ZUK Z1 Announced with USB 3.1 and 4100mAh Battery
ZUK are a relatively new sub-brand of Lenovo, who had previously enjoyed press through multiple rumors about their impending release of a CyanogenOS smartphone called the Z1. This has turned out to be off the mark; the company announced the very same handset today, although it’s running a custom implementation of Android 5.1 called ‘ZUI’. We’ll be bringing you a more in-depth preview of the device once we get our hands on it, but at this point we already have a full list of specifications and a number of interesting details about this very reasonably priced first effort.
With its $280 price tag, ZUK is going head-to-head with a number of other thrifty Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Meizu and Elephone, and especially with the infamous OnePlus Two. Considering the similarity of the designs and features present of this new handset when compared to the LeTV Le 1 Pro or OPT, there could even be reason to believe that they share a common physical core, but this would be difficult to prove given the amount of derivative Chinese models that already exist.
On the outside, the Z1 looks similar to another commonly-copied smartphone, with its rounded metal edges, obvious home button, and circular drilled speaker holes on the base. This might prove annoying for some consumers but in general it’s an attractive phone, featuring a thickness of 8.9mm at the center, and a slight taper down to 6.1mm at each edge. This chassis manages to make room for a huge non-removable 4100mAh battery, and ZUK claim that by using a new method of charging they can extend the lifespan of the unit, whereby once fully charged with the included 2.5A adapter, the phone diverts all power to the system to avoid the damaging trickle-charge scenario. Another particularly attractive element is the Z1’s implementation of a USB 3.1 type-C port, allowing for a very high-speed yet reversible connector, something that close rivals OnePlus will not be pleased about, having used a similar port limited to only USB 2.0 speeds.
This USB port also works as a headphone-out when using ZUK’s proprietary included pair, that also feature adjustable noise-cancelling circuitry along with the bonus of not interrupting the normal 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning that two users can listen to audio on the device simultaneously. This is a novel advantage, and one that will be difficult for other manufacturers to copy quickly, although its day-to-day usefulness will obviously be limited. A fingerprint scanner is also present within the home button that works in some additional functionality inside ZUK’s custom ROM, under the moniker of ‘U-Touch’. Interestingly, these functions seem to replace the ‘back’ and ‘recents’ capacitive keys commonly seen in handset design, meaning that all of the normal actions are performed by interacting differently with this button. A press takes you back for example, whilst swiping left or right quickly takes you between recent apps, a longer press takes you home, and a double-tap brings up the more familiar ‘recents’ screen. It’s not clear yet whether this will also support Google Now integration or whether you’ll need to rely on a simple homescreen shortcut to the app itself.
Looking at the specifications, the Z1 comes with a large 5.5″ 1080p display, still competitive in today’s market, 3GB of RAM, and 64GB of non-expandable storage. The front-facing camera is a 8mp unit with large 1.4μm pixels, whilst the rear-facer is Sony’s popular 13mp IMX214, found on many handsets like the Nexus 6, Moto G 2015 and Oppo’s Find7/a, although including an OIS module and dual-tone LED flash. This is a fairly promising camera set-up, where the front facing Omni-Vision camera should capture lots of light for good selfies, and the rear module has demonstrably good performance, supplemented by some extra physical stability. The only surprising choice on the spec list is ZUK’s decision to go with the quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset from 2014, clocked at 2.5GHz, although when you consider the furor over this year’s 810 overheating properties, and the 801’s good reputation for performance and efficiency, this will be seen as a good move by many. Combined with the large battery in this device, we’re hoping for excellent longevity from the Z1.
ZUK have made a bizarre choice in marketing the Z1, with it having been announced today in-line with the hosting of a brand new website, which allows for pre-ordering, here. However, ZUK are still holding a press event in China next week just after the Z1 goes on sale officially on August 18th, which we’ll be attending in order to bring you our first hands-on with the handset. Stay tuned for that and a review in the future, on what could be a very disruptive smartphone indeed if it can be made easily available in Western markets.