ZTE Nubia Z17 review: Driven by ambition

Driven by ambition

GSMArena Team, 13 July 2017.

Image Gallery

The image gallery is pretty straightforward. You get a Photos tab with a timeline of all your shots and an Albums one, for organizing things. There is also a Cloud tab for accessing your Nubia storage account.

Simple gallery - Nubia Z17 review Simple gallery - Nubia Z17 review
Simple gallery

The gallery has some fun editing options. If you can look past the poor English translations, there are actually quite a few features here to play around with.

Gallery editing options - Nubia Z17 review Gallery editing options - Nubia Z17 review Gallery editing options - Nubia Z17 review Gallery editing options - Nubia Z17 review
Gallery editing options

There are even some fairly advanced-level corrections you can make on your images.

Fine level corrections - Nubia Z17 review Fine level corrections - Nubia Z17 review
Fine level corrections

Music player

The Nubia Music player features a really polished UI. There are plenty of search and sorting interfaces to explore. Perhaps even a few too many. It will also automatically look for lyrics to display while playing the track, though it failed to find the words to some very popular tracks. This is likely a regional issue, rather than a small lyrics library.

Music player looks great - Nubia Z17 review Music player looks great - Nubia Z17 review Music player looks great - Nubia Z17 review Music player looks great - Nubia Z17 review
Music player looks great

Some of the automatic sorting and organization algorithms misbehave as well. Some tracks don't end up in the same artist category, despite having all their ID3 tags and getting properly placed within the same album. Automatic artwork download is also dodgy.

Automatic filtering is hit and miss - Nubia Z17 review Automatic filtering is hit and miss - Nubia Z17 review Automatic filtering is hit and miss - Nubia Z17 review
Automatic filtering is hit and miss

By the way, the Z17 has a 24-bit/192kHz audio DAC, so quality does not disappoint. There is also Dolby ATMOS multi-channel audio support along with the fancy equalizers an all. It should cater well to most every audiophile out there.

One of the few bonuses we got for reviewing a Chinese Z17 unit is Nubia's cloud music service. Actually, we saw numerous Xiaomi brandings all throughout the online library, so we aren't exactly sure of its ownership. Perhaps the two companies have some sort of a deal.

What is even more perplexing is the way the online platform handles copyrights. Most "top charts", "hits" and other popular curated playlists of the sort seem to play without any legal or other issues. You can even select individual songs, and we didn't notice any sign of advertising either.

Nubia online music platform - Nubia Z17 review Nubia online music platform - Nubia Z17 review Nubia online music platform - Nubia Z17 review Nubia online music platform - Nubia Z17 review
Nubia online music platform

Searching for a specific song or artist often hands out an empty result list, which is understandable, given the origin of the service. But even if you do manage to find something you like, once you are outside the curated lists you will start to see copyright errors and grayed out songs that refuse to play. It's an odd and inconsistent experience for sure.

Video Player

The Video player is fairly simple in terms of UI, but very capable. Videos up to 4K resolution are supported with the AVC (H.264) codec, HEVC (H.256) also works. AC3 is also supported to some extent, but 640 kbps seem to be about as much as it can handle. Things like TrueHD 7.1 and Loseless ATMOS are definitely a no-go.

Capable video player - Nubia Z17 review Capable video player - Nubia Z17 review Capable video player - Nubia Z17 review Capable video player - Nubia Z17 review
Capable video player

The app is even nice enough to let you toggle between hardware and software video decoding, just in case the Snapdragon 835 fails to handle some more exotic format on a native low level and needs the powerful CPU cores to pick up some of the slack instead.

Oddly enough, Nubia still hasn't included subtitle support. You can, however view the video in a small floating window.

Nubia browser

Since it surprised us so pleasantly with the excellent battery endurance scores, while also confusing us equally with some of its behavior, the default browser deserves some attention. It is a custom app, likely developed by Nubia, although the interface does remind us of something along the lines of past version of UC Browser or Dolphin, but we can't quite put our finger on it.

Regardless of what core it is based on, the Nubia browser looks to be working well, but is clearly targeted at Chinese users. As mentioned earlier, hitting up a site directly by URL sometimes leads to some odd redirects through suspicious addresses. Perhaps it's some data saving proxy setup, then again, we didn't really feel sure enough of this theory to submit our log-in details through it.

Nubia browser is quite feature rich - Nubia Z17 review Nubia browser is quite feature rich - Nubia Z17 review Nubia browser is quite feature rich - Nubia Z17 review Nubia browser is quite feature rich - Nubia Z17 review
Nubia browser is quite feature rich

There are quite a few options available out of the box as well. You can disable images, toggle night mode or change the default font. Then there is the ad block feature which simply decided to kill the JavaScript in our battery browser test suite. It is fair to say it is quite aggressive, so you might have to kill it when inevitably something refuses to work.

Options are plenty, but hard to understand - Nubia Z17 review Options are plenty, but hard to understand - Nubia Z17 review
Options are plenty, but hard to understand

Audio output fails to impress

The Nubia Z17 passed the active external amplifier portion of our audio test with flying colors. Matching perfectly accurate output with loudness way above the average really got us hopeful that we'll see a great performance.

Unfortunately, when headphones come into play the picture changed completely. Volume dropped to below average and the clarity wasn't worth writing home about any more. Stereo worsened notably, frequency response started to fluctuate and a moderate amount of intermodulation distortion crept it. We were certainly expecting better given the Z17's flagship aspirations.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
ZTE Nubia Z17+0.03, -0.03-94.193.80.00400.025-84.1
ZTE Nubia Z17 (headphones attached)+0.65, -0.30-93.593.30.0140.513-49.5
OnePlus 5+0.03, -0.01-94.194.10.00100.0070-94.2
OnePlus 5 (headphones attached)+0.15, -0.08-94.094.00.00330.139-59.9
HTC U11+0.05, -0.11-94.194.10.00170.0067-94.5
HTC U11 (headphones attached)+0.05, -0.02-93.793.80.00180.105-53.7
Samsung Galaxy S8+0.04, -0.00-92.592.50.00160.0072-92.8
Samsung Galaxy S8 (headphones attached)+0.03, -0.03-92.392.30.00560.060-77.2
Sony Xperia XZs+0.01, -0.02-93.593.30.00420.0092-92.7
Sony Xperia XZs (headphones attached)+0.12, -0.32-92.693.20.00720.219-67.0
LG G6+0.01, -0.02-93.393.30.00590.0095-94.4
LG G6 (headphones attached)+0.01, -0.02-93.493.40.00670.020-56.3
Huawei P10+0.01, -0.04-93.094.80.00190.0080-93.5
Huawei P10 (headphones attached)+0.25, -0.02-92.793.00.1920.175-59.5

ZTE Nubia Z17 frequency response
ZTE Nubia Z17 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

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