Zuk Z2 Plus is the most affordable Snapdragon 820 phone with USA and Global LTE

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9.2

Amazing

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Zuk Z2 Plus review

screen-on time of 10 hours 40 minutes. This score is incredible…

The Lenovo Zuk Z2 Plus has the distinction of being the most affordable Snapdragon 820 mobile on the market, which makes this powerful mobile immediately appealing.

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NOTE: The black Zuk Z2 Plus is now on limited sale for a fantastic $199.99. Get it while the getting is good (opens in new tab).

Zuk Z2 review style

The Z2 Plus at first glance doesn’t look look very special with its plastic sides and slightly chunky profile. Phones such as the $100 Leagoo T1 actually look a bit slicker at half the price of the Zuk Z2.

That’s not to say Zuk Z2 looks bad. The glass back and 2.5D front glass add class, and due to its 5.0″ display and thin borders, it’s nice and compact. Check out the video review a bit further down the page by Zi Jin Cheng to get a good look at the phone and hear his thoughts in addition to our review here.

Oleophobic coating

One plus of the Zuk Z2 Plus is that it carries an oleophobic coating, which is a huge help with warding off finger smudges and makes cleaning extremely easy, with just a light wipe with a microfiber or cotton cloth cleaning it up effortlessly.

3.5mm headphone jack

This is something we normally don’t mention, but that’s because the jack is normally at the top of phones. The jack on the Zuk Z2 Plus is at the bottom. For us this isn’t a problem, and some may actually prefer it there.

The difference between Zuk Z2 Plus vs Zuk Z2 Pro compare

Looking at the Zuk Z2 vs Zuk Z2 Pro, they are different in several key areas. The comparison between the two is in the table below.

 Zuk Z2 PlusZuk Z2 Pro
RAM ROM config4GB / 64GB4GB / 64GB
6GB / 128GB
Display size5.0"5.2"
Display typeLCDOLED
BuildPlastic sidesMetal sides
Frequency support2G: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
3G: 850/900/1900/2100MHz
4G: 850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600MHz
Same as Z2 Plus, but also includes 800MHz LTE
Notification LEDSingle color (white)Multi-color
Battery35003100

Zuk Z2 review OS

The OS is perhaps the most difficult thing to get past with the Zuk Z2. It’s ZUI overlaying Android 6.0 and has quite a few features that differ from typical vanilla Android and we’d call it a bit more alien than Xiaomi’s MIUI is to vanilla Android as well.

zuk-z2-review-1

U-Touch single physical button – U-Touch

Much like Meizu mobiles, and iPhone, the Zuk Z2 features a single physical button, dubbed U-Touch. It’s takes some getting used to, but some interesting functionality is added, such as allowing you to set long touch, long press, and double press to open specific apps.

We set double press to Google Now, long press to Gmail, and long touch to Chrome. Single quick touch is Back, and single quick press is Home; these can’t be changed.

U-Touch settings

U-Touch settings

Excellently, the physical Home button can be swiped left and right to switch between apps. We can’t overstate how cool it is to be able to effortlessly swipe back and forth between Messenger and Chrome and Gmail for example, without having to pull up recent apps. It’s extremely handy. However, if you prefer you can set the swipe left and/or swipe right to specific apps, e.g., swipe left to open Facebook.

zuk-z2-review

Virtual onscreen buttons

Of issue to us was that there is no way to single quick press to access recent apps with the physical button. It might be worth setting double press to recent apps, but we found another solution– ZUI allows us to easily turn on virtual onscreen buttons through Developer Mode.

Enable virtual buttons

Enable virtual buttons

This one seemingly small function, makes the Zuk Z2 into an entirely different prospect, as we can now leave system control of the phone to the virtual buttons, including single touch to access recent apps, and leave the physical button to app control.

It takes some getting used to, but in the end adds some interesting functions to the phone, and likely you won’t want to give up this unique combination of physical swipe function and onscreen virtual buttons.

No way to turn off lockscreen

Oddly, with no password or security set, the ability to turn off the lockscreen isn’t present with the Zuk Z2. You must still swipe up to enter the phone after pressing the power button.

One way to get past this is to enable fingerprint unlock. This will unlock directly to Android from screen-off and bypass the lockscreen. It might be a reasonable solution for many.

Swipe up for quick tiles

On the Zuk Z2, rather than double swiping from the notification bar, you single swipe from the bottom to access the quick tiles.

We like it a lot, as this is where thumbs normally rest. It’s a unique implementation that takes some habit readjustment, but once used to becomes something you wonder how you lived without before.

In settings we can easily adjust the order of the quick tiles in the quick panel.

Quick tile order

Quick tile order

OS fluidity

The Zuk Z2 is very fluid. The Snapdragon is a top tier SoC and moves Android effortlessly. System transitions and animations are butter, fast touch typing is quick and without hangups, installing/updating apps doesn’t slow the phone in the least, and recent apps come up quickly.

Zuk Z2 ROMs and languages

The ROM situation may be the most difficult thing to get past with non-native English users, and those who aren’t comfortable with delving into flashing ROMs.

The ROM that came with our unit is multi-language. However, this is a custom ROM developed by Zuk for China vendors, and as such isn’t OTA updatable. We had no issues with it, but it’s normally not acceptable for savvy users to sit on old kernel versions while there are new to be had.

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The good news is that updating to the latest ROM is not a difficult process for users who are moderately PC literate, though it may require some learning for those who haven’t PC flashed a Qualcomm mobile before.

The bad news is that the current official ROMs available are EN/CN only. However, there are a number of custom ROMs available with multiple languages, including Pac, Slim, CM13, CM14, Bliss, Resurrection Remix, and *official* Mokee, but flashing these ROMs require unlocking the bootloader and installing TWRP. Again, not an issue for those who are moderately comfortable with PCs, but could be prohibitory for those who are uncomfortable with it.

The notification LED

While on the Zuk Z2 Pro there is a multi-color notification LED, on the Zuk Z2 Plus it’s a rather weak little white-only light, that has no options other than to turn if on or off for notifications and on or off for charging. It at least pulses rather than blinks, and is good enough to let you know there’s been a notification, but functionality is minimal.

Notification LED settings

Notification LED settings

Zuk Z2 camera picture image samples

The Zuk Z2 camera carries a true 13MP 1/2.6″ sensor, which is slightly larger than average and gives us a per pixel size of 1.34um.

Sharpness is decent across the frame, with some blurring at the far corners. Colors are generally great and realistic with proper saturation, but sometimes tend towards over-saturation in HDR shots (see shots #11&13).

Normally, images where the subject and background are in sunlight, come out looking great and with excellent exposure (see shot #4).

Auto exposure in scenes with lots of shadow and light has the shadows notably dark, which means that very dark shadows will be so dark as that they carry no detail. The upside here is that skies and very bright areas in these shots won’t get blown out (see shot #1). If requiring a brighter exposure so that shadows are more exposed, HDR can be used (see shot #2), or you can tap on the shadow areas to set exposure to that area.

Focus is quick. Macro focus is notably easy to achieve.

Overall, images come out very good and can easily be used for medium to large prints (8″x10″ / 11″x14″).

NOTES: To get a good idea of quality, after clicking an image in the gallery, you will see an “expand” button in the top right corner of the image. Click that and the image will further expand to full 1280W. You can compare images at our Flickr album sets (opens in new tab). All images in the gallery below are unedited except for resize and save at 85% JPG quality.

Zuk Z2 4K video sample

The Zuk Z2 features the ability to record 4K and the ability to record slow-mo at 120, 240, or 960 frames per second. For all three of these speeds, detail information from the videos show the recordings at 720P.

We have a small clip of Zuk Z2 4K video to give you an idea of the quality. Set the YouTube playback to the highest resolution your monitor will support. YouTube 4K video samples (opens in new tab).

Zuk Z2 Plus external speaker

The external speaker on the Zuk Z2 Plus is quite good. Not exceptionally loud, but beyond adequate and with a full body and decent depth.

Zuk Z2 review LCD display

The Zuk Z2 Plus display is 5.0″@1080P. This makes for a remarkably retina-smooth display. Generally on 5.0″ display at 12″ or more, most users won’t notice the difference between 720P and 1080P, but when the phone is held closer to the face, the difference becomes evident.

  • The PPI is 441 and it’s a pleasure to look at, with pixelation non-existent.
  • Colors are deep and rich
  • Hits a huge 460lux (cd/m2) at its brightest and 3lux at its dimmest
  • Very even brightness across the frame, except along the right side and top where some minor vignetting is evident
  • Whites are neutral and can be adjusted to warm or cool from settings
  • Night mode option manual and scheduled to filter blue-light filter for bedtime
  • No pixel light bleed from the corners
  • Excellent color and contrast retention at all angles
  • No shimmer from top-down angles

Zuk Z2 SOT screen on time battery life tests

The Zuk Z2 has a big 3500mAh battery. Our test running a 720P WiFi video over YouTube with the display at 140lux gave us a screen-on time of 10 hours 40 minutes.

This score is great, and beyond our expectations given the 3500mAh battery.

In our regular use of browsing, chat, installing app tests, and flipping about settings we also found the Z2 to score excellent battery life.

Zuk Z2 review battery charging

The Zuk Z2 charger is rated at 5.3V 2.5A. Our meter showed the Z2 generally charging at 5V 1.8A, occasionally at 4.8V 2.15A, and slowing down to 5V .45A at the tail-end of the charge.

Charging takes about 1.5 hours to go from nearly dead to 90% and an additional half hour to push up to 100%.

This result is very good. It’s not Quick Charge 3.0, but it’s interesting users these days looking for ways to slow charging down. The reason for this is that extremely quick charging heats up the battery significantly, and over time can reduce the usefulness of the battery.

2H charging

2H charging

Zuk Z2 Antutu

  • Total: The Zuk Z2 Antutu total is a huge 128319 (one run).
  • 3D: 56766
  • UX: 29050
  • CPU: 32331
  • RAM: 10172
Zuk Z2 Antutu

Zuk Z2 Antutu

Zuk Z2 Geekbench 4

We ran the Zuk Z2 Geekbench 4 benchmark test 3x and ended up with a high single-core score of 1723.

The multi-core Geekbench 4 benchmark tests gave us a high of 3469.

These results put the Zuk Z2 in the top echelon of smartphones hanging with mobiles such as the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and OnePlus 3.

Zuk Z2 fingerprint sensor

The Z2 fingerprint sensor is top notch. There is a toggle in settings that allows us to scan directly into Android without having to press the power button first, though note this option may affect battery life.

With only a single thumb-print registered, scan-in is outstanding, almost always passing us into Android on the first lay of our thumb.

Zuk Z2 Plus WiFi strength

Zuk Z2 WiFi strength is fantastic. With a cinder block wall between the phone and a $20 router, the Zuk Z2  easily reached 144ft / 44m and maintained top speeds and stability with distance to spare.

Zuk Z2 GPS

GPS on the Z2 is great, locking very quickly, and generally maintaining 5 satellites at 30-45 strength and accuracy within 10 feet.

GPS strength

GPS strength

Zuk Z2 other components

  • OTG: Working without issue. Tested Bluetooth mouse and generic gamepad.
  • Accelerometer: Working without issue
  • Gyroscope: Working without issue. Tested Google Camera gyroscope shots.
  • Light sensor: Working without issue. Sensing different levels of light and appropriately adjusting display brightness.
  • Step sensor: Working without issue. Very accurate.

Zuk Z2 frequency support

  • 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
  • 4G: FDD-LTE 850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600MHz

Zuk Z2 review conclusion summary

The more time we spend with Zuk Z2, the more we enjoy it. Part of the hurtle here is retraining muscle memory to, for example, swipe from bottom up to access quick tiles instead of the top, or, using a combination of virtual onscreen buttons and the Home button to gain unprecedented control of how you navigate Android.

Sometimes we find things that the average user would never consider as a negative or indeed may never even notice, but we mention them to help critical users make an informed decision.

For all the really matters in our view, the Zuk Z2 is a great phone with no glaring faults.

As always, look at your budget, consider the negatives and see if they’ll be more than possible minor irritations and weigh them against the positives.

Buy Zuk Z2

We really like the Zuk Z2, it’s got outstanding battery life, is very powerful and affordable, and with a great display, very good camera, and powerful SoC, and everything working properly.

The Zuk Z2 is an easy phone to recommend if you don’t mind being on the ROM that it comes with, or you don’t mind learning to flash to the latest through PC, which isn’t difficult, but may require a bit of learning for some.


Good

  • 441PPI, bright, rich color display
  • Top notch SoC
  • Very good camera
  • Oleophobic coated
  • Top notch WiFi strength
  • Great GPS strength
  • American LTE support
  • Unique and useful control implementation
  • All components working properly
  • Includes step counter
  • Includes OTG
  • Includes gyroscope
  • Includes compass
  • Charges full in 2H
  • Very good battery life
  • Deep sleeping appropriatly
  • Excellent fingerprint sensor implementation
  • Good external speaker
  • Excellent battery life

Bad

  • Some users may not be comfortable with flashing via PC to get to the latest ROM
  • Plastic sides and a bit chunky leaves the phone looking less than slick
  • Weak flash for a phone at this price point
  • Notification LED single color
  • Users needing other than CN/EN and want to switch from shop installed ROM will need to install custom ROM
9.2

Amazing

SoC power - 10
System fluidity - 9.5
Display - 9
GPS strength - 9
WiFi strength - 10
Style - 8.5
Build quality - 9
Camera - 8.5
Component inclusion - 9
Fingerprint sensor - 10
External speaker - 8.5
Battery life screenon - 9
Average User Rating
9.2
5 votes
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