nubia Z60 Ultra review

nubia Z60 Ultra review
By: GSMArena Posted On: April 02, 2024 View: 17

Introduction

An Ultra like no other, this one aims to offer an alternative to the mainstream cameraphone with a setup that defies the norm. It's unusual in a few other ways, too, plus it comes in at a more than reasonable base price. Let's see if the nubia Z60 Ultra was worth the wait.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

ZTE, the parent company behind the phone, is no stranger to odd camera choices and we've seen a handful of models with 35mm-equivalent main units under both the Axon and the nubia brands. This, however, is probably the most advanced configuration of the lot, with large sensors all around and sensibly chosen focal lengths that will make the 35mm module stand out without leaving you feeling like something is missing.

Another way in which it stands out, the Z60 Ultra is also among the largest smartphones that don't bend in half. The 246g weight may sound like a lot, but at least it has a 6,000mAh battery to show for it - the largest capacity on a phone that's not a powerbank first and a phone second. It should also charge fast enough with its 80W adapter, though we'll admit that the lack of wireless charging did leave us a little disappointed.

Also somewhat unusual is the Z60 Ultra's front-facing camera. Being the under-display type, it's mostly for people who don't use front-facing cameras - it won't get you great images, but at least it will stay out of the way.

Returning to mainstream components, this Ultra has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 inside - so, plenty powerful, but also as powerful as the next high-end phone in 2024. Stereo speakers are also included, as is an under-display fingerprint reader - OLED displays are accommodating that way. Speaking of, the 6.8-inch panel might be a little bit behind the curve in a few metrics, but we've learned we can't have it all.

nubia Z60 Ultra specs at a glance:

  • Body: 164.0x76.4x8.8mm, 246g; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 min).
  • Display: 6.80" AMOLED, 1B colors, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits (peak), 1116x2480px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 400ppi.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8650-AB Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 (4 nm): Octa-core (1x3.3 GHz Cortex-X4 & 3x3.2 GHz Cortex-A720 & 2x3.0 GHz Cortex-A720 & 2x2.3 GHz Cortex-A520); Adreno 750.
  • Memory: 256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 16GB RAM, 1TB 16GB RAM, 1TB 24GB RAM; UFS 4.0.
  • OS/Software: Android 14, MyOS 14.
  • Rear camera: Standard (main): 50 MP, f/1.6, 35mm, 1/1.49", 1.0µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; Ultrawide: 50 MP, f/1.8, 18mm, 100˚, 1/1.55", PDAF, OIS; Telephoto: 64 MP, f/3.3, 85mm, 1/2.0", PDAF, OIS, 3.3x optical zoom (vs. 26mm cam).
  • Front camera: Wide (main): 12 MP, under display.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS, HDR10, 10‑bit video; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 6000mAh; 80W wired, PD3.0, QC4.
  • Connectivity: 5G; Dual SIM; Wi-Fi 7; BT 5.4, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive; NFC; Infrared port.
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); stereo speakers.

nubia Z60 Ultra unboxing

The nubia Z60 Ultra ships in a regular-sized dark cardboard box with some red accents for a splash of color. The theme continues on the inside with a red USB-C cable with black connectors and a black charger with, you guessed it, a red USB-C connector.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Also included is a clear plastic snap-on back cover that also offers limited coverage for the extreme corners. It won't save the Ultra in most falls, but it does add a little protection without compromising the looks too much.

Design, build quality, handling

The Z60 Ultra is one large phone, and it makes no excuses for it. Flat display, flat sides, flat back, sharp corners, a thick camera bump that covers a third of the rear - it's a blocky handset alright. And it's not light either - at 246g, this is among the heftiest Ultras.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

For what it's worth, the Z60 Ultra does manage to own this aesthetic, and just because pocketability is nowhere on its priorities list, the phone looks stylish and feels quite reasonable in both the hand and the pocket. It reminds us a little of the original Xiaomi Mix and the simpler times of almost a decade ago.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Now, what that Mix had was a chin because back in those days, we didn't have under-display cameras. We do now, and the nubia doesn't have to ruin its facade with either a thick bezel on one end or a cutout for the camera - instead, its pixels are hidden behind the display pixels, creating an uninterrupted look. ZTE could have probably gone the extra mile and made the black border around the display a uniform thickness, but we'd understand if they had considerations beyond looks.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Speaking of under-display components, there's also the fingerprint reader lurking from underneath the 6.8-inch OLED panel. It's placed nicely high up the central axis of the phone and requires no dedicated effort to operate - your thumb just falls on the sensor, and the phone unlocks nearly instantly.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

When it comes to controls, the Z60 Ultra has the usual power and volume keys on the right. The power button is red and knurled, so you can tell it apart by either sight or feel. Both the power button and the volume rocker are metal and have a nice click action.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

In addition to these two standard keys, there's also a slider - knurled too, but with a crosshatch instead of the stripe of the power key. This one is used to open the camera app, directly into Street mode, which offers some extra functionality on top of the plain Photo mode (grain filters, exposure parameters overview, an extra zoom preset level at 50mm). It's ultimately nice to have a dedicated camera shortcut like this, though we're not fully convinced that Street mode is all that useful.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Back to the Z60 Ultra's physical properties, the flat frame that you'll be touching is made of aluminum and has a satin finish. It's not exactly fingerprint-proof, but it doesn't advertise smudges quite like a glossy frame would.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The back panel of the phone is made of glass - not that ZTE explicitly says so, but we checked with a blade. It's got that anti-glare treatment that shimmers when placed under direct sunlight, and it's pretty good at repelling grease, though grippiness isn't its forte. And while the panel itself doesn't accumulate dirt, the area between the raised 'lenses' for the main camera and the telephoto will pick up lint from your pocket.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The camera island is a separate slab, raised from the main panel. If you're the kind of person that pokes at things they shouldn't poke at, you could wedge a fingernail in between the two pieces, and we're not sure what that means for the phone's dust and water protection - but since it has an IP68 rating, perhaps they've thought about it. And perhaps you shouldn't be sticking your nails in weird places.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

International buyers can get the Z60 Ultra in either black or silver colorways. China is additionally being treated to a blue version with what resembles van Gogh's Starry Night painting displayed on the back and a 'Starry Night' writing for those that skipped art history in school.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

There's also another China-exclusive option called Photographer edition. It's got a faux leather back panel and some brushed metal-looking accent to emulate the styling of a classic rangefinder camera. To be fair, we wouldn't say that we're all too bummed about only getting the 'plain' colorways.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

A 6.8-inch uninterrupted slab of a display

The Z60 Ultra is all displayed on the front - its 6.8-inch panel has minimal bezels all around, and thanks to the under-display camera, there's no unsightly punch hole either. It's got an unusual resolution, at 1,116x2,480px, but perhaps nubia was targeting the 400ppi density. Of course, the panel supports a 120Hz refresh rate, and the Ultra employs 2160Hz PWM for flicker-free dimming.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The official specs promise 1,500nits of peak local brightness. In our testing, the phone was good for a little over 1,000nits with adaptive brightness enabled or 580nits when adjusting it manually. These aren't record-breaking numbers, of course, but it's not a bad showing either.

Refresh rate

The Z60 Ultra's display isn't the most adaptive regarding its refresh rate - there are no 10Hz or 1Hz modes. All we could observe was a drop to 60Hz when you don't interact with the phone for a few seconds. That's in both Auto and 120Hz modes - the latter isn't a fixed refresh rate either.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

On a positive note, the phone was perfectly happy maintaining the 120Hz refresh rate in gaming. The in-house gaming utility reported frame rates all the way up to 120fps too. Apparently, the Red Magic gaming chops have made it to the Z nubia too.

Streaming and HDR

The Z60 Ultra is not so keen on playing HDR content though - it only supports the HDR10 standard, so no HDR10+ and no Dolby Vision. We did get HDR streams from YouTube, but there was no HDR from Netflix. Not only that, but since the phone doesn't have Widevine L1 (just L3), you won't be getting full-resolution DRM-protected content - Netflix is limited to standard definition.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

nubia Z60 Ultra battery life

Our new Active Use Score is an estimate of how long the battery will last if you use the device with a mix of all four test activities. You can adjust the calculation based on your usage pattern using the sliders below. You can read about our current battery life testing procedure here. For a comprehensive list of all tested devices so far, head this way.

The Z60 Ultra is equipped with a 6,000mAh battery - one of the largest power packs in any reasonably mainstream phone. While there has been a push for higher capacities this year, potential rivals only go as high as 5,500mAh. With that in mind, the Z60 Ultra is set up for success in an endurance race.

Indeed, the nubia got a class-leading result in our Active Use test. Particularly impressive was its nearly 11-hour figure in gaming - few flagships can achieve a feat of comparable magnitude. Also noteworthy is the 21-hour video playback result, and while 13 hours isn't quite as remarkable in the web browsing test, it's still an above-average showing. The voice call time is more in the okay category, but we'd normally put a stronger emphasis on the screen-on tests.

Overall, we'd say that the nubia's Active Use Score might just be able to make you forget about its less than svelte physical proportions.

Charging speed

The Z60 Ultra ships with an 80W adapter that can send up to 7.25A of current at 5V-11V or up to 3.8A at 5V-21V over its USB-C port. The supplied cable has a '9A' marking on it.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Using this adapter, we clocked the Z60 Ultra's charging time from 1% to 100% at 40 minutes. At the half-hour mark, we were looking at 87% and the phone was showing 51% at the 15-minute checkpoint. The iQOO 12 and the OnePlus 12 are indeed faster, and the Xiaomi 14 has a minor edge, but let's not forget that the nubia has the largest capacity of the bunch. Plus, its result is anything but slow to begin with. Mind you, we got these numbers with the 'Turbo charge' toggle enabled, while turning it off will lead to a minor slow down.

The nubia Z60 Pro lacks wireless charging, as does the iQOO. A lot of the others do have an induction coil though, and that could affect your purchasing decision one way or the other.

Speaker test

The nubia Z60 Ultra features a stereo speaker setup with a familiar arrangement. There's a higher-powered main speaker firing out the bottom and a secondary unit that outputs sound through a forward facing slit above the display. Both speakers will play their own track plus the opposite channel at a lower volume. The phone does switch channels depending on orientation too.

Bottom speaker - nubia Z60 Ultra review Top speaker / Earpiece - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Bottom speaker • Top speaker / Earpiece

In our testing, the Z60 Ultra earned a 'Very Good' rating for loudness - same as the Z50S Pro and most phones in the class. We can't say we enjoyed its sound too much though - it was relatively thin, with no bass and an overall mid-forward presence (hence the high integrated loudness).

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

MyOS 14 on top of Android 14

The nubia Z60 Ultra runs Android 14 with a layer of proprietary software on top dubbed MyOS - it too at v14. While it's technically not the same thing, it's also kind of the same thing as the Red Magic OS 9 that we got to experience on the Red Magic 9 Pro a while back. That sameness goes all the way to the extensive functionality of the Game Space utility, which makes the Z60 Ultra a gaming phone in disguise.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

Among the familiar and most obvious customizations in MyOS has been in the quick toggles area, where the initial swipe would get you 4 large bubbles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile data, and flashlight. That meanwhile became the default Android look, though MyOS' take still has its own personality.

MyOS 14 - nubia Z60 Ultra review MyOS 14 - nubia Z60 Ultra review MyOS 14 - nubia Z60 Ultra review
MyOS 14

There's also a large brightness slider with an Auto toggle - something missing in the default Android shade and in a lot of custom builds.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

As mentioned, the Z60 Ultra borrows the Game space in-game utility that you might be familiar with from the Red Magic phones. It consists of two large symmetrical menus on each side of the display, with most of the functions readily accessible with a single tap. You can monitor your CPU and GPU frequency as well as, crucially, in-game fps using an overlay.

Most of the interesting and powerful settings are located in their own sub-menu within the overlay. X Gravity is the system nubia uses to map external devices like a controller or keyboard and mouse to on-screen controls.

Auxiliary line is a way to define on-screen circles that appear around your character and signify things like the area of effect of certain skills or attacks. Stopwatches give the player an array of on-screen stopwatches to quickly time things like a skill or spell cooldown on enemies. The Crosshair feature draws an overlay on the screen, and it can also zoom into a particular area of the frame. AI Trigger, meanwhile, waits for a certain event to happen, say empty magazine, and it will automatically tap on the reload button.

So yes, maybe you came here for the camera system, but you might be staying for the gaming prowess of the nubia Z60 Ultra.

Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review Gaming on the Z60 Ultra - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Gaming on the Z60 Ultra

Benchmarks

The Z60 Ultra doesn't stray from the pack and relies on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 to do its number crunching. The Qualcomm high-end chip for 2024 is made on a 4nm process and features an octa-core CPU in a 1+3+2+2 layout (1 Cortex-X4 prime core at up to 3.3GHz). The GPU is the Adreno 750.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

A whole bunch of memory configurations exist, spanning from a relatively modest 8GB/256GB to a bonkers 24GB/1TB. Not all of them are available outside of China, however, and global markets get 12GB/256GB and 16GB/512GB versions (maybe the base tier in some locales). We reviewed the 16GB/512GB spec, and its storage speed was consistent with the UFS 4.0 standard's numbers.

In the benchmark runs that we did on the nubia Z60 Ultra, it posted scores that placed it first among equals in the graphics department and also among the top performers in GeekBench and Antutu. There was no performance mode or anything; that's just what the phone scores.

We've discontinued GFXBench graphics benchmarking as the app is often banned/blacklisted on the phones we receive for review. The graphics performance ranking in 3D Mark is just as meaningful; refer to that one instead.

Under sustained load, the Z60 Ultra behaved rather interestingly in our experience, and not necessarily entirely in a good way.

In the CPU throttling test, things were quite alright, only dropping to as low as 74% of its peak result, but actually able to sustain a higher level for extended periods of time.

The 3DMark Wild Life stress test is where things got hot. The 67% stability result there is better than a lot of the recent SD 8 Gen 3 phones we've tested (Galaxy S24 Ultra, Zenfone 11 Ultra, Find X7 Ultra) but the nubia achieved that by getting all too hot - impossible to hold hot.

We understand that it's likely using the frame as a radiator, diverting heat away from the components that generate it, but it's too much. Meanwhile, other handsets with the same chipset (Honor Magic6 Pro and Xiaomi 14 Ultra) managed similar stability scores in 3DMark without becoming unusable in the process.

CPU Throttling test - nubia Z60 Ultra review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - nubia Z60 Ultra review 3DMark Wild Life stress test - nubia Z60 Ultra review
CPU Throttling test • 3DMark Wild Life stress test

A triple camera like no other

The nubia Z60 Ultra follows in the footsteps of a handful of Axon and nubia branded phones to feature a primary camera with a 35mm equivalent lens. A revered focal length in classic photography, 35mm is mostly overlooked on smartphones, where different pursuits have made the bulk of main cameras somewhere around the 24mm mark. Well, ZTE pushes on and continues to iterate on the subject, with this latest setup bringing yet more advanced hardware.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

That said, the 35mm camera, in particular, is apparently unchanged from the one used on the Z50S Pro. That's not really a bad thing since it was already the best one of its (admittedly not widely-used) kind - all the other efforts at 35mm use smaller images. The one here is a 54MP Sony sensor with a somewhat unusual optical format and aspect ratio (1/1.49", 1.43:1) of which the nubia is using a 4:3 crop for photos for a total of 12.5MP after the 4-to-1 binning. The 35mm equivalent lens has 7 elements (one of them made of actual glass) and it's stabilized.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The Z60 Ultra's ultrawide isn't quite as ultrawide as most competitors, at 18mm equivalent, but it pairs nicely with the unusually long focal length of the main camera. You see, a wider ultrawide would have made for too great of a coverage gap between the two, which was the case on the Z50S Ultra and most Axons, with the notable exception of the 30 Ultra (which had an extra 26mm camera in addition to the 35mm one and the 13mm ultrawide - it was quite wild that one).

Anyway, ZTE has fitted a nicely large sensor here - at 1/1.55", it's the largest on an ultrawide camera in a phone with a 35mm main camera. Or at least as best as we can tell. The lens is plenty bright too, with an f/1.8 aperture, and it's also stabilized. So the less extreme focal length is not without its benefits.

The telephoto camera appears to be coming from the nubia Z50 Ultra, a phone we haven't seen in person. It's a notable improvement over the one fitted on the Z50S Pro and it's in many ways the same as the one that we saw on the Axon 40 Ultra - same sensor, minor differences with the lens specs. This one also features OIS, but what it doesn't have is close focusing - we've gotten used to nice closeups from recent flagship teles, and you won't be getting that here.

nubia Z60 Ultra review
  • Wide (main):50MP Sony IMX800 (54MP, 1/1.49", 1.0µm - 2.0µm), f/1.6, 35mm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; 4K@120fps, 8K@30fps
  • Ultrawide: 50MP OmniVision OV50E40 (1/1.55", 1.0µm-2.0µm), f/1.8, 18mm, multi-directional PDAF, OIS; 4K@120fps
  • Telephoto: 64MP OmniVision OV64B40 (1/2.0", 0.7µm-1.4µm), f/3.3, 85mm, multi-directional PDAF, OIS; 4K@120fps
  • Front camera: 12MP OmniVision OV12D2Q (1/2.43", 1.4µm-2.8µm, 16:9), f/2.0, 24mm, fixed focus; FullHD@30fps

Daylight photo quality

Main camera (35mm)

Photos from the Z60 Ultra's main camera look great. They have minimal noise and excellent detail and random textures are rendered in a reasonably likable fashion. The auto-white balance is dependable, and we're getting a mature approach to saturation.

One thing struck us as less than ideal, and it's the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas that has a hazy quality to it, and you'll be seeing that a lot with nearby subjects. It's not really a dealbreaker, but it's something to keep in mind if you're shooting around the minimum focus distance. More distant backgrounds do melt away nicely, though.

Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3213s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3120s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2463s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2731s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2287s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/485s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 500, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 640, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 400, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2000, 1/922s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/661s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/11590s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/10607s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2537s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm)

There's another image profile called Gorgeous (as opposed to the default Natural), which will get you a moderate kick in contrast and saturation. The photos are certainly more expressive that way, though it's perhaps a little too much.

Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Gorgeous - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3213s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Gorgeous - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2985s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Gorgeous - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2356s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Gorgeous - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Gorgeous

Here's a handful of people shots to show you how the nubia deals with skin tones.

Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Photo mode - f/1.6, ISO 200, 1/180s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Photo mode - f/1.6, ISO 400, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Photo mode - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2652s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Photo mode - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/1194s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Photo mode

You'll probably note that the Portrait mode doesn't have quite as wide dynamic range, so you may wish to stick to Photo mode in backlit situations.

Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/126s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 500, 1/58s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/2613s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/1248s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), Portrait mode

You'll probably want to avoid the 50mm zoom level in Portrait mode for another reason - the viewfinder gives you a wider preview than the resulting images. How did we find out?

Daylight samples, main camera (50mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/124s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (50mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/53s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (50mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/2652s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (50mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/1142s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (50mm), Portrait mode

The full-res mode won't get you any detail benefits - the images are essentially upscaled versions of the 12.5MP ones.

Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3213s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2574s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2731s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/3029s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/2287s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP - f/1.6, ISO 160, 1/477s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, main camera (35mm), 50MP

Telephoto camera (85mm)

The telephoto camera captures good images too, though they're not exactly flawless. They are undoubtedly sharp, noise-free and detailed in bright outdoor light - that much is clear. Colors also have a pleasing level of pop.

However, there's a higher-than-usual amount of fringing around contrasting edges - that fifth sample has never had so much purple in it. Additionally, indoor shots take a bit of a hit in detail, and are also rather unenthusiastic in their color presentation.

Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/594s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/483s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/498s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/630s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/306s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/462s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/436s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 1000, 1/33s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm)

The 85mm camera isn't too great for indoor photos of people either, and it would occasionally struggle with shots in bright light too. We got images with what looks like motion blur at shutter speeds that should be able to avoid it. The dimmer indoor sample doesn't have that - instead, it's just softer from cranking up the ISO and the resulting noise processing.

Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Photo mode - f/3.3, ISO 200, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Photo mode - f/3.3, ISO 1000, 1/33s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Photo mode - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/505s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Photo mode - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/190s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Photo mode

A quick look at the Portrait mode samples in the same settings at 85mm reveals them to be sharper across the board. So perhaps your best bet for shooting people at 85mm is using Portrait mode and dialing down the bokeh effect. You have to make sure you do that at the time of shooting, because there doesn't appear to be a way to adjust it later in the gallery.

Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 1000, 1/37s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/498s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Portrait mode - f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/196s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), Portrait mode

As we saw on the main camera, the full-res mode on the telephoto doesn't appear to be extracting additional detail from the scene.

Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/594s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/483s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/498s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/649s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/334s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/469s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 100, 1/436s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP - f/3.3, ISO 1000, 1/33s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, telephoto camera (85mm), 64MP

Ultrawide camera (18mm)

The ultrawide camera's photos are excellent. The conservative focal length has no doubt helped make a lens that can resolve better than more extreme designs and we're getting tons of fine detail. Of course, the flipside is that you won't be able to exaggerate perspectives quite as much as with a 13 or 14mm lens, but it's not necessarily a net-negative trade-off.

Dynamic range is excellent here, and so too is the color presentation.

Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2529s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2150s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2281s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2150s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/1882s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2247s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/1697s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/417s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/498s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/873s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 320, 1/38s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 400, 1/50s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 400, 1/39s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 800, 1/380s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/1774s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2847s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm)

Once again, don't expect extra detail from the 50MP mode.

Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2492s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2118s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2281s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2150s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2150s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/2247s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/490s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP - f/1.8, ISO 320, 1/36s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Daylight samples, ultrawide camera (18mm), 50MP

Selfies

Selfies from the Z60 Ultra are borderline unusable. There's an overall softness to these photos and colors are only a vague representation of real life. That said, we get that the underdisplay camera's life isn't made easy by the display pixels getting in the way, so we aren't expecting miracles from it and neither should you.

Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/3797s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/384s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/254s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/303s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/20833s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Selfie samples - f/2.0, ISO 100, 1/12387s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Selfie samples

Low-light photo quality

Main camera (35mm)

Thenubia does a respectable job with low-light photography. Its main camera exposes well and maintains a wide dynamic range, so you get good highlight preservation and reasonably well-developed shadows. The auto-white balance doesn't make blunders, and we experienced no weird color casts. Detail is generally very good, too.

Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1250, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2000, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 4000, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/33s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2000, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/13s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2500, 1/25s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 3200, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2500, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 2500, 1/16s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 4000, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, main camera (35mm) - f/1.6, ISO 3200, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, main camera (35mm)

Telephoto camera (85mm)

The telephoto camera doesn't disappoint either. Detail isn't pin-sharp, but it's not bad either. Tonal development is great, with well-preserved highlights and shadows that are bright enough without being overdone. Color reproduction is also hard to fault both in terms of white balance and saturation.

Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 4000, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 4000, 1/7s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 6400, 1/17s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 3200, 1/3s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 3200, 1/7s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 3200, 1/14s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 6400, 1/7s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 2500, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 8000, 1/14s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 2000, 1/26s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 5000, 1/7s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm) - f/3.3, ISO 3200, 1/7s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, telephoto camera (85mm)

Ultrawide camera (18mm)

The ultrawide's results are somewhat more exciting since the large sensor and bright lens combo brings nicer than usual photos. Detail is great for an ultrawide camera - with the asterisk that it's not as wide as most. Dynamic range is excellent though there can be some slightly weird halos around point light sources. Colors also remain expressive, without white balancing missteps.

Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 1600, 1/17s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 2000, 1/11s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 2000, 1/17s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 1600, 1/4s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 3200, 1/20s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 4000, 1/14s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 1250, 1/4s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 2000, 1/17s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 1250, 1/4s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 2500, 1/16s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 1600, 1/4s - nubia Z60 Ultra review Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm) - f/1.8, ISO 2000, 1/17s - nubia Z60 Ultra review
Low-light samples, ultrawide camera (18mm)

Video recording

The nubia Z60 Ultra can record video up to 4K120 with its three rear cameras - not just the main one as is the case on most other current offerings. 4K60 and 4K30 are, of course, also available, but there's no 24fps option. The main camera on the back can also do 8K30.

Electronic stabilization is available (and can be switched off) on all three cameras up to 4K60, but you're on your own in 4K120 and 8K30.

The default codec is still h.264 for all modes, including 4K120 and 8K30. Video bit rates vary and we saw values up to 63Mbps for 4K30 and 105Mbps for 4K60 while 4K120 and 8K30 were a little over 120Mbps. Audio is recorded in stereo at 96kbps.

Video quality out of the Z60 Ultra is generally good. All cameras capture good detail in 4K30, and maintain about the same quality in 4K120, which is great. Somewhat annoyingly, the main camera's footage is a bit sharper in 4K60, while the other two units are about the same in all three frame rates. The main camera's colors run a little cooler than those on the other two cameras (though that does improve in 4K60), but they all look nice in isolation. Dynamic range is also alright - not the widest, but not bad either.

Stabilization is excellent on the nubia. All three rear cameras stay planted if you just point the phone in one direction, and pans are typically smooth (with ever so slightly abrupt transitions on the main camera). The main and the ultrawide camera also proficiently iron out the walking shake.

Low-light video performance is quite alright. The main camera and the ultrawide have a somewhat harsh rendition of highlights, though we'd still say they expose correctly for the conditions and have reasonable dynamic range. Detail is good on both, with the ultrawide in particular being nicer than the bulk of ultrawides (though, again, this one isn't as wide as most). The telephoto is more in the so-so category, which is where we find most telephotos.

Video sample playlist

You can check out the playlist below, which includes multiple video samples.

Competition

With a starting price of $650/€750 for a 12GB/256GB version or $780/€900 for a more lavish 16GB/512GB spec, the nubia Z60 Ultra isn't low on value. It's also a fairly unusual package - mostly thanks to the camera system that offers a very specific set of capabilities that you can't find elsewhere. In that sense, it's almost rivalless, but if you're not dead-set on a 35mm camera, there are, of course, alternatives.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The first option that comes to mind is the OnePlus 12. At $800/€970 for a 12GB/256GB spec it's not as great a deal as the nubia in some places, but it's more competitively priced in India. The OnePlus' display is superior, as are its selfies, while the nubia counters with longer battery life and better performance. We'd be leaning towards the nubia as a cameraphone in this bout, with its gaming prowess also scoring it extra points.

Another gaming phone in mainstream attire, the Zenfone 11 Ultra also comes with an unusually wide set of features to cater to that demographic, though it's seemingly the nubia that brings better sustained performance and battery life in that area. The Zenfone isn't as capable a cameraphone though.

Pivoting hard towards the Xiaomi 14, which you might be able to squeeze into the budget for a 512GB nubia. The Xiaomi will appeal to those who might be intimidated by the Z60 Ultra's size, offering cameraphone excellence in a much smaller package. Naturally, the nubia's size scores it points for battery life and screen estate, and if you want 35mm, you want 35mm.

OnePlus 12 Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Xiaomi 14
OnePlus 12 • Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra • Xiaomi 14

Of course, if ultimate cameraphone capabilities are paramount, you could entertain the thought of a Xiaomi 14 Ultra, Galaxy S24 Ultra, or possibly an Honor Magic6 Pro. While they will each make a strong case for image and video capture first and foremost, and possibly outperform the nubia in many respects, they come in at higher price points and aren't as great value as the Z60 Ultra, we reckon.

Then again, if you're eyeing the nubia from a cameraphone standpoint with little regard for value for money, we'd still think it's generally bested by these, unless you're specifically after the 35mm main camera.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Honor Magic6 Pro
Xiaomi 14 Ultra • Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra • Honor Magic6 Pro

Verdict

The nubia Z60 Ultra is another entry in a niche that ZTE has claimed for itself - its 35mm primary camera entices a particular crowd that would otherwise be left with digital zoom-only options (admittedly some better than others, but none quite as good as a dedicated camera for that focal length). In this latest iteration, the triple setup is the most well-rounded and capable to date, so you'll be sacrificing less to get that standard focal length of choice. So while we wouldn't call the nubia cameras perfect, they don't exhibit any glaring or deal-breaking flaws - if you fancy them on paper, you'll very likely enjoy them in practice too.

nubia Z60 Ultra review

The camera isn't the Z60 Ultra's only selling point though. If you enjoy some mobile gaming, you'll find the phone's wide-ranging feature set in that area most welcome - minus the hardware triggers, it's more or less a Red Magic gaming phone. The excellent gaming battery life, but also in general, is also scoring big points for the Z60 Ultra.

Perhaps countering that last point to some degree, we observed very high temperatures on the nubia under max GPU load - benchmarks aren't real life though, so your mileage will likely vary depending on the titles you play.

What's possibly more than a small inconvenience when it comes to the nubia's performance is its lack of proper DRM handling for high-res content - the large 6.8-inch panel could use more than the 480p you'd be getting from Netflix. And while you could enjoy the lack of a visible punch hole in the screen, you'll certainly not be liking the selfies one bit.

With all things considered, the Z60 Ultra from nubia delivers on the promise of a unique camera system giving solid results across the board. It adds a gaming angle to the mix and offers some of the best battery life in the class, in any class. And it does it all without breaking the bank. Not bad at all.

Pros

  • One-of-a-kind camera system with an uncommon (and capable) main camera and better-than-most ultrawide.
  • Top-class battery life.
  • Extensive gaming-related features.

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy.
  • Display not as bright or adaptive as the competition, no HDR10+, Dolby Vision, or Widevine L1 support.
  • Heavy overheating under GPU loads.
  • Mediocre selfie quality.

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