UMIDIGI Z Pro review

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

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 154.6x76.8x8.2mm. 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 1920x1080 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.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

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.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

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

UMIDIGI Z Pro

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 >>

It's easy to think of the MediaTek Helio X-series chips as no-frills alternatives to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 series. They can't quite keep up in performance, but they offer more than most people will actually need and at a much cheaper price.

The UMIDIGI Z Pro is fitted with 4GB of fast Samsung RAM, though it's still of the slower LPDDR3 variety than the LPDDR4 we see in many conventional flagships. It also has 32GB of storage as standard, and as we mentioned earlier you can boost this by up to 256GB simply by slotting in a microSD card.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

We ran the Z Pro through our usual benchmarks and found some really very decent scores, particularly on processing performance. However, we were surprised to find it was a little slower than the UMI Z.

Given the identical hardware this makes little sense, but goes to show how reliable synthetic benchmarks can be. In real-world use it's worth pointing out that we found them equally fast.

For example, whereas the UMI Z scored 110,374 points in AnTuTu 6, the UMIDIGI Z Pro clocked just 89,856. 

In AnTuTu 6, for example, it scored a very high 110,374 points, while Geekbench 4 clocked it at 1,796 points single-core and 4,265 multi-core. It was also very slightly behind in GFXBench Manhattan (17fps vs 18fps) and the JetStream JavaScript benchmark (55 vs 56), but we're talking minimal differences here.

In Geekbench 4 performance was consistent, with the Z Pro turning in 1793 single-core and 4269 multi-core, and the Z 1796 single-core, 4265 multi-core.

For core performance it is right up there with flagship phones running the Snapdragon 820/821, including the likes of the OnePus 3T, Xiaomi Mi5s and even the Google Pixel. For graphics it is less impressive, but a score of 27fps in GFXBench T-Rex means it will be able to cope with most tasks. Also see: What's the fastest phone 2017?

What all this means in the real world is that the UMIDIGI Z Pro is entirely capable of playing any mobile game you like, watching any film you want, or doing whatever other task you fancy having a go at. You certainly don't need to worry about a lack of performance.

Battery performance is similarly good, with UMIDIGI quoting potential for 360 hours on standby, 60 hours of music playback or 14 hours of GPS navigation from the 3,780mAh Sony-made cell. In the real world, of course, no-one uses their phone for just one task, and usage can vary greatly day by day. We'd suggest that this is enough power to comfortably get all users through a full day, and lighter usage could result in two day's life.

The Z Pro doesn't support wireless charging, but there is fast charging when paired with a compatible charger. It can fully charge in 100 minutes, but if you have less time to spare UMI says you'll get enough power for a full day's use from just 30 minutes. Again, that really depends on your usage.

UMIDIGI Z Pro connectivity and extras

Very often we find with Chinese phones - especially those from Xiaomi and Meizu - that they do not support the 800MHz 4G LTE-FDD band that is used in the UK by all the major mobile operators. This is of particular issue to O2 customers - and those of companies which piggyback its network, such as Sky Mobile and Giffgaff - whereas other mobile networks do not rely on that single 4G frequency alone for LTE connectivity.

We're pleased to report, then, that the UMIDIGI Z Pro works with all three 4G bands in use in the UK: 800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz. This means you should get full network reception wherever you might have done on a previous phone or one sold specifically for UK use. Readers elsewhere should check the specifications to ensure the UMI Z will work correctly in their location - see how to tell whether a phone is supported by my network.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

The Z Pro can support two Nano-SIM cards, meaning you can carry a single phone and yet separate business and personal lines, or perhaps insert a local SIM when you go abroad. It works in dual-standby fashion, meaning both SIMs can make and receive calls and texts at all times, but only one SIM can be specified for data usage. If you have no use for this feature then the second SIM slot also works as a microSD card slot. Also see our dual-SIM phones buying advice and group test

Aside from NFC, which would be necessary if you wanted to make mobile payments and then verify them using the integrated fingerprint scanner, virtually everything you need connectivity-wise is here. There's dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, plus Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and OTG.

UMIDIGI Z Pro cameras

This is where we come to the key difference between the UMI Z and UMIDIGI Z Pro. Whereas the UMI Z is fitted with two 13Mp Samsung SK53L8 cameras - one at the front and one at the back. The UMIDIGI Z Pro comes with one at the front and a dual 13Mp Sony IMX 258 camera at the back. Also see: Best camera phone 

UMIDIGI Z Pro

The selfie camera is one of the best you'll find, and as well as the very high resolution it has 1.4 micron pixels and a soft LED flash that can be turned on, off or to auto settings as required. Low-light is often a problem for self-portraits, so it's good to see UMIDIGI among those taking steps to fix it.

For the rear camera, though, we weren't overly impressed with either the UMI Z or the Z Pro. For the Z we spotted a lot of noise when viewing our test images at full size. Photos were also very easily blurred, with no image stabilisation seemingly in use. In Auto mode colours were vibrant and saturated, even in gloomy London; HDR mode toned down this effect but left the images somewhat washed out.

The UMIDIGI Z Pro has a different offering with its dual-camera, and you can see a couple of our test shots below (with Auto and HDR settings). There is still a lot of noise at full size, and the HDR image in particular looks very washed out - more so than it does with the Z. Colours are less vibrant but more realistic. 

UMIDIGI Z Pro Auto

UMIDIGI Z Pro HDR

The camera app is straightforward, with real-time filters available with a swipe from the left-hand side, toggles for the flash and HDR mode along with a settings cog running across the top, and various modes at the bottom, including Videos, Face beauty, Photo, Pro Photo and Panorama. There's also a cool Live Photo mode. Below this you can access a shortcut to the Gallery app or switch to the selfie camera, and above there is a digital zoom function.

In common with the iPhone 7 the UMI Z and UMIDIGI Z Pro have a quad-LED flash, which it says is 50 percent brighter than most dual-LED versions for low-light shots. The UMI Z can shoot high-quality photographs, or video at up to 4K quality.

UMI Z software

You won't find any bloatware, gestures or any other deviations from standard Android on this Z Pro: it is preinstalled with a stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow that includes a few Google apps but very little else. The notification bar and settings menus are exactly as you would expect to find them, and unlike Xiaomi and Meizu phones there is an app tray (as opposed to placing all app shortcuts on the home screen).The only real difference is the camera app, but it's easy enough to use.

We like this approach very much, since you don't get anything you don't want hogging storage space and slowing things down - it is Android as it was intended, which you get to customise as you so choose.

UMI has promised that Nougat will be released as an OTA upgrade in the coming months. It has advised that the software is ready to go, but it has chosen to wait until it can confirm it is as stable as the latest version of Marshmallow before upgrading users.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

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UMIDIGI Z Pro: Specs

  • 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) Sharp IGZO 2.5D display
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Android 7.0 OTA upgrade available
  • 2.6GHz MediaTek Helio X27 deca-core processor
  • 875MHz Mali-T880 MP4 GPU
  • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • microSD support up to 256GB or dual-SIM dual-standby
  • 4G LTE-FDD 800/1800/2100/2600MHz
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • OTG
  • fingerprint scanner
  • Dual 13Mp Sony IMX 258 camera with laser autofocus and quad-LED flash, 4K video recording
  • 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 selfie camera with 1.4 micron pixels and soft LED flash
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 3780mAh battery with fast charging
  • 154.6x76.8x8.2mm
  • 175g
  • 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) Sharp IGZO 2.5D display
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Android 7.0 OTA upgrade available
  • 2.6GHz MediaTek Helio X27 deca-core processor
  • 875MHz Mali-T880 MP4 GPU
  • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • microSD support up to 256GB or dual-SIM dual-standby
  • 4G LTE-FDD 800/1800/2100/2600MHz
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • OTG
  • fingerprint scanner
  • Dual 13Mp Sony IMX 258 camera with laser autofocus and quad-LED flash, 4K video recording
  • 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 selfie camera with 1.4 micron pixels and soft LED flash
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 3780mAh battery with fast charging
  • 154.6x76.8x8.2mm
  • 175g

SHOULD I BUY UMIDIGI Z PRO?

The UMIDIGI Z Pro offers fantastic value at just over £200. It has a large battery, a decent screen and powerful performance. The dual-camera doesn't offer quite the relief we were hoping for following poor performance from the UMI Z, but this is still a great phone.

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