ZTE Nubia 5 Hands-on: Android Smartphone, 13-MP Camera, Compelling Unlocked Price

This player is used on Facebook and anytime it's embedded outside of our sites.

Nubia’s not just an area on the Nile anymore. The Android-powered Nubia 5 smartphone is now available through Amazon or Walmart for $449 unlocked. From one of China’s leading smartphone makers, this ZTE’s handset packs a 13-megapixel camera, Dolby sound, an HD screen, quad-core processor and Android 4.1.2. We went hands-on with this puppy to find out if it’s among the best no contract phones around. 

Despite its affordable price tag, the Nubia 5 has a premium look and feel. The sleek black 5-inch phone felt sturdy and offered a good grip with its simple rectangular design. While the Nubia 5 has no physical buttons on its face, we liked that the soft keys light up in red. On its back is the 13-MP camera with a red accent encircling the lens that hearkened back to the HTC Evo line. We especially loved the brilliant 5-inch full HD display on the Nubia 5. The bright blues of ZTE’s website really popped on the 443-pixel-per-inch screen and text appeared suitably crisp.

zte nubia 5 front 2412841385138930 599x400

MORE: Top Smartphone Gifts

We also played with the special features on the phone’s camera app, which offers three modes based on your skill level — Fun, Auto and Pro. In Pro mode, you get the option to split the sharpness and brightness focus points while taking the picture so you can choose a different focal point while retaining a separate light setting. We moved the focus to an object in the background while keeping the light sensitivity tailored to the foreground. The Konica-Minolta lens on the Nubia 5 delivered great pictures of a crowded convention floor. The phone also comes with specially-designed earbuds with Dolby Digital Plus audio, making the Nubia 5.

Packing a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip with 2GB RAM, the Nubia 5 performed decently as we switched between Lock and Home pages with ease. Unfortunately, while ZTE’s hardware capabilities are impressive, the Nubia 5′s software was not up to date. The phone ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean skinned with a custom Nubia UI, so you can’t update to the latest version of  Android until ZTE makes the skin compatible. The Nubia 5 skin lets you define up to five favorite apps to launch from the lock screen by pinching out from the unlock icon, which is a nice touch given its primitive OS. With a 2,300 mAH battery onboard, the Nubia 5 should offer enough juice to last a full day. 

While the Nubia 5 offers some premium hardware for a relatively affordable price unlocked, we think the $349 Google Nexus 5 might be a better deal. For $100 less, you get speedy Snapdragon 800 performance and Android KitKat in Google’s own smartphone. But if you’re looking for a brilliant display and great camera, the Nubia 5 should be a worthy candidate. Stay tuned for our full review of the ZTE Nubia 5 for benchmarks and a detailed breakdown of its performance.

AUTHOR BIO
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.
Cherlynn Low on
Twitter Google+
LEAVE A REPLY
Name*
Email* (will not be published)
Website
*Indicates required field
Comments*
Submit Comments

FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE