Hands on and first impressions of the $299 Cyanogen packed ZUK Z1

Hands on and first impressions of the $299 Cyanogen packed ZUK Z1

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zuk z1 cyanogen

What an amazing different a ROM can make to a phone! After a few days of using the ZUK Z1 with ZUI I finally got to feel the full potential of the device with Cyanogen 12.1 installed.

Just a few days ago I attended the international announcement of the ZUK Z1. The event was less of a launch than a “hi, we are here and coming for you” with most the attendees being from Shenzhen based E-sellers.

However the event did see a few members of the international press take part, and it was the first time we got to hear from ZUK in English about their company and phone, but the main highlight of the show was getting the confirmation of CyanogenOS and trying the phone with CM12.1 for the first time.

We’ve seen plenty of Chinese phone makers claim to have CM for their phones, but the difference with ZUK is that they have an official partnership with Cyanogen OS (the same company OnePlus worked with) so development and OTA updates will all be handled by the official Cyanogen company. Smaller brands like Elephone etc run CyanogenMod on their phones which requires the time and hard work of hobby developers, who might not always have the passion to keep up the good work.

ZUK Z1 running Cyanogen OS first impressions

zuk z1 cyanogen

After using the Z1 for a few days with ZUI it was a real wake up call to try it with CM12.1. It’s amazing what a difference a well optimised and lightweight ROM can do to a phone. With CM12.1 you really feel like the ZUK Z1 has more of it’s potential unleashed and we can actually make the most of the hardware on the inside.

zuk z1 cyanogen

With a Snapdragon 801, 3GB RAM, and vibrant 5.5-inch display, the ZUI powered Z1 is not slouch, but with Cyanogen on the inside the phone feels like it has a real tune up and has come to life.

zuk z1 cyanogen

Not only does Cyanogen bring the phone a new lease of life but it also bring a more feature rich camera application to the ZUK Z1 getting more out of the rear 13 mega-pixel sensor, and with Google services installed, international customers can easily set the Z1 up as you want and really begin power using.

Incidentally the Chinese and International version of the ZUK Z1 phones are identical, which is fine for plenty of European users, but it means that U.S fans of CM who want the Z1 will either have to do without LTE compatibility or wait for a U.S specific version to go in to production.

zuk z1 cyanogen

Although ZUK Z1 phones running Cyanogen were at the event we were not able to get the ROM on to our phones yet as the system isn’t final yet. Apparently we have around 3-4 weeks to wait for a stable release to be launched, which gives the development teams time to get the excellent U Touch up and running (The CM version of the phone relies on a standard Android navigation arrangement rather than the innovative swipe mechanism).

zuk z1 cyanogen

3-4 weeks is also how long we will need to wait until the actual official launch date for the phone is announced where it should go on sale for just $299!

ZUK Z1 feature highlights

  • Vibrant 5.5-inch FHD display
  • Snapdragon 801
  • 3GB RAM, 64GB memory
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • HIFI Audio
  • 4100mAh battery
  • Quick charge
  • USB Type C 3.0
  • 13 mega-pixel main camera
  • CyanogenOS
  • $299 price point

As soon as I have CM on my ZUK Z1 I will make a hands on video for you to take a look at. Also keep your eyes open for the full ZUK Z1 review coming in a few weeks.

[ ZUK.hk ]
Also Read:
Previous articleKeep your eyes on ZUK, they aren't the same as other start-ups
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  • SPLEND1D

    overpriced if you ask me XD

    • What alternatives do you deem better?

    • Facts.

    • Chico Migraña

      For that money the best thing you can get in my country is a Xperia C3 hahaha, that’s is overpriced

    • mf1gt3r

      Please suggest a well priced competitor….

      • SPLEND1D

        elephone vowney ftw

        • mf1gt3r

          Really??? Elephone????

          • Tommy

            vowney is better than p8000

        • The vowney is better than most Elephone devices, but it’s not the same league as the ZUK Z1

        • mf1gt3r

          Why would you compare Elephone to Lenovo? P7000 had all the specs on paper, but when it got to users hands, it was pure unadulterated shite…

    • Nicola

      Agree with you,meizu mx5 had the same price with some better spec,storage and battery apart

      • Dante

        Actually the cheapest mx5 with shipping is around 355 dollars

    • Aeonia

      not even close…That price point is perfect

  • mf1gt3r

    Lovely phone, will stick with chinese version as roms can be swapped. Wish Andi would confirm if the USB type C earpiece came with his. Never seen a pic of it.

    • Nope it doesn’t think I mentioned it in an earlier article

      • mf1gt3r

        I guess no one has recieved this phone yet. No picture of the aforementioned earpiece ( some articles said chinese version is shipping with a type c earpiece) anywhere online.

        • The Chinese and international packaging and contents is different. International model we have has an EU charger, USB Type C cable and SIM tool. I believe the earphone was given as a gift at the Chinese launch event, but won’t actually come in the packaging with the phone.

          • Michael

            I have the OPO is the zuk z1 worth upgrading to in your opinion? I’m also considering the honor 7 or moto x pure.

            • ZUK has bigger battery, better camera and fingerprint scanner. If those are enough of a pull then go for it, if not there is always the OP2

            • Michael

              Thanks for taking the time to reply Andi.

            • Danny H.

              I’ve been using the phone a little more today (actually typing this on it!) and there’s 1 more flaw you should know about. This Z1 doesn’t support unicode font, at least not yet as some unicode languages like Vietnamese doesn’t display correctly on this phone. Another thing is, I’ve checked their Chinese forum, there was a post with pictures showing the ZUK Z1 has notification light next to the earpiece (tricolor no less!) and both lights for the back & menu flanking both sides of the home button, but for some mysterious reason, they all get disabled in ZUI! Better wait for Cyanogen OS then, as the version of ZUI on the phone is not even at version 1.0! (0.9 at the moment).

            • Michael

              Thanks for keeping the info coming Danny, I guess I’m back to the moto x pure with the weak battery lol

            • MickyLo

              the U-touch is the point i like

            • Danny H.

              I have both the OPO and this ZUK Z1, a friend just bought it to me straight from China and I can tell you, if you got a good OPO, you don’t need to upgrade to this ZUK Z1. The Z1 is bigger, have no notification light and the screen look like it’s not laminated by using black border inside the bezels. If you want to upgrade, better save up for the end of year crop of phones with snapdragon 820 or Mediatek Helio x20 or x30.

            • Michael

              Thanks for the input Danny, it seems crazy that there are still phones out there without a notification light.

          • mf1gt3r

            Thanks for the response Andi. Obviously this hasn’t shipped to any reseller yet as I’ve been unable to find any reseller who agreed they have it instock.

            • No, the first release of 40k phones went to the Chinese market, resellers didn’t really think about it until recently so they missed out. We are going to have a chat with ZUK to see if we can have the Z1 on shop.gizchina.com though

            • mf1gt3r

              It all makes sense now.

            • Luk Patel

              Hello Andi,

              please help me.
              i want to know which phone is better letv le 1 or zuk z1?

              i am not heavy user so batter is not my concern and i dont need fingerprint scanner.

              i want to know which phone is better in below category?

              1) Design
              2) Build Quality
              3) Camera
              4) Audio
              5) Display

              so please ans me. i am very confuse between letv le 1 or zuk z1.

        • Michael

          I can’t find anyone with it actually in Stock, just several sites offering the international version after Oct 15.

          • mf1gt3r

            Can’t wait that long. Zopo speed 7 plus has no protection whatsoever (screen or cam) and 3.4hrs charging time. Honor 7 ain’t worth the price, same goes for Nubia Z9 max, Meizu MX5 has too many issues, Bluboo Xtouch is still cooking (meaning dec or 2016 shipping) and Vowney now 10-10-15. Just nothing (dual sim + tf card slot) got enough under $350.

            • I got a Speed 7 Plus today and it is not very impressive. I’m actually going to have words with the CEO of Zopo tomorrow to see what he is playing at….

            • mf1gt3r

              All this has got me thinking UBIK UNO. Can’t afford any regrets. Thanks for the headsup on the Zopo. Guess that has to go out of ma list.

            • Michael

              If I knew this would get HSPA in the states I’d go for it

            • Michael

              I found a reseller with the zui version in Stock 339.00 with free shipping. I’m the US I wonder if I’d have HSPA +? I’M completely torn between this and the moto x pure because of its weak battery

            • Aeonia

              Xtouch still cooking…lol

        • Danny H.

          I’ve already had this phone in hand, Chinese version, and I can confirm to you, there’s no earphones included, I don’t know where this USB C earphones news come from but I didn’t see it.

    • Read somewhere that USB earphones only come with Chinese version.

      • R. Tina

        the international version has not earphones, you can follow their web zukshop.com, or their blog zukphone,cc. maybe you can get the information, good luck

    • zukshop

      the USB type C charge faster,more information from https://www.facebook.com/groups/1651608161721710/

  • Max

    so the bottom border really is asymmetrical and it’s not just some kind of optical illusion on the previous photos… too bad.

    • yup 🙁

      • Max

        well, that’s a huge flaw in their design, imho.

        • Danny H.

          If you read their forum in Chinese, you will know that they purposefully design it that way, to have better fingerprint recognition as what they said.

  • Muzamil Sarfraz

    Lenovo rebranded the old OPO if you ask me with the same price for old hardware

    • The OPO has a smaller battery, USB 2.0, poor camera performance, single SIM, lower quality display, no OIS. It also lacks a fingerprint scanner and official CM support.

      • Varun Varma

        The oneplus one does have official CM support? The oneplus 2 doesn’t.

  • Jarune

    everything about ZUK screams experiment to me, could end good or bad.

    From the multiple LLC that are actually making this ZUK brand, the careful marketing, the average specs (=cost to manufacture), the obvious Xiaomi like strategy to first get to the chinese mid market segment and at the same time trying how an international approach will go.

    I do think they got something if Lenovo will put it’s weight in to it, ZUK has the potential to be a perfect Xiaomi/OnePlus/LeTV mix.

    Lenovo has problems selling phones in the US and EU because of patents they don’t own, i know this first hand from Lenovo. Rules in China, India etc. are different, this is one of the mayor reasons Lenovo phones haven’t shown up in the EU/US.

    But 299$ is just to high a price to really make a dent in established names, especially when pulling the USB-C headphone’s out of the box. I also don’t see Lenovo making a fist for this brand in EU and the US.

    • zukshop

      it’s a amazing phone

  • Buck Danny

    As far as I’m concerned, this Company policy about customer experience seduces me , spec are legit and fair , not 2k on a 5 inch screen … the right thing at the right place .
    The only thing that bothers me about this one phone is a 32 bit CPU as I intend to keep my device for let’s say 2.5-3 years , and I guess by then , 64 platform will have a point .
    Still thinks they made a clever choice choosing 801 over 810, and that makes me even more
    confident about their next phone with an hopefully relevant SD820
    About price, well here 300 bucks is quite cheap for a ‘flagship’ phone, however, at some point , you can’t always whine for the lowest price and expect best quality service going along …
    Everything has a price, and high level service is one I like better than 4k screen, double selfie feature, 6.5 ” screen etc …

  • Sere83

    Looks like a decent device, good spec for the price as it has OIS/fast charge/usb C etc but can’t say i’m that excited. The fingerprint scanner looks like it was designed in the dark by stevie wonder. Looks totally out of place, a square misaligned button on a device with rounded corners is just wrong, looks completely bizarre. And while cyanogen is well optimized which is appreciated, I also find it quite bland and boring, bland iconography, bland style, average camera app etc. Also I would not count on a long partnership knowing cyanogens very dubious business practices. Also find the 5.5 inch form factor so played out and dreary. Wish companies would return to compact 5 inch phones. As per usual no LTE band 20 either. Spose i’m being a bit nit picky but just doesn’t grab me design wise. I Also own 2 sd801 devices with IMX214 cameras in the mi note and oneplus looking to move on from this soc and config really.

    • Michael

      I think they stated that design wasn’t really a big deal to them.

  • Varun Varma

    With the Snapdragon 801 SoC already a year old, is it likely that Qualcomm will drop support for it a year earlier than newer SoC such as the snapdragon 810? This would obviously affect how long Cyanogen can keep it on the latest version of android.

  • FlashTec

    Any info about if band 20 will be included or is this one more phone that will be called international and still don’t work as international?

    • There will be a US model according to the CEO

      • David Aster

        Sorry to ask, but where did you hear that? I’m very interested in this phone and i can’t find any confirmation elsewhere. So it will work with band 4 i think, ATT. Right?

        • R. Tina

          the international version will be released soon,then we can know the band

  • Let’s hope international version will have these backcover options also: http://www.urgir.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ZUK-Z1-2.jpg

    • R. Tina

      hahaha i hope so , good luck

  • Does it have an option to have on screen buttons like the OnePlus One did?
    And if it does I suppose the fingerprint scanner can still be used separately?

    Also does it have an LED notification light?

    • Not that I have found, but I am using the ZUI. They could be enabled in the CM rom just as the hardware buttons are (ZUI has no option for hardware buttons but CM uses them) No notification light with ZUI, but again it might be in the hardware and ZUI isn’t designed to use it. Once CM is released on it we will have a better idea of what the phone can and can’t do

      • Please update us when you try the Cyanogen version then

      • Danny H.

        I also have one in hand right now and if you activate developer mode by repeated clicking on the build version of ZUI, you can enable menu & back keys, although I didn’t see it light up like in these cyanogen pics. And I still haven’t found out if there’s a notification light yet. Would be a little sad if there isn’t one.

  • joe

    The iuni u3 is cheaper and has better specs and also the lenovo vibe z2 pro has a bigger screen and a better camera, and also the meizu mx4 pro is cheaper as well.

  • zukshop
    • R. Tina

      thanks , i have joined in,

      • zukshop

        welcome to our group

  • inquirercet

    Andi, which do you prefer? The zuk z1 on cm or the letv x600?

  • bamischijfje

    WHERE TO BUY FOR FUCK SAKE

  • Michael

    Wish I could find a place to buy it

    • R. Tina

      you can have a try from elephone.cc, maybe you can find the phone,good luck

  • kliqa

    was seriously thinking of getting the Zuk Z1 then I saw the Elephone Vowney. Now I thinking which one is the best buy?!

  • grinder

    Hey Andi, how’s the audio quality using headphones? Any audio enhancements used like Beats, DTS, MaxxAudio, etc?

  • Luk Patel

    Hello Andi,

    please help me.
    i want to know which phone is better letv le 1 or zuk z1?

    i am not heavy user so batter is not my concern and i dont need fingerprint scanner.

    i want to know which phone is better in below category?

    1) Design
    2) Build Quality
    3) Camera
    4) Audio
    5) Display

    so please ans me. i am very confuse between letv le 1 or zuk z1.

  • MKh979

    Hi @Gizchina:disqus ! Have the CM 12.1 EU version the notification light??? Thanks!