ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 7 scaled

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I have previously reviewed several of the excellent Redmagic phones, which are the gaming phones that fall under the ZTE Nubia umbrella.

The phones that are branded as Nubia are targeted towards general consumers, with the Nubia Z50 being one of the most affordable phones featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.

The Nubia Z50 was released almost a year ago, and the UK Nubia website lists the phone at £600. However, more recently, it has become listed on Amazon UK at a bargain price of just £500 (+ a £30 off voucher at the time of writing). The caveat with this listing is that this is the Chinese variant. It works perfectly well, but there are some limitations.

Unusually, there has been very little press attention for the Nubia Z50, which is a shame because it is a good phone if you want something affordable but with flagship performance.

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Specification

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 1
  • Display: 6.67 inches, AMOLED, 1B colours, 144Hz, HDR10+, 1000 nits, 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~395 ppi density)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm)
  • OS: Android 13, MyOS 13
  • RAM:12GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: 256GB UFS 4.0
  • Rear Camera:
  • Sony IMX787 64 MP, f/1.6, 35mm (standard), 1/1.7″, PDAF, OIS
  • 50 MP, f/2.2, 14mm, 116˚ (ultrawide), AF
  • Front Camera: 16 MP, (wide)
  • Connectivity: WiFi 6E + Bluetooth 5.3
  • Battery: 5000 mAh
  • Charging:  80W wired – No wireless
  • IP Rating: Not Rated
  • Dimensions: 163.9 x 76.3 x 8.3 mm
  • Weight: 228 g

Chinese Import Limitations

With this being the Chinese model, there are a few considerations. It supports English so there are no concerns there, but out of the box, Google is not installed. This isn’t an issue, as the OS has a one click installation option and I have been able to install all the apps I use.

The Amazon listing warns you to check your SIM Card’s frequency bands. This is because a lot of Chinese imports don’t (or didn’t used to) support Band 8 for 4G/LTE which is used by most networks and band 32 which is used by Vodafone. In the case of this phone, the supported bands are:

  • 5G: SA: n41(2515 MHz- 2675 MHz)/n78/n1/n3/n28(703MHz-733MHz/758MHz-788MHz)/n5/n8;
  • NSA: n41(2515MHZ-2675MHZ)/n78;
  • FDD: B1/3/5/7/8/4/12/17/20;
  • TDD: B34/39/40/41(2515MHZ-2675MHZ)/38;
  • UMTS:B1/2/4/5/8;
  • GSM:B2/3/5/8;
  • CDMA: BC0

So, band 32 is missing, which will affect the 4G performance for Vodafone users.

For 5G, it looks like the n77 band is missing which covers 3600-4000MHz and is used by Three.  

I did some limited tests in my office. I have a SIM card for ID, which uses Three and Voxi, which uses Vodafone.

In my office, with ID/Three, I achieved:

  • ZTE Nubia Z50: 515Mbps / 11.2Mbps
  • Vivo iQOO 12: 495Mbps / 20.7Mbps
  • Pixel 8 Pro: 564Mbps / 17.7Mbps

With Voxi/Vodafone, I don’t get a 5G signal, and I achieved:

  • ZTE Nubia Z50: 25Mbps / 17Mbps
  • Vivo iQOO 12: 24Mbps / 11.7Mbps
  • Pixel 8 Pro: 28Mbps / 8Mbps

So, the phone works perfectly well for me on both Vodafone and Three in my office. But obviously, the results will vary depending on location and signal.

Another issue many imports have is a lack of Widevine L1, which affects the resolution you can play on many streaming services. Without this, a device will default down to SD resolution. However, this phone appears to support Widevine L1, so again, there are no issues.

The last caveat I can think of is that this is supplied with a two-pin type A plug which we typically associate with the US.

Installing Google

When you initially set up the phone, you don’t go through the normal set-up process, because Google is not installed, so there is no account to add.

However, as soon as you use the phone, there is an icon to install the Google Play Store, and you can then log in with your account.

Beyond that, there is not much I can see that differentiates this from most UK/global phones.

The wallpapers have Chinese lettering on them, but this can be fixed by assigning your own wallpaper. The installed keyboard is Android AOSP, though I always switch to Swiftkey.

Design and Display

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 2

I was sent Z50 in black, which is always a bit boring for reviews, but I rarely pay much attention to how my phone looks when in use. It is also available in silver, mint, and rabbit red. The included case is a matte grey, so you can only see the black body where the camera cut-out is.

For the display, you have a 6.67-inch AMOLED screen running at 1080 x 2400 pixels with a refresh rate of 144Hz and brightness of 1000 nits.

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 4

There is a slight curvature on the edges, which is normally something reserved for more expensive phones, though some brands like Google have stuck with flat displays for recent flagship phones like the Pixel 8 Pro. You then have the selfie cutout in the centre of the display.

The display is not LPTO, and within the settings, you have options to set it to auto or fix it at 60Hz, 120Hz or 144Hz.

Considering the price of the phone, the display is excellent, the colours look vibrant, and the brightness is good. I haven’t tested it outdoors on a very bright day, but I am confident the screen should still be readable on a sunny summer day.  

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 8

The back of the phone is listed as glass, though I always find this feels and sounds a bit plasticky when you tap on it (for most phones).

Just like most phones nowadays, the overall build quality is excellent, and the design of the phone is nice but unremarkable.

Camera

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 5

The Nubia Z50 is equipped with two cameras consisting of:

The primary Sony imx787 which is a 64-megapixel camera with a sensor size of 1/1.7″ and has optical image stabilisation.

You then have a 50 MP, f/2.2, 14mm, 116˚  ultra-wide camera. Nubia has sensibly avoided padding this phone out with useless tertiary cameras that you see on many affordable phones.

While the camera specification isn’t anything to get too excited about, it is decent enough, and I have been impressed with the overall performance. The main camera can handle challenging lighting conditions quite well, and I thought the low-light performance was better than expected.

Having a 50MP ultra-wide is a nice bonus, affordable brands like Realme will typically use a low-quality 8MP sensor. The ultra-wide camera can take some great shots but doesn’t perform as well in low light.

For video, this goes up to 4K@120fps or 8K@30fps. With both of these modes, you lose the antishake function, you have to drop down to 4K@60fps before this is available.

Performance and Benchmarks

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 10

The Nubia Z50 has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which is technically not the latest flagship chipset anymore, but it is still a superb chipset with outstanding performance.

I have benchmarked the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 multiple times with other devices in the past, and this achieves results that are higher than normal in some tests, specifically gaming.

ZTE/Nubia appears to favour performance over efficiency, and in the 3DMark Wildlife Stress Test, it achieved a score of 13754 for the best loop and 10082 for the lowest loop, giving it a stability of 73.3%. This is far better than the Honor Magic5 Pro, but the caveat is the temperature whet form 21° to 55°, which is significantly higher than most normal phones. You’d typically see 44° as the maximum temperature.

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review Design 9

The battery goes from 99% down to 84%, with a 15%pt drop also being far greater than competing devices. This equates to around 750mAh, whereas the used Honor Magic5 Pro 408mAh.

Similar to 3Dmark, the Antutu result is higher than competing phones, with a score of 1571838, which is 15% higher than my Honor Magic5 Pro. However, the temperature increases, and the battery drain is significantly higher.

Moving on to Geekbench 6, the phone achieves about the same as other phones with 1928/5480.

As far as day-to-day performance goes, it is a phone with the best chipset for 2023 combined with a fast 144Hz display, the phone comfortably handles everything with ease and is a pleasure to use.

Battery and Charging

The phone is equipped with a 5000 mAh battery, which has become the typical capacity for most phones nowadays. You then have 80W wired charging but no wireless.

With this being the Chinese model, it came with a two-pin type A plug, but the Amazon package also included an adaptor.

Even though the benchmarks would indicate that this phone will drain the battery quickly due to the higher performance, for day-to-day usage, this is not really noticeable. It can comfortably make it through a day of moderate to heavy use and has significantly better screen time than my Pixel 8 Pro.

The 80W charge speed may not be possible with all third-party chargers, as my Anker Prime 12000mAh Power Bank tops out at 26.4W when charging. The phone shows as super charging using my Ugreen Nexode 300W, and it appears to be the same as the included charger.

Android 13 & MyOS 13

As previously established, this is using the Chinese ROM. There are no significant issues with this; it has English built-in, and even though Google is not installed by default, there are no problems getting it to work. Nubia even has a handy one-click install icon.

There is surprisingly not that much bloatware, which is unusual for a phone designed for the Asian market.

The wallpapers all have some Chinese text on them. I thought this was just a credit, but it seems to have something to do with the today’s wallpapers feature. You can manually download and assign wallpapers, setting them for the lock and home screen, and the text is removed.

The App Centre is perhaps the most annoying app that you will have to deal with. This is their own app store, if you try and sideload apps, it will do a security scan and try to redirect you to this app store. The main App Centre UI is in English, but all the apps are listed in Chinese. It is not possible to uninstall or disable this app. I found the best solution was to go into the settings and disable everything, then go into the app info and remove as many permissions as possible, as well as notification access. That way, it can’t bother you, though it will still be used when sideloading APKs.

Apart from that, the other apps included are:

  • Game Centre (can be uninstalled)
  • Browser (can be disabled)
  • Snapseed (can be uninstalled)
  • Theme (can be disabled)
  • Z-Assistant
  • Z-Backup (can be uninstalled)

That’s not a bloat for any phone, let alone a Chinese phone, which is quite impressive (albeit this should be the standard).

It is also worth noting that I was able to register a card with Google Wallet, which is not always possible with imported phones.

Price and Alternative Options

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The Nubia Z50 is available on Amazon UK for £499 RRP, and at the time of writing, there was an additional £30 off voucher.

The Redmagic 8S Pro is listed at £579 for 12GB/256GB, but this wasn’t in stock when I checked. This is, of course, a gaming-focused phone with an active cooling fan and shoulder triggers. It has a better spec in some areas but falls short in others.

The ZTE Nubia Z50S Pro is listed on Amazon for £700 with £40 off available. I suspect this is the international variant, as Nubia also sells it on their own website for £660. This model significantly improves the camera with a 50 MP 1/1.49″ primary camera and an additional 8MP zoom lens. Oddly, this has a flat display with only a 120Hz refresh rate, but it is brighter.

The ASUS Zenfone 10 is available for £720.

The Motorola Edge 40 Pro is listed at £735.

So, the Nubia Z50 is the cheapest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phone available from a UK store. However, considering this is the Chinese variant, you could use a grey import site such as Giztop.

The Vivo iQOO 12 is listed at $649 which works out at £515, and is also the Chinese variant. This has the newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, a better camera, and faster charging.

The Xiaomi 14 is listed at $659 or £522.

The OnePlus Ace 2 Pro is listed at $549 or £435.

Overall

For the price you pay, the Nubia Z50 is an excellent phone.

Yes, you can get cheaper phones from Giztop and similar websites, but these sites have poor customer service. Returns and warranty claims will all require you to send the device back to the seller, which will likely mean sending it back to China at a hefty price.

So, the Nubia Z50 is probably the best option you have if you want an affordable phone with a flagship chipset and the peace of mind you get with ordering from Amazon in the UK.

Even though it is an affordable phone, there is a lot to like about it. The camera performance was better than expected, the OS was far less bloated than expected for Chinese/Asian phones, and I experienced no noticeable software glitches.

Overall, if you have realistic expectations and are OK with a couple of compromises with a Chinese import, then I can easily recommend the Nubia Z50.

ZTE Nubia Z50 Review

Summary

The camera performance was better than expected, the OS was far less bloated than expected for Chinese/Asian phones, and I experienced no noticeable software glitches. Overall, if you have realistic expectations and are OK with a couple of compromises with a Chinese import, then I can easily recommend the Nubia Z50.

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Pros

  • Cheapest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phone in the UK
  • Once set up you can barely tell it is a Chinese import
  • Has Widevine L1 and works with Google Wallet

Cons

  • Chinese import with two-pin type A plug
  • Band 42 and N77 are missing for 4G and 5G
  • App Centre is a bit annoying

Last update on 2024-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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