Variety

Killer looks and camera define the Z9 Mini

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on July 22, 2015

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The first of the Nubia series to arrive in India makes a good impression.



ZTE’s had a tough time in the Indian market since its entry last year. Despite putting out fairly competent hardware, the company has struggled to build a strong brand identity that is capable of going to toe to toe with the established heavyweights. The premium Nubia line of phones is ZTE’s attempt at differentiating itself and capturing some much-needed mindspace among Indian consumers. The Z9 Mini, the first of the series to hit our shores, has one of the best smartphone cameras available today, despite its mid-range pricing.

The device also looks sharp and has a premium feel, clearly illustrating the maturing design capabilities of Chinese manufacturers who have traditionally been associated only with manufacturing prowess.

Build and performance

The Z9 Mini has a very sleek, elegant design that is sure to make heads turn. The capacitive home button which glows red is a particularly nice touch. The glossy back surface is a fingerprint magnet and also attracts scratches, so a case is recommended. The phone looks and feels much more expensive than its price bracket would suggest thanks to the metal frame.

The Mini is powered by a Snapdragon 615 paired with Adreno 405 graphics. 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space round out a fairly standard internal configuration, which provides for a comfortable if not particularly fast user experience.

We did not experience any lag during regular usage but gaming did give us a little bit of trouble with the settings maxed out. The 5 inch 1080p display produces rich colour and great detail and is generally a joy to behold. Keeping all of these components chugging along is a 2900mAh lithium ion battery which powered our test unit through a day’s heavy usage consistently with some juice still left by nightfall.

Camera

The main draw with the Z9 Mini is the camera at the back. The 16 MP Sony Exmor RS, billed as an SLR in a phone, is the best camera available south of flagship territory. It produced excellent results in daylight conditions and the dip in quality under low-light was acceptable. Backed up by ZTE’s refreshingly usable camera software, it is guaranteed to satisfy any casual photographer and even some not so casual ones.

Manual mode is a delight to use, in stark contrast with the cluttered interfaces of other camera-focused phones, but auto mode and a range of presets are also available for the less adventurous. And lest we forget, ZTE has put an 8 MP Exmor R in the front to go with the sharpshooter at the back, so users who like to point the camera at themselves can rest easy.

Nubia UI, ZTE’s customized version of Android Lollipop, is surprisingly good for an OEM effort. It does not reach anywhere near the levels of CyanogenMod or MiUI in terms of extra features or customizability, but it does introduce a few bells and whistles without sacrificing simplicity and ease of use. The colourful custom skin looks great on the Mini’s excellent display.

Split-screen multitasking feels like overkill considering the screen size, as does one-handed mode, but some of the gestures and smart sensing features are quite useful.

More importantly, ZTE has wisely stayed away from packing the phone with unnecessary bloatware. One area that ZTE does need to work on is the wording and grammar employed in their menu items and prompts.

We encountered a fair few dialog boxes featuring ‘ pidgin’ English that read like it was written by a non-native speaker. This detracts from the user experience and is a rather comical oversight on the part of such a large company.

Bottom line

Overall, the Nubia Z9 Mini is a solid package. It has one outstanding feature- the camera, and a fairly standard complement of hardware supporting it. The immediate comparison for buyers will be with Xiaomi’s Mi 4i. The Nubia is considerably more expensive than the Mi 4i and has roughly the same specs.

The camera on the Nubia is significantly better than the other as is the software on the Xiaomi. The Nubia also a fresh, striking design going for it that might make up for the price difference. Apart from a few rough edges in the software, the Z9 Mini has few flaws and is bound to become even more competitive as its price drops with time.

Love: Camera, design

Hate: Incomplete OS

Price: ₹16,999

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Published on July 22, 2015
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