ZUK Z1 Hands-on, First Impressions: Legitimate Zenfone 2 Challenger?

ZUK Z1 Hands-on, First Impressions: Legitimate Zenfone 2 Challenger?

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We go hands-on with the ZUK Z1!

If you didn’t know, internet sales for phones in China is big. It’s huge – and makes up a large percentage of the total sales for phones in that particular market. That’s why when Xiaomi started dominating the online market in China, big brands like Huawei and Lenovo made subsidiaries focused on beating their domestic rival at their own game. For the former it was Honor, and for the latter it’s ZUK. ZUK Mobile (the letters don’t stand for anything) is a young brand, formed this year by Lenovo and Qihoo 360. Their first phone is the Z1, a good mix of tried and proven hardware and new, cutting edge stuff.

ZUK Z1 specs

  • 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB of storage
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, Sony IMX214 sensor
  • 8-megapixel front camera, OmniVision sensor
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, Cyanogen OS 12.1
  • 4100mAh battery

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Initial impressions: solid, premium body with a battery that’s bigger than the competition

Mid-range phones nowadays from Chinese brand rarely fail to impress with their design and construction, and the Z1 is no different. ZUK says that the frame of the Z1 is made from aviation aluminum with lovingly chamfered sides. The back feels like metal but we’re not entirely sure if the phone uses a metal or plastic back though we’d probably put our bets on it being the latter rather than the former.

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The phone comes in two colors – white and grey. Of the two, we prefer the grey version because the white variant uses a glossy back while the grey variant uses a matte finish.

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Anyway, overall design is quite good, and while it’s a little bit iPhone-y for some, it’s more than enough for us. The phone isn’t the thinnest out there, coming in at 8.9mm, but its thickness is impressive considering there’s a 4100mAh battery stuffed inside it. Sadly, the back is not removable, so you can’t change out that battery even if you wanted to.

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Up front, you’ll see the 5.5-inch HD IPS display, which comes out to around 401ppi. The phone has a LiveDisplay feature, which adjusts the brightness and color temperature automatically depending on the time of day.

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Interestingly enough, the Z1 uses a physical home button that’s flanked by a back and recent apps button, similar to the setup of Samsung’s Galaxy phones. This isn’t by accident – that home button has an integrated fingerprint scanner embedded inside, which allows you to unlock the phone using your digits quickly and easily.

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Internally the phone is running Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2.5GHz paired with 3GB of RAM. While a little dated, this version of Snapdragon is a solid performer, and more importantly, doesn’t suffer from the thermal issues that its newer siblings seem to be infected with. It produces more than satisfactory results in AnTuTu and while power efficiency won’t be the same as its newer brethren, the 4100mAh battery is more than capable of offsetting the higher power consumption. Along with the old also comes something new – in this case, the new USB Type-C standard that’s slowly becoming a part of newer phones and tablets.

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The Z1 is also one of the few phones that come with Cyanogen’s OS 12.1, based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. This is a fantastic change from the usual custom UIs that we see from Chinese manufacturers that try to emulate the look of the iPhone with all of the apps laid out and the exclusion of the app drawer. There are a lot of features that Cyanogen built into their OS, which can fill up an entire article by itself. Suffice to say that the phone is very customizable, and there are several ways that you can change the overall look of the device to suit your tastes.

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Aside from the compelling hardware, the pricing of the Z1 is one of the things that make it such an interesting device: it’ll retail for Php 15,299, which makes it a direct competitor to ASUS’ Zenfone 2. And while the company was made as a response to companies that sell exclusively online, ZUK’s Z1 will be available offline first. That’s right – you can walk into shops (primarily MemoXpress) and handle the phone before you buy it, a decision that the team from Iridium Technologies Inc., the people distributing the phone, consciously made.

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So that’s it for this hands-on. We’ll be using the Z1 as our primary phone in the next few days, and we’ll give you our review once we’re done with it.



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