ZTE's Nubia Z9 Max phablet packs a powerful camera

Not to be outdone by the iPhone 6 Plus, Chinese vendor ZTE has come out with its own high-end phablet, the Nubia Z9 Max—an aluminum smartphone with a feature-packed camera.

The Android phone, unveiled Thursday, is slated to come to China first, but the company plans to bring it to North America, Europe and emerging markets later.

I tested the device and found it impressive. Chinese vendors are releasing more top-notch handsets, and ZTE’s Nubia team has added to the trend with the Z9 Max.

The phone delivers what you would expect from premium handsets, some of which already feature metal frames, the latest Qualcomm chipsets, and 1080p displays.

The Z9 Max is no different. The Nubia team chose an aluminum chassis for the phone, which creates a polished metal edge around the device. On both the back and front, the phone is covered with third-generation Corning Gorilla Glass. The phone was comfortable to hold, and fairly light at 165 grams.

The glass covering didn’t make the phone slippery, but fingerprint smudges are noticeable in the black version.

The Z9 Max has a 5.5-inch 1080p screen and Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 processor, which has 8-cores and runs at 2.0 GHz.

The company could have made the display slightly brighter, but both the screen and the processor worked well. Images appeared colorful and sharp, and apps ran smoothly.

Nice features on the Z9 Max that you may not find on other flagship phones include slots for two SIM cards, and an SD card space for up to 128 GB in storage. The phone can also work on both 4G FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE networks.

However, during Thursday’s product unveiling, the Nubia team spent most of the time playing up its ability to capture vivid images. It has a rear 16-megapixel camera, and a front 8-megapixel camera, but a unique feature is the phone’s set of 8 camera apps.

In addition to the standard photo shooting app, which captures good, detailed images, the phone has camera software for different scenarios, including for taking artistic pictures of the night sky and for snapping wide-angle shots of scenery. Another app lets users apply different color filters to photos.

I didn’t have time to try all the photo apps, but it’s nice to have so many options.

Given that it has a 5.5-inch screen, the phone is better used as two-handed device. I had trouble accessing the icons with just one hand. The base of my thumb kept accidentally touching the bottom corner of the display, causing apps and functions to launch unintentionally.

The device has 3GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. It uses a 2900 mAh battery, and has a small speaker, which provided adequate sound but could be more powerful.

In China, the phone will be priced at 2499 yuan (US$408), when bought without a contract. To appeal to consumers who want a small device, Nubia also unveiled the Z9 mini, which has a 5-inch display and an almost identical design.

It will be priced at 1499 yuan, and will have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, but only 2GB of RAM. Both phones run a customized version of Android 5.0.

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