Lenovo Z2 Plus review: Nine months later

The Z2 Plus is still one of the best value propositions in India.

When Lenovo launched the Z2 Plus last October, it was one of the most affordable devices to be powered by the Snapdragon 820. The variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage cost ₹19,999 ($315), making it the go-to phone for those looking to find the most value for their money.

Nine months on, the Z2 Plus continues to be an attractive proposition. The device has picked up a steep discount and is now retailing for just ₹10,999 ($175). By comparison, the Redmi Note 4 with the Snapdragon 625 costs ₹12,999. Read on to find out how the Z2 Plus has fared in the nine months following its launch, and whether it's still one of the best phones in this segment.

Pocket rocket

Durable hardware in a fiberglass chassis

Most phones in the budget segment now offer a metal construction, and as there are only so many ways to differentiate when you're using a metal unibody, they start to look alike. That isn't the case with the Z2 Plus. With a squarish design and a fiberglass frame, the phone certainly manages to stand out.

I'm also a fan of the Z2 Plus' 5-inch form factor. With most manufacturers settling on 5.5 inches as the de facto screen size, the market for small devices with high-end internals has been underserved, and Lenovo is catering to those customers. The smaller screen size makes a world of difference when using the phone one-handed, and Lenovo's U-Touch gesture-based navigation system works really well. The feature is now available on Motorola devices as One Button Nav, allowing you to swipe on the home button to navigate the interface.

The Z2 Plus features a roll cage that sees key components mounted on a roll cage, with the idea inspired by the company's ThinkPad range. Doing so gives the phone better resistance to tumbles, and that's in line with what I've seen over the last nine months. My Z2 Plus has seen its share of tumbles, and it came away without any damage. There's the odd nick around the sides of the frame, but the phone has weathered abuse really well, particularly when you consider it has a glass panel at the front and back.

The only downside is the sheer amount of scratches the phone has picked up at the back. The glass back is not only prone to smudges, but it also picks up abrasions at an alarming rate. The phone also tends to slide off flat surfaces. If you're interested in the Z2 Plus, you should consider investing in a case.

The Z2 Plus is an absolute beast when it comes to day-to-day performance.

As a refresher, the Z2 Plus features a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, 13-megapixel ISOCELL camera with 4K video recording, 8MP front shooter, Wi-Fi ac, USB-C, and a 3500mAh battery. The fact that it is available for the equivalent of $175 makes it one of the best deals in this segment.

The phone absolutely flies when it comes to everyday performance, and it continues to be reliable nine months after its debut. I haven't noticed any lag or slowdowns, and the 5-inch Full HD panel is one of the better displays in this category. However, the ambient light sensor is still finicky — it automatically turns down the brightness of the screen for no reason.

The 3500mAh battery on the Z2 Plus continues to last a day, even with heavy usage. Lenovo doesn't include a Quick Charge 3.0 wall charger with the device, but you should be able to pick up an Aukey charger for around ₹1,199.

No Android O for you

Software updates are an issue

The Z2 Plus ran Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box, and the phone has picked up the Nougat update earlier this year. That's about it as far as platform updates go, as Lenovo has mentioned that it won't roll out the Android O update to the phone. Lenovo has been lethargic when it comes to delivering security updates as well. In August 2017, the phone is running the March 1, 2017 security patch.

The Z2 Plus is based on ZUI (2.5.104), and like any ROM designed for the Chinese market, there are a lot of customizations. The one I dislike the most is the sparse notification pane — there's no way to access quick toggles, and the pane's only function is to show incoming notifications. The quick toggles are accessible through a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

The Z2 Plus won't be getting the Android O update.

ZUI has a few redeeming qualities — the ROM offers the Google Now Launcher as default, and that means you get an app drawer. The custom skin certainly offers a lot of features, like the ability to adjust the color temperature for the display, a blue light filter, double tap to wake the screen, the aforementioned U-Touch navigation, a native screen record feature, and more.

Lenovo recently announced that all of its devices going forward would ship with stock Android. That's a commendable move, but the Z2 Plus will not be picking up that update — the phone will be based on ZUI for the foreseeable future.

And while the device won't be getting any official platform updates, there are plenty of options available elsewhere. With the Z2 Plus catered to an enthusiast segment, there won't be any shortage of custom ROMs for the device anytime soon.

Not a strength though

Camera is dependable

Lenovo used a 13MP Samsung ISOCELL imaging sensor in the Z2 Plus, and the company's camera app has a lot of features. The interface itself looks out of place when seen against the rest of the UI, but you get easy options to switch between photo and video modes, toggling the front and rear cameras, accessing the gallery, enabling HDR, flash, and more.

The phone can certainly take dencet images in bright conditions, but it doesn't fare so well at night — a common issue in this segment. Photos shot in low-light conditions tend to be washed out, and there's a lot of noise.

Still great

Lenovo Z2 Plus Nine months on

The Z2 Plus has aged very well, and is easily one of the best deals in this segment. For ₹10,999, it manages to undercut every other phone in this category, while delivering an overall experience that's comparable to phones costing thrice as much. The glass design is plain and may not be to everyone's liking, but the phone itself is durable.

Just from a hardware point of view, the Z2 Plus delivers incredible value for your money. The one major downside is that the phone won't receive further platform updates, but the enthusiast community should have a custom ROM available a few months after Android O makes its debut. If you don't mind flashing ROMs, then the Z2 Plus is an amazing deal. If you're picking up the phone, be sure to get the variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage.

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