It was one of the most talked-about phones when it was announced in August last year, blending some very good hardware (for that time) with the CyanogenMod OS. However, the Zuk (pronounced ‘zee you kay’) Z1 took its time coming to the Indian market, evidently because Cyanogen in India already had a tie-up with Micromax’s sister YU brand. That particular alliance has, as per our many sources, been laid to rest, paving the way for the first Zuk device to arrive on Indian shores – the Zuk Z1.

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And its impression is one of solidity and substance rather than of smartness and style. We are going to be blunt – the Z1 is not a phone for those who love to flaunt their handsets. It has a jet black front with a 5.5 inch display, with a clearly outlined rectangular home button flanked by two touch buttons (backlit) beneath it, and an earpiece and front facing camera above it. At 155.7 mm, it is definitely on the longer side (the OnePlus 2 is 151.8 mm long, the OnePlus One 152.9 mm long and even Lenovo’s own well-crafted Vibe X3 is 154 mm long), although it still is smaller than the 158.1 mm long iPhone 6s Plus. And its 77.3 mm width is on the wider side too, although it compensates by being just 8.9 mm thin, which is thinner than both the OnePlus 2 (9.9 mm) and the Vibe X3 (9.3 mm). At 175 grammes, it is exactly as heavy as the OnePlus 2 and Vibe X3, conveying a feeling of solidity.

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The phone itself rests on a metal frame, with metallic power and volume rockers on the right, the dual SIM card tray on the left, a USB Type C port and speaker grille on the base and a 3.5 mm audio jack right on the top. The back of the model we got was silver grey plastic which gently curved outwards (we suspect this makes the phone look even slimmer than it is) with a 13.0-megapixel camera and dual LED flash in the upper central part, and the Zuk brandname on the lower portion. It is a very Plain Jane appearance – solid and reliable, with the chamfered edges of the sides providing the only real hint of flair.

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No, the Zuk Z1 is not a phone that we can see people brandishing with pride. But its innards will sure make many do something far more important – use it heavily. For in many regards, the Z1 is like an improved OnePlus One in the specs department. The display is a full HD one, giving it a pixel density of 401 ppi, and it is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5 Ghz with 3GB RAM and 64 GB storage (not expandable, though). The 13.0-megapixel camera on the back comes with optical image stabilisation, and the front facing camera is an 8.0-megapixel one. Connectivity options include 4G, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (no NFC and Infra Red, though) and the home button backs up as a fingerprint scanner too. Running on top of this is Cyanogen OS 12.1 based on Android 5.1, and set to be upgraded to Android 6.0 soon. And well, there is the little matter of the 4100 mAh battery making sure all this keeps ticking smoothly for quite a while.

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Of course, one could quibble about the processor being so 2014 (a charge that was levelled at the OnePlus X, remember?). But mention the price tag of Rs 13,499 and most objections tend to start fading away (Raju PP would call it the Suraksha Kawach – protective armour – effect). For, the Z1 comfortably outspecs both the OnePlus One and the OnePlus X, and even lays challenge to the Redmi Note 3 at that price point. The combination of high storage, optical image stabilisation, massive battery, all garnished with the goodness of Cyanogen make it one heck of a proposition for the geek squad, which prefers to use rather than flaunt its phones. And well, let us not forget that for all its advancing years, the Snapdragon 801 was a much more solid and consistent performer than its successor, the decidedly eccentric Snapdragon 810.

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Nope, it is not designed to walk the stylish phone ramp. But the Zuk Z1 comes with perhaps the best price-hardware-software proposition since the Indian debut vehicle of another Chinese brand way back in 2014 – the Xiaomi Mi 3. That too was a relative oldie in terms of original release date and was not exactly the latest in cutting edge hardware but more than compensated for these sins with a great design and a stunning price.

The Zuk Z1 takes a page out the Mi 3’s book in India in that regard. Just how much performance bang it delivers for those bucks will be revealed in our review. As of now, what we can say is that the Zuk Z1 will not kill you with its looks, but will floor you with its price. And we know many people who would prefer the latter to the former. Stay tuned for more.


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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.