With the release of Moto G4 Plus, the bar has only been raised in the sub-Rs 15k segment. The ZUK Z1 still has a decent chance though, says Himanhsu Juneja based on its camera performance and battery back up strength.
Lenovo has been trying to expand its footprint in India and with another of its sub-brand thrown in the fray, looks like they have further intensified the effort. The budget segment especially is becoming Lenovo-heavy after this fresh move.
The sub-brand we are hinting here goes by the moniker ZUK. Globally known by its standalone name, the Indian debut has been with Lenovo's name firmly attached. This should make the Indian buyers feel less skeptical. Not only is this Lenovo's another sub-brand, it will also be Lenovo's first online exclusive line up.
With ZUK Z1, Lenovo hopes to cash in on the flash sale mania. Whether that is a welcome news for the genuinely interested buyer or not, it certainly will bring in publicity for Lenovo. The Z1's Indian entry is about nine months late, so is it still a capable enough device to hold its own in a tightly fought segment? Let us take a closer look.
The handset caries a good built quality, but does not stand out from the crowd. For all you know, it could have been any other handset from a Chinese manufacturing unit. There are no trademark lines or cuts to distinguish it from a fair distance away and this keeps the things simple. The good construction should exude confidence.
The back panel has a metal finish to it, but is not the shimmering types. The curved back helps in grabbing hold of the handset comfortably.
The 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display carries 1080x1920p resolution, and 401 ppi pixel density. The details makes it sound impressive and the colour reproduction is pretty good. The contrast ratio is decent, with blacks being not too deep, but the viewing angles are good.
The screen is reflective, and the not too high brightness levels makes outdoor visbility an issue, but somehow the things click for this budget phone. The users can get down to tweaking the colour gamut, thanks to LiveDisplay feature. Overall, a good display on a budget offering is what it seems to be.
The generation old SoC with Quad core CPU clocked at 2.5 Ghz system would have found place in flagship phones back in the day, but not anymore. The 32 bit architecture will not escape the discerning eyes, but 3 GB of RAM with a generous dose of 64 GB storage memory still does make a good case for the handset. Team ZUK could have supplied a microSD card slot for better traction.
The non-heavy users will be happy with the above configuration. It will be interesting to see how the older Snapdragon 801 will hold up in current times.
By supplying 4G support on both the sims, the ZUK has got a good going for itself.
There are the usual offerings like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS etc, but USB Type C grabs the attention especially. This gives the phone a sense of future proofing. A bit of FM radio wouldn't have hurt the chances for the budget device either, but the feature couldn't make the cut unfortunately.
The Cyanogen OS may not be super customisable like CyanogenMod, but it still offers users some high degree of customisation options. ZUK Z1 comes with OS ver 12.1 and is based on Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop).
The bloat is kept away, and this will prove crucial for the generation old configuration. Users can change the home screen to the way they like, and ditto for the app drawers. Status bar and notification drawer can be made to display selected components as per the user's discretion. The number of options to play around with the appearance and optimising as per the need will also boost the OS's image.
The phone comes with older generation flagship specs, but the tasks are handled pretty smoothly. As per expectations, keeping the bloatware down helps the cause a great deal. Users without the penchant for getting into heavy duty tasks will certainly enjoy working on the device. Multitasking was a non issue, and mid tier gamers turned up absolutely fine. Future proofing will be an issue with the old Adreno 330, which is a shame.
Heating instances were well under control. Speaker performance however is lacking, users will probably rely more on the headphones for their media file consumption.
A 13 MP camera at the rear, with 8 MP front facing camera were expected, but not Optical Image Stabilisation, and is a huge shot in the arm for the Z1. The camera performance is not half bad, and is actually capable of stealing the crown in this category. The details captured were pretty good, and colour reproduction were impressive. Auto-focus was quick, and even the low light photographs turned out with good details in them.
The videos were passable with good light conditions around, but the phone struggled during not so well lit conditions. The camera app surprised not only with a good clean layout, but a very functional pro mode was a delight upon its discovery. Plenty of options for the prosumers to play and tweak the settings for taking that perfect shot. Front facing camera snapped decent selfies to be passed around.
The 4100 mAh battery immediately brings a smile to the observers. This practically ensures that the phone will last easily throughout for the day on a single charge, with a moderate to heavy pattern. What was strange to see, was that a relatively new brand opting for a non-removable battery in an entry level segment.
The sub Rs 15k segment sees the most action these days, and things don't show any signs of letting up. With the release of Moto G4 Plus, the bar has only been raised. Flash sale model may make things tight after the belated entry for this newcomer.
The ZUK Z1 still has a decent chance though. The impressive built quality with a very good camera performance, backed by a solid battery showing will keep the hope afloat for the Z1 in this category. Those with a penchant for heavy duty action will do well to opt for Redmi Note 3, but the trade off will be the Z1's camera and battery backup prowess.