Lenovo ZUK Z1 review: Great budget option, if you don’t mind the old processor

Lenovo Zuk Z1 with Cyanogen OS and 64GB space is a great option for users, who don't see the old Snapdragon 801 processor as a problem.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Updated: May 16, 2017 11:34:58 am

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Lenovo has been making big strides in the Indian smartphone market thanks to value for money devices. But except for the Vibe Shot, they have not really had a phone that appealed to the real geeks. All that is about to change with the Lenovo ZUK Z1.

ZUK is the product of a separate team of engineers within the Lenovo group who were given the freedom to push the envelope on what they could do with a smartphone. The result is the ZUK Z1, which was launched almost half a year back. The phone has finally made its way into India.

Lenovo ZUK Z1

Lenovo ZUK Z1 is a very contemporary looking phone with a curved back that makes it easier to hold. The curved back is also a good way of hiding the extra large 4100 mAh battery, which will come in handy. However, the design in nothing out of the box and is very similar to a lot of the phones we have seen over the past few months.

Specs: 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD (1080×1920 pixels ~401 ppi) display | Quad-core 2.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 processor | 3GB RAM | 64GB internal storage (not expandable) | 13MP rear camera + 8MP front camera | 4100 mAh battery | Cyanogen OS 12.1 | Lenovo ZUK Z1 full specs

Price: Rs 13,499

What is good?

I have been a fan of the Cyanogen OS since I first used it on the OnePlus One. ZUK Z1 is the first phone in India running the Cyanogen OS 12.1. In fact, it is the first Cyanogen phone in India from a brand other than OnePlus and YU. And this is a good differentiator for the phone, giving it a level of customisation a lot of users will love.

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It even comes with developer features and will be loved by users, and reviewers, who want to root their phones once in a while. Lesser mortals will enjoy the ability to customise almost everything on the phone from icons to notifications.

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ZUK Z1 was announced almost a year back, and hence is powered by a processor that was available at that time. The Snapdragon 801 seems more than out of place on a spec list in 2016. But then you can thank the smartphone gods that this is not running the Snapdragon 810, which makes the 801 seem like a really cool dude. The good thing here is that the phone does pretty well on performance, and still manages to stay cool.

Gamers will find this phone good for long sessions. I tried pushing the phone with Asphalt 8 and after 25 minute so, there was a hit of heat along the metal frames. However, the overall experience of the game was good and graphics really shone through.

This phone has a very vibrant and bright Full-HD display, which is really good for this price point. The screen is actually a bit too bright, and you don’t need to go beyond 50 per cent brightness most of the time.

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The phone has a couple of features that are way beyond what you would expect at this price point. For one, this phone has 64GB internal storage out of which more than 56GB is available for users. Then it has a 4100 mAh battery, which though available at cheaper price points is a feature that most people would like to see becoming standard. In our use case, the battery lasted well over 36 hours with full usage. Plus, there is a fingerprint scanner that works however you hold the phone.

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What is not that good?

I did not particularly like the camera on this phone. It is not bad, but lacks detail we have started taking for granted these days, especially when you have Ultra Pixel technology in the phone. When you start zooming in on photos, it starts becoming blurry. You will find it tough to get good crops from this camera. Also, it struggles to focus on objects close to it. So this is not an option for people who like to click flowers. But people who are satisfied with mom and pop shots, and their own duckface selfies need not worry about the camera’s capabilities.

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The fact that this has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor might put off a lot of buyers who might think it’s not a great option when you are looking to future-proof yourself. Even with benchmark scores, the phone is competing with devices launched a year back. However, if you are not really bothered about what the specs look on paper, this is not something you need to really worry about.

Should you buy

Yes, if you want to try out Cyanogen in all its glory, need extra storage and battery that just lasts. This phone has a lot of plus points, and a price tag that is more than competitive. If an older CPU is not such a big concern for you, this might be among the best budget phones in the market at the moment.

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