The display is the most important differentiating feature of the ZTE Nubia Z9. "Bezeless" might not be quite the buzzword it was last year, but Nubia's optical tricks still look quite impressive. As already mentioned, however, there is a downside to bending light to extend out an otherwise flat LCD panel. You can spot distortions along the edges quite easily, especially when viewing the phone at an angle.
Still, if you don't focus too much on the image quality in that particular border area, the overall style benefits still outweigh the inherent deficiencies. In other words, we quite like what we see.
The panel is an IPS LCD with impressive wide viewing angles. Its diagonal measures 5.5", which is an improvement over the 5.2-inch Z9. The resolution, however, is still set at 1080p. We won't get into the whole pixel race. What we will say, however, is that there are still advantages to sticking to FullHD and these numbers crank out to a density of 403ppi - perfectly sharp for our taste.
Another interesting thing to note about Nubia's light-bending front panel is that it is quite thick. This posed a serious problem for the Z9, as it likely hurt the maximum brightness and sunlight legibility of its display. The Z9 only managed 258nits at full blast - definitely not a pleasant experience on a bright day.
Therefore, we are glad to report that Nubia appears to have made major strides in the brightness department. Its aRC 2.0 tech, in combination with the new panel, combine to produce a significantly more powerful maximum brightness of 513 nits. It might not be chart-topping, but it sure is better than average. Even with slightly brighter blacks than we would have liked at 0.43 nits, the Z11 managed a contrast ratio of 1196:1.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
Naturally, sunlight legibility shows major improvement as well. The Nubia Z11 dwarfs its predecessor with a formidable 3.466 score. Thus, it remains perfectly usable even under direct sunlight.
Color accuracy is impressive as well. Even the default factory color mode seems to be tuned pretty well. Most colors we tested have a deviation of 4 (deltaE 2000) at average with 5.8 being the highest occurrence. The latter seems to be mostly due to the overall blue-ish white balance. Leaving the screen set to Natural Soft and dragging the white balance slider about halfway to Warm improves the average to an overall average of 3.6 deltaE.
The Nubia Z11 is equipped with a total of two nano SIM slots. It's a hybrid slot so one of the card positions is to be used with either a SIM card or a Micro SD card, so you do have to choose.
As far as network connectivity goes, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 typically shines in this department with its powerful X12 LTE modem. However, Nubia hasn't disclosed exactly what speed it has utilized on said modem. What we do know, however, is that the Z11 has 4G LTE on both SIM slots and VoLTE support.
Other Internet connectivity options include Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac with dual-band support. Interestingly enough, the Nubia Z11 is one of the few devices we have seen that can enable or disable the second antenna. By doing this you would supposedly gain some battery life at the expense of the maximum connection speed.
GPS and GLONASS is also present, of course.
Local connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.1, with LE support. NFC is also on board. The old microUSB connector has been replaced with a Type-C 1.0 reversible one with OTG support. Overall, Nubia has made sure the Z11 is pretty up to date in this department. The only thing we didn't find, which will probably be missed is an FM radio.
The Nubia Z11 packs a 3000 mAh sealed-in battery. This might not be all that big of an improvement over the Z9 and its 2900 mAh, however, the Snapdragon 820 is undoubtedly more efficient than its Snapdragon 810 predecessor.
The Z11 did quite alright in our battery life test, scoring a respectable 76 hours endurance rating. Throw in the second SIM and that number drops down to 70 hours. This is actually pretty close to what the Z9 managed on a similarly-sized battery a year ago, plus a 10% or so improvement.
Another great benefit from using Qualcomm's high-end SoC is access to Quick Charge 3.0. Nubia claims this allows the Z11 to charge four times faster than on a conventional charger, but that, of course, is a vague statistic at best.
But there is something even more troubling we found while testing our unit. Nubia's marketing material speak boldly of NeoPower 2.0. This smart battery saving solution is said to feature 10 usage scenarios and a lot of optimization to make your battery last longer. However, our review unit lacks these capabilities and there is no UI similar to what NeoPower 2.0 is supposed to look like. All we did find was a few basic power saving toggles. We guess the feature is either regional or it will be added via a software update further down the road.
Come to think of it, there is also no Nubia store, no IR blaster app and no Game app, so something is definitely amiss but we're not quite sure what might be to blame as this review unit was provided by Nubia themselves. Follow along in the next section for a more in-depth look at the software.
The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare to each other under your own choice of usage pattern.