We recently got our hands on the Nubia Z60 Ultra, a smartphone that is not available in India and is unlikely to be available anytime soon. ZTE, the company that makes the phone, left the Indian mobile market around eight years ago. We were able to obtain the Starry Night version of the Nubia Z60 Ultra from China, which has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. We tested it out and have written a review for anyone who is interested in importing it to India or lives in a place where the phone is available for purchase. Our review covers all the details and can help you decide whether the phone is worth its price tag of CNY 4,699 (approximately Rs 54,700) for the variant we tested.
Design & Display
The Nubia Z60 Ultra we got was the Starry Night Collector’s edition variant, which is inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” art. It uses a starry sky micro-etching process on the glass and combines it with enhanced technological overlays to present a 3D star effect without the need for any eyewear.
This design is not for everyone as it’s way too flashy. So, if you like a minimal design, opt for the black or silver colour options. However, if you want a unique design, the Starry Night model can be your go-to model. The back has a slight matte finish, while the design shines as soon as the light falls on it.
The camera design is nowhere similar to what we have seen in the past in smartphones. There are three cameras, two placed next to each other in a blue strip, along with a sensor at the top left. The nubia branding lies at the top right with an LED flash alongside, while the ‘Starry Night’ text is on the bottom half. The main camera sensor has a red outline, which adds a fine touch to the overall aesthetic. The power button also has a different finish and is red coloured, showing the company paid attention to detail.
The volume rocker is also on the right, and just below the power button, there’s a switch that looks similar to the alert slider on OnePlus phones. This switch can be configured to perform various tasks as set by the user, such as switching on the flashlight, toggling through sound modes and more.
The sides are flat, and the overall feel and looks of the device are excellent. However, there’s also a downside, which might be subjective. The handset is quite bulky and heavy to use, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It may also be a little slippery to use, but ZTE has included a plastic case inside the box. This plastic case isn’t the best in providing protection because it doesn’t cover the sides, but it does make the device a little less slippery while adding to the overall bulkiness.
Talking of in-box contents, ZTE went all the way to provide you with two chargers (one for global markets and one for China with a different connector for each), two USB-A to USB-C cables which are blue in colour, and a case. The charger that’s intended for global use maxes out at 65 watts, while the default two-pin charger supports 80 watts.
Overall, the design impressed us a lot, thanks to the uniqueness and the extra touches to the appeal. It’s definitely an eye-grabber in all senses and is one of the best designs we have seen on a smartphone so far.
Coming to the front, there’s a 6.8-inch (2480 x 1116 pixels) Full-HD+ OLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, up to 1200Hz instant touch sampling rate, 10-bit colour depth and 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, up to 1500 nits brightness, DC dimming, and 2160Hz PWM dimming.
We would have loved a QHD+ Resolution for the panel, but users will have to make do with FHD+. This is a vibrant panel that reproduces accurate colours with high contrast levels. The viewing angles are decent and so are brightness levels. It’s not as bright as the Galaxy S23 Ultra but isn’t unusable under direct sunlight simultaneously.
In addition, you get the absolute immersive experience without any distractions, thanks to the under-display camera and the impressively thin bezels.
However, it has its downsides, too. You may not get the ultimate flagship-level viewing experience on Netflix as it doesn’t support HDR capabilities. Moreover, it currently operates at Widevine L3 level and does not support L1. Aside from these, there’s nothing else we can complain about about the panel.
Software & Performance
The ZTE Nubia handset is powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC, competing with the top-end flagships of 2024, paired with up to 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM and up to 1TB of UFS 4.0 storage. The performance of the Z60 Ultra is as you’d expect it to be: flawless. There have been no hiccups in daily use while playing heavier titles such as Modern Warships, Call of Duty Mobile, and more, which work very well. It does get warm during intense playing sessions but never gets uncomfortably hot.
The animations are all smooth, and the overall experience is snappy. Speaking of animations, they are fluid but not flawless. They are inconsistent, similar to FunTouch OS and just like Vivo’s software, MyOS 14, based on Android 14 running on the Z60 Ultra, comes with its quirks as well.
The software is where you’ll notice the phone struggle. Compared to skins such as OxygenOS, ColorOS, and One UI, the experience isn’t exactly stable. The handset did show a few bugs during our usage, where sometimes Android Auto wouldn’t connect to the car, while the maps would stop working in the Picture-in-Picture mode and would show a black window instead. Further, there were some Chinese apps that could be disabled while some couldn’t.
Do remember not to disable Theme store-related apps as that disables some of the customisation features of the phone, such as some dynamic effects. There’s also a bug that significantly drains battery when the phone is idle, restricting it from reaching its full potential in terms of battery backup, about which we’ll talk later.
There are customisation features there are a lot of them. This includes numerous always-on display styles, fonts, notification effects, colour and shape, fingerprint animation styles and more. You can also set the speed of App opening and closing animations. The device also offers the ability for lock screen customisation and wallpaper theming along with the ability to set custom colours also.
Other vital and useful features are also present, such as bypass charging, where the power is directed straight to the CPU instead of the battery if you want to play games while your device is plugged in. Gestures and motions, mistouch prevention and a load of other features are also there.
One of the frequent questions that is always asked with brands such as ZTE and Huawei, is whether they support Google Services. Regarding the Z60 Ultra, we are happy to report that Nubia offers a dedicated switch in the settings app that enables Google services. As soon as you turn it on, Google Mobile Services (GMS) gets enabled, and a Google Play Store icon appears in the App drawer from where you can download whatever apps you like, similar to a device that is sold globally or in India.
As for security, there’s an in-display optical fingerprint sensor, which works pretty well. It’s accurate as well as quick. As of the time of writing this review, it runs on the December 2023 security patch. The Z60 Ultra also lacks a clear software update policy from ZTE, making its overall software performance fall behind competitors in certain aspects. You should receive Android 15 on the Z60 Ultra, considering the past track record of the brand’s flagships, which also denotes that Nubia devices aren’t the quickest in receiving updates.
Connectivity performance, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and mobile data, remained optimum, even in India.
The device is backed up by a 6000mAh battery and 80W fast wired charging. There’s no support for wireless charging, which would have been a welcome addition. However, the fast speeds for wired charging make up for it, where the handset took around 25 minutes when charged from 15 to 100% with the 65W charger that came inside the box.
The iQOO 12 that comes with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 outperformed its predecessor and its competitors with excellent battery life, even though it was a 5000mAh cell. With a 6000mAh cell, you’d expect the phone to last 2 days easily. However, that wasn’t the case. A software bug prevented the battery from reaching its full potential which led the device to drain the excessive battery when on standby. We lost around 12 to 15% each night when the phone was on standby with the Always-on display off. Ideally, phones lose around 1 to 3% but with the Z60 Ultra, we were disappointed with the stats.
A 6000mAh cell is a sizable battery, from which we had a lot of expectations. However, it could only last us slightly more than a day with mixed use of Wi-Fi and mobile data, scrolling through the web, streaming music, and calls. It got us around 7 hours of screen-on time, which is decent but not the best, considering it’s a huge cell. This is similar battery life to the iQOO 12, which proves that the Nubia Z60 Ultra is capable of providing much more juice.
The Nubia Z60 Ultra optics are headlined by a 50-megapixel 35mm Sony IMX800 sensor with OIS and f/1.59 aperture. It is accompanied by a 50-megapixel 18mm Wide-Angle camera sensor with f/1.8 Aperture with OIS and Autofocus and a 64-megapixel 85mm telephoto camera with OIS. There’s a 12-megapixel under-display camera for selfies and video calls.
The Z60 Ultra shoots decent photos out in the sunlight. The shots have ideal exposure levels, while detailing is maintained at a high standard. The tone could have been a little warmer with better dynamic range, but the overall shot isn’t disappointing by any means. The shutter lag was also well-contained. There’s also a feature that helps you change focal lengths, similar to the iPhone 15 Pro models, but I hardly found myself using it.
As for wide angle photos, there’s a noticeable colour shift over the main sensor shots. These shots look much better in terms of overall tone, but the dynamic range still needs work. On the positive side, the phone doesn’t compromise on quality with wide-angle shots while the EDGE distortion is also well handled. The colours in both wide-angle and regular shots are on the natural end of the spectrum rather than being high in contrast levels.
Portrait photos retain natural colours with accurate detailing. As you can notice, the red colour of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is quite difficult to capture and I have seen smartphones make it look much more vivid and unnatural. The Nubia Z60 Ultra handled it quite well and portrayed the actual colour of the device, identical to how it looks in real life. The edge detection is also on point. With regular 3x optical shots, the dynamic range is suddenly too high and the photos look decent here as well, both in terms of detailing and colours.
Shots under low-lighting and artificial lighting also had balanced colours with a very high amount of detailing available to the eye. You could easily zoom in to notice how well the handset captures the smallest details with good sharpening as well. Under night conditions, the handset didn’t disappoint either, and it was impressive to see that the photos didn’t have any noise.
Lastly, coming to the selfies, they are outright mediocre. They are blurry and too soft, while the colours are extensively faded. Even in outdoor conditions, the device struggled to click usable selfies, so one can imagine the situation in low lighting conditions. You can use it for video calls, but do not expect it to play well when shooting photos.