~ Auto Buzz ~: UMIDIGI Z2 Review – Affordable Performer With Loads Of Style

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

UMIDIGI Z2 Review – Affordable Performer With Loads Of Style



UMIDIGI’s Z2 is a lightweight, slim performer that brings plenty of style in an affordable package

UMIDIGI certainly isn’t going to be the first name to spring to mind for most Android users when considering a new device, especially in the west. However, at the budget-friendly end of the mid-range Android spectrum, the OEM has a device, the UMIDIGI Z2 that’s intent on taking the best of what consumers love about modern mobile chic and throwing in some stylish cues of its own. Everything starts with a relatively slender and light build from quality materials that manage not to feel weak or poorly conceived in hand. From there, the manufacturer has included internal hardware that performs almost flawlessly thanks to a near stock Android implementation. That extends to the choice of camera sensors, battery management, and nearly every other aspect. UMIDIGI may not always deliver the best or most popular smartphones on the market. For those interested in leaving behind the Samsungs, LGs, and Apples of the world, it would be a very difficult device not to recommend after spending some time with one.

Specs

UMIDIGI’s Z2 can typically be purchased for between $250 and $270 but the specs suggest a much more pricey handset. It ships with a 6.2-inch FullHD+ display at a resolution of 1080 x 2246 and a display ratio of 19:9. That takes up nearly the entire front of this device at a screen-to-body ratio of 90-percent. A wide notch – approximately half of the display width – is present at the top for housing the earpiece, dual forward-facing cameras, and other sensors for light and proximity. That’s going to annoy some users but has become so common that it’s expected at this point. The forward facing camera seems to match the rear sensors in everything but the manufacturer, being comprised of a 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel snapper with a f/2.0 aperture and five element lens. That’s based on Sony’s IMX371 image sensor. On the back, a similar dual-camera package is included in a vertical configuration but based on Samsung’s S5K3P8 sensor. A dual LED flash is embedded to the left of the sensor when viewed from the back and the fingerprint reader is below the cameras.

That’s all packed into an aluminum frame coated in glass and measuring 153.4mm x 74.4mm x 8.3mm. The slim build leaves weight at just 165 grams. A dual-SIM port is included on the left-hand edge, allowing for dual LTE support or micro SD card expansion of the included 64GB of storage by up to 256GB. Memory is a dual-channel LPDDR4x affair and offered at a generous capacity of 6GB. The storage and RAM are backing up a serviceable MediaTek Helio P23 SoC, more formally the octa-core MT6763. That’s comprised of four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.0GHz and four more clocked at 1.5GHz. Powering all of that is a non-removable 3,850mAh battery which charges very quickly via 18W Fast Charge at a maximum 9V/2A through a USB Type-C port. Bluetooth 4.2, GPS and GLONASS, and Dual 4G VoLTE are each supported. Android 8.1 Oreo is included out of the box.

In The Box

With regard to what ships in the box, UMIDIGI is including the phone itself and the usual, required accessories. That means buyers can expect a SIM card access tool, basic user manual, a USB Type-C to USB cable, and a wall adapter. The latter of those is a wall socket Type A, with two round prongs. That type of wall socket is typically used in Europe, South America, or Asia but U.S. users will need a properly-rated type B adapter to charge the device up. The rating will need to be 9V/2A as listed above but can also be up to 12V/1.5A, according to UMIDIGI. Setting aside those inclusions, there’s no headphone jack on the Z2 so UMIDIGI has included a USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio adapter. Finally, our unit shipped already in a slim-fitting protective case and with a film screen protector pre-installed.

Hardware and Design

The design of this device feels exquisite in spite of the notch. That’s not just because the coloration used in our test unit’s Twilight coloration subtly shifts from purples, blues, and greens to completely black depending on the lighting and viewing angle. The UMIDIGI Z2 is available in several other colors including a green-free ‘Phantom,’ Black, and a purple-tinged ‘Twilight Black.’ Although subjective, it’s likely going to feel like a top-tier design regardless of what color is chosen. The use of metals extends around the edges and into the buttons, which have a solid ‘click’ to them when pressed. The same extends to the speaker grills and the bottom-firing speaker grill shares its design with the microphone cover, giving the handset a clean symmetrical appearance. Aside from the buttons, any and all ports, camera sensors, or holes are smoothly integrated with almost no bumps or protrusions. It is somewhat slippery thanks to the materials used but that’s easily rectified with the included case.

As mentioned above, the Z2 is also lightweight and thin. Reaching any part of the screen with one hand didn’t prove to be a chore at all, although that may not be the case with everybody who buys this device. When compared in hand to devices with a similar screen size, such as an HTC U11, it feels improved on each of those fronts but also has a much bigger usable display area. None of that necessarily means that it feels weakly built or like it’s going to break at the slightest drop. However, without a case on it will almost certainly suffer scratches and dings. It also probably shouldn’t be taken where there’s a good chance it might be dropped in water since UMIDIGI hasn’t revealed any kind of ruggedization. That lack of advertised protective measures includes for the screen, with no mention of Gorilla Glass or anything of the sort. The included case is a soft leathery TPU and fits over the device adding almost no bulk whatsoever. However, it does make everything feel much more secure and adds a lip to protect the screen from the majority of drops.

Display

The display here is an odd aspect ratio at nearly 19:9 but the relatively easy to navigate size and resolution, although lower than some flagships at 1080 x 2246, more than makes up for it. That also doesn’t seem to cause any visible issues when it came to the accurate portrayal of any of the apps we tried out. Combined with a screen-to-body ratio at 90-percent, it makes for a great user experience. Moreover, it’s bright enough to be used well under almost direct sunlight and color accuracy seems to be very good. Aside from one issue with screen-freezing that we’ll cover later on in this review as it seems to be tied into the software, there’s not a lot of room for complaint. When performing as intended, everything is smooth and even light touches register with great precision. In short, it’s nothing to write home about but isn’t likely to disappoint either.

Performance and Battery Life

Battery life with the UMIDIGI Z2, as with any device, will mostly depend on usage, screen brightness, and which radios are turned off or on. With that said, the company has put a substantial bit of effort into the use of low-power solutions and optimization. Under a minimal amount of usage, such as sending and receiving texts, checking email periodically, and taking photos, we managed two to three days between charges. Under heavier use, that dropped considerably but were still able to make it through an entire day with some to spare. The benchmark we ran backed that up even with the CPU being placed under more than 60-percent load. That’s not at all bad for a device with a 3,850mAh battery, although that’s one aspect of any handset that almost any consumer would agree could be better. Meanwhile, charging only takes around 80 minutes to complete from completely drained. UMIDIGI does indicate that it may take longer if the battery is drained under certain circumstances since a completely dead battery will need to be safely charged to an unspecified level before being turned on again. This is a caveat that primarily comes down to safe operations and battery chemistry than anything else though and charging time never extended beyond an hour and a half during our test. So it isn’t likely to be a dealbreaker.

On the other hand, there was at least one performance quirk that might stir some intense negative emotion in users. While none but the most power-hungry applications appeared apt to cause lag, the screen on our test unit did regularly become unresponsive after first powering on the UMIDIGI Z2. That seemed to disappear after just a few minutes of operation and didn’t happen every time but was consistent enough. In fact, it became nearly second nature to turn the display off and on again a few times after powering up since that seemed to rectify the problem. There’s a chance that this issue is only showing up in a very small percentage of devices and it could almost certainly be optimized out with a future update since it appears to be software related. Simultaneously, our benchmarks didn’t show anything too spectacular either. But in day-to-day use, it performed well enough for some relatively intensive games such as Into The Dead 2 to be played without noticeable latency or problems. This SoC has not always performed well in other handsets and the main difference appears to be the use of dual-channel LPDDR4x RAM at 6GB rather than the LPDDR3 used by most of the Z2’s competitors. In any case, performance with the UMIDIGI Z2 is as solid as would be expected with even upper mid-range or lower top-end Android smartphones.

Connectivity and Audio

Audio from the single bottom-firing speaker is much better than might be expected with consideration for the hardware and pricing. The quality and range of tone are both balanced and loud. That’s by no means exceptional but it is refreshing compared to the experience offered by many other smartphones. That’s particularly true on the pocketbook-friendly side of the Android range but can also be applied here to mid-range and ‘premium’ handsets. The quality of the audio is, to put it simply, above par. Plugging in a pair of headphones via the included USB Type-C to 3.5mm port only serves to improve things further. Meanwhile, the earpiece emits sound with clarity during phone calls as well and the microphone also seems to be on the upper side of things in caliber.

Connectivity, on the other hand, is genuinely exceptional. This is a smartphone that’s made to be used as closely to ‘anywhere’ as possible and it has the bands to prove it, as shown below. We tested on an AT&T connection and were happy to see 4G LTE where available and 3G where it wasn’t. All connections were solid throughout use. Bluetooth 4.2 and Bluetooth HID are part of the suite of options for linking up with other devices and is also as strong as expected. GLONASS and GPS are built-in for navigation. The only caveat here, albeit a big one depending on the user, is the complete lack of support for NFC. There won’t be any tap-to-pay options available to users as a result, although it’s not necessarily surprising given the MediaTek SoC.

2G GSM: Bands 2, 3, 5, 8

2G CDMA1X: BC0, BC1

3G EVDO: BC0, BC1

3G WCDMA: Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 8

3G TD-SCDMA: Bands 34, 39

4G TDD-LTE: Bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41

4G FDD-LTE: Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 28B

Software

Beyond the usual settings and software included with an Android 8.1 Oreo handset, UMIDIGI has included several pieces of software that allow for a bit more control. That includes a suite of specialty app permissions adjustments that can be made as well as a ‘Smart Assistant.’ While the former of those is all but guaranteed in some form or another in an Android phone, the latter includes four items which aren’t quite so ordinary. For example, users will find a set of controls for a windowed case sold by UMIDIGI for this device. The on-screen navigation bar can be completely be hidden too, while the buttons on that can be swapped around to match whatever configuration is most comfortable. Beyond that, flipping the phone to mute it also isn’t uncommon in Android handsets but the UMIDIGI Z2 allows calls, alarms, or music to be toned back via settings – or all three can be muted with the flip of a phone. Last but not least on that front, a barcode scanner is available in the settings as well.

With that said, specialty software doesn’t end there either. On top of the more general and even advanced battery optimization and management tools included in Oreo, UMIDIGI has its own DuraSpeed. That allows fine-tuned control over foreground and background apps on a toggle based system. Apps toggled will cause background apps to stop running in order to boost performance and possibly battery life. That does mean that some notifications may not be received during the use of those apps but it’s a nice addition for those apps that require just a bit more performance. Meanwhile, fingerprint reading is not all that the associated scanner can accomplish. Another suite of tools in the Z2 lets users accomplish anything from snapping a screenshot to taking photos or controlling music at the tap of a finger. Conversely, the physical power button can be set to jump over to the camera application as well.

Setting aside those special features, everything else in this smartphone should be completely familiar and accessible to Android users. What’s more, it’s closer to a stock Android implementation than most of the more popular devices. The Only a secondary sound recorder, radio, file manager, and flashlight app are installed by default. There’s no bloatware included beyond Googe’s array of applications from Duo to Calendar. The abovementioned lag on startup seems to be the only anomaly but could easily be fixed with a future software update. At least in terms of software, there are really no complaints aside from that.

Camera

The cameras on UMIDIGI’s latest upper-budget entry was one area that the Z2 excelled beyond expectations. With the vast majority of affordable and even mid-range handsets, the camera software is poorly optimized and results in grainy or inaccurate photos. That was not at all the case here. Bokeh felt accurate, details were caught brilliantly, and the UMIDIGI Z2 didn’t seem to lag between shots. More importantly, the software included wasn’t sparse at all. The usual filters and overlays found in Chinese-manufactured devices were still present, as were an array of options for fine-tuning output. HDR mode worked as well as can be expected and brightened things up considerably without losing color accuracy. The one issue we ran into was that accessing any of those features requires a swipe to the left or right. That’s not unusual but there weren’t any cues to follow either, so it took some experimentation to get everything figured out.

The Good

Quick and responsive for all but the most intensive applications

Tons of secondary software to improve the experience

Nearly stock Android 8.1 out of the box

The cameras perform well above adequately

The screen is vivid even in bright lighting

Bloat-free

Global connectivity with dual-SIM LTE

The Bad

Some screen lag and freezing on startup

No advertised ruggedization or screen hardening

No headphone port

No NFC

Wrap Up

UMIDIGI’s Z2 shows the company moving in a direction that could significantly bolster its position in its country of origin. It’s not only a well-designed performer without cutting too many corners on materials or features. It does feature cameras and associated software, extra user controls, and wide range configurations for aesthetic options that set it apart. The battery life is commendable and the choice to include high-quality RAM round out to push performance well above many contemporaries. It’s also not perfect, with one or two issues that may present problems for at least some users. But the entire package, taken as a whole, feels like it could have been priced quite a lot higher without losing any of the value.

UMIDIGI Z2

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