Lenovo isn’t exactly the first name that comes to people’s mind when it concerns flagship Android devices, but with the Vibe Z2 Pro, the company is trying to show the world that it is also capable of coming up with one. On paper, the Z2 Pro is definitely impressive, but is cramming a bunch of high-end hardware on a smartphone enough to make it a flagship device?
The Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro feels very solid in my hands. Although the size of the phone is overwhelming at first, I got used to it after some time. It’s almost difficult to get back to my Nexus 5 after getting used to the large 6-inch display. However, while web browsing with the phone with one hand is still doable, typing almost always involve two hands due to the size of the phone.
The metal back of the Z2 Pro that extends to the sides of the phone gives it a very, very premium feel. I’m also a fan of the “metallic weave design” of the back. The Z2 Pro definitely feels like a flagship device. However, the metal body does present an issue: it’s ridiculously slippery.
As the sides of the phone are rounded, it’s not easy to get a good grip of the phone. At just 7.7mm, the thin frame doesn’t help much either. Sure, a thin profile is always a good thing, but when it interferes with the ergonomics of the phone, not so much.
Speaking of ergonomics, the top and bottom of the Z2 Pro are pretty angular, giving it a noticeably sharp edge. If I were to place my pinky finger on the bottom of the phone to hold it securely, it gets pretty uncomfortable after some time. While it’s not sharp enough to cut anything, it’s still a nuisance.
Another issue with the design of the Z2 Pro are the side buttons. The lock button sits too flush against the side of the phone while the volume rocker is placed way too high to reach during normal use. As the lock button is pretty flushed against the phone, it’s hard to find the button by touch to unlock the phone.
However, when I used the phone with my left hand, the button placements make a lot of sense. My thumb can easily access the volume rocker, while my index finger rests naturally on the lock button. Left-handed users will definitely benefit from this.
My last gripe with the Z2 Pro is the material choice of the phone. As the back of the device is metal, it gets pretty hot after prolonged use. While it doesn’t get hot enough to cause any harm, it gets warm enough to be uncomfortable to the touch.
However, the Z2 Pro as a whole is a very solidly built smartphone. The slim 7.7mm thickness also makes it a very pocketable smartphone, even with a 6-inch display. It’s just the ergonomics of the phone that could use some work.
Being a flagship device, the Z2 Pro definitely has the hardware to match. Perhaps the most impressive specification is its 6-inch 2K display. The huge 4000mAh battery also ensures that the phone has sufficient juice to last throughout the day.
The 3GB of RAM definitely proved useful. Rarely do I get background apps closed due to RAM shortage. Whenever I leave an app to reply messages or check my emails, the app would be right where I left it once I got back to it. Very impressive.
However, the Snapdragon 801 with Adreno 330 can’t seem to keep up with certain games, which is most probably due to the high resolution of the phone at 2560 x 1440. While it performs admirably in less demanding games, the Z2 Pro stutters in more graphic-intensive ones. While these games are still very playable, it’s not the best smartphone in the market when it comes to playing demanding games.
The software of the Z2 Pro is its main weakness. Coming from stock Android, Lenovo’s Vibe UI 2.0 skin feels too bloated for my taste. There’s just way too many bloatware installed that try to take on the native Google apps which are superior, such as UC Browser (which is pretty subpar in comparison to Chrome) and Navigate, which just can’t match up to Google Maps.
However, as this is a Chinese smartphone, these apps are only here because Google Play Services are basically non-existent in China. Luckily, these can be uninstalled easily if I wanted to. That being said, there is another bloatware that cannot be removed by default: the Security app.
Security is basically an anti-virus app for the Z2 Pro, and personally, I don’t think anti-virus applications are necessary for Android smartphones – at least, not yet. While the Z2 Pro has more than enough processing power to keep the app running in the background, what makes the app truly annoying is the inability to disable it through the app itself and the ever-present notification in the notification shade.
Aside from that, the UI as a whole does feel pretty good, offering a multitude of features that proved to be useful such as the flashlight and the micro screen mode for one-handed usage. At first, I thought to myself that I would probably hate not having an app drawer on the Vibe UI 2.0, but surprisingly, I got used to it pretty quickly. It doesn’t take too much effort to clean the home screens and sort out apps that I deem unnecessary into their respective folders.
On top of that, there is one advantage of a feature-packed Android skin in comparison to stock Android, which is easy customisation for the average user. The Z2 Pro has a Theme Center app which lets you customise the lock screen, theme, UI, and even the boot animation. While it’s not the most comprehensive customisation tool, it’s still pretty neat.
While all of these features are useful and well-thought-out, stability is quite an issue with Vibe UI 2.0. On more than one occasion, I’ve actually had a few apps that force closed or froze on me; to make matters worse, even the camera app and launcher crashed a few times. While it doesn’t happen too frequently, it does affect the overall polish of the phone’s software.
Thankfully, the Z2 Pro has a generous 4000mAh battery to power the 6-inch 2K display. As a pretty heavy smartphone user myself which involves heavy gaming and hours of web browsing, it’s pretty impressive that the phone makes it to the end of the day with more than 20% of battery left. Those who use smartphones for productivity purposes instead, I reckon the Z2 Pro can last for two days.
In any case, the Z2 Pro can make it to the end of the day easily with data connectivity switched on, more than a few gaming sessions throughout the day, and hours of Internet browsing. Lenovo certainly made sure that its flagship does not disappoint in terms of battery life; very reminiscent of the Lenovo P780 that was launched back in 2013.
The Z2 Pro boasts an impressive 6-inch 2560 x 1440 IPS display. While I don’t usually advocate 2K resolution on a smartphone, the 6-inch display wouldn’t look as sharp if it had a 1080p resolution instead. At 6 inches, a 1080p and 2K resolution can be clearly differentiated.
The display of the Z2 Pro is very stunning to look at, providing more than adequate brightness even under bright sunlight. However, the display does seem a little bit too saturated for my taste, but thankfully, this can be easily adjusted with the built-in colour balance option.
The Z2 Pro definitely delivers flagship-quality audio. Although it only boasts a single mono speaker, sound quality is crisp and adequately loud. If I had to nitpick, the speaker placement could have been better. While watching a video or playing a game in landscape mode, it’s pretty easy to cover up the speaker grille. Perhaps consider a front-facing speaker next time, Lenovo?
The 16MP rear camera with Optical Image Stabilisation is a very capable shooter. It performs pretty well in various shots: close-ups, sceneries, and even in low-light conditions.
However, there is one thing that Lenovo could improve on: the clunky camera UI. I was made aware that the Vibe Z2 Pro actually has a manual control mode (dubbed “Professional Camera”) for its camera, but I only stumbled upon the feature accidentally while playing around with it.
In this mode, I can set the white balance, shutter speed, and even the ISO for more interesting and creative shots. However, unless you know what you’re doing, the image quality doesn’t differ that much from “Smart Camera.” Interestingly enough, the UI of Professional Camera borrows very heavily from the Lumia Camera’s UI, which has a circular control for each settings.
The Smart Camera mode, on the other hand, is the no-nonsense camera mode for average users. While it’s understandable that certain settings are automatically adjusted to be user-friendly, there is no way to switch off HDR in this mode. There was more than one instance where I just wanted to snap a quick picture, but because it required me to hold the phone steady for a few seconds, the image ended up being blurry.
Another noteworthy issue with the camera UI is the time it takes to switch between Professional and Smart Mode. It easily takes up to two to three seconds to do so, which doesn’t make much sense to be honest.
Being a phablet, especially in this price range, the Vibe Z2 Pro really only has one main competitor: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
The Z2 Pro trumps the Note 4 in several areas, such as a bigger display size at 6 inches versus the Note 4’s 5.7-inch display. Other than that, the Z2 Pro also has a bigger 4000mAh battery compared to the 3220mAh battery of the Note 4, and considering that both phones have a 2K resolution, the Z2 Pro should theoretically have a better battery life. However, there’s one crucial piece of hardware that the Z2 Pro simply does not have: a stylus.
The S Pen of the Galaxy Note 4 is loved by many, and to some extent, the slightly smaller display and battery are very negligible compromises. But, if the software of both phones were to be compared, it’s pretty much a toss-up between TouchWiz and Vibe UI 2.0 as both have their own set of fans, leaving it to personal preferences.
If you could live without a stylus, then the Z2 Pro could be a compelling alternative. Although the Note 4 has a metal frame, the metal body of the Z2 Pro gives it a more premium feel. As for me, however, I prefer the Note 4’s more subtle design. While a metal body gives the Z2 Pro a premium touch, the Note 4 isn’t as slippery or gets hot after prolonged use.
The Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro is a very capable flagship device. It boasts very good hardware with a very nice metal body, but unfortunately, the poor Vibe UI 2.0 is its main downfall. The company’s Android skin offers way too many bloatware that the average consumer will just ignore, and the overall polish of it is also lacking.
On top of that, considering that the Z2 Pro retails at RM2,299, I’d look at my options seriously before making a decision. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy my time with the phone, although the rather high asking price is something to ponder on.