The Nubia Z18 Mini is the slightly weaker version of the Nubia Z18 that is still to be presented. Although the actual top model still follows, the Nubia Z18 Mini also offers very interesting features. The phone offers a powerful Snapdragon 660 processor, 6GB RAM, a dual camera and a 5.7-inch display in 18:9 format. In the following review you will find out if the Nubia Z18 Mini can compete in the fiercely contested middle class.

Nubia Z18 Mini 5

Design

The Nubia Z18 Mini is a damn noble smartphone. However, there are actually no special features that would clearly set the Z18 Mini apart from other models. Instead, the mobile phone convinces with its high-quality build quality and the few but skillfully set accents. In our black version, it is especially the interplay of black, gold and red. The housing and buttons are made of metal and merge with the slightly curved glass rear so that the mobile phone is very comfortable to hold.

Nubia Z18 Mini 7Nubia Z18 Mini 6

However, given the large 5.7-inch screen, the question arises as to why the manufacturer added the “Mini” attribute to the mobile phone. A possible answer to this question could be the small bezels and the compact design. Measuring 148 x 70 x 8.2mm, the Nubia Z18 Mini is not larger than a standard 5.5-inch smartphone. A comparison with an iPhone 8 (138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm) also shows that the Z18 Mini is just 1cm longer and 0.3cm wider than Apple’s 4.7-inch smartphone. Also the weight of 154g is still pleasantly light. However, it is to be criticized that the manufacturer advertises the Z18 Mini with a thickness of only 7.6mm. The smartphone is however 8.2mm thick in reality.

Nubia Z18 Mini 8 Nubia Z18 Mini 1

The buttons are a further surprise. In addition to the volume control and the on/off button on the right side, there is another button, which is used to start Nubia’s Smart Assistant. Unfortunately, the assistant doesn’t understand a lot of English, so it doesn’t really serve any purpose for western users. Fortunately, the button can be deactivated in the system settings so that it does not perform any action. We would have preferred a new assignment to start the Google Assistant or any other app, but at least this way the “smart” assistant does not bother us.

Although the design is very similar to the predecessor Nubia Z17 Mini, the 18:9 full-screen display now does without the soft-touch buttons. This allows the manufacturer to reduce the top and bottom bezels to 9mm. Operation now happens via on-screen buttons. Alternatively, the smartphone can be operated with swipe gestures. Simply swipe up where the Back, Home or Multitasking button is normally located. In this way, the entire display can be used for content.

A fingerprint sensor is located centrally on the rear, below the horizontally arranged dual camera. The sensor quickly unlocks the smartphone from standby. The detection accuracy is on average with 8/10 successful attempts. There is also the option of unlocking the mobile phone via Face-Unlock. The unlocking speed is about one second and works at about every second attempt. There’s definitely room for improvement here. Two Nano-SIM cards can be inserted laterally via a slot in the mobile phone. The memory can unfortunately not be expanded via micro-SD. In addition to the USB Type-C port, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom and also a notification LED.

The smartphones of Nubia have always been convincing by their noble appearance. With the Nubia Z18 Mini, the manufacturer now adopts the current 18:9 format and combines it with the well-known design to a visually appealing smartphone.

Display

Nubia Z18 Mini 4

The Nubia Z18 Mini’s display measures 5.7 inches, so it would have easily passed as a phablet in 2016. It is a high-resolution Full-HD panel with 1080 x 2160 pixels. This results in a pixel density of 424ppi, which means that it is no longer possible to perceive individual pixels. The display works with LTPS IPS technology and provides good brightness and stable viewing angles. As far as color intensity is concerned, the Z18 Mini’s panel is more reserved and realistic than brightly colored. Personally, I would have liked stronger colors better and the contrast could also be slightly stronger. However, this is already complaining at a high level because the display is well suited to use videos or games on the go. The standard settings of the display are, as already mentioned, relatively neutral. In the options you also have the possibility to adjust the color representation warmer or colder, as well as to activate a reading mode, which reduces the blue radiation in evening hours. The 18:9 format makes the display slightly longer than normal 16:9 displays, which ensures that the Z18 Mini is still comfortable to hold despite its display size. If you have slightly larger hands, you can operate the Z18 Mini with one hand. In addition, there is a practical one-handed mode with which the display area can be reduced if required, as well as a multi-windows mode to display two apps simultaneously. The touch screen registers up to 10 points of contact simultaneously and works precisely and quickly. The display glass is protected from scratches on both the front and rear and is also relatively resistant to fingerprints.

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 7Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 6Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 2

Performance

The Nubia Z18 Mini houses a Snapdragon 660 processor, which is supported by 6GB RAM and 64 or 128GB memory, depending on the version. The Snapdradon 660 is manufactured in a 14 nano millimeter process and is based on 8 Kryo 260 cores. The cores clock sufficiently high at 4×1.8 and 4 x 2.2GHz. The CPU is supported by an Adreno 512 GPU with an 850MHz clock. According to our experience with the Xiaomi Mi 6X / A2, it is one of the best mid-range processors, which impresses with very good performance and enormous energy efficiency. Fortunately, this also applies to the Nubia Z18 Mini. Current games such as Asphalt 8 or PUBG run perfectly smoothly on the Nubia Z18 Mini, even with high graphics. The smartphone heats up to a maximum of 38°C. Normal apps or websites in the browser are also no problem and are displayed without long loading times. All in all, the Nubia Z18 Mini offers a very good performance that is also high enough for gamers and demanding users. A real plus in performance is only noticeable with the latest Snapdragon 835/845 devices with UFS 2.0 – and here, too, the difference is very limited in most applications.

Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result 3D Mark Result

The internal memory measures 64 or 128GB depending on the version and cannot be extended by a micro-SD. The system uses about 9GB of memory. With a speed of 200 MB/s in reading and 230 MB/s in writing, the eMMC memory is quite fast. The same applies to the RAM with 7GB/s.

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 15Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 14Nubia Z18 Mini Snapdragon 660 CPUZ

System

The Nubia Z18 Mini uses Android 8.1 with the Nubia UI interface. It is pleasing that the basis of the system is up-to-date. In addition, Nubia UI is a visually appealing interface that offers many configuration options.

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 9Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 11 Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 10

The interface is especially famous for its camera app called NeoVision, which is pretty much every professional mobile phone photographer’s dream. As with all Chinese launchers, there is no button for the app overview. In addition, the quick toggles have been combined into an iOS-style control, so that the status bar is only used for notifications. The icons have a nice tile design and if desired you can download additional layouts for the system in a theme store. There are also numerous configuration options in the settings menu. Certain apps can be blocked with a fingerprint and access and notification rights can also be set precisely. Nubia has also integrated practical edge gestures. For example, the brightness can be adjusted by sliding up or down over the corners on both sides or you can switch between the home screens. There is also a new gaming mode, in which only certain notifications are allowed. After you got used to them, the little extras prove to be useful aids in everyday life.

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 13 Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 4 Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 3

Since the Nubia Z18 Mini is initially only sold on the Chinese market, it does not have the Google PlayStore installed by default. Unfortunately, all our efforts to get the Google Apps running have failed so far. If you want to buy the Nubia Z18 Mini, you should order it with a custom ROM with Google Playstore. Our test device was provided by CECT-Shop, where you can get a modified software with Playstore. However, this has the disadvantage that the system does not receive any updates. But since you can hardly use a smartphone without Google in most western countries, this is the best option so far. We will continue to keep our eyes open for a way to install the Google Playstore on the official ROM and hopefully link to a corresponding manual here soon.

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 12As far as the system language is concerned, all possible languages are also available on the Chinese version. However, the system is only about 80% translated, so that you come across English settings here and there.  Here Nubia could have shown a little more love for detail. Since the Nubia UI is otherwise a rather sophisticated system, this sloppiness is simply unnecessary. We also don’t like the amount of Chinese apps that are pre-installed on the mobile phone. Fortunately, they can be uninstalled without problems.

Camera

The camera is one of the most important purchasing criteria in the middle class. Not surprisingly, Nubia uses a dual camera setup for the Z18 Mini. However, the resolution of 24 megapixels with a large f/1.7 aperture of the main camera, which is supported by another 5 megapixel camera, is quite special. In practice, the Nubia Z18 Mini can take very good pictures. The photos convince with realistic colors and good sharpness. Even on a large PC screen, the images look good. Only when zooming in you notice a certain amount of blur, especially in landscape shots, which is weaker with flag-ship smartphones. For the price range of the Nubia Z18 Mini, however, the pictures are above average. The same applies to night shots, which still succeed despite the high megapixel number. Here, Nubia misses the finishing touch to reach the premium class, but for a mid-range mobile phone the pictures are great.

It is also pleasing that the manufacturer has worked on optimizing the dual camera functions. While the portrait function was hardly usable with the Nubia Z17 Mini, the Z18 Mini can produce good shots with a blurred background. Occasionally there are still some slight errors at the transition between foreground and background, but this happens quite rarely. Note, however, that the second sensor is now only used for bokeh shots. The Nubia Z18 Mini does not offer native black and white images or a 2X zoom.

As far as the front camera of the Nubia Z18 Mini is concerned, it can also convince with a quite good quality. It has an 8 megapixel sensor and an aperture of f/2.0. The photos have sufficient sharpness and also the color representation is good. However, there are occasional problems with the white balance so that the sky appears monochrome in the background or house facades appear somewhat bright. All in all, however, the pictures are still impressive here.

Videos can be recorded with Full-HD @ 60FPS or 4K. The sharpness and color reproduction is also very good here, but the pictures lack any form of image stabilization and the focus is also somewhat volatile. So you only get nice videos if you don’t move while recording. Here we would have expected a little more from a smartphone costing over 230$.

Nubia Z18 Mini Camera UI 3 Nubia Z18 Mini Camera UI 2 Nubia Z18 Mini Camera UI 1

The Nubia camera app also deserves its own section. It probably offers the most additional functions of all currently available camera UIs. It certainly takes some time to get used to it. However, once you have familiarized yourself with it, all functions can be used quite well. A Pro mode with all possible settings is available. There are also 16 presets to choose from. A mode to photograph the starry sky over a long time (Star Trail), for example, is also available. You can use a still background to clone a person multiple times onto an image or rotate the camera around an object to capture a 3D image. Saving images in RAW format is also possible with the DNG mode.

Connectivity

Nubia Z18 Mini 9

The Nubia Z18 Mini supports the following frequencies:

GSM 850/900/1800/1900

UMTS 850/900/1900/2100

LTE B1/B3/B5/B8/B19/B34/B38/B39/B40/B41

The reception is good. The call quality is high and the hands-free function can also be used. The Nubia Z18 Mini can accommodate two Nano-SIM cards. However, there is no possibility to use one of the slots for memory expansion.

Nubia Z18 Mini GPS

Furthermore, you get the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band WiFi with.ac standard. In addition to the standard sensors (brightness, proximity, acceleration), you also have a gyroscope and an e-compass. Also GPS with Beidu and GLONASS for navigation was considered. The navigation as well as the connection via WiFi and Bluetooth worked without any complications during the test period.

The internal speaker produces a loud and clear sound that does not distort even at the highest level. However, the sound overemphasizes the treble slightly and bass is hardly audible. However, this is a typical phenomenon with mobile phone loudspeakers. Alternatively, you can use the 3.5mm headphone jack to listen to music, which provides a clear and differentiated sound.

Battery

Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours

Nubia Z18 Mini System Benchmarks 1The Nubia Z18 Mini has a 3450mAh battery. Given the size of the smartphone and the very economical Snapdragon 660 processor, the battery is very well proportioned. This is also reflected in a correspondingly very good battery life. Throughout the day, the Z18 Mini can be used for 5 hours of using apps, multimedia and YouTube without losing capacity before sunset. Playing a one-hour Full-HD YouTube video at half brightness consumes 12% of the battery. During gaming, you lose about 25% in 60 minutes. If you do not use your smartphone for more than 3 hours during the day, you can even use it for 2 days. The Nubia Z18 Mini is charged in 1.5 hours using the Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 standard. The current “fashionable” feature Wireless Charging is not available.

Conclusion and alternative

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Joscha Becking:

The Nubia Z18 Mini is a real gem among the current mid-range smartphones, which has convinced us in most respects. But first we come to the dark side of the device. The software is primarily designed for the Chinese market and it is also undoubtedly quite a nuisance that the Google PlayStore currently only works with a custom ROM. We hope that the manufacturer will soon release an official Global ROM, or we find a way to get the Google Apps running on the smartphone. So far, a modified custom ROM with Google Apps is still the best advice. Apart from that, the Nubia Z18 achieves a consistently positive overall result in our test. Despite its large display, the smartphone is quite compact and above all very elegantly built. Thanks to the Snapdragon 660 processor, it offers a very good performance and also the battery is long-lasting. In addition, the camera takes beautiful pictures in most situations and Nubia has also taken a big step forward in portrait photography.

Except for these criticisms mentioned, the Nubia Z18 Mini is a highly recommendable smartphone that can keep up with a Xiaomi Mi A2 in many ways.

80%
  • Design and build quality 90 %
  • Display 80 %
  • Performance 70 %
  • Camera 80 %
  • Communication and connectivity 70 %
  • Battery 90 %

Price comparison


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*Prices include shipping and toll. Intermediate changes of prices, ranking, delivery time and costs possible. Prices last updated on 12.12.2018

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