The ZUK Z1 proudly bears the Lenovo logo on its box, perhaps to alleviate any concerns buyers may have when encountering an unknown brand. This is the first ZUK after all.
The box itself has a low profile and it's made from thick cardboard, giving it a sturdy feel. That's a great first impression, though the box contents are pretty standard - charger, USB cable and a SIM ejector tool (no headphones though).
The charger is rated at 5V/2A (the equivalent of Quick Charge 1.0) so there's no fast charge tech to fill the capacious battery. The USB cable is pretty interesting though - it has a reversible USB Type C connector on one end and a regular Type A connector on the other end.
It is a USB 3.1 cable though, unlike the Nokia N1, for example, which came with a Type C connector but with only USB 2.0 speeds. We'll benchmark USB 2.0 vs. 3.1 data transfers on the next page.
The ZUK Z1 measures 155.7 x 77.3 x 8.9mm - a bit smaller than an iPhone 6 Plus, which has the same screen size. It weighs about the same too, but it has a serious lead in battery capacity. The Z1 thickness seems average but actually very few phones manage 4,000+ mAh capacity at under 9mm. And they tend to be flagships too.
White became the color of choice from emerging Asian manufacturers and the ZUK Z1 is no exception. It's available in dark grey too, but promo images show ZUK's preference for the white model.
And it does look nice with the silvery aluminum frame, our problem is that there are so many white-and-silver smartphones on the market that it's getting hard to tell them apart. ZUK hasn't done anything extravagant with the design, which doesn't help its case.
The design is built around a CNC-machined aluminum (aviation-grade, ZUK is keen to point out) that was taken through 16 procedures and a total of 209 operations with precision of 0.03mm. The frame is not a plate that goes across the phone - it's a frame that runs along the edges of the phone - basically what you see on the outside.
This is to leave more room for the battery, which is made up of two units to maximize the internal volume, while keeping the rounded back. It's similar to what LG did with back the LG G2. The curved back makes the phone feel slimmer (it's 8.9mm only at its thickest point) and is just enough to house the OIS-enabled camera completely.
The weight of the ZUK Z1 is what you would expect from a phone this size, sturdy but not heavy. The glossy back material is a little slippery though and the smooth aluminum sides do little to help.
The final point on ergonomics is the positioning of the Home key. It sits fairly low below the screen so you'll have to adjust your grip to reach it with your finger. This key will see plenty of use as it's also the fingerprint reader ("U-Touch").
Luckily it's the touch kind (swipe would not work well) and it recognizes finger at various angles. It's not all perfect though, the key is rather stiff and has a shallow press, it's moderately uncomfortable.
Beside it are capacitive keys - App switcher and Back - but they are invisible other than two small backlit dots (which are really hard to see on the white Z1).
Above the screen is an 8MP/1080p selfie camera, which boasts basically the same modes as the main camera on the back.
The bottom of the phone is quite interesting. The USB Type C connector is still fairly new - it's noticeably wider than microUSB 2.0 and slightly thinner. A more fair comparison will be to the failed microUSB 3.0 standard as Type C carries extra pins for faster data transfer and other features.
We're still not at a level where the Type C connector will limit how thin a phone can be (the 3.5mm audio jack is thicker anyway). Also on the bottom is one of the microphones and the loudspeakers.
The 3.5mm audio jack is on top (there isn't much room for it at the bottom). Along the sides are and the SIM tray, as well as the volume rocker and power key, these sit low and have a very shallow click. The ZUK Z1 takes two nanoSIM cards on a single tray.
Coming around to the back, the 13MP camera is near the top edge and below it is a duo of small LEDs. Next to them is the secondary mic, used for stereo audio and noise cancellation. The back is non-removable and a fingerprint magnet, on the upside it didn't have scratches after we were done testing it.