Skip to main content

Verdict

With very little track record on which to go on, we had few expectations of the Nubia Z11, despite its eye-catching bezel-less design. Fortunately, we were not disappointed by the latest flagship from the Chinese upstart, and found many good points that make this a worthwhile alternative to more well-known contenders.

Although almost all smartphones are starting to morph into a set of very similarly dressed sheep, Nubia took the right cues from the right competitors to create a genuinely handsome handset with minuscule bezels and a sleek, premium feel. 

Under the hood the Snapdragon 820 and option of 4GB or 6GB of RAM is enough for the phone to glide effortlessly through any task you might have it perform, and 64GB of storage is enough for most media needs, though additional storage via microSD is always welcome.

Whilst there are a few little niggles with the user interface and a disappointing speaker, the rest of the hardware package is quite a treat, with almost everything you would expect of a flagship smartphone from any other top brand.

With the silver edition starting at €447 (around £385, $490, AU$655), it’s perhaps not quite as good value as the $399/£329 (around AU$450) OnePlus 3, but certainly not far off.

Who's this for?

The Nubia Z11 is a phone for those who want flagship performance without a flagship price and are prepared to go with a lesser known brand to get it.

It's not quite a match for top of the range phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 - as evidenced by the Z11's 1080p screen and middling benchmarks, but it also doesn't cost as much and at this sort of price it only really has the OnePlus 3, or other unknown brands, to compete with.

Should you buy it?

Our first taste of a top-end phone from Nubia was overall a very positive experience. Though there are still things the young Chinese contender needs to learn in regards to interface refinement, there are equally many things to enjoy about this fairly priced handset. 

On many fronts, the Nubia Z11 goes head-to-head with many other 2016 flagships, and comes out with a respectable set of specifications to show off.  

The camera is not quite on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (but it’s not far off), and there isn’t a QHD display or modular capabilities like the LG G5. The Z11 does, however, stack up quite well against the so-called ‘2016 Flagship Killer’ the OnePlus 3, Nubia’s skinned version of Android being the only real shortcoming.  

The frustrations of a non-stock Android experience may be an irritation, but the array of settings, features and hardware high points make the Z11 well worth buying if you're after strong specs on a budget.

Competition

Its high-end specs make the the Nubia Z11 a genuine alternative to expensive flagships, while only the OnePlus 3 presents much competition at a similar price. Below you'll find a few other phones you might want to consider.

HTC 10

HTC has been renowned for its premium design and the company’s latest flagship – the HTC 10 – was no disappointment. The Z11 shares some similarities in the aluminum unibody divided by antenna lines, and is actually noticeably slimmer when you put the two side by side. 

Unfortunately for Nubia, when you start to delve into the nitty-gritty, the HTC 10 starts to pull away, thanks to a super high-resolution QHD screen, better speakers and a more accessible fingerprint scanner. 

When comparing Android on the two phones, HTC comes out the clear winner here, too, as the latest version of HTC Sense has been refined and honed to become one of our favorite iterations of Android outside the stock experience. 

OnePlus 3

After trying to break the mould of smartphone ownership with its previous three handsets, the OnePlus 3 feels like the phone from a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that has finally grown up and started to reach its potential. 

The OnePlus 3 is probably the closest rival to the Nubia Z11, both in terms of specifications and value-for-money, and only really manages to trump the Nubia where software is concerned. 

On the hardware front, it’s pretty much a dead heat across the board, though the Z11 arguably has the better camera, and a more attractive screen, thanks to the lack of bezels.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

We consider the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to be the best phone in the world, so how does the Nubia Z11 compare? 

Surprisingly, it doesn’t lag that far behind, and the bezel-less design allows for some novel edge gestures that could teach the S7 Edge a thing or two. 

If you’re looking for the best camera on a smartphone and money is no object, then stick with the Samsung. If you’re happy to stick with a camera that does a darn good job in most conditions, the Nubia Z11 has you covered. 

If you’re looking for a handset to use with VR, then the extra pixels on the Galaxy S7 Edge make for a more crystal clear experience, that can’t quite be matched by the Z11.

First reviewed: October 2016