Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro review: sluggish performance, bad cameras make it an unexciting package

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro - Product Shots 13

Yay:

  • Solid design
  • Great battery life
  • Decent display

Nay:

  • Poor performance
  • Sluggish OS
  • Bad cameras

Rating: 7/10 

It won’t be wrong if I say that we are living in an era when smartphones couldn’t be more affordable. Every other smartphone brand is aggressively killing with its price points, whether you talk about the online or offline brands, the price competition has its effects in both the realms. And when brands like Panasonic don’t adhere to new age price standards, it is hard for us journalists to review their handsets without being critical.

If anyone is spending a Rs 17,490 premium on buying a smartphone today, they must be able to play at least PUBG at medium settings. This review of the new Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro is going to be quite interesting. Let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro design: durable design

I would not argue here whether the phone is solid or not, because it is. The Eluga Z1 Pro offers a design that anyone would love to get their hands on, it has a matte-ish finish on the rear and is surprisingly not smudgy on the front. Panasonic seems to know its game in the design aspect at least. Ignoring the notch, the handset looks really attractive for people who admire the black glossy look. And talking about its rear, the Z1 Pro brings a matte finish that is one of my favourite design language on any smartphone sporting a matte finish. It gives you enough grip and leaves almost no fingerprint smudges.

I really admire phones with a great design language, and Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro easily ticks almost all points, except one. More on that later.

The Eluga Z1 Pro is easily one of the best designs I have seen from the house of Panasonic smartphones. Most will see the design of Z1 Pro to be quite similar to most of the phones in the market. But that is not entirely true. You can compare all that you want with the phones from Xiaomi and Asus in the same price range, but I feel Panasonic takes it to whole another level with its design implementation.

Where most brands these days don’t concentrate on offering good protruding buttons for power and volume adjustment, Panasonic has gone ahead and offered you the best. The volume rocker keys and power button are placed on the right edge, and that’s where I think is the ideal position. Easily accessible for most of the users, even if they have small hands. The SIM tray is placed on the left edge. Coming to the top and bottom edge, the company should have placed the 3.5mm audio jack on the bottom edge, but instead, it’s on the top. The USB port on the bottom edge is centrally placed. Also, the edges are trimmed in such manner that the display corners feels like its popping out. Thus, giving its edges a design worth noticing.

Let’s talk about the rear of the Eluga Z1 Pro. It houses the dual rear camera on the top left corner in a vertical manner. Just below that dual camera module, you’d see a LED flashlight. The company logo is nicely embedded just below the fingerprint sensor. While the logo doesn’t break the design, I feel the fingerprint sensor doesn’t offer enough depth for its easy detection when accessing the phone. Panasonic should have offered more depth to it. On the bottom of its rear, you can see the speaker placement, which is fired through the dual liner openings.

Now the thing that I don’t like about the Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro in terms of its design. Well, the handset is terribly wide. I feel my hands are of above average size, and the handset still feels too wide. It might not be a deal breaker for most, nor it is for me. But what about for people who won’t be able to extend their thumbs to the opposite corner of the display? It could be a deal breaker for them. Because they might not want to buy a phone that is an ergonomically bad fit for their hands.

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro display: a decent minus the FHD experience

My colleagues are very particular about the quality of smartphone displays, and so am I but not to the extent of hating the HD+ displays. But when a brand releases its smartphone priced above Rs 15,000 with an HD+ display, it is definitely a letdown. That was the case when I learned that the Z1 Pro priced at Rs 17,490 comes with an HD+ display.

My first instinct was that I was going to hate this display when I learned that I have to review it for you guys. But then something interesting happened that has almost had never happened before. Two days into the review, I wasn’t complaining about the viewing angle, brightness, or for the matter the quality of the display. I’ve been happily streaming video content on my total three hours of metro commute daily.

And surprisingly, I can’t find much to complain about the display on the Z1 Pro.  It is not the most colourful screen one can buy in this price category, but it isn’t a completely bad screen either, just because of its 720p resolution. Which is why I decided to put it in the Pros section. And the fact that the display isn’t a fingerprint magnet, made it more convincing that it should be put in the Yay section.

The brightness levels are good, the screen isn’t too reflective, colour saturation felt mostly on the cooler side. It’s something people with a warm colour choice won’t want. But maybe you’re not that person, I know, I’m not. Overall, I would rate the display on the Eluga Z1 Pro to be on par for the course. 

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro l software: half-baked UI

Here comes all the pain I have been suffering on the Z1 Pro. I would go ahead and say that the company doesn’t know what they have shipped. Or they might have been too easy on shipping a sluggish overly populated half-baked user interface. Yes, I would go that far with the software user experience on the phone. Looks like the company has completely ignored the performance side of the user interface and focused on adding elements without completing them.

First things first, it doesn’t look eye-catching and elegant as many custom UIs out there. With a focus on offering beautiful animations and elegant design language, custom OS like MIUI and EMUI have been satisfying users for a long time than any brand’s custom skins in the market. I’m fond of both the skins and would have very much liked Panasonic to have taken cues from the playbook of these two manufacturers. But instead, it feels like Panasonic went to some Chinese vendor and outsourced its Android 8.1 OS based custom skin.

It would have been better for the brand if they would have opted for the stock Android look and feel. This way at least they could have promised a faster software update. Or better, leave all the software work to the Google and partner with them on the Android One platform. This would have been so much better experience for Panasonic smartphone users.

The system is always using at least 2GB of RAM even when you’ve no apps running at the time. Which puts it in a tough spot when there are multiple apps running and multitasking is going to happen. It struggles then to offer faster switch times, and app loads. More so when there are games opened.

Whenever I’m reviewing a device I always make sure all of my apps are pre-installed on the device before I switch the SIM card to a new device. With more than 100 apps, I don’t always like to open the app drawer and scroll through the list. The company included a search bar, but that is revealed when you swipe up the search bar. What would have been nice is that should have offered a swipe down search bar from the home screen. Which makes going to the desired app quite faster. 

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro camera: not for the camera enthusiast

There are phones with good cameras, and then there are phones with poor cameras. The Eluga Z1 Pro it sits in between these categories. What I really meant to say is that the 13MP + 2MP rear camera setup with a primary lens offering a f/2.0 aperture is not a bad setup. It’s just that Panasonic hasn’t really made its camera app incredibly functional. While it does look clean and filled with lots of modes, I feel the post-processing makes it all bad for the camera department. I just don’t see people using this phone to post photos even on the social media let alone flaunt it to friends and family. Because it is not a capable device to do that.

One would really struggle to take even decent shots on this phone. All because it doesn’t do much to reduce the noise. I have been trying out this camera in almost all conditions. It has failed to amaze me for two reasons. My test samples come with a lot of noise in all areas where, ideally, there should’ve been more details. The second thing is that it doesn’t offer good focus points. The subject looks out of the focus even at a time when it is still. So, forget snapping the moving objects on this phone.

There is only one explanation to all this failure in the camera department. Panasonic isn’t offering a good post-processing on their phone. Really, it is all about post-processing, if the software optimisation isn’t done properly, even the great camera lenses struggle to capture good detailed shots. I’m quite active on Instagram, and there isn’t any capture on this one that I’d like to share on my personal account. Here take a look at these captures and decide for yourself whether you’d share them on your Instagram account.

Talking about the modes on the camera app, I didn’t like what Panasonic has done with its bokeh mode. It just gives you a circular area which will be focused and everything else will be blurred. That’s one of the wrong approaches manufacturers take to offer bokeh modes on their phones. Well, at least it was nice of the company to at least offer the settings to adjust the blur and size of the circle to put bigger objects inside it. But you know human subjects are not perfectly circular, and the bokeh mode is mostly intended to offer a good portrait shot of a human.

Again, the company has half-baked its features even on the camera app. You’d love the fact that it offers Facemojis, but you’d definitely not love using it. Because one, They don’t offer accurate facial expressions. Secondly, there are only a limited numbers of characters and no way to download more. So, there’s a limitation of using it.

I won’t go into the details to explain the selfie camera output, you should just go ahead and see the camera samples in the link mentioned below. Overall, I felt the camera experience is not that great. 

Check out more camera samples of the Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro.

Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro performance: unreliable

When I think about performance, I don’t think about Eluga Z1 Pro. Yes, it has made that bad of an impression on my mind. After using this phone to review, when I had the likes of the likes of some stellar mid-ranges like the Honor 8X, Redmi Note 6 Pro, and Realme 2 Pro more lying around, I must say that the Eluga Z1 Pro completely misses the beat. 

I’d like to raise many concerns here, but I’d like to specifically highlight the one when Need for Speed No Limits was unplayable. This game felt like I was in a slow-motion car chase in a movie. Which might sound cool when you’re not the person driving it. The game just wouldn’t load properly at the speed which it should and playing it was tough. In fact, even casual games don’t run at optimum efficiency. 

Most of the performance letdowns is caused by the MediaTek Helio P22 processor, which is an octa-core chipset clocking at 2.0 GHz. It is not the best processor you’d see in this price segment. Irrespective of the price point, it is quite an underwhelming processor. I have used the Redmi 6, which utilises the same processor, and I wasn’t fond of its performance as well. But at least I was able to play the games on that handset, unlike this one. Also, I’d urge you to go and take a look at the price of the Redmi 6. 

Coming to the multi-tasking capabilities of this phone, it is not meant for such things. For instance, if the Eluga Z1 Pro was a person, I wouldn’t trust that person to handle multi-tasking. With a poor RAM management, it fails to utilise the 4GB of RAM on the system.

The one thing that stands out in this section as a good part is the battery life. It offers an extremely long-lasting battery life. I have no complaints whatsoever with the battery life on this one. Which was bound to be the case, because I can’t play games and stress the processor anyway.

Even after using it for more than a day, it still showed me 36% battery left with approximately 20 hours of usage time. Of course, it didn’t last that 20 hours, but it did go on to complete two days before hitting 10%. Now, isn’t that amazing?

Should you buy the Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro?

I’ve honestly had a very below average experience with the Eluga Z1 Pro. Whether you take its processor into consideration, or its software experience, or the images from the camera, irrespective of its price tag, I find it tough to recommend this handset to anyone.

And well, let me say it out loud, the Eluga Z1 Pro is not the phone that is worth Rs 17,490. That’s the shortest conclusion I have given on my detailed reviews at Mr. Phone. 

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Vishal Toshiwal
vishal.toshiwal@u2opiamobile.com

Vishal is a storyteller with multi-faceted talent. Born and brought up in Noida, he has spent four years of his life living in the City of Nizams, Hyderabad. He claims to be not a less of a Hyderabadi than any of his friends in the city. In conversation with him, if you brought up Hyderabad, he won't stop talking about his time in the city. He has an uncanny love for the city and its language. In fact, you'd find him listening to Telugu songs more than Hindi, or English. Say whatever, but this dude has a natural talent for photography. When he is not writing for Mr. Phone you'd see him Instagramming. And oh, we forgot to mention his second love TV Shows.