Zuk Z1 Review – Great Battery Life with a Catch

Founded in April this year, the Z1 is Zuk's first smartphone in this Lenovo backed line whose focus is online sales for the spec hungry bargain seeker. Everyone seems to be coming out with a mid range sub brand these days but with so many decent smartphones coming in at the $300 mark does the Z1 have what it takes to stand out?
by Nicole on October 26, 2015
Positives
  • Great Battery Life
  • CyanogenMod 12.1 is great
  • Buttery Performance
  • Solid feeling build quality
  • Snappy Fingerprint scanner
Negatives
  • Unreliable Camera
  • Uninspired Design
  • Ambient Light Sensor Is Slow to Adjust the display brightness

The Zuk Z1 is 5.5 inches with a 1080p display under the hood we have a Snapdragon 801 processor which is the flagship processors for last seasons handsets, but this doesn’t mean that performance suffers. We have a buttery smooth UI You’ll have no issues with games either, as Asphalt 8 ran without a hitch. Including 3GB of RAM really made a difference when switching between apps there you won’t notice and lags or reloading.

Located on the left, and within easy reach, are the volume and power buttons. The 3.5mm audio jack is located on the top. The phone supports dual-SIM 4G, with the SIM card tray located on the left side. Sadly like most new handsets there’s no microSD card slot for expandable memory.

The fingerprint sensor is fast and reliable, except when I wanted to show off how fast and reliable it was, pretty much every time I wanted to brag it failed. Apart from those moments it never has a single misstep.

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ZUK Z1 Specifications

OS Android-based OS 12.1 Cyanogen
Display 5.5 inch FullHD (1920 × 1080) 401ppi IPS
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core SoC with 2.5GHz
memory. 64 GB (eMMC 5.0) of internal memory, not expandable
RAM 3 GB RAM (LPDDR3, 1866MHz)
Camera Rear 13 MP, OIS, ƒ / 2.2, 5 lenses, dual LED flash, Sony IMX214 sensor
Camera front 8 MP, OmniVision OV8865 sensor with large pixels to 1.4
Network TDD-LTE (bands: 38 39 40 41)
FDD-LTE (bands: 1 3 7)
TD- SCDMA (bands: 34 39)
WCDMA (850 900 1900 2100 MHz)
CDMA2000 (800MHz)
GSN / EDGE (850 900 1800 1900 MHz)
CDMA (800MHz)
Network Standards WLAN 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac: 2.4 GHzund 5.8GHz, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Sensors U-Touch (Fingerprint Identification)
Three- axis gyro
digital compass
Accelerating
Proximity Sensor
Hall sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Charging Options USB Type-C
battery pack 4,100 mAh (not replaceable)
Dimensions 155.7 x 77.3 x 8.9 mm
Weight 175g
SIM card Nano DualSIM
Color White and Deep Grey

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The screen also has a LiveDisplay mode, where it customizes the brightness and colors to your surroundings — at night, it turns the display to a warmer, eye-friendly hue. Overall, the quality of the display is good. Colors are vibrant and viewing angles are decent but the ambient light sensor needs some work, the display often takes a few seconds to change brightness when you change lighting conditions.

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When it comes to the software experience it’s not vanilla android, but if you’re looking for something similar the community-built Android-based firmware CyanogenMod is a solid choice. It is for nerds who want to customize everything, but if you don’t want any part of that default is very intelligent and you may never need to dive into the deep settings in the backend. CyanogenMod 12.1 is designed to improve on performance and reliability compared with the usual Android operating system.

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The camera is a let down, the camera app is similar to the default Android camera app, so you don’t have many options and it’s even lacking tweaks such as the Photo Sphere and 360 Panorama. You do gt some basic filters and settings for HDR. It’s functional, but if you plan on taking more pictures, get another app. And if smartphone photography is something that you’re really into, buy another handset all together, the camera takes photos, but they are grainy and when the lighting isn’t perfect the photos kind of suck,.

Video quality is acceptable as long as you are constantly tapping the display to keep your subject in focus — the phone doesn’t seem to autofocus while in video mode, unlike some other phones. It will also struggle in strong backlit conditions.

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The front 8-megapixel camera doesn’t come with any extra features that you’ll find in other smartphones, such as beautification enhancements that makes your skin look smoother. The pictures taken seem to be slightly overexposed, resulting in a cooler tone that didn’t feel natural.

The embedded 4,100mAh battery is outstanding — I was easily able to go a day and a half without recharging — and this is needed, since you likely won’t find plenty of Type-C USB cables lying around in the wild. So if you do forget to charge the phone overnight, it’ll last you quite a while. You will get about 6 and half hours of screen on time.

Call quality isn’t great, on more than 1 occasion I could barely hear the person on the other end, I tested calling from a LG G4 to an iPhone 6 and the Zuk Z1 and it wasn’t a problem to hear me on the iPhone but the the Zuk the call quality was reduced and the volume was 20% lower.

Rating
Design / 7
Camera / 5
Sound / 7
Performance / 8.5
Battery Life / 8.1
Software / 9
Price / 8
Editor's Choice / 7
Hardware / 8
Display / 8
Zuk Z1

Performance is smooth, the fingerprint scanner is fast and battery life is long, but the camera is disappointing and for about $150 more, the OnePlus 2 offers faster performance, a nicer design and a better camera. Or if you wanted something cheaper the Asus ZenFone 2 is only $300, offers similar performance and a way better camera.

Still, the Z1 is a decent phone if you don't take pictures much but, I do have to say that they've gone for a category with steep competition and they haven't done anything to really set themselves apart.

7.6
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