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ZTE Nubia 5 Review

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In the U.S., there are several very well-known companies manufacturing popular smartphones on a regular basis. Companies like Samsung, LG and Apple are synonymous with mobile as their devices have gained in popularity over the years. ZTE is a company not many those in the U.S. are too familiar with as the company primarily offers their devices to the overseas market, but that doesn’t mean what they offer isn’t as competitive.

ZTE released its Nubia 5 a few months ago and its specs can easily compete with most of what’s currently available in the U.S. as it features a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13MP main camera, 2MP front-facing camera and a 2300mAh battery. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there’s more to the Nubia 5 than its high-end specs, so without further ado, let’s get into our review of ZTE’s latest smartphone.

ZTE Nubia 5 Specs

Display: 1920 x 1080
Display Size: 5 inches
Display Type: IPS LCD
Processor: 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB
MicroSD: No
Battery Capacity: 2300mAh
Rear-Facing Camera: 13MP
Front-Facing Camera: 2MP
Weight: 126g
Dimensions: 137.9mm x 69.1mm x 7.6mm

Context

We all use our smartphones differently, so we feel it’s important to touch exactly how we use our devices prior to reviewing them. I personally don’t put too much emphasis on actually making phone calls with smartphones as I tend to communicate with friends and family through texts, instant messages and social networking.

While I’m traveling, I tend to keep up with my emails through my smartphone and pass the time either listening to podcasts or browsing through my Facebook news feed or randomly browsing news aggregators such as Reddit. On occasion, I have been known to spend some time browsing YouTube, although it’s pretty infrequent.

Industrial Design

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We think it’s safe to say most people who pick up a smartphone tend to first look at a device’s screen, so we’ll begin our look at the Nubia 5’s industrial design from there and work our way around the rest of the phone. The Nubia 5 features a 5-inch 1080p LCD display which is surrounded by a bezels above and below it. The top bezel is where the phone’s 2MP front-facing camera is located in addition to additional sensors. At the very edge of the top bezel is a thin silver strip, which is where the phone’s speaker is located. The bottom bezel has three capacitive buttons that glow red when the phone is in use. The Nubia 5’s Home button is a large red circle, while the Back and Menu buttons are small red dots.

The outer edge of the Nubia 5 is highlighted by a thin piece of aluminum, which helps accent the overall sleek look of the phone, along with aluminum physical buttons. The right side is where you’ll find the phone’s power button, while the left side is where its volume rocker is located. Both physical buttons protrude slightly from the aluminum bezel that surrounds the outer edge of the phone and feel smooth when pressed. When you glide your fingers on the Nubia 5’s outer edge, you barely notice its physical buttons, keeping the phone sleek and easy to handle. A 3.5mm headphone jack can be found at the top of the Nubia 5, while the phone’s microUSB port can be found at the bottom.

"IT’S EXCEPTIONALLY LIGHTWEIGHT FOR A DEVICE WITH A 5-INCH DISPLAY"  

The rear of the Nubia 5 is highlighted through the phone’s large camera lens which sits right at the top. The camera lens is accented with a red ring around its edge, which seems to be the overall theme of the phone considering its capacitive are also red. Below the camera lens, you’ll find the Nubia 5’s LED flash as well as a Nubia logo. The bottom portion of the rear is where you’ll find a ZTE logo and two external speakers sitting at both sides.

The Nubia 5’s rear has a smooth rubberized feel to it, allowing us to easily grip it with one hand while we manipulate the screen with the other. The Nubia 5 feels very comfortable while it’s in use and we experienced no issues with it possibly slipping during regular use. The weight of the Nubia 5 is also very comfortable as it’s exceptionally lightweight for a device with a 5-inch display.

Display (excellent)

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The ZTE Nubia 5 features a 5-inch 1080p LCD display that looks absolutely stunning when in use, which is made apparent when you first turn on the phone. Images and videos all look great on the Nubia 5’s screen with colors looking rich and extremely vibrant. Blacks also look very deep on this display and don’t look grayed out.

The Nubia 5 also features an IPS display, which means you’ll be able to view images at extreme angles without any sort of degradation of quality. We were able to view content on this display comfortably across a wide variety of angles.

ZTE Nubia 5 Custom Apps

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Kingsoft Office

Nowadays, having an application that supports Microsoft Office documents isn’t unheard of as people nowadays tend to make some edits to documents while they’re on the go. ZTE includes a copy of Kingsoft Office. Kingsoft Office allows you to create and edit documents directly from the Nubia 5, which can then be sent off in a number of ways, such as through email or sending your document to one of its supported cloud services. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents are all compatible within Kingsoft Office.

Killer Apps

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Virtual Keyboard (very good)

The virtual keyboard on the ZTE Nubia 5 is pretty standard when compared to keyboards on other Android devices, although the first page of keys includes access to secondary keys. This makes it possible to enter numbers and special characters simply by holding down its corresponding key. The keyboard allows users to switch its language on the fly if needed and offers three additional pages of keys, with the third page offering several popular emoticons and URL shortcuts.

"TYPING ON THE KEYBOARD FELT GREAT"  

Typing on the keyboard felt great as there was no noticeable lag while typing. Switching between a profile and landscape keyboard was also very quick and felt comfortable to do on the fly. The keyboard also comes with TouchPal support, allowing you to change its skin in addition to being able to swipe your way through text you’d like to inpute.

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Facebook (excellent)

With a 5-inch 1080p display on the Nubia 5, Facebook looks as good as you’d expect it to as there’s a lot of detail in images and videos that are often shared on the social network. Browsing through Facebook’s News Feed was effortless as there was no noticeable lag when scrolling as well as when commenting, liking or sharing content through the service.

The overall is exactly what you’d expect from Facebook on Android as you’ll browse your News Feed by default. A click of Facebook’s menu button reveals your profile, favorites, apps groups and settings among other things. Facebook contacts can be found through another menu button located at the upper-right portion of the app, allowing you to instantly message a contact when you need to.

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Google Maps (excellent)

Google Maps has always been an excellent mapping application in our eyes, especially across the majority of Android devices. As you’d expect, the Google Maps experience is exceptional on the Nubia 5 as there’s no lag due to its high-end specs and maps look great running on the phone’s 5-inch 1080p display.

The complete mobile Google Maps experience is here as you’ll be able to pull up directions, view different map types within a specific location and discover points of interest are all possible. Google Maps continues to be one of the best mapping applications currently available, which is made even better with the Nubia 5’s hardware.

Entertainment (very good)

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Video Playback (very good)

The video player ZTE has included on its Nubia 5 is one that we thoroughly enjoyed. At a time where it seems the majority of smartphone manufacturers offer a very basic video player, ZTE has jazzed up its offering.

You’ll be able to scrub through videos by dragging your finger across the video while it plays, take screenshots while videos play and even lock the layout of your video so it doesn’t automatically adjust itself during play. The video player also allows you to play your video within a small window, which certainly helps for those who enjoy multitasking while watching videos.

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Gaming (excellent)

With a quad-core processor and a 1080p display, the ZTE Nubia 5 already has two very important specs going for it to allow it to shine in gaming. For the purpose of our review, we downloaded and played Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run 2 and Riptide GP2 in order to get a good idea of how well the Nubia 5 would perform.

During our time with each game, we didn’t notice any sort of lag. Games that are more demanding of the phone, such as Riptide GP2, performed very well.

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Speaker Quality (very good)

The Nubia 5’s dual speakers are located at the bottom portion of the device’s back. The speakers offer a nice range of mid-to-high sounds and don’t sound tinny at all. As with most speakers on mobile devices, the bass and lower sounds aren’t as strong, but they’re not as lacking as we’ve seen in other devices.

Digital Imaging (very good)

Camera Application (very good)

The ZTE Nubia 5 contains a nice camera application that allows users to have control over whatever it is they’d like to take a snapshot of. The camera application features three different modes: Auto, Pro and Fun. The auto mode requires very little interaction from the user in order to take photos and videos as you’ll be toggle between using an HDR camera, change flash settings and activate facial recognition.

Pro mode allows you to have more control over photos and videos as a timer is made available as well as the ability to change your camera’s focus and exposure. You can even toggle different grids that help keeps images perfectly aligned. Lastly, the fun mode places different filters across your image in real time. A total of ten filters are available that range in what kind of photos you can take with the camera.

Photo and Video Quality (very good)

The ZTE Nubia 5 features a 13MP main camera, which should be enough for most people to get a nice high-definition image. For the purpose of this review, we pitted the Nubia 5’s 13MP camera up against the iPhone 5’s 8MP camera.

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Performance (very good)

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The ZTE Nubia 5 features a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, which currently is one of the most powerful mobile processors currently available. With the inclusion of the Snapdragon 600 processor, the Nubia 5 instantly becomes a high-end smartphone that those who are looking for the latest and greatest should certainly be considering. With that said, let’s take a look at exactly how well the Nubia 5 performs in our benchmarks.

Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.

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The Nubia 5’s performance is pretty much standard for the majority of smartphones that feature the Snapdragon 600 processor as it scored a 20090 in Antutu 3.03. That’s still a very good score when compared to most smartphones, although it certainly isn’t one of the highest scoring phones we’ve come across.

GFXBench 2.7 was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.

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The final benchmark we like to run is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the mobile device’s ability with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it.

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Perceived Performance

Benchmarks are one thing, but we also like to make a note of just how well a device’s perceived performance is. After using the Nubia 5 off and on for several days, we didn’t notice any slowdown whatsoever as we were able to jump from app to app without any hesitation.

Battery (good)

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The ZTE Nubia 5 features a 2300mAh battery, which falls just about average for phones that feature a 5-inch display. With the Snapdragon 600 powering it, we’re hoping the Nubia 5’s 2300mAh battery can keep up with the demand of its processor.

Moderate Usage (poor)

For our moderate usage battery test, we use the Nubia 5 off and on for about an hour performing tasks that don’t push the hardware of the phone too hard. Our moderate usage test had us checking Facebook, corresponding to emails, reading some news stories and other activities that would be considered moderate. After an hour, we noticed a significant battery drop of 28%, which means during moderate use, you should expect close to 4 hours of battery life.

Video Streaming Test (good)

For our video streaming test, we streamed a 1080p YouTube video for an hour with the Nubia 5’s display set at 50% of its full brightness. After an hour, we noticed a drop in the phone’s battery by 32%, which means you should expect a little over 3 hours of battery life when streaming videos at 1080p.

Intense Usage (good+)

For our intense usage battery test, we find its best to push the limits of a phone’s hardware as hard as possible to see just how well its battery will last. For this particular test, we ran Riptide GP2 for an hour straight. Once the hour was up, we noticed a drop in battery life by 33%, which means during intense usage, such as gaming, you should expect around 3 hours of battery life.

Charging Time

As important as it is to gauge how long a device’s battery will last, we also feel it’s important to make a note of how long it’ll take for a battery to fully recharge itself. For the ZTE Nubia 5, we noticed an increase in its battery by 46% after recharging it for an hour. This means if your Nubia 5 is drained completely, you should have a completely filled battery after two or so hours.

Conclusion (very good)

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ZTE has built some impressive phones in the past, and the Nubia 5 is yet another great phone it can add to its stable. The majority of the Nubia 5 gives a great premium feel, from its sleek design down to its high-end internal specifications.

"THE NUBIA 5 IS YET ANOTHER GREAT PHONE"  

There isn’t much holding back the Nubia 5 from being a worthwhile Android phone, although if we had to choose an area that disappointed us, it would have to be the phone’s battery life. Outside of that, the Nubia 5 is a great phone and just goes to show there’s certainly space in the high-end Android phone market for relatively unknown manufacturers to make a real impact as long as you know what you’re looking for.

Overall product rating: 8/10
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