ZTE Nubia Z5s hands-on


It has been over the year since ZTE made its Nubia Z5 smartphone official and now we're given the privilege to meet its successor at CES 2014. The ZTE Nubia Z5s, at it is known in its homeland of China, brings along a number of notable changes in the specs department while sticking to the brand's design characteristics set by the first Nubia. Let's take a closer look.


While there's nothing striking about the look and feel of the ZTE Nubia Z5s, it seems like a solid phone that has been well put together. It is slim, with adequate weight, and the red accents here and there giving it some welcome character. But with its glossy plastic construction the Nubia Z5s probably won't be winning any beauty awards at the show. It is worth noting that the phone offers a dedicated camera key for greater comfort while taking photos. Looking at the top edge of the handset we see an infra-red blaster that turns the phone into a universal remote with the help of an app. Around the back we find a protruding camera with 13MP of resolution and what appears to be a set of stereo speakers. Below the display are situated three capacitive navigation buttons that glow red when tapped.


ZTE has chosen to outfit the Nubia Z5s with a 5-inch, 1080 by 1920 pixel display – figures that don't sound too impressive anymore now that the number of phones with identical screens has skyrocketed. But that doesn't mean that the display on the Z5s is underwhelming. Quite the opposite, it is a pretty sight and thanks to its high pixel count, it delivers highly detailed graphics and clear images. ZTE clarifies that this particular display is built by Sharp using its continuous grain silicon (CGS) technology.


Hardly a surprise, turning the ZTE Nubia Z5s on brings us to a heavily skinned version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. There's a lot in terms of features that has been added, including a UI theme manager, a user profile manager, built-in security and back-up tools, and a powersaver mode. Some elements have been removed, however. The app drawer, for example, is absent, which is why all installed apps are accessed through shortcuts on the home screen. 

Processor and memory

One of the most powerful mobile SoC available, namely the Snapdragon 800, is powering the ZTE Nubia Z5s. And the plentiful 2GB of RAM are on board as well. That kind of hardware configuration ranks the Z5s among the most capable phones in existence, at least until the next-gen mobile chips hit the market. All in all, ZTE's flagship feels very snappy and responsive, and even though we can't make any final conclusions about its performance at this time, we're confident that it would have no problems handling even those heavy apps and games.

There is no microSD card slot available on the ZTE Nubia Z5s so you'll have to rely solely on its built-in storage and perhaps whatever cloud storage you have at your disposal. There are 32GB of storage on the phone's LTE variant for China, but a cheaper, 16GB 3G model is being sold there as well.


Photography enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the ZTE Nubia Z5s has a 13MP camera with a Sony RS sensor. The 3G variant of the phone has a camera with an f2.2 aperture while the LTE model utilizes an f2.0 aperture and has optical image stabilization built-in. That's nice and all, but what's even nicer is the Camera application offering good control over the image settings. Basically, you get separate controls for focus, exposure, and white balance through handy on-screen touch controls. Oh, and did we mention that you can record 4K video with this thing? Not to be forgotten is the 5MP front-facing camera on the ZTE Nubia Z5s for superior selfies.


The ZTE Nubia Z5s is not drastically different from last year's Z5s, but it brings a number of welcome improvements under the hood. As a whole, it is shaping up as a good high-end phone, especially given its relatively low pricing in China. At this time, ZTE has not announced anything in regards to a US launch of the Nubia Z5s. 

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