Hands on: Nubia Z11 review

Premium design and the promise of DSLR quality snaps

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Nubia Z11 is a surprisingly accomplished smartphone, but it may find it difficult to really stand out, especially with a price point which is comfortably higher than the equally powered and styled OnePlus 3.

For

  • Great design
  • Loads of power

Against

  • Slightly childish interface
  • Not as cheap as some competitors

The Nubia Z11 is a flagship smartphone gunning for your DSLR camera, with bold claims about its photography abilities.

Announced at IFA 2016 in Berlin, the Z11 focuses on design and photography, while also managing to offer a hearty spec sheet to ensure it keeps pace with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, LG G5 and HTC 10.

The Nubia Z11 will be available in a number of countries including the UK and US from September, with the standard edition (with 4GB of RAM) costing €499 (around £420, $550, AU$740). There is a special model though - the Black Gold Edition – with an almighty 6GB of RAM and a price tag of €599 (around £510, $660, AU$890).

Why anyone needs 6GB of RAM in their phone in 2016 is unclear, but it's not the only manufacturer to roll out the RAM with the OnePlus 3 also boasting the same amount, but at a lower cost.

Nubia Z11 review

Both models feature a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 64GB of internal storage, microSD card slot, 16MP rear camera, 8MP front snapper, 3000mAh battery and Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow which has been coated in the firm's own Nubia UI4.0 interface.

The standard model is available in both silver and grey, while the Black Gold Edition is… well… black with gold trim.

We much prefer the Black Gold finish, which oozes premium appeal, while the silver standard model just looks like any other Chinese Android phone. Build quality is excellent throughout, with the full metal body feeling good in the hand.

Nubia Z11 review

The Z11 features zero bezels down either side of the display, making this large phone easier to hold one handed while also looking pretty cool.

Round the back, a rear facing fingerprint scanner falls nicely under forefinger for fast unlocking - although we still prefer a front mounted reader as it allows you to unlock when your phone is sitting on a desk. With a rear scanner you have to pick the phone up.

It's a minor compliant, but one which is more annoying here as the Z11 features navigations buttons below the display. A circular home touch key is flanked by two customizable navigation buttons – which stock functions are back and multi-tasking.

Nubia Z11 review

On screen, Nubia's Android overlay is reminiscent of Huawei and ZTE handsets, with the removal of the app draw meaning all your applications are found on home screens, and a cutesy app icon design that borders on childish.

This creates a disconnect between the premium exterior on the Z11 and the cheap looking on-screen theme. Huawei has recently refined its UI on the P9, bringing it closer to stock Android and we hope Nubia follows suit with a software update later down the line.

We only managed to have a brief play with the camera, but early signs suggest it's a capable snapper with the Z11 able to capture a good level of detail – even in the questionably illuminated show hall.

The app loaded quickly – as did all the others, and so they should considering the power under the hood – with snappy focus and shutter speed for slick camera performance.

It's not to the same standard as we've seen on the Galaxy S7, so the DSLR-quality claim looks a little shaky, but we'll reserve judgement for our full review once we've put the Nubia Z11 properly through it paces.

Nubia Z11 review

Early verdict

The Nubia Z11 is a surprisingly accomplished smartphone, but it may find it difficult to really stand out, especially with a price point which is comfortably higher than the equally powered and styled OnePlus 3.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.