Following the LeTV "Superphones" and the OnePlus 2, here's yet another Chinese smartphone that supports the reversible USB Type-C port; except this time, we're going beyond USB 2.0 speeds. The Android device we're looking at here is dubbed the Z1, which is the first product by Lenovo-backed startup ZUK (pronounced "z-u-k") to compete with affordable online brands like Xiaomi, Smartisan, Meizu and Huawei's Honor range. The competitive 1,799 yuan or $280 price point is of no surprise in today's market, but what stands out here is the presence of both USB Type-C and USB 3.0 (or USB 3.1 Gen 1) specs, which is a first for smartphones. To be exact, the Z1 boasts a USB data rate of up to 500 MB/s or 10 times that of USB 2.0, which comes in handy for its 64GB of internal storage.
To make full use of the new USB port, ZUK is also coming up with a pair of USB Type-C earphones that offer adjustable noise cancellation, and they obviously don't require an external power source. Better yet, the Z1 still has the usual 3.5mm headphone jack, which works even when you have those USB earphones plugged in. This means you and your friend can enjoy music or watch videos together on the same phone without using a headphone splitter.
Another highlight of the Z1 is its massive 4,100 mAh fixed battery, which is an impressive density given the phone's 8.9mm thickness (and it's just 6.1mm thick at the aluminum bezel). This is supported by a fast charging circuitry (5.3V / 2.5A) that claims to make the battery last longer: Once fully charged, the external power skips the battery and goes directly to the system, as opposed to trickle-charging the battery -- which does reduce its longevity -- while letting it power the phone.
Like many recent Chinese flagship smartphones, the Z1 comes with a fingerprint reader, but ZUK has added five more functions to this patented "U-Touch" button: A simple touch lets you go back, a press take you home, double-tap toggles the recent app list, and swipe horizontally to switch between apps. Some of these actually remind us of the tiny trackpad feature on Lenovo's first-gen LePhone. Good times.
ZUK's benchmark results show that the Snapdragon 810's performance deteriorates faster than the older Snapdragon 801.
The rest of the phone is pretty much bog standard. There's a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display (with 100-percent NTSC gamut), 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel f/2.2 main camera (Sony's IMX214 sensor, dual-tone LED flash and optical stabilization), an 8-megapixel front camera (OmniVision's OV8865 sensor with large 1.4 um pixels), dual Nano SIM slots and a customized Android L ROM called ZUI.
Notice that we left out the chipset, because ZUK made a bold move to go with the more mature quad-core Snapdragon 801 instead of the current octa-core Snapdragon 810, with the reason being that it has a more consistent performance over a prolonged period. To back this claim up, ZUK showed the above AnTuTu benchmark results at today's launch event. That's certainly another slap in Qualcomm's face, despite the chip maker having already dismissed rumors of its latest chipset overheating on some devices.
While it's too early to tell whether Lenovo's latest investment will take off, ZUK's CEO Chang Cheng had previously helped Lenovo set up its e-commerce channels, so at least he shouldn't struggle with operations and logistics in China. As for the overseas market, it's probably only a matter of time, though we wish the startup could've come up with a name that doesn't, ahem, suck. For those who don't mind the name and happen to reside in China, you can already pre-order the Z1 on ZUK's website as well as JD.com.