CNET First Look
ZTE's Nubia 5S Mini impresses on price and performanceThe ZTE Nubia 5S Mini is available contract-free for $280 -- a terrific price. It offers speedy performance, but its camera doesn't impress.
Hey. I'm Nate Ralph and today we're checking out the ZTE Nubia 5S Mini. It's an unlocked phone that will run on AT&T and T-mobile's network here in the U.S. And you can get it on Amazon for $279.99 starting August 27th. But you can start preordering it on August 20th. If you use the Android phone, the Nubia 5S Mini might be a little confusing, as it's using a custom Android skin from ZTE that changes quite a bit about the experience. There's no app tray, for example, so any app you install is going to sit right on your home screen. If you're coming from an iPhone, that'll be familiar, but I always thought that not being able to hide the apps you don't use really often feels kind of cluttered. You can of course just stick things into folders. The phone is also running on Android 4.3 Jellybean, which is disappointing now that many new phones are running on Android 4.4 Kitkat. There's a single speaker on the back and like many phones, it's pretty terrible. Audio is really scratchy and tinny. You can always pair it with a bluetooth speaker if you need to hear games, movies, or music out loud. But I always just plug head phones in. Speaking of games, performance is pretty good. The phone runs on a quadcore Qualcom Snapdragon processor, and you can really zip through menus and fire up apps without any real lag. I tried some higher end Android games like Dead Triigger 2, Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8, and everything performed fairly well, even on the highest settings for games that let you tweak that sort of thing. I ran into a [UNKNOWN] stuttering, but all that tends to disappear if you turn quality settings down a tad. The 4.7 inch touchscreen has a 720p resolution which isn't that great when you compare it to modern phones that are running at super high retina resolutions. But for less than 300 bucks unlocked, it's not bad. There's also 16 gigs of storage which can extend with up to a 32 gig micro SD card. The phone's biggest drawbacks are what's supposed to be its selling point, the cameras. They're both high resolution, 13 megapixels on the rear camera, five megapixels on the front. But lots of megapixels don't necessarily mean a great camera. The photos I took with this phone tended to be really noisy and missing a lot of finer details. The autofocus was also kind of sluggish. So if a cat is doing something really cute. You're gonna have to snap the photo and hope you get something usable. The camera shoots 1080p video and quality is better and generally much sharper. But the auto focus is problematic here too. You can lock the focus when you're taking pictures and shooting video. But sometimes I just want to pull the phone out and start recording and not necessarily fumble about with advanced settings. Now I keep coming back to the price for a reason. 279.99 for a phone with decent specs is a pretty good deal, especially because it's unlocked. Now I tested it on AT&T's network, but you can just pop in a T-Mobile sim card, or if you like to travel abroad, pop in a local sim card and you can save a lot of cash. I'm Nate Ralph. Now be sure to read my full review on CNet. Thanks for watching. [MUSIC]