ZUK Z1 by Lenovo review: The second cousin

The second cousin

GSMArena team, 12 October, 2015.


Creating sub-brands has been one of the preferred strategies used by Chinese manufacturers lately and in today's case ZUK has been backed by none other than the Chinese giant Lenovo with their logo proudly sitting on the ZUK Z1 box.

Indeed, smartphones have complicated family trees these days. In the case of the ZUK Z1, the company would be quick to testify that even though the technological heritage is there, having a new company run things promises a fresh take on things in a market where new models are barely different from the last. Most importantly, the new tech economy demands a shift in focus towards some unconventional sales channels.

Lenovo Zuk Z1

As part of a general push towards Western markets, the number of available Chinese brands of smartphones making their way to Europe and the Americas has been slowly but steadily on the rise. Buying a Chinese brand smartphone no longer means you’re shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to warranty servicing and aftersales support.

The influx of Chinese brands has slowly changed our perceptions and high-profile products have helped change the image of Chinese technological products in the eyes of the conservative European user. So the door is wide open for adventurous undertakings such as OnePlus and ZUK and they are not wasting any time.

Key features

  • Machined aluminium frame
  • Dual-SIM dual-standby capability
  • 5.5" 1080p IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 401ppi
  • Quad-core Krait 400 CPU at 2.5GHz, Adreno 330 GPU, 3GB of RAM, Snapdragon 801 chipset
  • 64GB of built-in storage
  • International version: Cyanogen OS 12.1 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop; Chinese version: ZUI (5.1-based)
  • 13MP camera with OIS (Sony IMX 214 sensor), f/2.2 aperture
  • 1080p@30fps video capture
  • 8MP front camera, 1080p video recording
  • Cat. 4 LTE (150/50Mbps); dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, hotspot, Wi-Fi direct; Bluetooth 4.0; GPS/GLONASS; USB 3.0 Type C
  • 4,100mAh battery capacity
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Cat. 4 LTE (150Mbps); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.1; GPS/GLONASS; NFC; USB Type-C • port with USB host
  • Fingerprint sensor

Main disadvantages

  • No NFC
  • No microSD card (but 64GB base storage sounds great)
  • Non-removable battery (but 4,100mAh capacity is plenty)
  • No fast battery charging tech

While Lenovo serves as the parent company its plan is to let ZUK be its own brand. And ZUK is certainly doing its own thing, the Z1 is based on reliable, proven technology instead of trying to reinvent the wheel for the sake of flashy marketing.

What the ZUK Z1 lacks in buzzwords it makes up for with trusty workhorses. The Snapdragon 801 chipset was chosen as the heart, and Cyanogen OS as the brain.

Cyanogen OS is still making its first steps but those are promising and the company has been pretty active and ambitious with its own fork of Android AOSP. The chipset used is well proven and an excellent performer.

The old-but-gold theme continues with the camera - Sony's IMX 214 sensor is already used by pretty much every self-respecting mid-ranger, but the ZUK Z1 boasts optical image stabilization to make its camera stand out.

The ZUK Z1 is not afraid to experiment too, and the company has been quick to jump on the USB Type C bandwagon that has been picking up speed lately.

It's rare to see so many caveats in the disadvantages section. No microSD slot is an automatic point against, but we felt a little bad putting it on the list. It's greedy to want more from a $300 phone with 64GB storage. Same for the battery - it's non-removable, but makes up for it with capacity.

Lenovo Zuk Z1 Lenovo Zuk Z1 Lenovo Zuk Z1
Official images of ZUK Z1 by Lenovo

Now that we've properly introduced our guest with a strangely sounding name,we should waste no more time but check up what it has to offer.

Note: we're reviewing the international version of the ZUK Z1, which runs Cyanogen OS. In China, the Z1 will be sold with ZUK's custom ZUI software, which includes a different software package.

Reader comments

  • Ali

One of the best mobile for music lover...it has audiofx.....so the output is amazi g guys ....seriously

  • Naresh pawar

I had ordered Lenovo zuk z1 in month of August on Flipkart. There were problems with it like heating and regarding charging. I got it replaced. But my problem was not solved as second mobile which I got had new problem. It was not detecting any sim...

  • dev

Phone is very good........love this phone