The ZTE Nubia Neo 5G is a budget gaming phone. It lacks the bells and whistles you'd find in a premium model like the Asus ROG Phone 7. Instead, what you get is a 120Hz display, and mid-range performance enclosed in a futuristic, gamer-centric design. Not too shabby for S$299, except for the fact that competition is stiff at this price range. Poco, for instance, has several phones in this price bracket, such as the X5 5G (S$269).
- 6.6-inch IPS display (2,408 x 1,080 pixels, 120Hz)
- Unisoc T820 chip with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage
- 50MP and 2MP (depth) rear cameras and 8MP front camera
- 4,500mAh battery (with 22.5W fast charging)
Since the Nubia Neo 5G is positioned as a gaming phone, let's start off with some benchmarks. This phone uses a relatively new 5G octa-core T820 chip from Chinese firm Unisoc, which isn't exactly well-known internationally. In Geekbench 5, the ZTE produced scores of 661 (single) and 2,164 (multi-core). That's mid-range territory, and similar to the Poco X3 GT from 2021. For a more recent example, the Samsung Galaxy A34 5G was slightly faster (771 for single, and 2,281 in multi-core). The ZTE's internal storage also produced sluggish speeds. Its sequential read (214MB/s) and sequential write (188MB/s) speeds are, according to the Cross Platform Disk Test app, about as fast as phones from three to five years ago. In addition, it only supports Wi-Fi 5, not the latest Wi-Fi 6.
To be fair, day-to-day performance was up to expectations for a mid-range phone. Apps took a fraction longer to open compared with flagship models, but that's fine. Scrolling thru webpages, and navigating the interface was smooth enough. And the phone stayed reasonably cool even in games. In the demanding 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test, temperatures peaked at 41 degrees Celsius. My review set has a nice, sci-fi design at the back. A headphone jack and the speaker are at the bottom of the phone, while there's a fingerprint sensor at the side. Meanwhile, the 50MP primary rear camera is decent in good lighting conditions, with images looking a tad overexposed at times. There's no optical zoom or ultra-wide camera, just a secondary depth camera. Low-light images are soft and sometimes blurry.
Given its gaming slant, I was expecting to find a larger battery than the 4,500mAh capacity in the Nubia Neo 5G. It will last a day of use, but don't expect much more. Playing Vampire Survivors for 30 mins drained the battery by around 10%. The phone managed 6hr 10min in PCMark's Work 3.0 battery test compared with 12hr 34min for the massive Asus ROG Phone 7. In our video playback test, the ZTE lasted just 9 hours, which is below expectations. Charging speed is also middling at 22.5W, which is even slower than mainstream models from Samsung (25W).
The ZTE Nubia Neo 5G may claim to be a gaming phone, but it doesn't show enough. Sure, you get a flashy design, a 120Hz screen, and a control panel with gaming settings. The phone also runs fairly cool. But these features seem superficial. And its performance is not going to blow the competition away. The internal storage and charging speeds are especially disappointing. I feel you can't just do the bare minimum, slap a gaming label, and call it a day. Not against the cut-throat competition in the S$200 to S$400 price range from the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo. The ZTE Nubia Neo 5G launches today in Singapore, and is available at Lazada and Shopee.
Note: Review unit provided by ZTE.
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