ZUK Z1 in-depth review - Solid mid-ranger

ZUK is a brand new offshoot from Lenovo and the Z1 is their first device. Within two days of announcement, they had received 1.5 million pre-orders in Mainland China. We road-tested the device to find out what makes it so enticing

 ZUK Z1 Review - Solid mid-ranger

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/29/2016 10:27:09 AM


out of 10



out of 5

Look and feel


out of 5

Ease of use


out of 5



out of 5

Battery life


Fingerprint sensor | usb-C port | 64GB memory | 3GB RAM | OS has many security features | Massive battery


Bulky design | under-powered processor | Camera is iffy | no expandable memory

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

Imagine a conversation where someone asks you what make of phone you use... It's ZUK, you say.

In my experience, I always had to hasten to add that it is a Lenovo sub-brand, for them not to think that my phone is one that I got out of the back of a van. Dodgy name aside, this very affordable phone has some really good stand-out features.

What's the build quality on the ZUK Z1 like?

The unibody metal phone has an enamel-effect plastic back-plate, available in either white or anthracite grey and while the plastic is deeply unimpressive, we need to remind ourselves that there aren't many unibody metal smartphones out there available for quite so little.

ZUK Z1 in-depth review

Looks-wise, this is the closest to an iPhone 6 you will get for under-£250.

Look at the front and the sides and the inspiration for the phone is unmistakable, right down to the rounded chamfered edges. 

ZUK Z1 in-depth review

However, whereas the iPhone is flat and thin, the Z1's back bulges out in the middle- the bloating is very similar to what you would have seen in early generations of phones where, after a few years of usage, the battery would bulge from the heat and charging.

The speaker is sited next to the USB-C type charging area which doesn't just make charging easy peasy and superfast but also guarantees quick transfer speeds.

ZUK Z1 in-depth review

To be honest, the sound quality isn't the best you will experience from a smartphone but suffice to say, it is loud and perfectly acceptable for phonecalls to call centres, listening to recorded music or those times when you need to have a phonecall while doing the washing up. Hopefully, you won't be inflicting it on your fellow passengers on the bus...

zUK Z1 in-depth review

How good is the ZUK Z1 with day-to-day stuff?

I should remind you that out of the box, you will need to leave the phone alone for atleast 45 minutes owing to a gazillion updates that it needs in order to start working. Cyanogen OS is one of the most customisable ones in the world today and you will find it easy to delete and add apps, set up security features and get to grips with the fantastic Trucaller but if you like to use your phone without much tinkering, this might not be the right choice for you.

ZUK Z1 in-depth review

The battery is gargantuan and at 4100mAH, it is almost guaranteed to last for two days, unless you are streaming content throughout. During a battery test when I streamed media off Youtube over 4G at 100% brightness, the phone lost just 4% power. Compare this with the Wileyfox Storm (£198) which lost 14% of charge during the same test and you realise what the best feature of the ZUK Z1 is.

However, the processor on the Z1 is just quad-core and I dont remember reviewing a smartphone with just four 'brains' instead of the eight that has become the norm these days for a long time.

EVERY phone comes with an octa-core processor if not a hexa-core one, unless it is an under-£100 one. While on paper it doesn't seem to make much difference, but over time and with regular usage, you are bound to notice a build-up of lag and noticable slowing down. Couple this with no expandable memory and you will be reaching for the USB-C version 3 type charging wire all too often to try and keep the phone's mechanics lag-free.

In its favour, the phone is 4G LTE- so you can take advantage of the high speeds that most networks guarantee in cities these days as well as dual-SIM capabilities so if you don't want to pay international roaming charges on holiday, you can set up a local SIM-card on the phone as well.

There is also a fingerprint reader which sits atop the home button but while it performs satisfactorily, the speed and accuracy is no where near that of the Huawei Mate S or Honor 7.

What's the display on the ZUK Z1 like?

The 5.5-inch IPS LCD display has a pixel density of 401. Full HD at 1080p means you will be able to get the best off your media streaming experience. Furthermore, the IPS display means that viewing angles as well as colour reproduction are spot on.

it has a 'Live Display' feature which automatically adjusts brightness and colour saturation depending on the time of the day, this will also help conserve battery power, although with the 4100mAH one here, you dont really need to save it! 

Should I buy the ZUK Z1 for its camera?

The camera is the last reason you should buy this phone for. Although it has a Sony #IMX214 sensor, results in less than brilliant light are patchy and under-whelming. Low light photography is best left alone but if you are very versatile with photo editing apps and only interested in taking pictures to stick on Instagram, this might just pass muster. You are able to take pictures in varying formats but a drop in megapixels will happen alongside it, so while the 4:3 format is standard,the number of megapixels will drop to 9.7 from 13 if you wanted images in 16:9 format. 

ZUK Z1 in-depth review


ZUK Z1 Verdict

The mid-range market is awefully crowded and with newer entrants everyday, established brands like Samsung are feeling the heat. ZUK has been around for less than a year and their first smartphone is a very good effort. 

An octa-core processor would have lifted the phone right above its group but the good display and battery come to its rescue as well as Cyanogen OS with its amazing safety features. However, the back looks like the battery swelled up, there is no expandable storage and it is still on Android Lollipop.

It is a decent iPhone look-alike that will set you back by £229 but if I didn't want an iPhone look-alike, I would train my eyes elsewhere.

ZUK Z1 Specifications

Price: £229

OS: CyanogenMod 12.1 over Android 5.1 Lollipop

Dimension: 155.7x77.3x8.9mm

Weight: 175g 

Display: 5.5in full-HD 

Resolution: 1920x1080 IPS display

Processor: 2.5GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor

Camera: 13-MP AIMX214 5-lens rear camera with OIS and dual-LED flash, 1080p video recording; 8-MP dual front camera

Memory: 3GB RAM / 64GB eMMC ROM (no microSD slot)

Battery: 41000mAh (non-removable)

Fingerprint scanner: Yes

Misc: USB-C; Quick Charge, dual-SIM dual-standby, with 4G on both nano-SIM slots