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ZTE Nubia Z9 mini full review including Camera, Performance and Gaming Review

ZTE Nubia Z9 mini review

- Good fit and finish
- Decent performance
- Great camera
After testing the waters with its budget smartphone (V5) last year, Chinese hardware maker ZTE has now launched its Nubia range of premium devices in India with the Z9 mini.

The Nubia Z9 mini is the compact version of the Z9, the bezel-free smartphone which the company announced recently in China. Powered by Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 615 processor, the phone packs in a full-HD display and a 16MP camera.

Is it the best mid-range phone around? We try to find out in our review...

Build & design
The Nubia Z9 mini is a well built smartphone with a solid alloy frame and polycarbonate back panel. The grey coloured frame sports a matte finish while the removable back cover features a diamond pattern and has a reflective, glass-like look that makes it vulnerable to smudges. We were under the impression that the phone's back panel was made of glass until we got our hands on the phone. The back panel has some silver coloured Nubia branding that looks really classy. The back panel hides a sealed 3000mAh battery and a microSD card slot.

The 16MP rear camera lens and the LED flash sit at the top left and are flush with the back, adding to the sleek look. The red coloured ring around the camera lens gives the phone an interesting look and the same theme continues at the front with the round Home button and other capacitive navigation keys, which are also backlit in red.

The right edge feature grey coloured metal keys for power and volume control. The keys are easy to access and offer great tactile feedback. The left edge has the sim card tray with dual nano-sim slots while the bottom edge houses the micro-USB port and the speaker outlet. The 3.5mm headset jack sits at the top.

Measuring 141.3x69.8x8.2mm, the Z9 Mini is optimized for one-hand use. The phone weighs 147gram and doesn't feel flimsy.


The front is dominated by the Z9 Mini's 5-inch full-HD (1920x1280p) IPS display. The display looks crisp and bright with colours looking vibrant, and text and graphics appearing sharp. Viewing angles are wide and we did not notice any colour shift. The touch panel is also very responsive. It's not a bezel-free display but bezels are pretty narrow and help in accentuating the rich display.

The Nubia Z9 Mini runs a highly customized version of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. The company calls the software skin Nubia UI and adds custom apps, app icons, menus and transition effects to give it a distinct flavour. The phone doesn't feature Android Lollipop's visual elements; the system apps don't sport Material design and the app switcher is similar to the one on MiUI.

Just like Xiaomi's MIUI and Gionee's Amigo skins, the UI is devoid of an app drawer and app icons and widgets are spread across the home screens. The unified home screen-app launcher style may come across as user-friendly to people who have not used an Android phone before. But it will take some time to get used to if you have already been using an Android smartphone. You can of course download and install an alternate launcher.

The software also offers advanced features like split screen functionality to run two apps simultaneously and a one-hand use mode. We've spotted these features mostly on large screen phones and we're not sure if users will find these handy on a 5-inch device. It also offers motion sensing gestures (flip to mute, shake to change songs, shake to clear notifications) and double tap to unlock.


The phone is equipped with a 16MP rear camera and an 8MP front-facing camera. ZTE has pre-loaded the phone with a really feature-rich Camera app and some Camera family apps to offer slow shutter, panorama, and video features. It also has a Pro mode for granular control

In our use, we found that the camera takes really good pictures in daylight and even low light performance was impressive.

We found that images shot in good lighting conditions had natural colours and good amount of detail. The depth of field mode captures good booked effect photos.

Selfies shot with the 8MP front shooter also looked appealing.

Video quality of videos shot with the phone was also satisfactory but we observed that th phone tends to get warm after shooting for more than 10 minutes.

In terms of hardware, the ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini is well endowed and comes with a 64-bit 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, Adreno 405 GPU and 2GB RAM. It has 16GB internal storage and a microSD card slot that supports cards of up to 128GB. We found the Nubia Z9 mini to be very responsive and there was no lag or stutter during casual use. Thanks to 2GB of RAM, we didn't struggle with opening multiple apps or browser tabs in the background. We did observe that the phone has a tendency to slightly heat up after playing games for more than 10-15 minutes.

In synthetic benchmarks, the Nubia Z9 mini scored 15,497 in Quadrant Standard, 33,224 in AnTuTu and 58.4 in NenaMark 2. The benchmark scores are comparable to that of YU Yureka but lag behind Xiaomi Mi 4i. We don't endorse benchmark tests and do not recommend a phone based solely on benchmarks as real world performance is different at times.

We were able to play videos of popular file formats without any hiccups. The sound output through the phone's speaker outlet was good.

Call quality and network reception were pretty decent. The phone also offers 4G LTE connectivity in addition to the regular suit of connectivity options and FM Radio. We were not able to test 4G as our city doesn't have any LTE networks yet.

The phone has a 3000mAh battery and lasts about a day and a half with moderate use.

At Rs 16,999, the ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini is a great mid-range option though it's a little overpriced. The phone has a really good camera, offers decent performance and scores well in the looks department. The phone exudes a premium feel and is well built. Of course, it'll face competition from rivals like the Xiaomi Mi 4i and Huawei Honor 6. However, expandable storage and better battery life are compelling reasons to recommend this phone over others.

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