ZTE Nubia Z17 review: Driven by ambition

Driven by ambition

GSMArena Team, 13 July 2017.

Display

"Bezel-less" is not exactly the buzzword it was a few years back. Infinity displays and ultra-wide aspect ratios seem to have taken over. Still, Nubia's optical tricks are impressive enough, even if a little outdated. 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. Just like its predecessor, the Z17 uses a 5.5-inch, FullHD panel. Nothing too fancy, but still plenty sharp, with a pixel density or around 403ppi.

Nubia Z17 review

The panel is a rather basic IPS LCD unit, but one with surprisingly wide viewing angles.

The maximum brightness is average and tops off at around 388 nits. There is a Max Auto boost that needs to be enabled in the settings first. However, it is not particularly useful, as it only managed to push the display up to 392nits in our tests.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
ZTE Nubia Z17 0.267 388 1451
ZTE Nubia Z17 (Max Auto) 0.268 392 1461
OnePlus 5 0 435
Xiaomi Mi 6 0.462 603 1305
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.00 391
Samsung Galaxy S7 max auto 0.00 563
Sony Xperia XZ 0.37 502 1349
Sony Xperia XZ (max auto) 0.46 608 1336
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 0.005 341 68200
Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus 0.44 637 1448
LG G6 0.228 468 2053
LG G6 max auto 0.277 564 2036
HTC 10 0.29 428 1543
HTC U Ultra 0.539 428 794
HTC U Ultra (max auto) 0.564 507 899
Huawei Mate 9 0.41 665 1622
ZTE Axon 7 0.00 352
LG V20 0.43 475 1097
LG V20 Max auto 0.59 628 1064
Sony Xperia XZ Premium 0.463 573 1238

Still, thanks to the low black luminance, the Nubia Z17 scores a respectable contrast level. Sunlight legibility is serviceable, although not really impressive.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    4.768
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    4.658
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Oppo R11
    4.454
  • 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
  • OnePlus 3T
    4.232
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
    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
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    3.935
  • Lenovo Moto Z
    3.931
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • OnePlus 5
    3.914
  • 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
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3.818
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3.804
  • 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
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
    3.767
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
    3.688
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Huawei Mate 9
    3.68
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
    3.597
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • LG G6
    3.556
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Motorola Moto Z Play
    3.526
  • 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
  • Huawei P10 Plus
    3.456
  • HTC U Ultra
    3.453
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Huawei P10
    3.379
  • Oppo R9s
    3.352
  • Honor 8 Pro
    3.341
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Lenovo P2
    3.316
  • Honor 9
    3.289
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    3.244
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 2
    3.228
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    3.218
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
    3.206
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • ZTE Nubia Z17
    3.159
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • HTC U11
    3.089
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.012
  • Sony Xperia L1
    2.994
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • Huawei P10 Lite
    2.974
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4
    2.92
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
    2.893
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium (sRGB)
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Nokia 3
    2.871
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2.813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Meizu MX6
    2.751
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    2.714
  • Meizu M5
    2.71
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    2.679
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
    2.658
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.635
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus
    2.582
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus (max auto)
    2.582
  • Meizu M5s
    2.58
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
    2.563
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Lenovo K6 Note
    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
  • Meizu m3 max
    2.447
  • HTC 10 evo
    2.407
  • 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
  • Oppo F3
    2.376
  • vivo V5 Plus
    2.371
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • 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
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2.189
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (X20)
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Mi 4S
    2.095
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • vivo V5
    2.059
  • 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
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215

Color accuracy is not really the Z17's strong suit. This is rather surprising since it offers quite a few color correction options. On the default "Colorful" setting, we measured an average deltaE of 6.5 and a maximum of 13.1. Lowering the brightness down to 200 nits only made things worse. Overall, the panel just looks really cold, with a clear blue tint to whites. Individually, most of the other colors aren't all that bad.

For the most color-accurate settings possible, we ended up using the "Natural" color mode and sliding the gamma correction as far as it goes into the Warm setting (makes sense). This resulted in an average deltaE of 5.1 and a maximum of 11.1 - still far from what we would consider color-accurate. Of course, for many users out there, this may not be a strong point of consideration.

Connectivity

The Nubia Z17 ticks the most boxes when it comes to connectivity. It is a Dual-SIM device taking two nano SIMs. Worldwide band coverage across 2G, 3G and 4G is pretty decent - definitely better than the Xiaomi Mi 6, although nowhere near the OnePlus 5. The LTE is Cat. 12/13 for theoretical speeds of up to 600Mbps of download and 150Mbps of upload - there's no gigabit LTE on the Nubia Z17, even though the chipset is heavily advertised to support it. We don't really think it's that much of an issue.

Wi-Fi b/g/n over 2.4GHz and a/n/ac over 5GHz is supported. Bluetooth is still of the older 4.1 variety, so don't expect anything fancy along the lines of the OnePlus 5's aptX HD. NFC support is another check mark on the spec sheet. Positioning uses GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou satellites. There is no FM radio, but the Nubia Z17 does have an IR blaster.

The only interface you get is USB Type-C. We already mentioned that it supports analog audio output, via the provided adapter. It also has OTG.

Battery

The Nubia Z17 is equipped with a 3,200mAh battery - only a bit smaller than that of its OnePlus rival, and nearly identical in capacity to the Sony Xperia XZ Premium's unit. Since all of these smartphones are based on the Snapdragon 835 chipset, there is a certain degree of consistency to be expected in terms of battery life.

Nubia Z17

For the most part, this appears to be true. The Z17 managed to score an impressive 81 hours of endurance in our testing routine. A quick comparison with the OnePlus 5 reveals that both devices behave equally well in terms of 3G call time. 19h is definitely not bad, especially considering the poor past experiences we've had with units intended for the Chinese market and networks.

Video playback is quite easy on the battery as well. 12:26 is a definitely a solid accomplishment on an LCD panel. Naturally, the OnePlus 5 squeezed a few hours more out of its efficient Optic AMOLED display. But it's the browser that pleasantly surprised us. Since our Z17 unit didn't have Google Play Services or Chrome pre-installed, we opted to conduct the test with the default browser. Initially, we were quite suspicious of it, as it seemed to be prone to some off traffic re-routing and the default ad blocker managed to kill the JavaScript on our test suite. Still, once we turned the latter off, the browser did very well, netting over 13 hours of endurance.


Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Nubia Z17 for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We've established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. 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 under your own typical use.

Reader comments

  • 10basetom

FYI the Z17 6GB/64GB model can be had for $390 on importer sites now.

  • Anonymous

Why don't they make camera comparisons with this phone? The samples are really nice. Nicer than the G6, S8, iPhone 7, etc.

  • Ivo001

Apple wasn't first. I think that was the LeEco Le Max 2