s dual cameras

In your everyday usage, the Z17 will manage to capture very good amount of details with realistic saturation levels. Unlike the Huawei P10 which sometimes oversaturate the images captured, Z17 manages to keep the colors quite realistic. Even in low light situations, the photos come out quite bright, but colors may be a bit dull. I have used the Z17 as well as P10 side by side and I find the Z17 manages to keep the noise extremely low.

Just check out the samples down below to see how the dual cameras at the back perform in real life situations.

 

 

Nubia Z17 AnTuTu Benchmark & Hardware

Under the hood, the Z17 is impressive too, with a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 / 8GB RAM, 64 / 128 GB UFS2.1 flash storage. On the AnTuTu benchmark, the device scored an impressive 180,745, just a tad lower than the iPhone 7 Plus. Note that there’s no headphone jack on board and you have to use a type-C convertor or type-C headphones on the device.

 

Nubia Z17 Battery Life

With built-in 3200mAh battery together with Nubia NeoPower3.0 technology, the company claims that it provide up to 2.5 days of usage in one single charge. That’s actually a pretty big claim, given the battery capacity. On a realistic note, you can expect the Nubia Z17 to breeze through more than a day even under power use. That’s pretty impressive and says a lot about the efficient 10nm Snapdragon 835 and Neopower 3.0 software optimizations on the phone.

Nubia Z17 Powersaving modes
Super Battery Saver Mode at 40%

Even when the battery is falling below 40%, you can squeeze out another day’s usage using the super power saving modes available. Of course, these modes limit the functionality of the phone to a major extent, but it can come in handy during emergencies.

Super Battery Saver Mode
Super Battery Saver Mode at 32%

 

The Z17 supports Qualcomm quick charge 4.0 by utilizing dual circuit charging to choose the best charging circuit. The result is charging times that’s 20% faster than quick charge 3.0.

So, I ll make one thing clear — Nubia Z17 is indeed the first smartphone with QC 4+ support. But you won’t get QC 4+ speeds yet, because there isn’t a QC 4+ compatible charger yet (blame Qualcomm for this). So, until you can get hold of a fast 4.0 generation charger, you’ll have to be happy with the pretty good QC 3.0 speeds. I personally managed to charge my phone from near 0% to 50% in just 25 minutes, which is pretty good for my everyday usage.

The Z17 is also water-proof, the first Nubia device to do so. So if you’re stuck in the rain or get wet by the pool, have no worries because the Z17 will work fine. You can even talk on the phone during a shower! This is useful because you can simply wash your Z17 when it gets dirty. But do note that the phone is not meant to be used underwater, so don’t get too excited to plan an underwater photography session.

Nubia Z17 waterproof
Just wash your Z17 when it’s dirty

 

There are many more hardware features that are worth mentioning. The Z17 comes with NFC functionality — users can use it to pay, transfer data, and connect to speakers, etc. With MIMO dual antennas, the WIFI connection speed is 100% faster than last generation’s devices. The Z17’s speakers use a professional grade of BASS stuffed material and SmartPA speaker technology. The fingerprint sensor is super fast and works well to unlock as well as make payments with the phone.

Nubia Z17 back
Nubia Z17 back

 

Nubia Z17 Review Conclusion

As far as overall performance goes, Nubia Z17 is a very worthy flagship, making it one of the best Android flagship in the market right now.

With the Snapdragon 835 chip and 6 / 8GB of RAM, the performance on the device is super smooth. There are many other features that make the Z17 special, like the aRC technology, the FiT gestures that has become more mature and the newly added waterproofing feature. But the real highlight of the Z17 is the dual camera setup at the back, a rather good one, which manages to capture great low light images, thanks to the large pixel sensor. The support for high-quality dual camera zoom up to 2x times is an added plus.

If you can ignore the fact that the phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, the Z17 is worthy of being called as one of the best flagship smartphones in the market right now.

 

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  • David

    A camera review of this on youtube showed that the low-light performance of Z17 sucked compared to that of the P10. What is your experience on that? Can you uplooad low-light samples as well?

    And what about the screen on time, how high was it for you?

    • Muhammad Yasir

      must have been a huawei fanboy …

      Nubia’s cam setups have ALWAYS been better than many mainstream phonemakers and quite mature as well !

    • Joe

      Low Light performance was actually pretty decent. The colors were a bit duller than the P10, but the Z17’s samples had significantly less noise. But I have noticed that P10 tends to over saturate images in a lot of situations, and that’s why it’s heavy on colors.
      Actually, I am going to do a couple of comparison series (I already have taken the necessary samples):

      Z17 vs Mi 6 vs Huawei P10 and
      Z17 vs Mi 6 vs OPPO R11

      and I ll provide a link to the original files so that you can download it directly from the drive. You can be the judge.

      Saying that the Z17 sucked in comparison to P10 would be a wrong statement (you’ll clearly see in the comparison photos soon).

      As for the screen on time, I ll add that screenshot by the end of today.

  • Muhammad Yasir

    wish i could afford one !

  • Qidamin

    No link to full size pictures? the dynamic range seems good.

  • Saku

    If only this would be available nearby… but why are there no lowlight shots? It’s pretty much the most important aspect right now on a flagship, the lowlight camera capability. Saw some reviews of this device and lowlight shots are too noisy.

    • David

      Yeah it is very fishy that not a single low-light shot is included… Sounds like a sponsored “review” to me.

      • Saku

        It’s our discretion, so let’s trust it. Various reviews have already pointed it out, maybe Z17 is a very good performer, although if only the right conditions are met, say for example, with ample lighting and not yet before sunset 😂😂😂

  • Billy Williams

    Don’t be fooled by this review. The camera on this phone is not good. But its not because of the hardware…its a software issue. The zoom features changes whites to yellows and its reproducible 100% of the time. The dynamic range is terrible. The amount of noise in low light shots is sub par…and most importantly the stabilization feels non existent. If you only plan on taking pictures in daylight, then this phone is ok, but I’m getting tired of these Chinese companies over promising and underdelivering. Oppo was a huge letdown with the R11 based on what they showed that they were capable of, this phone is a joke as well. And its not even the sensors, we know the Sony sensors they use are amazing, they just refuse to put in the work on the software side of things to optimize it. And that is the knock against EVERY Chinese phone, optimization. If Google can take a simple camera and optimize it so much that it sets the standard for smartphone cameras, there is NO REASON why the Chinese can’t do the same. The keep releasing photos of the phones capabilities and then they don’t deliver on that promise. GizmoChina then feeds false information to the viewers leading them to believe the phone performs much better than it actually does. The UI and everything else is standard Android affair. You buy one Android phone then you know what you should expect…the thing that differentiates these phones are the features, the audio DAC, speakers, camera, etc. This phone does nothing new and blazes no new ground. The screen is absolutely amazing, the UI is smooth, the microphone and audio is decent, the camera is sub par. All in all this phone is a 6/10. Which is a huge disappointment to me. I’m just waiting on the Meizu Pro 7 and the Xiaomi Note 3. Until then I’ll sit back silently and pray that the Chinese can get their software optimization together to pair these amazing devices with proper usability. These phones feel like betas

    • Joe

      “amount of noise in low light shots is sub par” calling it sub-par ..seriously?

      Check out the camera samples (including low light ones). The Z17 manages to keep the noise levels much below any other Chinese phone that I have seen lately. Yes, I may have not yet directly compared the images with Galaxy S8 but I would say the low light images are pretty good. Colors are a bit dull as compared to P10, but the noise levels are low.

      So, calling it sub-par is actually pretty harsh.

      • David

        I can’t find any low light photos. Do you mean that the image of the cars, in the middle of a cloudy day is low-light?

        I did link to a comparison video that confirmed what the guy was saying, that there was a huge amount of noise from the Z17 compared to P10 and MI6. The link was deleted though.

      • Billy Williams

        You consider this devices low light capability to be “pretty decent” I consider it to be subpar. Of course this really comes down to the types of pictures you take. My idea of low light isn’t just a cloudy day, or a dimly lit room. The sensor is still strong enough to pick up light, It could be just the lack of saturation making pictures look washed out. But the unusable Zoom does’t help the process either. If its too bright or too dark the sensor tends to introduce lots of noise. Anywhere in between its ok. I wonder why you didn’t address my other points and only decided to contend with the low light shot, which you admit is on “pretty decent” My issue is that when I have these phones and compare them, I compare them to industry leaders, I don’t think the Mi6 or P10 are industry leaders. Compare it to the Pixel, S8, anything from Sony, LG G6//V20 etc. Properly optimized software shows just how behind this camera is. When compared to other subpar cameras its up to par….because it is sub par.

        • And what is the price difference between the Nubia Z17 and the Pixel, S8, or iPhone 7?

  • eliHd

    Zte phones are always rubbish. Yes they are cheaper than flagship phones but if you spending around $400 on a phone you better go with other brands like huawei or xiaomi. Chinese OEMs cant make a good cameras, chinese they suck at r&d.

    • Mr.Flying Zoom3rz

      Incorrect. ZTE phones are one of the best China phones. If I need the camera to be so good I’ll just buy a decent dslr camera.

  • Jeff

    Thank you for the review. I’ve been using Nubia Z11 almost a year and very satisfied with the image quality, very comparable with other flagship. Even my brother who own P9 always prefer using my Z11 camera for taking pictures. Also, most of my friends just wonder how good the pictures it takes. I believe Nubia Z17 camera and performance will be way better than Z11. I’m now expecting my Z17 unit to arrive as a replacement for my current Z11. For me, Nubia will never disapponting. Anyway do you have any information the NUbia Z11 will have international ROM?

  • h2oz

    @jopoepl:disqus

    Dear Joe, I have just got my Z17, it is wonderful. You were right, the camera rocks!

    Currently, I have only one concern: it is impossible to install play store, google services & Co. Can you give some insights about this? How I can install play store? I know that the international rom has not been yet released, but I would not like to wait until September to have the play store 🙁

    My best regards.

    • Nathan

      It is possible to install the Google Play Store by rooting your device. You can find a tutorial on how to do this on the internet quite easily. I had the same issue as well :/

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