Lenovo has been releasing smartphones at fairly regular intervals and it is ably supported by Moto phones as well. But apart from the Moto phones, there is another segment of phones from Lenovo called ZUK. Unlike the Lenovo phones which come with the VibeUI interface, devices powered by ZUK come with a vanilla Android OS which has been a differentiating factor. While the first phone was launched earlier this year in the form of ZUK Z1, Lenovo has decided to go with its own brand name for the second version – thereby calling it Lenovo Z2 Plus, but there is a ‘Powered by ZUK’ branding on the box which sets this phone apart from the Vibe series of smartphones.
So let's look at this phone which brings the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset in the sub-Rs 20,000 price range.
Build and Design: 7 / 10
First things first, the Lenovo Z2 Plus is not going to win any awards for its thickness. At 8.49mm it is relatively thicker than its peers and after snapping on the stealth cover, it looks even more thicker. It doesn’t weigh much at 149 grams thankfully. There’s a glossy black glass back and the frame is made of fibreglass. From a distance it does resemble a black iPhone 5s, if you excuse the rectangular home button.
Thanks to the 5-inch form factor, the phone fits well in the hand and there is a chamfering around the edges which does not leave any sharp edges. The rear side makes the phone a tad bit slippery to grip, thanks to the glossy surface. There is a physical button which also functions as a fingerprint scanner on the front. The button/scanner can do multiple functions which we will elaborate in the Software section.
The volume rocker and power/standby buttons are present above the dual SIM card tray on the right hand side, and look a bit too plasticky. Top and left hand edges are clean. At the bottom edge, you have the 3.5mm audio jack, microphone, USB Type C port for charging and data transfer and the mono speaker.
The design is functional and nothing that will make the Lenovo Z2 Plus stand out among the crowd. Build quality is relatively sturdy as well, but the rear glossy cover is a dust magnet.
Features: 8 / 10
Lenovo Z2 Plus packs in a lot of goodies. For starters, there’s the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. This is for all purposes, the flagship SoC (yes, we know the Snapdragon 821 is also out). The Snapdragon 820 SoC comes with a quad core Kyro CPU clocked at 2.15GHz with Adreno 530 graphics solution. It is paired with 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 64GB of storage out of which around 58.7GB is available to the user.
There is no provision to expand the storage by adding in a microSD card. For storage, Lenovo Z2 Plus uses a SanDisk i7232 smartSLC storage which basically has a small portion of the storage with SLC memory which is faster than traditional flash storage.
It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and is quite close to stock version. There are a few custom apps though on the Lenovo Z2 Plus. But unlike the ZUK Z1, there is no CyanogenMod OS on top of Android. It has a 5-inch FullHD display.
The Lenovo Z2 Plus comes with a dual nano SIM configuration which can take in two 4G SIM cards and also has support for 4G+, VoLTE. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS, there’s a USB Type C port for data transfer, NFC, FM Radio is not supported, which may be a bummer.
Display: 8 / 10
In an age of being surrounded by 5.5-inch devices, it is pleasant when you get a flagship level phone with a 5-inch display. The Lenovo Z2 Plus comes with a 5-inch Full HD glossy display giving it a pixel density of 441ppi.
The display is sharp as one would expect at such high pixel density. Viewing angles are good. Colours are natural although there is a slight blush tinge to the display. It comes with a Corning Gorilla Glass to protect the display.
The display looked good both indoors as well as outdoors. While shooting in bright sunlight there are issues such as dark areas not being properly visible. Watching YouTube videos is a pleasant affair thanks to a decent contrast.
Software: 7.5 / 1 0
For all practical purposes, the Lenovo Z2 Plus comes with a stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS. It is not skinned like the Lenovo Vibe series phones. But just like the Moto phones, the OS does have some custom apps and some bloatware in the form of 9Apps, Hasoffer, Hotoday and so on.
It comes with a U Health app which monitors your daily steps and shows you daily, weekly, monthly charts, just like Google Fit. There are slight variations with accessing the quick menu. You will need to swipe from bottom upwards and you see a floating quick options menu. This is a stupid attempt at trying to ape Apple, and I didn’t like it much. Half the time you end up the home soft key or have to swipe up multiple times to bring up the quick options. Notifications can be accessed by swiping from top downwards as usual. Lenovo could have just gone and added another tab beside the notifications which is the most sensible thing to do. You get a 2x4 grid of quick options which can be swiped to reveal more options.
But the most interesting addition is the home button / finger print scanner customisations. Called the U touch fingerprint sensor, it supports certain gestures on the button. For instance, pressing on the button once takes you to the home page, pressing the button twice brings up recent apps, swiping left and right on the button opens previous apps and so on. It is a nice implementation
You can switch off the onscreen buttons thereby getting more screen real estate. Long pressing home button or long touch on the home button can also trigger further actions, such as going to sleep, apps history, notification centre or even triggering an app to open. This is one of the most fun implementation of the button I have seen and really does cut down thumb travel.
Performance: 8 / 10
Call quality is quite good and the earpiece speaker is loud enough even in traffic situations. The audio speaker on the base sounds muffled though. There were many instances where I could barely hear audio while playing some videos, despite being on maximum volume level. It is best to get a good pair of earphones.
Benchmark scores are in line with what one gets with the Xiaomi Mi 5, and slightly lower than that of the OnePlus 3, LG G5, HTC 10 among the Snapdragon 820 chipset sporting phones. Barring the multi-core score on the Geekbench 4 score, there weren’t any discrepancies in other scores.
Gaming performance was quite good with no frame drops observed while playing Asphalt 8: Airborne, Dead Trigger 2, Modern Combat 5. The maximum temperatures as recorded by the Fluke IR thermometer on the back of the Z2 Plus after a heavy gaming session were around 35 degrees Celcius. While shooting for longer periods does heat up the phone, but again the temperatures aren’t unbearably hot. The heat management is good overall.
Fingerprint scanner is good, though not the fastest around. But the major U touch feature which lets you program your home button to perform tasks such as swiping left and right, long press and long hold, works quite well. Yes, there is a slight learning curve involved. But once you have set it up, you are good to go.
Camera: 6.5 / 10
The Lenovo Z2 Plus comes with a 13MP ISOCELL rear camera with 1.34 micron pixel size and an f/2.2 aperture which is complemented with a 8MP front-facing camera with a 1.4 micron pixel size. The rear camera is capable to shooting 4K videos and the front camera can shoot up to full HD video. The Z2 Plus also supports slow motion shooting at 120fps, 480fps and 960fps – with decreasing resolutions. The camera interface is slightly modified from a stock Google camera. The menu options present themselves in a circular sort of layout. There is no manual shooting mode.
Image quality in the daylight was quite good, with images showing a good amount of detail. Focussing speed is quick. But sharpness is not the best as you will notice fine objects such as fur, dense foliage and so on showing a waxy surface on 100 percent zoom. Lowlight and indoor shots show noise, and the sharpness goes for a toss. Focussing speeds also aren’t the best. With HDR mode, we noticed that the balancing of highlight and shadow regions isn’t satisfactory. We got a lot of blown out photos when we metered for the shadow region and vice versa. Since there is no manual control, you cannot really tweak much. You will need a third party camera app for that.
Video quality is fine as long as the camera is steady. It does allow 4K video recording, but quality is just about average. There is a slow motion mode at 960fps, which isn’t really true slow motion. You can notice jagged edges as compared to the same clip shot on say 120fps, despite the resolution being same. There seems to be some software level trickery at play here.
On the whole, the camera is definitely not the strong aspect of the Lenovo Z2 Plus.
Battery: 8 / 10
It houses a 3500mAh battery which is non-removable. It supports Intelligent Charge Cut-off technology which takes power from the AC power source after the battery is 100 percent charged. The battery life turned out to be quite good, with PC Mark for Android giving an impressive 10 hours 10 minutes. Even in our daily use case, which involves messaging, calling, two email accounts on syncs, audio and video streaming, the phone would last from 8AM to around 10PM before going under 10 percent. It supports QuickCharge 2.0 and bundles in a 2A charger in the box.
Verdict and Price in India
So let us answer that one question that is the norm when it comes to Snapdragon 820 chipset sporting smartphones – Is this phone better than the OnePlus 3? Well, No. There are many areas where OnePlus 3 still excels such as camera, build quality, performance and so on.
But under Rs 20,000 price bracket, the Lenovo Z2 Plus has little competition. It is preferable to go for the 4GB RAM / 64GB storage variant of the Z2 Plus – it just makes sense to spend Rs 2000 more than the base model. With the Z2 Plus you are getting a flagship level chipset in the mid-range segment pricing. So it will definitely appeal to the college going crowd or someone who is upgrading from sub-Rs 10,000 phone.
Battery life, compact form factor, good display, fast performance are some of the positives of the Lenovo Z2 Plus. But camera is a disappointment, as it performs at par with any of the sub Rs 15,000 smartphones. It is great for casual photo sharing, but definitely not meant for camera enthusiasts. The Xiaomi Mi 5 which is slightly higher in price, offers a much better camera and build quality.
So it all boils down to what matters to you. If you're fine with a functional camera and want a long lasting phone with great performance, the the Z2 Plus offers a compelling reason to buy it.