Revisiting the Lenovo Z2 Plus (ZUK Z2): Is it still worth it?


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As our Editor Yash pointed out in his review of the Z2 Plus, this is one of the best sub $300 phones we’ve had in our hands this year and he’s not wrong. It’s not every day a bargain basement price phone gets incredibly similar internals as a Samsung Galaxy S7. Even the Oneplus 3 starts at $400USD.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Second Opinion

When the phone was launched, I was arguably overhyped. The specs below looked extremely tempting, and the dearth of high end 5″ phones was getting to me. However, a spec sheet is far from adequate in one’s decision to purchase a phone and for that, reading the full review is your best bet. However, once you’re done that, come back here for a second opinion on this incredibly well specced phone.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Specifications

ProcessorSnapdragon 820 Quad Core 2.0GHz
Display5″ 1920 x 1080 px, IPS LCD
RAM4GB
Storage64GB
Operating SystemZUI based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Cameras13MP, f/2.0 PDAF Front Camera, 5MP f/2.0 Rear Camera
Battery3500mAh, Qualcomm Quickcharge 3.0
Physical Properties149g, 141 x 68.9 x 8.5 mm

About this Article

This article is intended to be a second opinion, a companion piece to our official GizChina review. A review is defined as an evaluation of a product based on his or her experience as a user of said product. An experience is not 100% objective, and therefore neither is a review. Each reviewer will have a slightly different experience based on their preferences, daily usage patterns, and even location and each reviewer has different ideas on what makes a smartphone good. Maybe one reviewer will spot something another one didn’t. As I said before, Yash reviewed it, thought it was great, and so do I. Yet, there are a couple of things we disagree on. Read on to find out.

I used the Zuk Z2 on Fido (Rogers) 4G/LTE in Toronto, Canada. The phone was running ZUI 2.3.042 ST during testing.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Hardware

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For a phone that I like so intensely, this phone is off to a pretty bad start. I’ve come to intensely dislike glass covered devices not because of their feel, but because of their inherent fragility. Less important but still annoying is the ease with which this device picks up smudges and oil, and is clearly visible on the black version of this device.

Much like a small child, this phone is incredibly hard to keep clean. Obtaining the white model negates the oil/smudge problem to a great extent, but it wasn’t wise either, as it looks more like a cheap, plastic phone than the black version. At least no one will try to steal this from me.

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The phone is the perfect size for me. Having recently moved from the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (which is a great phone in its own right), my small hands are absolutely loving the size. I will admit that my penchant for small phones is probably more extreme than most, but a smaller device also means a smaller chance of the user dropping the phone as well.

However, I will say that the squarishness of the frame does dig slightly into my hands somewhat having just moved from the Redmi Note 4 with it’s graceful, ergonomic curves, but it’s not too big of an issue.

“a small but fragile phone”

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Elsewhere, the 5.0″ screen is nice to look at, but screen technology has advanced to the point that the difference between high end screens and low end screens is shrinking fast. The screen looks nice, but I find that it’s pretty difficult for any one screen to really take my breath away.

Most phone manufacturers are now playing the spec game, cramming more and more pixels into the same area. Lenovo has refused to participate in this pixel war, and that is a decision I very much appreciate.

The same goes for the audio. It’s very difficult for audio quality to blow me off my feet, and the Z2 Plus does not do that and is merely decent. The speakers are not front facing either and the speaker positioning does not help. But volume is definitely loud enough.

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Lenovo Z2 Plus Battery

Yash mentioned in his review that the Z2 Plus has a good battery life, however, my battery standards are higher than most, so I disagree slightly.

If you’ve been following my reviews on YouTube and here on GizChina, you’ll know that I’m absolutely neurotic about battery life. That is because I was spoiled by the very first Chinese device I owned, the THL5000 (5000mAh). From that moment on, I’ve made it a point to ensure that every single one of my daily drivers has a battery capacity above 4000mAh, the Mlais MX Base, Xiaomi Redmi 3, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.

This Lenovo Z2 Plus is the very first device with a significantly smaller 3500mAh battery.

“great battery, just short of amazing”

For those of you looking for more nuggets of info, the 3500mAh battery was able to net me roughly the same amount of usage as my previous daily drivers, with the big difference of having almost no buffer at the end of the day.

Where the Redmi Note 4/Redmi 3 could take me through a 16 hour day with 6 hours of screen on time with 25-30% left before bedtime, the Lenovo Z2 Plus fared worse. It managed a 16 hour day with 6 hours of screen on time, but with just 9% left (do keep in mind that 4% with the Z2 Plus is enough for a good hour or two of light use).

Unless you’re an absolutely insane power user (which I very much doubt you are, I’m on the upper limits of insane already), this phone won’t present you an issue. On certain phones, I also perform a rather unrealistic test to gauge the upper limits of battery life, and that would be constant YouTube playback.

On the Redmi devices, I could play back 8 hours of Youtube video (straight from the charger) and still have 10-15% left for the rest of the day. On the Lenovo Z2 Plus, I’m left with a much smaller buffer of 7%. Do with that what you will, but nobody (unless you’re me) can take issue with the battery life here.

Quick Charge 3.0, I coupled it with my Quickcharge 3.0 charger and it charged plenty quick. I also sometimes wish for wireless charging, but that would be a nicety that I wouldn’t be willing to pay more for.

Lenovo Z2 Plus U-Touch

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I’ve given the home button its special section here as I feel that the button warrants its own section. Unlike battery life, fingerprint accuracy is much less quantifiable. As someone who never locks their phone, I easily get tired of using fingerprint sensors due to their inaccuracy and slowness on a lot of phones. There are two exceptions to this; those being the UMi Super and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.

And now there’s a third, the Z2 Plus.

It’s incredibly fast and accurate, fighting neck and neck with the likes of the Pixel and Note 7 (if yours hasn’t exploded yet). I do have one minor complaint, you can only input 5 fingerprints instead of 10 on a lot of other devices, and I’m used to registering both thumbs and indexes, and then giving each family member a finger to unlock it as well, but I can’t do that here (as I have 4 other family members).

In addition, building in gesture functionality into the home button is an absolute stroke of genius. Instead of closing the app I’m in to open another one or opening up the app tray, I just swipe left or right to switch between apps. The crowning achievement is the ability to customize actions for certain gestures, chief of them being long touch to sleep.

I never use buttons anymore.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Software

Please note that any software issues mentioned in this section are only relevant if you purchase the Zuk Z2 from certain resellers, and you will not have these issues if you purchase a Lenovo Z2 Plus.

My phone I obtained from Gearbest did NOT come with the stock Lenovo ROM but instead contained a custom ROM that did not have the security permissions manager nor did it come with the crucially important OTA update app. I had to manually flash the stock ROM onto the device to get the phone to update. This is not a problem everyone will face, but if your purchase your device from a certain set of resellers (known offenders include Oppomart, Spemall, and Gearbest), you have to manually flash the stock ROM onto your device.

Sadly, Lenovo is not one of the companies content with shipping their devices with stock Android. On the bright side, the skin that it ships with is unobtrusive. Dubbed ZUI, it replaces the stock launcher and reskins the settings menu as well. The first thing I did was install Google Now Launcher on it.

The Snapdragon 820 tears through every day use like a champ, and coupled with 4GB of RAM, nothing fazes this device at all. General use was fluid with no hiccups, waiting or the like. I was never able to use up all 4GB of RAM, only coming close to 3.5GB when opening multiple games. This phone rips through any game in the store like butter. I was able to play any and every game I desired, taxing or not.

Update: I was able to install the official chinese ROM and it works very well, I had some problems with notifications but I was able to solve that. I installed the official Indian ROM and I like it a lot better. It comes with Google Now Launcher and Google Keyboard preinstalled as default apps. Battery life and speed is also much improved as well. However, notifications do not work and alarms do not work either, which is incredibly annoying and almost deal breaking, I’m trying to figure out a solution to this.

EDIT (Nov 12 2016): User 10BaseTom in the comments section below brought to my attention a very useful post over on www.zukfans.eu detailing every single custom and official ROM available. I’m currently back on the latest official Chinese ROM, but if you are experienced/courageous enough, there are quite a few custom ROMs for you to try. The post can be found here.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Software Updates

Probably the biggest issue with the software I have are the OTA updates. If you purchase the Zuk Z2 (instead of the Lenovo Z2 Plus), OTA updates are blocked unless your IP address originates from China. This requires obtaining a VPN to tunnel into China (Hong Kong works too) to update every time an OTA is released. Is it easy to do? Yes, but it’s also incredibly annoying.

Lenovo Z2 Plus Camera

One of the crowning features of this camera is the ability to shoot in 4K resolution at 30fps. Footage is definitely very good, but it does lack the clarity that is present in other 4k capable phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7.

The Z2 Plus is a capable photographer. In anyone’s hands, it takes nice photos easily in great lighting conditions. Move to low light and you’re going to have a harder time. However, the biggest potential dealbreaker here would be the lack of OIS.

I have a relatively steady hand so taking pictures isn’t too much of a problem, but if you move slightly, the picture becomes blurry quite easily. Compare this to other Chinese phones in its price range, it takes great photos. Compare it to the S7 and the Pixel however, and it merely takes serviceable photos.

Is there a significant gap between the Z2 Plus and the S7/iP7 in terms of photo quality? Objectively, yes. But the jump in picture quality is good to great instead of bad to good.

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Bottom Line

For many people, the primary factor in a phone purchase is price. Some won’t even consider paying $400 for a phone (like me), and even more won’t even entertain the thought of spending $700 on a top end flagship (ahem, looking at you, Pixel).

The Galaxy S7 is fast, incredibly fast, but so is the Z2 Plus. However, the camera on the S7 is objectively better than what’s found on the Z2 Plus, and the S7’s software will be supported long after the Z2 Plus has been abandoned. But are those improvements (yes there are other improvements, but these are the big ones) worth the extra $500 odd dollars? If you think so, I completely respect that, but I personally couldn’t stomach it.

A more apt comparison is the OnePlus 3 (review here), which costs a much more reasonable $400. Apart from a sigificant difference in software updates, the OnePlus 3 and the Z2 Plus for all intents and purposes trade blows quite evenly. Which phone will you pick? I’ll leave that decision up to you.

In my opinion, this phone is so close to being perfect, with two objective flaws and a subjective one. Let’s start with the subjective; I hate glass covered phones because of their fragility, but Samsung’s top flagship does exactly that so glass covered devices must be in vogue.

The first objective flaw in this device is the camera. No OIS and less than stellar low light performance hamper it somewhat. The second flaw is the software, but this only applies if you purchase a Zuk Z2. If you do, you will need to flash the stock ROM and then install a VPN to obtain OTA updates, a huge hassle, but definitely worth it due to it’s low price. If you get the Lenovo Z2 Plus from Amazon, then the software quirk doesn’t really apply to you at all.

For $270, you get performance on the level of top end flagships and much better battery life than said flagships. If I’m complaining that I “only” have 14% left after 6 hours of screen on time, you know there’s something wrong with me, not the phone. The Z2 Plus flirts with perfection, and if you can look past the camera, it’s a great buy.

You can purchase the Zuk Z2 for $250 here.

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