nubia X first impressions: smartphone innovation at its finest

“The Nubia X comes with two screens and two fingerprint sensors”

To notch or not to notch? That seems to be the million-dollar question in the smartphone industry at the moment. On one hand, you have heavy-hitters like Samsung and Apple who’re manufacturing flagships with a display cut-out on top (albeit of different kinds). On the other, numerous brands – particularly Chinese OEMs are rallying against the notch. I’m sure you must have heard of a plethora of devices launched in the East which omit or hide the notch by using some hardware wizardry. However, the smartphone I checked out today at MWC Barcelona has a rather unique take to the notch problem.

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I am, of course, talking about the nubia X, which ships with a secondary screen towards the back. Akin to Vivo NEX Dual Display (first impressions), the handset allows one to take selfies with the primary cameras itself. I went hands-on with the device on the show floor and here’s what I make of it.

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Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? The nubia X is a dual-screen smartphone, but unlike devices like the Yota Phone which sported an e-ink display at the back, the secondary screen on the Nubia X is actually a 5.1-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 720 x 1,520 pixels. What’s more, as you can tell from the design shots, the secondary screen blends perfectly with the smartphone’s curvy back. So much so, with the display turned off, I couldn’t even tell that the smartphone had a functioning panel on the back. 

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And, I should also tell you that besides doubling up as a mirror for you to look at when you’re clicking selfies, the secondary screen serves a ton of other purposes. For instance, you can program it to showcase a dynamic wallpaper or have it set to display an always-on clock. You can also use the display to add trigger buttons for various games, thereby giving you a competitive edge over other players.

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Suffice it to say, the secondary screen on the nubia X has numerous benefits. Moreover, on the off chance you crack the display on the front, you will still at least have a usable smartphone, which is ideal from a longevity standpoint too.

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Coming to the display on the front, the nubia X bears a 6.26-inch FHD+ LCD panel with a tall 19:9 aspect ratio. However, since the company has axed the handset’s selfie-camera, the display canvases a whopping 93.6 percent of the smartphone’s overall frame. This, in turn, paves way for an immersive media consumption experience which simply cannot be matched by devices which ship with a notch. The quality of the display is top-notch too (no pun intended), mind you. The panel gets sufficiently bright, has great viewing angles and exhibits punchy colours, making it one of the best panels I’ve set my eyes on at MWC Barcelona.

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The design of the nubia X is excellent too. The handset sports a glass-sandwich design which is held together by a metal trim and consequently, it feels just as premium as say, the iPhone XS or the Samsung Galaxy S10. The device comes in attractive colours, has a curvy back which paves way for a sturdy in-hand grip and requires a wipe down every once in a while, as it smudges really easily – all standard glass-back smartphone features, really.

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What’s interesting, however, is that the smartphone comes with not one, but two capacitive fingerprint sensors which have been positioned on either side of the handset’s frame. Not only does this setup bode well for ambidexterity, but it also ensures that the smartphone unlocks more securely and responsively, as the device scans two fingerprints simultaneously when you hold it in your hands. What’s more, pressing down on both the capacitive sensors at once switches the display on the nubia X, which is way more convenient than the alternative which involves flipping the phone, pressing the power button and vice-versa.

As for the placement of the rest of the ports and buttons, the nubia X ships with a power button on the right-hand spine, and a volume rocker on the opposite side of the frame. Towards the bottom, the smartphone features a USB Type-C port for charging, which is flanked on either side by a microphone and a speaker grille. Much to my dismay, the device doesn’t feature a headphone jack, so dongle life it is.

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Coming to the specs of the smartphone, the nubia X is backed by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, however, an executive from the company has confirmed to 91mobiles that the company will soon bring a Snapdragon 855 variant of the device to India. Regardless, the SD845 processor is still plenty fast, and I didn’t face any issues with the device’s performance during my brief stint with it. Preloaded apps opened quickly, the UI animations felt fluid and switching from one screen to the other was a breeze too. There’s more to be said about the smartphone’s performance, so stay tuned for our full review of the device.

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nubia X’s Achilles Heel is undoubtedly its software. While I didn’t face any issues with the smartphone’s heavily themed skin, the device is still running on Android Oreo which, in my books, is simply unacceptable.

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As I mentioned previously, the nubia X doesn’t ship with a secondary camera and instead, uses its primary cameras to click selfies. On that note, the handset features a dual-camera setup at the back, comprising a pair of 16MP and 24MP sensors with f/1.8 apertures respectively. The camera quality looked promising, though I’d like to spend more time with it before making a statement. 

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The nubia X is fueled by a 3,800mAh battery which on paper, seems capacious enough to last buyers a full day off a single charge. The handset comes in three storage variants of 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB and features either 6GB or 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, there’s no support for the expansion of storage by means of a microSD card so you’ll be stuck with what you get from the get-go. The handset starts at roughly Rs 35,000 for the base variant, and seems worth watching out for, whenever it lands in India. 

The youngest of the lot, Prateek has recently joined the editorial team and has picked up quite a few things in the short time he has been here. Being an avid gamer, he has a heap of consoles, both old and new and is constantly juggling between which games to play. When he is not writing articles or shooting videos, he likes to hit the gym to stay on top of his fitness game.
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