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First Impressions: Samsung Z1 Review

First Impressions

Key Specifications

Hands-on with the Samsung Z1 Tizen OS smartphone

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will inevitably hog the headlines but tucked away at Mobile World Congress, the Korean company is still pushing forward with its own Tizen platform.

The 3G-only Samsung Z1 was announced in January this year as the first phone to run on the custom built, Linux-based operating system that’s even making its way into TVs and even fridges. It’s an entry-level phone aimed at emerging markets like India and costs around £60.

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It’s no surprise to find that the Z1 looks and feels like a Samsung Galaxy phone. You can think of it as a Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini but in 4-inch form. It even gets the aluminium trim treatment, although there’s still a horrible metal effect on top as a reminder of its budget nature.

The removable back has the new more matte finish you’ll find on Samsung’s mid-range smartphones and hides away Dual SIM card slots, microSD card support and a removable 1,500 mAh battery. That doesn’t sound like it’s going to give you much playtime, but Samsung has even managed to include the excellent Ultra Power Saving Mode from high-end Samsung phones.

To hold, the Z phone is going to feel tiny if you have grown accustomed to 5-inch phones, but at 112g it’s supremely light and isn’t going to take up much pocket space.

The 4-inch PLS screen has a 800 x 480 resolution and while that doesn’t sound all that impressive, that’s more than acceptable for the price. I have definitely seen worst screens for more than double the money and I didn’t find much to be critical of.

If you want to take pictures with it, you might have more of an issue. There’s just a 3-megapixel main camera and a VGA front-facing one. You do get some basic features like Auto Face Detect and Dream Shot, but it’s an average setup overall.

For power, the Z1 features a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor and 768 MB RAM. Combined with the Tizen 2.3 operating system, it’s actually surprisingly slick. Apps and features like the camera open up quickly and there’s no terrible lag swiping through the interface.

Samsung’s own OS takes some aspects of TouchWiz, like the settings menu and notification drop down, but elsewhere this is Samsung doing things its own way. Dynamic boxes play in the look and feel of the UI. There’s nice touches like swiping up to open the app drawer where apps are broken into two sections. The top is dedicated to stock apps and the bottom is download apps, which you can swipe through while the top half remains static.

App content is covered in Samsung’s own Tizen app store. While the HTML 5-based app selection is improving, it needs to get better if Samsung has plans to move its OS into more expensive phones.

Early Verdict

I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by the Samsung Z1 and Tizen, but it’s actually a great little phone. If you value simplicity and speed over anything else, then for £60, it’s an impressive performer. Samsung’s entry-level Android phones have always suffered from being a little sluggish, but you just don’t get that with the Z1.

If Samsung ever decided to bring it to the UK, there’d be very few phones that could compete with its slick overall performance.

We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

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Used as our main phone for the review period

Reviewed using respected industry benchmarks and real world testing

Always has a SIM card installed

Tested with phone calls, games and popular apps

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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