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Lenovo Zuk Z1 – CyanogenOS Phone Review

Lenovo is better known as a computer desktop and laptop hardware manufacturer but recently, following the trend, it has jumped into diverse territories like the smartphone market. As a result of this new direction, Lenovo has not only created its own phones like the Vibe series but recently it has bought other major smartphone manufacturers like Motorola. An unknown company named Zuk was also one of Lenovo’s recent purchases. Zuk’s and also Lenovo’s first phone after the merger is quite a stunner. This new smartphone named Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs CyanogenOS (CM12.1) based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. It packs reasonable specs and for the price it competes strongly.

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The phone itself is packaged quite nicely in a metal frame. The metal chassis wraps around the whole phone whereas the back is made of plastic and is unfortunately irremovable. Zuk Z1 also carries very less branding. In fact, we haven’t seen any other smartphone carry such plane looks. This is a bonus point in our opinion. Not only do you immerse yourself in the pitch black screen found on our review unit but from the back, you can easily mistake this phone for a device with a much higher price tag than it originally is.

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Technical Specifications

  • Network: LTE/GSM/CDMA/HSPA
  • Display: 5.5-inchFHD (1920×1080) IPS LCD Technology
  • Processor: 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801
  • OS: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
  • Camera: 13MP Dual LED flash (Main), 8MP (front)
  • Additional features: Fast battery charging, Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • Connectivity: WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.1,GPS, with A-GPS, GLONASS,USB v3.0, Type-C reversible connect
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
  • Memory: 6GB RAM + 64GB Storage
  • Dimension: 155.7 x 77.3 x 8.9 mm (6.13 x 3.04 x 0.35 in),175g
  • Battery: 4,100mAh, Fast Charging

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Design and Hardware

Design is probably one of the biggest strong suits of the Zuk Z1. The philosophy present in this phone clearly indicates minimalism and simplicity. Whether it was a result of cutting down costs or a good design team, the phone looks exceptionally well. The metal frame incorporates the body quite nicely. As mentioned before, the lack of symbols and branding on this phone gives off a good vibe. Quite dissimilar from other Chinese low-end and even budget smartphones.

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Coming to the hardware itself, lets start of with flexibility and ports. The Zuk Z1 from Lenovo comes with a USB Type-C connector which is the latest and greatest standard in ports right now. You get fastest transfer speeds and with that, the most important thing, reversibility. Yes, the connector at the bottom is reversible and can be connected in any orientation unlike Micro-USB. The only slot present on the phone includes the SIM slot. You don’t get any microSD functionality however, you can run two SIMs at once, a standard in all competing phones in Asian regions.

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Volume buttons and power button are placed on the same side and with such a gap that you can easily confuse one for the other. Nothing you can’t get used to. Rest of the phone is blank. The speaker grill is reminiscent of other metal framed phones. One thing that easily escapes the eye but is quite satisfying is the front display sensors placement. Proximity and light sensors both have been joined together and placed right inside the earpiece. Otherwise, phones usually have these odd dots in front of them that become quite annoying.

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Placed at the bottom-center of the display is a fingerprint scanner flanked by two capacitive buttons which can be switched on and off upon your liking. This fingerprint scanner is one of the fastest and most accurate we have used. It easily trumps other high end phones with its quick response. The tap to unlock functionality really works well. Also, if you cant unlock with fingerprint, you can set a backup pattern for use in opposite hand as well.

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Quantity is what Zuk has focused with this phone. You get 64GB of storage and that is the only model to choose from. This is ample capacity for multiple movies, videos, other media and a good library of games. Display technology is based on IPS LCD which is a step down from AMOLED but good enough nonetheless. Also when you take into account the Full HD (1920×1080) resolution, the screen is really adequate. 5.5 inch screen real estate also hits the sweet balance between shear size and high resolution.

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Literally powering the Zuk Z1 is a large 4,100mAh battery. In our testing procedures we got well over 5 hours of SOT (Screen On Time) while sometimes also going 6 hours and over depending on the content currently being viewed. Beneath the hood is a Snapdragon 801 chipset combined with 3GB of RAM. Quite fast and responsive combination, this.

For a more detailed look and comparison, we have attached popular benchmark tests right below so don’t forget to check them out!

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Camera

There isn’t much to state about the Zuk Z1 camera. The front shooter is rated at 8MP while the main back one is at 13MP. If anything which turned us down about this overall excellent phone was the camera. We couldn’t manage to take any good low-light photos. Daylight ones were focused softly with missing details and sharpness. Even though Zuk claims it uses a Sony sensor, the main camera was a major let down. However, it isn’t useless nonetheless. You can pull of good shots if the light scenario is perfect which mostly isn’t. The front was adequate and supported HD video is nice for video calling.

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Lenovo Zuk Z1: Connectivity, Memory and Battery

Dual SIM support, 4G LTE and 4,100mAh of battery put into a single package always equates to something great. This is exactly what the Zuk Z1 is. You get latest communication technology with a juice pack that keeps you on the go for days. Also, as USB-C is the charging port, you can expect incredibly fast USB battery charging.

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The internal storage is 64GB which, as mentioned earlier, is more than enough for the target audience. RAM is also 3GB which is adequate and results in a smooth UI experience.

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Software

One of the largest selling points of this phone except for the quantity of hardware at such a price point is definitely the software. Running the show is no useless proprietary skin overlay rather it is CyanogenOS. Cyanogen basically provided custom ROMs for multitudes of phones for the better part of previous 5 years and the one thing that users loved about CM was the customizability and stock feeling. All of this carries over in CyanogenOS but at a larger and at a much refined scale. You get CM12.1 Android 5.1.1 Lollipop running on this phone straight out of the box. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is expected to be out for the Z1 soon but till then, CM12.1 is a breeze to use.

You get to customize each and everything in the stock OS. From the notification drawer to the app drawer, everything is easily accessible and manageable. An important highlight is the Theme Store. Another benefit with CyanogenOS is that you can experiment with system-wide themes. These themes can change the look of multiple system aspects including the app drawer look, icons and notification drop down. Other provided apps also include an Audio equalizer which we thought worked really well with headphones and also built-in Screen Cast app for recording your screen.

LiveDisplay has been implemented on this phone. You can set the color temperature and modes in detail on the Zuk Z1. It also has automatic set preferences for day and night. We found this feature quite useful. The display can easily be calibrated to your liking hence providing the best experience possible.

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Screenshots

Lenovo Zuk Z1: Gallery

About the author

Taimur Akmal

Devoted writer, enjoys developing code. Appreciates excellent food, exceptional coffee and great company. He is also into sublime design and nicely built cars.

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