2016 is already witnessing a flurry of mid-range smartphones hitting the Indian Market, starting with LeEco introducing their Le1s which was a phenomenal success, followed by Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3, which was also a great hit (Mi declared over 6,00,000 Redmi Note 3 phones being sold in the past quarter). Joining this bandwagon is Zuk Z1 from Lenovo, which goes on sale starting tomorrow. If you observe the trend, every company is trying hard to push other competitors down by introducing great “value for money” phones with impressive specifications thereby redefining this segment every time and setting the standards higher than others.
The Lenovo Zuk Z1 was announced in India earlier this month and made its way to the headlines when it was introduced at a jaw dropping price of INR 13499. Even though the Zuk Z1 was launched sometime back in China, Lenovo is bringing it to India at the right time and we believe it will give a tough competition to other smartphones in this range given the attractive pricing and the software features. Let us look into the detailed review.
Hardware, Look and Feel:
The Lenovo Zuk Z1 is a 5.5” 4G Dual-SIM (Nano) dual standby device featuring a premium design with a full HD display on the front supported by a metal frame with chamfered edges that runs around the phone and a gently arched back with a matt finish. There is a subtle branding of Zuk on the rear side.
The Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor which was very popular and powered many flagship smartphones like the OnePlus One, Xiaomi MI4 and on the recent mid ranger, the OnePlus X. The device comes with impressive specs like built-in 64GB flash storage, 3 GB RAM, FingerPrint Sensor, USB 3.0 and Type-C port.
Despite the larger 4100 mAh battery, the phone is not too bulky – measuring 8.9mm in thickness and weighing around 175 grams. Even though the phone is little heavier than the Redmi Note 3, the overall in-hand feel is good; thanks to the narrow form factor. The Loud Speaker is surprisingly loud and clear for a mid-range smartphone.
The phone lacks an external microSD card option; however, it isn’t a great deal considering the fact that, Zuk Z1 has 64GB internal storage which none of the competition is currently offering in this segment. Another highlight is the Cyanogen OS 12.1 software which powers this phone. Lets look into it a little later.
The Lenovo Zuk Z1 sports a 5.5″ FULL HD (1080p) IPS display with 401 PPI pixel density and offers a maximum brightness of 450 nits. It also features the Live Display from CM 12.1 which automatically optimizes the screen depending on the time and ambient light conditions to reduce eyestrain and improve readability. Additional display features include options to specify custom color temperature depending on the time of the day and calibrate colors based on user preference. There is also an outdoor mode when turned on, increases brightness and saturation under direct sunlight. The LCD Density feature allows users to modify the screen DPI (Dots per inch) enabling more screen content depending on the DPI selected (320 to 560 DPI). The text on the phone is clear and very readable. Pictures on the display are neither too over-saturated nor artificially sharp.
The Rear camera is a 13MP (1.12 micron pixel) Sony IMX 214 with OIS and supported by a double LED flash. Camera is capable of shooting great pictures in outdoor lighting conditions. However it does struggle with the focus while capturing indoor close-up shots.The Front camera is an 8MP shooter with 1.4 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture which does a decent job while taking selfies. With Qualcomm ISP image processing on board, it gets a good 3400w Pixels Image.
We were surprised by the camera presets (with over 25 options) available on the camera interface. A subset of these presets for example Auto, HDR, Action, Night etc. can be selected and with a swipe up gesture we can quickly switch between these presets while shooting pictures. Have a look at some of the samples captured using this phone.
For best results, leverage the built-in presets available in the camera interface. For example use HDR mode while snapping landscapes, night mode for low light photos and action/sports mode for fast moving subjects in daylight.
Software, User Experience:
The Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs CyanogenMod 12.1 which is an open source custom version of Android 5.1.1. Early June, we will see a software update for this phone which brings in CM13, Android Marshmallow.
CyanogenMod offers lots of exciting features in addition to what stock android offers like native theme support, unlockable bootloader and root access etc. As per Cyanogen, CyanogenMod OS does not contain spyware or bloatware. It offers seamless True caller integration with the call UI which is great. In addition to the capacitive keys, App switcher, back and home buttons can be configured on the bottom of the display as on screen buttons.
Gesture support include Double-tap to wake and Double-tap to sleep. Caller blocklist is available for blocking unnecessary calls, messages etc.
Another noteworthy built-in feature is Custom Profiles. Different profiles like silent, automobile, office etc can be created, selected manually or automatically selected based on triggers. Triggers include events like phone connecting to your home WIFI, phone’s Bluetooth connecting to car stereo etc. Profile settings include turning on/off WIFI, Bluetooth, mobile data, volume levels, screen brightness etc.
With Cyanogen, the same phone can be used by multiple users. New users can be added to the system and each user will have their dedicated space comprising of apps, wallpapers, layout etc. Also, features guest mode which is a nifty feature when enabled hides all photos, call history, messages etc.
A Touch ID Finger print scanner is available in the front and embedded within the physical home button. As mentioned by the company, the scanner is a true 360 degree sensor; it works fine when pressed from any direction. The only pain point is the sensor needs to be pressed every time to unlock the phone. It would be great had it been just a touch.
Personally we didn’t find the PIN scramble feature to be useful since it reveals the PIN numbers on top while entering. Other security features include a Smart Unlock feature that unlocks the phone based on trusted devices, places, face, voice etc. There is a theme store available which has many Premium and few free themes to choose from.
Powered by the Adreno 330 GPU, gaming performance is decent and there are occasional frame drops while playing games like Asphalt. Phone gets a little warm during game play.
Call quality is definitely good. The loud speaker sounds better as well. With a 2.5 Ampere fast charger, phone gets fully charged in 2.5 hours. One of the advertised feature by the company is an intelligent cut-off circuitry between charger & battery for extended battery life. Battery options include Balanced, Performance and Power saving modes for extending the last drop of juice from the battery. While testing, we got a great SOT with this device.
— Vijay Raj (@rajvj) May 12, 2016
Pros and Cons, Value for Money:
Good Hardware, Premium feel, stock android like experience with advanced options for customisations, OIS Camera, 64 GB of space, great battery life and the price of 13499 are the positives of the device. With lenovo backing, support for this device shouldn’t be a big concern. On the downside, we do have a ‘not that new’ processor on board. The camera could’ve been a little more snappier and focused better in low light conditions. The phone gets warmer over usage as well. I hope, the new software update can fix all these niggles. With 64GB internal storage, having a 4K video support would’ve been a great add. However, its a luxury at this point.
Summing up, this is one neat device which I would recommend anyone who is looking at buying a good smartphone in this range. With an onboard storage of 64GB and OIS in Camera, it stands out from the rest of the competition in this segment.
The first flash sale will begin 19th May on amazon.in and will be available in White and Space grey colours.
Hopefully this review would’ve helped you in making a decision about this phone. Do let me know your thoughts and questions if any. Thanks for reading.