Review: Lenovo Has Played All the Right Cards With the Z2 Plus
You folks remember the disaster that was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810? The power-hungry chipset is now but a distant memory, thanks in large part to the success of the Snapdragon 820 and the phones it powers – the Mi5, the Moto Z, the OnePlus 3, the LG G5 – basically every major flagship available.
With the Z2 Plus though, Lenovo has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with its sub-20k pricing. Too good to be true or bargain of the year? Let’s break it down.
- Compact, convenient design
- Flagship level performance
- Good battery life
- Home button tweaks well implemented
- Stellar value for money
- Sub-par camera
- Lacks a hybrid SIM (expandable storage)
- Design is unremarkable
- No faster charger bundled
Hardware wise, Lenovo’s packed a fair bit for the asking price, with even the more affordable Rs 17,999 variant offering 3GB RAM/32GB storage while an extra two grand will get you double the storage and a gig more of RAM, which is the variant we tested and recommend you get.
You get a 3500mAh battery (sans a fast charger, though) which lasts a day of moderate to heavy use comfortably. Unlike the Z1, the Z2 Plus runs a custom, near-stock UI called ZUI (atop Android 6.0.1), which has some tweaks and customisations in the Notification drawer and Settings menu without the usual bloatware that many brands are guilty of.
Expectedly, the phone performs well, with nary a stutter while switching between apps and if power at a budget is your primary ask from a phone, the Z2 Plus delivers.
The phone sports a 5-inch, full HD LCD display, which is adequately bright both indoors and outdoors and reproduces colors that are fairly accurate and natural to the eye. The factory-fitted matte screen protector wards off fingerprints but takes the shine off the display a tad, and the only downside of the screen is that it feels a bit small for games with on-screen controls.
The fingerprint sensor on the Z2 Plus is much improved from its predecessor, and now works to unlock the phone by simply touching the home key even if the phone’s on standby. What’s more interesting is Lenovo’s U-Touch feature, which allows you to add additional functionality to the humble home key.
You can set it up to recognize a tap as a back key or a press to take you to the home screen, and swiping left or right, double-pressing or long-pressing can be associated to actions such as cycling through the apps history, launching apps etc.
It takes some conscious effort, but once you get used to it, you can use the single button to control the phone and never have to use the on-screen keys. Lenovo’s implementation of this feature is really that good.
The Z2 Plus’s design can at best be described as … generic and functional. Sure, it’s got the metal and glass treatment and the magnesium alloy frame adds sturdiness, but the glass rear is slippery and quick to pick up fingerprints and grime (Lenovo has thoughtfully provided a cover in the box, FWIW).
That said, it forsakes the 5.5-inch screen and the prominent Zuk branding of the Zuk Z1 for a smaller, more ergonomic 5-inch form factor, great for folks who want flagship power without finger-stretching dimensions.
And despite it packing dual-SIM connectivity with two nano-SIM slots, there is no expandable storage so you’re stuck with the capacity you buy – we advise picking up the 64GB/4GB RAM variant, for obvious reasons.
Clearly though, it’s Achilles’ Heel is the camera, and the on-paper specs of 13MP rear and 8MP front don't deliver on the flagship expectations one had from the device. In good light, color reproduction and detail levels are good, as is the speed of focusing.
In low light though, focusing speeds drop as does the level of detail, and there’s plenty of noise creeping into photos. The HDR mode and 4K video recording help its case, but the latter comes with massive battery drain as well (expectedly) large file sizes. Clearly not a device for the camera-happy out there.
Why Buy It?
This is a phone that belies its price point, and it can go up against any flagship device and hold its own in terms of performance.
Sure, the ho-hum design and less-than-stellar camera detract from what is a very well-sorted device, but at the sub-20k price bracket, there’s little competition…and this is the sort of device that will appeal to just about anyone who’s okay with a functional camera experience.
It’s not often we come across a device that plays the Xiaomi game better than Xiaomi itself, but with the Z2 Plus, Lenovo has done just that.
(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at @2shar)