Nubia Z11 review: Work hard, play hard

Work hard, play hard

GSMArena team, 14 October 2016.

Display

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.

Nubia Z11 review

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 Contrast ratio
nubia Z11 0.43 513 1196
ZTE Nubia Z9 0.49 440 898
Xiaomi Mi 5 0.51 628 1227
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek) 0.42 403 953
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 0.38 439 1158
Xiaomi Redmi Pro 0.00 408
Meizu m3 note 0.52 425 816
Huawei Honor 8 0.34 374 1101
Huawei Mate 8 0.346 471 1361
Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c 0.58 416 717
Meizu PRO 6 0.01 360 40000
LG Nexus 5X 0.30 455 1542
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.00 392
OnePlus 3 0.00 433
Lenovo Moto Z Droid 0.00 371
ZTE Axon 7 0.00 352
Huawei P9 0.46 500 1094
Oppo F1 Plus 0.00 351
LG G5 0.17 306 1855
LG G5 max auto 0.20 378 1881
HTC 10 0.29 428 1543
Samsung Galaxy C5 0.00 424
Samsung Galaxy C7 0.00 422
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 0.00 353
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) 0.00 425

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.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Sony Xperia X Compact
    3.694
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Xiaomi Mi 5
    3.24
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    2.378
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)
    2.249
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1.996
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Meizu m3 note
    1.923
  • BlackBerry Leap
    1.892
  • Meizu m2 note
    1.892
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • ZTE Nubia Z9 mini
    1.759
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Asus Zenfone Selfie
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    1.659
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215

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.

Connectivity

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.

Nubia Z11 review

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.

Nubia Z11 battery life test

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.

Nubia Z11 review

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.

Basic power saving options - Nubia Z11 review
Basic power saving options

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.

Reader comments

  • AnonD-137518

What are the features missing in international rom? does it has French language as it is not sold in France? thank you.

  • Rico m

A great good looking and with good performance however white a poor international rom in comparison with the Chinese rom. If zte will put an effort in bringing to the international rom theme features like in Chinese rom it would make it an awesome...

  • Sombir verma

I want this phone