Dec 29 2013

Review: ZTE Nubia Z5 Mini

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

My wife dropped her Samsung Galaxy S3 and shattered its screen. Having owned a Xiaomi Mi-2 for a year myself and being a very happy with it, I decided to look for a Chinese Android phone for her as well. I am very disappointed with Samsung because they are heavily overpriced for the hardware and they have proprietary bloat software that is useless, for me at least. Chinese manufacturers have plenty of alternatives that have powerful hardware, close to a vanilla Android and moderate pricing. After going through the phones I decided to buy a ZTE Nubia Z5 mini for her.

What is ZTE?

ZTE is a multinational telecommunication equipment manufacturer, similar to Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung or Nokia-Siemens. In addition to manufacturing mobile phones they build telecommunication networks and energy solutions (UPS and renewable energy sources). Measured by revenue (2012), ZTE is world’s fifth largest telecommunication device manufacturer, preceded only by Swedish Ericsson, Chinese Huawei, South-Korean Samsung and Finnish-German Nokia-Siemens Networks. Measured by unit sales, ZTE is world’s fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer, behind Samsung, Nokia and Apple.1, 5

ZTE Logo
Yet I dare to say that an average European or American consumer has not even heard about ZTE. This is about to change, at least in the USA, where ZTE has partnered with the NBA team Houston Rockets. The Rockets have an American-born star player Jeremy Lin whose parents are Taiwanese. The Rockets are popular among the Chinese because that’s where their gigantic super star Yao Ming played before retiring and at the same time ZTE will get publicity among the American audience.4

Here are some highlights of ZTE company history2:

  • 1985: Zhongxing Semiconductor Co. Ltd, the predecessor of ZTE, was founded in Shenzhen, China.
  • 1996: Moved from a pure semiconductor manufacturer to a wider range of domains, such as wireless switching, transmission, videoconferencing and power supply systems.
  • 1997: Listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in China and changed its name to ZTE.
  • 1998: Won a bidding competition as a first Chinese telecommunications company abroad when Pakistan chose ZTE to build its GSM networks. Opened its first R&D institute in the USA.
  • 2001: Constructed ZTE’s first CDMA network for China Unicom.
  • 2002: Began developing and manufacturing handsets (mobile phones). Partnered with Intel China to develop 3G wireless and wireless LAN (WLAN, Wi-Fi) technologies for CDMA2000 and UMTS.
  • 2003: Shifted business focus from domestic to international sales. Built large CDMA networks in India and Africa.
  • 2004: Listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Provided telecoms services for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Made the first 3G call in Africa over a ZTE UMTS network in Tunisia
  • 2005: Partnered with Alcatel, Ericsson, France Telecom and Portugal Telecom. Became China’s largest wireless equipment provider.
  • 2006: Strengthened its position in Europe and North America with contracts with Canadian Telus and France Telecom.
  • 2007: First time revenue abroad exceeded domestic revenue. Partnered with large foreign operators, such as Vodafone (UK), Telefonica (Spain) and Hutchinson (Hong Kong), providing them customized mobile phones. Was ranked as biggest CDMA vendor for two consecutive years for its CDMA global shipment volume.
  • 2008: Served over 500 operators in more than 140 countries and became sixth largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world measured in units sold.
  • 2010: Built the first LTE-ready (4G) network in Hungary and other LTE networks in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. Became third largest in the optical networking (ON) industry by sales revenue and shipped 200 million terminals globally, more than any other company in China.
  • 2011: Built 4G LTE networks around the world. Was given numerous industry awards around the world and applied for a large amount of telecommunication patents.
  • 2012: Continued to build partnerships around the world. Presented its first ZTE branded mobile phone in Germany (previous phones were operator branded).Became the fourth biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world during the third quarter.

In Finland ZTE has gained controversial reputation. A Finnish cellular operator Elisa started selling ZTE Blade, the company’s budget Android phone in 2011. Never before had an Android smart phone cost only 99 € but unfortunately the cheap price had some drawbacks. Blade had really small amount of RAM memory which lead to instability and random hangings. Also the touch display was inaccurate and the battery life was poor. Nevertheless, the Blade enabled the first touch to the Android world for many Finns. However, many Finns also remember ZTE and how bad the phone was. ZTE Blade was also my first Android phone :).

Specs

The full ZTE Nubia Z5 mini specifications can be found on the Internet but here is a list of the most relevant, in my opinion.

  • 4.7″ Sharp display panel with the resolution of 1280×720
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 S4 Pro quad-core processor @ 1.5GHz
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 13 MP Sony CCD rear camera with Konica-Minolta lens
  • 5 MP front camera
  • 16 GB flash
  • NFC
  • Android 4.2.2
  • 2,300 mAh battery

Even at the time of writing (December 2013), there are four variations available addition to the Z5 mini: ZTE Nubia Z5, ZTE Nubia Z5S and ZTE Nubia Z5S mini. The ones with “S” (often refers to “speed”) are upgraded version with faster and newer hardware.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor chipset has integrated Adreno 320 GPU, Krait 300 CPU, Full-HD capture and playback, DTS-HD & Dolby Digital Plus audio decoders, among others. The same chipset is used in for example Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One.

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini supports 3G WCDMA frequencies of 850/2100 MHz meaning that for example in Europe it can only access 3G in more populated areas as 900 MHz is used in the rural areas in most European countries. I have owned a Xiaomi Mi-2 for a year and it supports the same WCDMA frequencies and I did not even notice that it does not support 900 MHz until just recently. In other words I have been in more populated areas and moved along the intercity roads and travelling with train where I have accessed 2100 MHz 3G frequency.

Unboxing

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini unboxing

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini
The box is rather compact, the front has only the text “nubia” with the unique font. Besides the phone itself, there are an electricity plug, USB cable, 2,300 mAh battery, a quick installation/setup guide and a warranty leaflet. The quick setup guide and the warranty leaflet are in Chinese. A nice addition is the second back cover that has the text “ZTE” instead of “nubia” so you’ll get to choose which one you’d like to show. The NFC tag however, is only in the nubia back cover.

Chassis

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

The Nubia Z5 mini feels about the same in hand than Samsung Galaxy S3. The dimensions I measured are: width: 65 mm, hight: 134 mm, depth: 11 mm. The weight with the battery is 163 g. The back cover is rounded and matte so it is pleasant to hold on to. To me personally, it feels a bit heavy and thick but is it a good or bad attribute depends on your preference. To me it feels good and it gives the impression of good quality and build.

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

There are three physical buttons: a power switch, a volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter button. Nubia Z5 mini is the first Android phone that I have seen with a physical shutter button like the Nokia Lumias. The volume rocker feels a bit weak but the power switch and the shutter button are sturdier. It remains to be seen how the volume rocker can handle the use. The micro-USB port is at the bottom side as it is the trend nowadays. The battery is mounted permanently to the chassis so it is not user-replaceable and therefore the SIM card slot and the micro-SD card slots are on the sides. The slots are only accessible when you remove the back cover. There are five electric connectors built into the chassis under the back cover and I presume they would be used with a special wireless charging capable back cover that would be an accessory. 3.5 mm audio connector sits on the top. The back cover fits nice and tight, no squeaking at all.

Xiaomi Mi-2, TCL Idol X, ZTE Nubia Z5 mini

Xiaomi Mi-2, TCL Idol X, ZTE Nubia Z5 mini side by side for a screen size comparison. The screen sizes are 4.3″, 5″ and 4.7″ respectively.

My only concern with the chassis is the fixed battery. What happens when after two-three years the battery cannot hold charge any more like it used to? Am I forced to trash the phone then? One could argue that the lifespan of a modern smart phone is two to three years but with such a powerful hardware and a good camera I would see it could still be used after even a longer period.

Initial Setup

I bought the phone from AliExpress and requested that the seller would change the language to English before shipping it. When booting the device it displays the unique “nubia” text, plays an “orient tune” and flashes mosaic pictures that are made of many photos that seem to be taken somewhere in Asia, in China perhaps. There is a normal setup wizard that lets you choose the language and login to your Google account. There is also an additional Nubia account which I did not set up.

As I have had Xiaomi Mi-2 and Jiayu G3, I knew that it would be a piece of cake to get a keyboard layout that supports Scandinavian characters (ä, ö, å). If an Android phone does not natively support Scandinavian characters, it is possible to install Jelly Bean Keyboard from Google Play and it supports these characters and many more. The Nubia supports natively many keymaps and the Scandinavian map is one of them so there is no need to install the Jelly Bean Keyboard unless you want to use one of its other features, such as long pressing to type exclamation/question mark, among others.

Installing Google Apps (Gapps)

The first thing you want to do is to install Google Play. It is prohibited in China and therefore missing from all Chinese Androids. Google Play can be found as an installable apk from many places, including AndroidPolice, but please do not try to install it like that. I wasted a week trying to figure out why it gave me “No connection” all the time. As I searched for an answer from various forums, many suggested that the time/date was wrong, application cache needed to be cleared and all sorts of tricks but nothing worked. Then I realized that I may need to root it and install Gapps as a zip via Clockworkmod (CWM).

First enable USB debugging mode: System Settings → About → scroll to the bottom and tap on “Build number” seven times. Go back and select Developer Options → USB debugging. Then I followed the steps of this guide.

Gapps installation is not possible in the Android System Recovery menu.

Gapps installation is not possible in the Android System Recovery menu.

This is how CWM Recovery Menu should look like.

This is how CWM Recovery Menu should look like.

Install From SD Card

Install From SD Card

At first it did not boot into the CWM recovery menu but “Android System Recovery Menu”. It is not possible to install any ZIP packages via Android System Recovery Menu, you can only update firmware (flash) with it. I tried the method again and only then it booted into CWM recovery menu. Unfortunately the menu is not in English but in Chinese (?) but I hope these screenshots will help you guide it through.

Browse for Gapps ZIP

Browse for Gapps ZIP

Confirm Installation

Confirm Installation

Observe the installation

Observe the installation

Navigation works as follows: volume up is “up”, volume down is “down” and power button is “select”. My CWM menu did not look like the screenshots in the tutorial so I had to guess the right choices.

Installation Complete

Installation Complete

Bottom is "Back"

Bottom is “Back”

Top is "Back"

Top is “Back”

Top is "Reboot"

Top is “Reboot”

Upgrading after reboot

Upgrading after reboot

Google Play installed

Google Play installed

I guess the top choice in the end was “reboot”. After the reboot it optimized apps and I could access all Google apps and get the calendar and contact synchronization working.

Verifying Authenticity

Unfortunately there is always the risk of buying a counterfeit mobile phone from China so I always want to test the hardware so that it matches the performance level it should. AnTuTu Benchmark 3.4 I found from Amazon App Store could not start so I installed version 4.1.4 via Google Play. With the new version of AnTuTu the Nubia performed quite nicely, yielding score of 20,000 points, placing it performance wise between Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4. Just where it should be.

Nubia Z5 mini AnTuTu Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini AnTuTu Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini GFXBench Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini GFXBench Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini GFXBench Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini GFXBench Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini 3D Mark Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini 3D Mark Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini 3D Mark Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini 3D Mark Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini Vellamo Benchmarks

Nubia Z5 mini Vellamo Benchmarks

3D Mark said of Nubia Z5 mini: “Good news. This is one of the most powerful ”

Where to Buy?

Although ZTE is becoming a known brand in Europe and in the US, the Nubia series cannot be found in these markets. It can be bought in many known and trusted China smartphone stores, such as Fastcardtech and Merimobiles but I bought mine from AliExpress store “Rise”. I bought it for $313 (~228 €) but when I am writing this review they have already lowered the price to $257 (~187 €). I think the price cut is because the “S” models with updated hardware have hit the stores. After Finnish taxes (24%) my Nubia Z5 mini cost ca. 285 €. It was delivered in exactly two weeks by DHL to my doorsteps.

Camera

I had high expectations of the Nubia camera because I knew it has a high quality Sony CCD sensor and the optics come from prestigious Konica-Minolta. The aperture of 2.2 means that the opening through which light travels to the sensor is larger than in many other mobile phone cameras. This increases “bokeh” so that especially in macro shots the background becomes blurry while the subject remains sharp. This effect is considered by many (including me) to be more professional looking than a photo that is sharp throughout the perimeter. An interesting note is that as of writing many think that Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best mobile phone camera and its aperture is 2.2. iPhone 5S also has the same aperture of 2.2. The reference camera that I have used here is my old Xiaomi Mi-2 that has aperture of 2.0 meaning it has a slightly larger opening for light.

In the test photos below I have taken a reference photo with my Xiaomi Mi-2 for comparison. I have been very satisfied with my Mi-2 so the reference photos provide a good way to estimate how good a camera the Nubia Z5 mini has. Note that there is no 16:9 aspect ratio setting in the default camera app and that is the reason why Nubia Z5 mini photos are in 4:3 aspect ratio and Xiaomi Mi-2 photos are in 16:9.

The camera software app that comes preloaded is very basic. At first it seems to have many options and modes but I could not find settings for size in megapixels or aspect ratio. There are a bunch of effects but I don’t usually find them very useful. There is a good camera app that you can install from Google Play if you need more options.

Normal vs. HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

I am a heavy user of HDR and that is why I have taken an HDR version on the same spot where I took the normal photo.

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

HDR

HDR

Normal

Normal

Here you can see what the 16:9 aspect ratio cropping really means. As the camera sensors still use the antiquated 4:3 aspect ratio, the photo needs to be cropped by the camera software in order to yield 16:9 ratio. What it does is that it cuts a part of the photo from up and down, so my Mi-2 actually sees the same 4:3 photo but when it is saved, it is cropped into a smaller size. Take a look at the house above and below and you can clearly see the difference. Also here we can see that the lens angle is about the same (27 mm in Mi-2) as they both can cover as wide an area horizontally.

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Normal

Normal

HDR

HDR

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR

Macro Shooting Mode

I love to shoot macro photos where the details of the subject are clearly seen and the background fades softly into blurriness.

Macro

Macro

Macro

Macro

Mi-2 Macro

Mi-2 Macro

Here is a great difference in dynamic range. For some reason the bright areas are too bright in the Nubia photo.
Macro

Macro

Normal

Normal Macro

HDR

HDR Macro

Mi-2 Normal

Mi-2 Normal Macro

Mi-2 HDR

Mi-2 HDR Macro

Extreme Conditions

Here are some samples of extreme darkness and contrast. In my opinion the Nubia Z5 mini handles these well.

Extreme Darkness

Extreme Darkness

High Contrast

High Contrast

Mi-2 Extreme Darkness

Mi-2 Extreme Darkness

Mi-2 High Contrast

Mi-2 High Contrast

I like the Nubia Z5 mini photos better than the Mi-2 ones. The colors are more natural in my opinion.

Panorama Shooting Mode

Landscape Panorama

Landscape Panorama

Portrait Panorama

Portrait Panorama

Landscape Panorama

Landscape Panorama

The Nubia Z5 mini calculates the final result panorama photo from the partial photos quite fast. Some other camera software has trouble with sliding gradients, a clear blue sky here as a perfect example, but the Nubia Z5 mini camera software combines the photos flawlessly. The panoramas are just stunning and beautiful and both landscape and portrait modes work perfectly.

Front Camera

The front or secondary or even a “selfie” camera has a 5 MP sensor and a wide-angle lens.

Front Camera

Front Camera

Front Camera

Front Camera

Video Shooting Mode

With the powerful hardware it is of no surprise that the Nubia Z5 mini can record Full-HD 1920 x 1080 video.

The resulting video is smooth, meaning that the device does not drop frames when recording. Details are there, even in the difficult scenes. Note that the artifacts you see in the dark areas in the video are not in the original but they are caused by the heavy compressing in Vimeo. I am impressed and very satisfied with the video recording capabilities of the Nubia Z5 mini.

Battery Life

ZTE Nubia Z5 battery usage
The ZTE Nubia Z5 mini comes with a fixed 2,300 mAh battery. Based on my one month test period, the battery lasts a day, even with heavy usage.

Here is an example of a heavy usage. The day involved lots of networking (installing apps), playing Candy Crush, browsing Facebook, chatting with Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp and browsing photos on Pinterest. At 11:19 pm (23:19) in the evening the battery was at 25%. I think the battery does a decent job.

My only concern is that the battery is non-user-exchangeable. Should I trash the otherwise good and fast smartphone in two-three years when the battery has died? I have never understood why the battery should be fixed.

Factory Software

The Android version 4.2.2 was installed when I got the phone. Kernel version was dated Sep 3, 2013. There was an OTA firmware update available when I first connected the Nubia to a Wifi network so I downloaded and applied the update. Kernel version updated to Sep 23 and the build number from 0.30 to 0.32. The update must have been incremental because it was only 30 MB in size. It was also probably downloaded from China because the download speed was really slow. After it had downloaded and updated itself, there was another update available, 15 MB this time, updating kernel to Nov 21 and build number to 0.40. Android version did not change from 4.2.2.

Nubia Desktop

Nubia Desktop

Nubia Screen Unlock by Face Detection

Nubia Screen Unlock by Face Detection

First thing you’ll notice that even if the UI looks almost like vanilla Android, there is no app drawer but all the apps are spread across different virtual desktops – just like in iPhone’s iOS or in MIUI. There are many Chinese apps that you can either remove or place them into folders so they are out of sight and do not take space on the desktops.

One of the Chinese pre-installed apps is I’m QQ 2012 communication suite. It is sort of like Skype and there is also “international edition” available, although I don’t know if anyone outside China uses it. Built-in is also a popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo which is a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. It was launched in 2009 and as of late 2012 had over 500 million registered users.

One feature of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) that I just discovered when playing around Nubia’s settings was “Screen Unlocking by Facial Detection”. I know it is not a Nubia-specific feature but I wanted to mention it here because some of you may not know about this feature. You may take different photos of your face in different lighting, wearing different apparel (sun glasses, hats, beard, shaven, etc) and you can unlock the screen by just showing your face to the front camera. Based on my tests, this works really well. It recognized my face almost every time but never opened the screen lock to a stranger. Of course there is a backup unlocking method (security matrix pattern) in case you are in a dark environment (a bar/night club for example).

Nubia Music Player

Nubia Music Player

Nubia Dolby Digital Plus

Nubia Dolby Digital Plus

The Nubia Music Player looks really good and works well. In the options I found some Dolby Digital Plus presets but I did not have the time to test them properly.

Another really handy built-in application is the phone call recorder. It can be accessed easily when a phone call is on and unlike Nokia or Samsung implementations, this does not keep annoying background beeping. Also both parties are clearly heard unlike with Samsung where you can only hear the other end (not yourself) in the recording. For other mainstream smart phones you need to get an app that enables recording but it is crippled. The ZTE Nubia Z5 mini supports unobtrusive call recording out of the box, just like Xiaomi Mi-2.

Other than that the Android seems familiar and comfortable to use.

Summary

The ZTE Nubia Z5 mini is an affordable powerhouse with high-quality components, yet a bit bulky and heavy. The camera is really good and the pre-installed basic camera app can be replaced with a better one from Google Play. The notification LED is missing and it can be a problem for someone. Overall it has excellent value for money.

Pros:

  • Sharp display with vivid colors
  • Great primary camera with excellent video recording
  • Sturdy chassis
  • Exquisite details in design
  • Unobtrusive call recording

Cons:

  • Thick and heavy
  • Weak physical buttons
  • No notification LED
  • Fixed battery

36 Responses to “Review: ZTE Nubia Z5 Mini”

  • Nuno Arsenio Says:

    hello, Ari
    first of all i wish you a happy new year. congratulations for one more review now you are a reference befor buy a phone, i was think that you will upgrade mi2 to mi3 but ok the ZTE as the HUAWEI honour 3x are good options but i do prefer Xiaomi probably MI2S (32GB) or MI3 if the price drop a few, tell me what is your opinions about Xiaomi MI2s and Mi3.

    best regards
    Nuno Arsénio

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Nuno,

      Thank you for the comment. I want to stress that this Nubia Z5 mini is not my new phone but I bought it for my wife. I am perfectly happy with my one-year-old Xiaomi Mi-2. The only thing that I sometimes miss is a bigger display. It has only 4.3″ and I have used TCL (Alcatel) Idol X which has 5″ display in comparison and it does not feel that big of a phone because it is so thin and lightweight.

      Also I would like to say that now the ZTE Nubia Z5S, which is thinner and lighter than this Z5, costs today even less than this Z5 cost when I bought it. So definitely I would recommend to get the newer version.

      And one more thing about MIUI. I have fallen in love with it over the past year. I would not trade it away because it has so many small features that make the use a delight.

      So my recommendation is a Xiaomi phone. Mi-2S if you think you can manage with a smaller display but Mi-3 (WCDMA version when it becomes available) if you think you need a bigger display.

      Best regards,
      Ari

    • arinium Says:

      Hi konikpk,

      I believe the missed call notification LED refers to the red ring around the home button. It “breaths” (slowly turns on and fades away in cycles) if there is a missed call. I have not found a way to set it to signal for example Facebook messenger or WhatsApp conversations.

  • Tadej Says:

    Hi Ari,

    I bought z5s mini 🙂

    Do you think that I can root it the same way as you described above?

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Tadej,

      Congratulations on an excellent choice. The “S” model is thinner and lighter making it a very nice phone with powerful hardware.

      I believe that the Z5 mini and Z5S mini are not that different and the very same steps in this guide I used in rooting may well work with your Z5S mini. The guide is well documented although the software is unfortunately only in Chinese.

  • Filip Says:

    Tadej and arinium: I am thinking about buying a z5s mini. However, I am a bit worried about the battery life. From your experience, is it better or worse compared to mainstream Android phones such as Galaxy S3 or HTC One?

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Filip,

      Before the Nubia Z5 mini, my wife had Samsung Galaxy S3. With her use, she had to charge it twice a day, in other words, it could not last even one day. Now she uses the Z5 and the battery has not run out even once. She charges it nightly. My friend has the HTC One and he charges it daily. So my impression is that the Z5 has as good or better battery life than Galaxy S3 and HTC One.

      Now please note that the Z5S mini in thinner and thus has a bit smaller battery capacity than the older Z5 mini has (2,000 mAh compared to 2,300 mAh). But I would still think it would last a day.

  • Tadej Says:

    Filip,

    I’m using z5s mini for about a week now, and the battery lasted 2-3 days. I was using the phone more than usual – setting up everyhing etc., but I didn’t talk a lot.

  • skan Says:

    Hi.

    Does the Z5s mini have problems with the GPS (Mediatek chipset)?

    Does it have image stabilization?

    Can I replace the Z5s 2000mAh battery with a 3000mAh? Or is welded?

    regards

    • arinium Says:

      Hi skan,

      My experience is based on Z5 mini, the Z5S mini might be different. Tadej, could you comment as well?

      I have gotten the GPS signal quite fast. At least I have not noticed it to be too slow.

      It does not have image stabilization.

      The battery is welded into its place so there is now way to replace it. I am not sure however, if there are accessory battery back covers available.

  • Ssamf Says:

    Hi!
    Thx for the review!
    I just bought a Z5s 16G. (not the mini) Of course I need the Google apps. Do you think I can follow your method?
    Thank you!

  • Tadej Says:

    Hi,

    I can’t help much unfortunately, because I still haven’t rooted my Z5S mini.

    GPS: can’t comment as I haven’t tried it yet.

    Image stabilization: z5s mini doesn’t have image stabilization. Z5S does.

    Battery can’t be replaced.

  • Tadej Says:

    However, z5s mini doesn’t have mediatek chipset. It has snapdragon 600.

  • William Says:

    Hi, I’m considering the 5s mini, and my first choice was Rise on aliexpress, because you got yours from there, but the price is so low I think it might be fake (268 $). And they also sell a black version that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Nubia-Z5-mini-4-7-inch-android-phone-OGS-IPS-1270×720-Quad-Core-1-5GHz-2GB/118483_1382703897.html

    On a side note, does it have NFC?

    • arinium Says:

      Hi William,

      My reference for the prices in China is the great Gizchina.com. They have written in an article in December 2013 that the price for N5S mini in China was 1499 Yuan, which is now in February 2014 278 USD or 182 EUR. Gizchina does not have more recent info about the price.

      It is possible that ZTE has lowered the price for Z5S mini because the next model, Nubia Z7, is coming in March. I don’t believe Rise sells fake phones, they have way too good reputation so why ruin it? Also the buyer’s protection in AliExpress is so good that the sellers won’t get their money if the product is not what it is supposed to be. However, I think there is some mistake in the product listing because the URL says “Z5 mini” but the description says “Z5S mini”.

      Black color is officially available as you see in the product launch photos.

      My ZTE Nubia Z5 mini has NFC so I see no reason why the Z5S mini would not have it.

      • William Says:

        Oh that’s why, I did consider a price drop but the launch was so recent I thought it was unlikely.
        I think they kept the z5 link and changed the content to match the z5s, probably stopped selling the z5 after the z5s release.
        Thank you for your answer, it might have got me a new awesome phone, I really apreciate it.

  • Lordx Says:

    Hi and thanks for one of the very few reviews on web 🙂 I will get my Z5s mini in about a week, i am very pleased with your review, if it will work and take photos, like your piece, ill by very satified, though my last phone was One X…

    BTW: i envy you that beautiful landscape! 🙂

    • arinium Says:

      Hi Lordx,

      Thank you for the comment. Also, please write to me later and tell me did it work. I think it is excellent value for money. Where did you order it?

      I took the sample photos at The Tree Mountain, an experimental environmental art project, which happens to be close to where I live. It is a beautiful geometrical pattern on a man-made hill and it provides nice contrasts and different shades of colors.

      • Lordx Says:

        i will order it about monday from here: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/4-7-inch-Nubia-Z5S-Mini-3G-Smartphone-Snapdragon-600-Quad-Core-1-7GHz-OGS-1280×720/1521389726.html
        good money, cheap shipping and some flipcase for just 275$! One thing i am thinking about, is colour…i like dark black, and that grey is not my favored, but it is grainy surface (thats good thing), but white is nicer, but glossy surface 😀

        With beautiful landscape i mean that view on the lake 🙂 but anyway, every piece of Finland is gorgeous!

        • arinium Says:

          Oh, the lake view on the Pyynikki ridge is one of my favorite places to take photographs and it is right next to where I work.

          • lordx Says:

            Hi again 🙂 finally i have received my Z5S mini! Its a long story full of problems, but now i have it. And its one of the best decisions i made! The phone is stunning, light, small, beautiful and even with stock rom very fast (now i have MIUI, official support) and i really like it more and more 🙂

          • arinium Says:

            Thank you for getting back. I am glad that it turned out fine after all and that you are very satisfied with it. I wish I had waited for couple of more weeks before ordering and then I would have been able to buy the newer S-model.

          • Mac Says:

            Hey Ari!
            Remember me? I took part in that group jersey order last year. I saw you have tried ordering jerseys from Aliexpress. I tried it myself two months ago and I have to say that it worked out super great. Great quality for very cheap and compared to other sites, mpst of the sellers offer free shipping even for single jersey purchases. Must be careful though and select the seller according to the feedback history.

            I just ordered Z5S, I had $50 coupon for todays shopping festival, and after that I was left to pay around 195€. I would have gone for Mi3, but it was still a bit too expensive.

            I have a little question about customs. What kind of invoice did you send them for the Z5 mini, because Aliexpress doesn’t send order confirmation email including the information needed for customs clearance.

          • arinium Says:

            Well hello Mac,

            Of course I remember :). I am glad that the jersey ordering from AliExpress worked out well for you.

            It is true that AliExpress does not send a conventional order confirmation and it can be a problem if you are not doing the customs declaration yourself. My ZTE Nubia Z5 mini was delivered by DHL and they wanted to do the customs declaration for me. It did not cost anything extra so it was a wonderful service. Kudos to DHL for that. When they requested some document to state the value of the package, I took a screenshot from the order detail page in AliExpress and sent it to them. Then they made the customs declaration and paid the taxes for it and then DHL sent me the bill for the taxes which I paid and sent a screenshot of it in return. Very efficient and convenient.

  • William Says:

    Hello, sorry to bother you again but two things keep me from buying the z5s, and I assume are similar on the z5, the audio quality on the (3.5mm) headphone jack, and GLONASS support.

    Can you comment on the audio jack, sometimes these phones suffer from low volume, wich is awfull when listening to music in noisy enviromments.

    Also, I know GLONASS isn’t listed in the spec sheets but all qualcomm chips since the s4 (so s4, pro, 600 and 800) have GLONASS support, and so I wonder if they just don’t add it to the specs or if the software doesn’t support it.

    You can check that by using “GPS Status and Toolbox” app, satelites with numbers 65-92 are GLONASS satelites. (And I know that’s a lot of trouble but I can’t find it anywhere else).

    App link:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eclipsim.gpsstatus2&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS5lY2xpcHNpbS5ncHNzdGF0dXMyIl0

    • arinium Says:

      Hi William,

      The only problem with the audio jack has been the headphones audio controllers. I have about a dozen headphones but the only one that can perfectly control the Nubia Z5 mini is MEElectronics M9P, which is by the way excellent value for money. Volume is high enough, at least for me.

      I installed GPS Status and Toolbox app to Nubia Z5 mini and my trusted Xiaomi Mi-2 which has Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (APQ8064). They both can see satellites over 65. This morning I could see satellites 67, 78 and 86 here in Tampere, Finland. They were green, I don’t know what the colors stand for. I hope this helps!

  • Nuno Says:

    Hi Ari
    About phones after many options my choice was the Lenovo k900. Now is time to upgrade my self to 5.5 inch screen.

  • Knut Berge Says:

    I get this error message when I install a Norwegian
    sim-card:
    “com.android.phone has stopped working”
    this message loops until the phone locks and I can’t unlock it.
    Do you have any clue what can be wrong?
    I have also tried to find a firmware online without any success. Please help.

  • talent Says:

    hie. great review there but l want to find out if it supports real time video calling not Facebook or Skype video calling but video calling local numbers using dial up pad

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