Lenovo Z2 Plus review: The new king of mid-range phones

0
Lenovo Z2 Plus
Lenovo Z2 Plus has a premium finisse bearing mono-block design.

Lenovo has an interesting history. About a decade ago, it acquired IBM’s personal computer business, and cut to today, Lenovo is the largest PC maker in the world. The company has similar plans for its smartphone business. In 2014, Lenovo bought Motorola’s smartphone wing, which helped Lenovo rise to the fourth space in global smartphone shipments in 2015.  According to a recent report from the research firm Canalys, Lenovo has climbed to second place in the Indian smartphone market. How did Lenovo get there?

Last year, Lenovo founded ZUK Mobile to offer affordable smartphones with flagship-grade hardware. The aim was to compete with Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, and others phone brands originating from China.

In May 2016, Lenovo launched the Lenovo Z1 ‘Powered by ZUK’ running Cyanogen OS in India at a price tag of ₹13,499. Read the Lenovo Z1 review to know why our team often recommends the Lenovo Z1 for its stellar hardware, solid performance, and reliable battery life.

Lenovo Z2 Plus
Lenovo Z2 Plus has a stealth cover pre-installed.

Lenovo has now launched the Lenovo Z2 Plus in India in the sub -₹20,000 price segment. Evidently, the ZUK Mobile team went back to the drawing board for this smartphone. Lenovo Z2 Plus is available in two variants – one for ₹17,999 (3GB RAM + 32GB) and other for ₹19,999 (4GB RAM + 64GB).

The Z2 Plus packs the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 mobile chipset with 3GB / 4GB of RAM. Along with that, the phone also brings ZUK Mobile’s ZUI to India.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Lenovo Z2 Plus has to offer in the sub-₹20,000 price range.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Premium Design

When I opened the box of the Lenovo Z2 Plus, I noticed that the phone comes with a back cover already placed on the phone in the box. You will have to remove it to peel the plastic film off the phone. It is then that the black coloured glossy back panel can be seen. Like many others, I too put it back in the cover almost immediately. Not because the phone was extremely slippery, but I feared that it would get scratches at the back.

The mono-block design of the Z2 Plus consists of a Fiber Glass frame which is pretty light and yet keeps the phone sturdy. Also, this Fiber Glass frame allows better cellular connectivity than metallic frames do. The Z2 Plus uses a Rollcage Design to compartmentalize the key components for efficient thermal management.

The phone’s 8.49mm thickness noticeably stands out amongst the current crop of ‘super slim’ phones. Its 68.9mm width and 141.7mm height allow it to fit snugly in hand.

Lenovo Z2 Plus
Lenovo Z2 Plus has an ergonomically pleasing design

I feel that the Lenovo Z2 Plus is aesthetically pleasing and reasonably light at 149g. Its ergonomics are excellent for single-handed usage, and I seldom had any issues reaching out to a notification or a button in an app using my thumb.

The U-Touch 2.0 powers the rectangular home button that also has a fingerprint sensor integrated inside. The fingerprint scanner keeps on learning your usage over time and can recognize fingerprints placed from any direction. I shall elaborate more on U-Touch in the Software section.

The mono-speaker at the bottom might irk those who’re picky about sound quality. However, I found it fairly loud and could hear the phone’s ringtone in moderately noisy situations.

Lenovo Z2 Plus

Inside the box, Lenovo doesn’t pack either a Fast Charge supporting charger or a pair of earphones.

Overall, the Lenovo Z2 Plus feels premium in hand and fits comfortably in hand. Compared to the Z1, the new Z2 Plus has a better design that is far ahead of it by miles.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Crisp Display

Sporting a 5-inch LTPS display, the Z2 Plus supports Full-HD (1080x1920p) resolution natively. The display is sharp and crisp at a pixel density of 441 PPI. There’s a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass to protect it from scratches.

Lenovo Z2 Plus
The 5-inch LTPS display is very comfortable to use with a single hand.

The screen produces natural colours and has good contrast. However, it doesn’t come even close to Z1’s display that has a 100% NTSC Color gamut. The Z2 Plus has three colour profile presets – cool, neutral, and warm. A red filter is dominant in the night mode. Unfortunately, there are no settings to adjust and choose the desired intensity of each colour. Adaptive brightness didn’t work properly on my unit right from day one, so I switched it off throughout my usage period.

The display works well indoors but is quite reflective in bright sunlight when brightness levels are set to maximum. This is also when smudges hamper the legibility, but only slightly.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Competitive Hardware

Lenovo packs the top-tier quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset in the Z2 Plus. This Snapdragon 820 chipset features four Kyro CPU cores clocked up to 2.15GHz teamed with the Adreno 530 GPU for the graphics.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - Hardware

 

The Z2 Plus with 3GB of RAM comes with 32GB of internal storage, while the higher variant with 4GB of RAM packs 64GB of internal storage. Lenovo uses SanDisk’s iNAND 7232 storage solution with new SmartSLC technology in the Z2 Plus. This means that the phone is capable of handling the RAW image files, 4K video recording and playback effortlessly. The phone transfers 4K and 1080p video files so quickly over the USB 2.0 Type-C port, that I barely got enough time to fix myself a cup of tea.

The SIM tray on the left edge supports two Nano SIM cards. The first slot supports 4G LTE as well as VoLTE. The X12 LTE modem supports a variety of LTE bands including the Band 3 on which Reliance Jio operates and Band 40 on which Airtel operates.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - Software
The U-Touch is a fantastic way to minimise your thumb travel.

The second SIM slot supports only 3G. Thus, the phone offers neither a microSD card slot nor a hybrid slot. I made the best use of dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and connected the phone to the 5GHz band in my office as well as home. Apps less than 100MB in size downloaded instantly and also installed in less than three to five seconds.

Using Bluetooth 4.1, the phone detected my Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 speaker immediately and also connected to it without any hassles. Google Maps is quite responsive thanks to the GPS chip inside, that works with A-GPS and GLONASS. Many Indians might be surprised to see Lenovo trade NFC for FM Radio in this phone. It isn’t a deal breaker for me as I seldom listen to advert-filled FM Radio.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Bare-bones Software Experience

Lenovo bid adieu to Cyanogen OS for reasons best known to both companies. In the Z2 Plus, Lenovo has loaded its ZUI that offers near-stock Android experience, but with a few differences. For starters, the Quick Switch panel is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Also, the Quick Switch panel offers eight toggles at a time, and gives you access to more on swiping left. The brightness slider remains at the top of the menu.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - ZUIZUI has 9Apps, Hasoffer, Hotoday, SHAREit, and Superb Clean apps pre-loaded. Thankfully, these can be uninstalled.

ZUI features the usual set of customization features such as double tap to wake up. The highlight of ZUI is the U-Touch feature implemented on the Home button. The U-Touch feature lets you customize different gestures on the Home button, so you can use it as a tiny trackpad to access the various apps or even open a particular one.

Customizing U-Touch is certainly fun and saves your thumb from a lot of pain from traveling to the top of the screen. However, it is the unique feature that sets it apart from other phones offering stock Android-like experience.

You can also use Swipe Left or Right gestures to open your favorite app. You can set different combinations to quickly access the desired menu or apps. If you want more screen estate, you can switch off the on-screen buttons and program the Home button to function accordingly.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - U-Touch

The integrated fingerprint scanner is very fast and accurate. Initially, it took a couple of seconds to identify my fingerprint. However, after a few days, it began to unlock the phone instantly and would also detect my fingerprint from any direction.

Fitness enthusiasts can make the best of the U-Health app. You need to feed in data such as your height, weight, gender, and date of birth to get started. Following that, the app sets a goal for you to follow. Then, it gives you an estimate of the calories burned during the day. The app also works with most fitness bands currently available in the market.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - UHealthWhile the software overall is near stock-Android and smooth, I did face some hiccups before Lenovo pushed in an update. Nevertheless, the lack of a native Video player and Music player doesn’t go unnoticed.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Camera Underwhelms

Lenovo Z2 Plus has a 13-megapixel camera with an 1.34-microns image sensor and an F2.0 aperture to capture more light. That’s why all the pictures clicked during the day had ample amount of details, decent contrast, and natural looking colours. Photos were crisp and with minimal noise in them. However, the images clicked indoors had some noise in darker areas, and the lighter areas also tended to be over exposed. The single-tone LED flash isn’t of much help in low-light situations. Most of the photos I clicked at night carried noise, and I had to hold the phone steady for a non-fuzzy shot.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - Camera

The camera app is pretty simple to use with a circular button for selecting from the different options for capturing an image. Accessing advanced settings, however, isn’t a straight forward process. At times I struggled with the preset options, because there is no manual mode on this phone.

The 8-megapixel front camera has a beauty mode that removes blemishes and smoothens the skin in selfies. The front camera’s F2.0 aperture helps in clicking sharp selfies that have a lot of details in them. However, I could not see a similar quality in selfies shot in low-light situations since there is no flash at the front.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - Camera

The phone let me record 4K video with rich audio thanks to the dedicated microphone at the back. But the phone did get warm pretty quickly while doing that. A 20-second video in 2160p resolution accounts to 103MB in size. The camera app records slow-motion videos in 720p resolution. A typical 20-second slow-motion video accounts to 137MB, irrespective of the frame rate you select. The 960fps for the slow-motion felt like a software gimmick and didn’t appeal to me much.

The camera in the Z2 Plus leaves a lot to be desired, especially with regards to indoor and low-light photos. Meanwhile, the 4K videos are good enough to watch on smartphones or tablets.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Stellar Performance

The Z2 Plus has you covered with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset paired with 4GB of RAM. Also, you can add the SmartSLC featuring built-in storage to this list. These key components ensured top-notch and flagship-grade performance on this phone. Although ZUI is still in its nascent stages, it is smooth and fluid. It seldom stutters or lags. The U-Touch worked flawlessly though. The Opera Mini-powered Browser worked fine. I didn’t try many of the pre-loaded third-party apps though. The lack of Music player, Video player and a Gallery app was irksome.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - BenchmarksNetwork connectivity is decent, and so is the voice call quality thanks to the earpiece. Audio through the earphones is quite enjoyable. The speaker produces an overall thin sound.

The phone performs well with the synthetic benchmark tests. The Z2 Plus got a score of 130,069 in the AnTuTu Benchmark test. In the GeekBench tests, the phone scored 1734 for single-core and 3563 for multi-core tests. While testing the GPU performance, the phone scored 27,640 in the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark and 2156 in Sling Shot using ES 3.1 benchmark.

Lenovo Z2 Plus - GPU benchmarksThe new ZUI 2.0.111 update prompted me to revisit several features of this phone, and I noticed a fair improvement over its earlier version.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: Reliable Battery life

The Lenovo Z2 Plus packs a 3500mAh non-removable battery that is a downgrade from the Z1 that has a 4100mAh battery. Thankfully, the Z2 Plus comes with the Intelligent Charge Cut-off technology which uses current from the power source to function once the battery is charged to 100 percent. It supports Quick Charge 2.0, but sadly Lenovo doesn’t bundle a capable charger to make the best use of this feature.

Lenovo Z2 Plus

The Z2 Plus easily lasted for more than a day on moderate usage. I synced two Gmail accounts and used social media apps apart from streaming music regularly. The voice calls estimated to about two hours in total in a day.

Lenovo Z2 Plus

Occasionally, I played Modern Combat 5: Blackout and Asphalt 8: Airborne, during which I learnt that the battery would drain pretty fast following a grueling 30 minutes’ session. Similar was the case while recording videos in 2160p resolution. With brightness set at 40 percent most of the time, I got an average Screen-on Time of four hours and a few minutes on moderate usage.

If you plan to shoot several 4K videos and also play graphic-intensive games, then expect the phone to barely make it through a day . To sum it up, the Z2 Plus will offer you reliable battery life. However, you will have to buy a Quick Charge 2.0 supporting charger separately.

Lenovo Z2 Plus: The New King of the Ring

Since the last one month, we at Gear by mysmartprice.com have been asking all of you to wait for the Z2 Plus, in case you were looking for a good phone in the ₹20,000 budget. Now, it is safe to say that the wait has been worth it. The Lenovo Z2 Plus is my recommendation for those seeking a reliable phone with a 5-inch screen. And even between the two variants, I’d suggest the Z2 Plus with 4GB of RAM that comes for ₹19,999. Spending an additional amount of ₹2,000 on the 4GB variant is worth the money since the 3GB variant that costs ₹17,999 lacks expandable storage.

Lenovo Z2 Plus

Also, it looks like Lenovo’s ZUK Mobile is finally taking matters in terms of software in its own hand, which is the best thing. Expect regular updates. Also, the new U-Touch feature reduces the thumb friction on the screen, limiting it to the home button. The fingerprint scanner is accurate and spiffy.

The Z2 Plus competes with the larger 5.7-inch 2K display device, the LeEco Le Max2, that is priced at ₹17,999. The Le Max2’s camera is better than that of the Z2 Plus just by a few shades. So, that is the option in case you want a metal-clad phone with a massive display and with similar hardware inside. If you just want a huge screen, then the Xiaomi Mi Max Prime priced at ₹19,999 is your best bet.

The camera on the Z2 Plus is the only weak point in an otherwise decent package. That apart, the lack of a microSD card slot doesn’t hurt since the phone offers sufficient internal storage. Also, there are quite a few Quick Charge-capable adaptors and cables available in the market that can up the game in terms of battery life.

The Lenovo Z2 Plus is certainly a great buy for those seeking flagship performance and an excellent battery life in the mid-range price segment.

Lenovo Z2 Plus

₹19999
7.9

Design

8.0/10

Display

8.0/10

Hardware

8.0/10

Software

7.5/10

Camera

7.0/10

Performance

8.5/10

Battery

8.5/10

Value for money

7.5/10

What Is Good?

  • Ergonomically good build quality
  • Reliable battery life
  • Stellar performance
  • U-Touch gestures work flawlessly

What Is Bad?

  • The body is a fingerprint magnet
  • Underwhelming camera performance
  • No expandable storage space