ZTE’s subsidiary firm Nubia stands for smartphones with premium design and powerful hardware. Nubia’s current flagship model is Nubia Z17, which has already convinced us with its premium design and the fast Snapdragon 835 processor. We now have Nubia Z17 Lite ready to be tested. The design is the same, only the hardware has lost some power compared to the current top model. However, Z17 Lite also costs a lot less (240$). If the Lite version is as convincing as the normal version you’ll find out in the following review.
Design and build quality
Nubia does a great job at producing nice looking smartphones. This holds true also for Nubia Z17 Lite, which convinced me after a few seconds – at least in terms of appearance. The black metal casing has red and gold highlights and is therefore a welcome change compared to ordinary designs. In addition, the almost bezel-less display is another highlight. The smartphone has a weight of 169g and feels well while holding it in the hand. For a 5.5-inch smartphone, the device has average dimensions of 152x72x7.9mm.
Below the display you find the three common soft touch buttons. The home button is marked with a pulsating red circle, which also serves as notification LED. The “back” and “app overview” buttons are marked with a small red dot. Nubia did not save on the material. Rear side, frame and buttons are made of metal. Build quality is very good and the phone seems to be sturdy. The rear is interrupted by two antenna lines, which match the color of the casing. The upper antenna line is located at the top and is nearly invisible. In the middle of the rear, you find the fingerprint scanner, which is slightly embedded in the casing in order to locate it faster. The scanner reliably unlocks the smartphone within a second.
The USB Type-C connection can be found at the bottom. At its right and left side, you find 2 speakers. Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack included. Those who still want to listen to music have the following 3 possibilities: you either use Bluetooth headphones or the adapter provided in the scope of delivery or USB Type-C headphones. In the last case, we would recommend the Xiaomi Noise Cancelling Headphones.
Apart from the missing headphone connection, Nubia Z17 Lite’s design and build quality are great. The phone really is a highlight, which differs from other smartphones, but without seeming artificial.
Nubia Z17 Lite scope of delivery
- USB Type-C cable
- Power plug (EU)
- Short operating instructions
- Adapter (USB Type-C to 3.5mm headphone connection)
- SIM ejection tool
Nubia Z17 Lite is a real edge-less smartphone. At the top and bottom, the phone has normal bezels, but at the left and right side, the display merges perfectly into the metal frame. This effect is not as impressive as with Samsung Galaxy S8, but Nubia Z17 Lite belongs in another price category after all. The phone’s display is not an edge-display as we know it from Samsung. The slightly bent glass creates an optical illusion instead, which makes the smartphone look edge-less. The effect is put into practice very well, and I would consider the edge-less design a success.
The 5.5-inch display panel works with classic IPS technique and has a full-HD 1920x1080pixels resolution. This results in a pixel density of 403 pixels per inch, which is more than sufficient for a 100% sharp image. The display is convincing. Viewing angles are stable and color representation is strong and natural. Those who are not satisfied with the standard settings can customize colors and saturation with an integrated tool that is easy to use. The brightness is sufficient for using it outside as well. In a direct comparison, Nubia Z17 Lite is slightly less bright than my Xiaomi Mi6.
Nubia Z17 Lite provides several edge-gestures as a special feature. For instance, when you swipe over the edge you can change between all current applications, adjust the brightness or clear the intermediate storage. The functions all work well, but I didn’t use them very often.
The touchscreen registers up to 10 points of contact simultaneously. The glass surface of the screen is very smooth, which gives you a pleasant feeling. The display glass is hardened to prevent scratches. We used a screwdriver and a bunch of keys on the display and neither of them left damage.
Nubia Z17 Lite can also convince with the display’s quality. The manufacturer used the same display as they used with the more powerful Nubia Z17. Brightness, color representation and viewing angles are simply perfect. In addition, the edge-less design contributes to the unusual appearance of the smartphone.
Nubia Z17 Lite houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 processor. The processor has a performance cluster with 4 Cortex A72 cores with 1.95GHz each, and an energy saving cluster with 4 A53 cores with 1.4GHz each. In addtion, Nubia Z17 Lite provides 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The processor belongs to the middle class and fits into a smartphone of Nubia Z17 Lite’s price range. However, the processor is not as powerful as the Snapdragon 660, which is included in Xiaomi Mi Note 3 (same price as the Nubia smartphone), or as the Snapdragon 835 of Nubia Z17.Antutu Result 3D Mark Result
Despite this theoretical difference, Nubia Z17 Lite reaches a very good speed in daily use. Apps are opened fast and there is almost no load time. This is probably because of the very fast memory moduls. The internal storage has a reading/writing speed of 180/150MB/s. The RAM has a good speed of 7GB/s. Thanks to the big RAM, the speed does not slow down when several apps are opened.
The Adreno 510-GPU gets a good result in terms of gaming performance. Even graphically demanding games like Asphalt 8, Nova Legacy or Need for Speed No Limits run fluently with high graphics settings. During gaming, the smartphone gets relatively warm, but never hot. However, you notice the difference to current Snapdragon 835 smartphones (e.g. Xiaomi Mi6, Nubia Z17), as there are some small lags from time to time on Nubia Z17 Lite. Overall, the smartphone is also suitable for gamers.
Nubia Z17 Lite is not a performance monster, but it is suitable for daily tasks. Compared to current high-end models, there are big differences in the benchmarks, but in practical use you barely notice these differences.
Nubia Z17 Lite houses an Android 7.1.1 system with Nubia UI 5 surface. At first we thought that it was a software modified by the shop, as the Google Playstore was pre-installed ex works. This would be quite unusual for a smartphone like Nubia Z17 Lite, which is primarily designed for the Chinese market. Apparently, there is also an international version available, which includes an EU power plug, the Google Playstore and several languages. Our assumption is confirmed by the English operating instructions. So, at least on our test device (provided by Geekmaxi.com) no Custom Shop ROM was installed. This is nice, as you’ll get updates from the manufacturer and there is no malware.
Nubia UI system runs very smoothly and fast. The Android look has been changed strongly; there is no button for the app-drawer. The icons have a tile-design which matches the phone’s design and in the option menu are a lot of possibilities for configuration. Certain apps can be locked with your fingerprint and it is also possible to clone apps. In addition, Nubia included useful edge-gestures. When you swipe along the edges on both sides you can adjust the brightness or change between the home screens. Z17 Lite offers a lot of settings options. The phone provides a thought out security and permission center. You can change the function of the soft touch buttons and assign an extra function to the home button, which is carried out when pressing longer. One of the home screens is reserved for the quick links to the numerous camera functions, which we’ll discuss later.
The access to the quick-toggles are new in Nubia UI5. These are not as usual in the status bar, but appear when you swipe upwards over the left soft touch button. The look strongly resembles iOS. If you swipe upwards over the home button, you activate the split-screen-mode. This is worked out well and makes it possible to open several apps simultaneously. You can also adjust the size of the individual screens.
In general, Nubia Z17 Lite with Nubia UI runs well and fast. However, I could not get used to the unusual icons. Maybe some users will like this non-ordinary design, but I didn’t. Unfortunately, there is no pre-installed design and theme selection, with which you could go back to a cleaner look. Therefore, I installed the NOVA launcher app to free the smartphone from the too unusual look. Installing an alternative launcher worked without any problems.
Nubia Z17 Lite has a dual-camera on the rear. It consists of a normal 13MP sensor and an additional 13MP black-and-white sensor. Both are Sony IMX 258 sensors. By using 2 cameras it is possible to take black-and-white images and you can use the bokeh-mode, which blurs the background.
Camera quality is mediocre with images taken in daylight. Nubia Z17 Lite represents colors accurately and images have a good sharpness. The focus works fast and trigger time is minimal. Sometimes, the white balance does not work properly, which for example leads to a sky depicted in merely one color. Apart from that, pictures are quite nice.
In low light, Nubia Z17 Lite only takes average photos. Strong image noise occurs quite fast. The images are still okay, but they are not really convincing.
The bokeh-mode also works mediocrely. It often happens that parts of the photographed person or object are also blurred. Nubia clearly cannot keep up with Xiaomi for instance. The black-and-white images on the other hand are convincing.
The 13MP front camera has great quality. It captures many details and makes it possible to take selfies with nice sharpness.
Videos are recorded with a resolution up to 4K at 30FPS or in Full-HD at 60FPS. Sound and image quality can convince, although videos in motion are blurred because of the missing image stabilization.
The Nubia camera app deserves a separate paragraph. It probably offers the most additional features of all camera UIs currently available. In order to know every function, it takes some time getting used to it. If you’ve discovered and understood all functions, they are well usable. There is a pro-mode with all possible settings. Additionally, there are 16 presets, from which you can choose. For instance, there is a mode to photograph the starry sky over a long time (Star Trail). You can use a non-moving background to clone a person several times into the image, or you can turn the camera around an object to create a 3D image. It is also possible to save pictures in RAW format, thanks to the DNG-mode.
2G: GSM 2/3/5/8; CDMA 1xEVDO 800
3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8; TD-SCDMA B34/B39
4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7/B8, TDD-LTE B34/B38/B39/B40/B41
Reception is high and voice quality is good on both sides during phone calls. The speakerphone also works well. Of course, the phone provides 2.4GHz & 5GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. Reception is good here as well and I had no problems connecting to other wireless devices. The position is determined via GPS, GLONASS and BDS. Z17 Lite determines the position reliably in a few seconds and it is also suitable for navigation. For a better use of the pedestrian navigation, the phone includes an E-compass. The device offers a gyroscope, NFC and the standard sensors (proximity, acceleration and brightness sensors).
The speaker has a loud and clear sound. In terms of the speaker, Nubia Z17 Lite is at the top of its price range. Heights are slightly overstressed, but this is not disturbing.
Nubia Z17 Lite houses an average 3200mAh battery. The capacity is enough to use the phone for one day with intense use. When I used the phone, it lasted until midnight with 1 hour of YouTube, 1 hour gaming, 1/2 hour telephoning, 1 hour of navigation and occasional chatting and Facebook. Those who use their phones rather rarely can get 1.5 days of run time. To stream a YouTube video, the battery loses 15% of its capacity in one hour, for gaming it loses 20%. These are good values, but Nubia Z17 Lite is far away from being a real battery monster.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Directly compared to Xiaomi Mi Note 3, Nubia Z17 Lite is far behind. The reason for that lies in the 28-Nanometer manufacture of the processor, which does not entail a good energy efficiency.
The smartphone is fully charged in 1 hour and 40 minutes with a current of 5V/1, 5A.