For a £200 phone the Kingzone Z1 is a very decent proposition. It has a nice build, some pleasing connectivity features, and we were astonished to find faster performance than phones that cost three times the price, although cutbacks have been made – notably in the screen and fingerprint sensor, although the latter has other uses beyond security.
It’s not often we’re blown away by a mid-range
smartphone. Supplied to us by
Coolicool.com, the Z1 has an awful lot going for it. At less than £200 it’s faster than the
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and
iPhone 6 Plus. It’s also well-built, supports dual-SIM and 4G connectivity, has decent cameras, features some useful gestures, and it even has stereo speakers and a fingerprint scanner.
A swipe- rather than touch-based scanner, it’s not the best reader for your fingerprint, but built into the back of the phone just below the camera you can also use it for scrolling or capturing images from the 8Mp selfie camera. And that’s cool.
With a 5.5in screen the Kingzone Z1 is what we refer to as a phablet – something between a phone and a
tablet. But with very slim bezels it’s easy to hold and use in a single hand. See all
Android phone reviews.
The JDI IPS screen is perhaps the only area this phone shows its budget price tag, with an HD (1280×720) resolution that works out at just 267ppi. It’s not as crisp as what you’ll find on the iPhone 6 Plus or Note 4, but the display is bright enough and usefully large for playing games or watching video.
Very good-looking for a
mid-range phone, the Z1 uses a strong metal frame with a plastic grippy rear cover. This is removable, allowing access to dual-SIM and microSD (up to 64GB) slots, plus an also-removable 3500mAh battery that scored well in our benchmarks.
The Z1 feels pretty tough, but is nevertheless supplied with a flip case that even when closed can reveal the time and date through a window. Opening and closing the case wakes the screen, but you don’t even need to do that to answer and reject calls. If you don’t want this case there’s also a silicone case supplied in the box, plus an OTG adaptor and earphones with in-line remote. Also see:
Best phablets 2015.
Kingzone Z1 review: Price and UK availability
The Kingzone Z1 is supplied in the UK via
Coolicool.com. This is a Chinese site, so before you buy read up on our
grey-market tech buying advice. You have two options: you can buy it from the European warehouse for £199.91 and you won’t be liable for import duty; or you can buy it from the Chinese warehouse for £132.59, but you will be liable for import duty if it’s picked up by Customs (of course, you are liable whether or not you’re caught out). Free shipping is available, or you can pay for faster delivery. You can also save $10 with the coupon code KZONE10.
Kingzone Z1 review: Design and build
For a mid-range phone the Kingzone Z1 is very good-looking. It’s built around a metal frame that ensures a sturdy, premium feel, and although the rear cover is plastic the up side is the fact it’s removable and reveals an also-removable battery. It’s got a grippy, textured finish that feels good in the hands, much preferable to that found on older Samsung Galaxy smartphones, for example. When correctly attached it won’t creak or flex under pressure either.
The rounded corners look and feel good, although the plastic doesn’t sit entirely flush to the metal frame. We also found a slightly rough edge to the metal on the phone’s right side, but that’s a minor gripe.
There’s a huge 5.5in screen on the front of the Z1, which makes this a phablet. Incredibly slim bezels and a 7.5mm frame mean it’s still comfortable to hold in a single hand. It’s also reasonably light for a phablet at 169g – by comparison the 7.1mm iPhone 6 Plus and 8.5mm Samsung Galaxy Note 4 weigh 172g and 176g respectively. Also see:
Best cheap 4G phones 2015.
A key difference here, of course, is the resolution. The Kingzone has an HD resolution of 1280×720 pixels, which means it has a density of 276ppi. That’s not at all unusual at this price, but it does mean it isn’t as sharp as the 401- and 515ppi screens found on the iPhone 6 Plus and Note 4.
Nevertheless, the JDI IPS panel is reasonably bright, with realistic colours and strong viewing angles. It’s also of a good size for enjoying games and media, or whatever you want to do on your phone, including browsing long web pages and e-books.
And that’s where one of our favourite features of the Kingzone Z1 comes in: the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. This is a swipe- rather than touch-based scanner, and shares the same problems as those found on Samsung phones prior to the S6’s release. As a fingerprint scanner it’s a pain to use, and we gave up trying to get it to register our digits. But used as a scrolling control or a dedicated capture button for the selfie camera it’s a very welcome addition to this phablet, and makes one-handed use so much easier.
Stereo speakers are found on the bottom edge of the handset. We’d like to see them at the front, but their positioning is a good compromise for avoiding sound being fired into and muffled by your palm, and in keeping down the phone’s overall size.
On the right edge is a power button, while separate volume controls are on the left. This positioning can make them difficult to access when using the supplied (to us, at least) flip cover, which features a window for the time and date, automatically wakes or sends to sleep the screen, and allows you to answer calls without flipping open the case. Also in the box is a standard silicone rear cover.
At the top of the Z1 is a Micro USB charging port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. A pair of earphones are supplied in the box, along with a Micro USB cable and, very usefully, an OTG adaptor. The latter allows you to connect the Kingzone Z1 to other USB devices, such as storage devices.
Kingzone Z1 review: Hardware and performance
The Kingzone Z1 uses a 64-bit MediaTek MTK6752 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. This is paired with Mali-T760 graphics, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (a microSD slot lets you add another 64GB).
Performance is amazing for a £200 phone. In Geekbench 3.0 we recorded a staggering 3689 points in the multi-core component, making the Kingzone Z1 faster than both the iPhone 6 Plus (2917) and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (3272). It fared better than the Note 4 in SunSpider, too, with 963ms against its 1367ms, while the iPhone 6 Plus performed spectacularly in usual Apple style (in this benchmark) with 369ms. It’s worth pointing out that using the preinstalled browser the Kingzone Z1 performed even better, with 715ms, but we use Chrome to ensure a fair comparison between devices. Also see:
What’s the fastest smartphone 2015.
In GFXBench the Kingzone performed admirably, but those aforementioned phablets took the lead. Despite housing the same Mali-T760 chip as the
Samsung Galaxy S6, the Z1 isn’t as fast in graphics performance (other hardware must also be taken into consideration here). In T-Rex the Z1 recorded 21fps, and in Manhattan we saw 11fps. By comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus scored 41fps in T-Rex and 19fps in Manhattan, the Note 4 recorded 25fps in T-Rex and 11fps in Manhattan, and the Galaxy S6 saw 30fps in T-Rex and 14fps in Manhattan.
We’ve recently begun running phones through Geekbench 3.0’s battery life test, although for now we have few results with which to compare devices. The Kingzone Z1 recorded 5 hours 45 minutes with a battery score of 3074 points. By comparison the S6 saw 6 hours 53 mins and 4136 points, while the latest Moto G managed 7 hours 35 minutes but scored just 2024 points. See all
In real-life usage we found the Kingzone lasted several days in standby mode, and even with heavy use the 3500mAh removable battery should easily get you through the day.
Kingzone Z1 review: Connectivity
Everything you need is covered on the connectivity front. There’s GPS and GLONASS,
4G LTE (although it’s supported by only one of the dual-SIM slots, the other maxes out at 3G), dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-FI,
USB OTG support and Bluetooth 4.0. This is a dual-standby dual-SIM phone, for more details on what that means see our
dual-SIM phones buying advice and
best dual-SIM phones 2015.
Kingzone Z1 review: Cameras
As with many slim phones we’ve seen recently, the 13Mp Sony camera on the back of the Z1 does protrude ever so slightly at the rear, so you will get a tiny wobble when used on a flat surface. Used with the case this issue disappears.
It’s a pretty good camera, with an f2.0 aperture, 28mm lens and LED flash. We were pleased with our test shots, which show reasonably good detail and largely realistic colours. You can apply filters at the composition stage, and you’ll find various modes such as multi-angle shot, panorama, motion track, live photo, and picture in picture.
HDR isn’t automatic but it makes a big difference.
We also tested the video camera, which supports up to 1080p resolution.
The 8Mp selfie camera at the fromt takes a good picture, but beyond real-time application of filters and the ability to smooth wrinkles and whiten your face there is little in the way of manual control. Also see:
Best selfie phones 2015.
Kingzone Z1 review: Software
The Kingzone Z1 runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Kingzone’s KOS 1.2 UI. The app icons are squares with rounded edges, but in other respects it will be incredibly familiar to KitKat users. The Z1 will get a wireless upgrade to Android Lollipop, too.
The Z1 features several gestures. A double-tap wakes the screen, but if you want to wake it and unlock the screen you can use a single swipe upward. With the screen on standby you can also draw various letter to launch specific functions, such as C for camera or a V for the flashlight. You can create your own custom options too, pairing the letter O, for example, with any app on the phone.
Kingzone Z1: Specs
Android 4.4.4 KitKat with KOS V1.2 UI, with future upgrade to Lollipop
Marie is Editor in Chief of Tech Advisor and Macworld. A Journalism graduate from the London College of Printing, she's worked in tech media for more than 17 years, managing our English language, French and Spanish consumer editorial teams and leading on content strategy through Foundry's transition from print, to digital, to online - and beyond.