If you’re thinking this phone looks familiar, you may be thinking of the UMI Z (reviewed here). UMI has now rebranded as UMIDIGI, and this Z Pro is almost identical to that other handset. Also see: Best Chinese phones 2017
All the changes are visible from the outside, with a new UMIDIGI logo on the back, a black colour option (the Z comes in grey or champagne) and a dual-camera at the rear. That’s really all that’s new in the UMIDIGI Z Pro, so if you can find the UMI Z at a lower price it is worth your consideration.
This UMIDIGI Z Pro was supplied to us for review direct from the company, but in the UK there are a number of outlets from which you can purchase it. UMIDIGI recommends TomTop, where the Z Pro costs £203.35. GearBest is another distributor, though both are based in China.
It’s important to point out that your consumer rights differ slightly when buying a smartphone from China than they do here in the UK, and you can read up more on that in our article on grey-market tech. One of the most important things to note is that customs may ask you to pay import duty on items shipped from China, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11.
A way to get around this is to buy the UMIDIGI Z Pro from Amazon UK, though it is more expensive here at £249.99.
For UK customers the UMIDIGI Z Pro supports all three UK 4G bands, and runs stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow with an OTA upgrade promised to Nougat in the coming months so there are no usability issues here.
In common with the Z it’s one of the first phones to run the deca-core Helio X27, which is MediaTek’s latest flagship smartphone processor. Raw processing performance is up there with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820, which is the chip last year’s flagships including the LG G5 and HTC 10 make use of. (And you won’t find one of those under £200.)
The UMI Z has an attractive aluminium-alloy unibody design, which houses three 13Mp cameras – one at the front and two at the back, with accompanying soft- and quad-LED flashes respectively.
The battery is another highlight, made by Sony and rated at 3,780mAh. Some users might find they can squeeze two days of life from the UMI Z, and when it’s time to recharge you can get a full day’s juice in just 30 minutes. Also see: Best phones 2017
UMIDIGI Z Pro Design and build
Other than the new UMIDIGI logo, black colour option and new camera setup at the rear, this smartphone is identical to the UMI Z. That means it, too, has a 5.5in panel, which makes the UMIDIGI Z Pro a ‘phablet’.
It’s exactly the same chassis, and with the same battery and storage, so it still weighs a reasonably heavy 175g, but feels good in the hand with slim dimensions of 154.6×76.8×8.2mm. Smooth, rounded edges glide into the 2.5D curved screen glass, and you’ll find incredibly thin bezels to the left and right edges of the display.
The display resolution of 1920×1080 pixels is what’s known as full-HD, and you certainly wouldn’t expect anything higher at this price. It’s pleasingly sharp, and with good screen brightness, contrast and viewing angles this Sharp IGZO display shouldn’t give you any headaches. The UMIDIGI Z Pro supports MiraVision, which allows you to adjust the display to suit your tastes.
UMIDIGI claims it had in mind the Bauhaus principle when designing the Z and Z Pro, which it says puts user experience above all else. It’s crafted from a single block of space-grade aluminium-alloy, with two thin antenna strips integrated to the body top and bottom on the rear, and a stainless steel camera surround with sapphire glass lens protection.
The Z Pro is one of the best-looking phones we’ve seen from the company, and other than the large CE logo on the back we find it difficult to pick holes in the design. UMIDIGI has thought carefully about the positioning of everything from the power button, which falls neatly under the right thumb, to the selfie camera, which is slightly off-centre to match your stance when held in the right hand.
With its unibody build the Z Pro feels well put together, and with none of the usual creaking and flexing of plastic smartphones with removable rear panels it feels like a phone that will last. Of course, one of the down sides of the one-piece body is a non-removable battery, but UMI has cranked up the capacity to lessen this burden.
The rear camera does protrude slightly at the back, but to fit three 13Mp cameras and a large-capacity battery into a phone just 8.2mm thick is quite the achievement.
Two symmetrical rows of drilled holes sit either side of a forward-facing reversible USB-C port on the UMIDIGI Z Pro’s bottom. One houses a mic and the other a speaker, while you’ll find the headphone jack up top. In its standard position at the top left edge is a pin-operated hybrid SIM tray, which allows you to insert either two Nano-SIM cards or a single SIM and a microSD card of up to 256GB capacity.
If we had to pick one thing we didn’t love it would be the home button, which you tap or hold rather than press. It just doesn’t feel natural to us. We’re not especially keen on the removal of the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen either, though these are accessible with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen. If you’re happy not to use them you can tap the home button to go home, or long-press it to open the recents menu.
UMIDIGI Z Pro core hardware and performance
The UMIDIGI Z Pro has two key selling points that differentiate it from other similarly priced Chinese phones on the market. The first is the 13Mp selfie camera with soft LED flash, which we’ll come on to later, and the second its Helio X27 processor. In time many phones will adopt this chip, but for now this Z Pro and the UMI Z are your only choices should you want to use it.
The Helio X27 is a deca-core chip, which always sounds impressive on paper, particularly when you’re comparing it to the likes of the Snapdragon 820 and 821, which are quad-core chips. Equally important, of course, is the technology each of those cores use and at which speed they run. This 20nm processor builds in two Cortex-A72 cores running at 2.6GHz for performance, and two groups of four Cortex-A53s tuned for efficiency. Also see: Best Android phones 2017
In raw processing performance we found the Helio X27 a close competitor to the Snapdragon 820, though with an inferior integrated GPU. To be fair to it, though, the Mali-T880 MP4 GPU inside the Helio X27 is said to show an 83 percent performance improvement over the Helio X20, MediaTek’s first deca-core chip.
UMIDIGI Z Pro review continues on the next page >>