Zopo-Magic-Z920-02

Featured Review: Zopo Magic ZP920

May 17, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

You’ve likely not heard of Zopo before unless you’re a resident of mainland China, where the Shenzhen-based company has been making and selling Android-powered smartphones since 2012.  Zopo has produced dozens of phones over the past three years or so and has generally lived up to the price they charge for their products.  While many Chinese manufacturers constantly try to lower the price of their phones by skimping on one part of the phone or another, Zopo has been happily keeping phones at a reasonable price while still offering quality craftsmanship and good components.  The Zopo Magic ZP920 is no exception to that rule and features a metal frame and great specs for around $250.  Let’s find out if the initial impressions of the phone stand up to the test of time.

Specs

Zopo-Magic-Z920-specs

At $250 the Zopo Magic ZP920 is a little more expensive than some of the other Chinese phones making headlines in the past year or so, but it packs an impressive list of specs that could rival many other phones out there at this price range.

  • 5.2-inch 1080p IPS Display
  • MediaTek MT6752 64-bit Octa-core 1.7Ghz processor
  • Mali T-750 MP2 GPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage, microSD card support
  • 2,300mAh battery, removable
  • Android 4.4.4, Z-UI skin
  • 13MP rear-facing camera, OIS, LED flash
  • 1080P front-facing camera
  • 145mm tall x 72.8mm wide x 8.7mm thick
  • 150g

Display

Zopo-Magic-Z920-08

At 5.2-inches a 1080p display is very sharp, to say the least.  The IPS panel on the Zopo Magic ZP920 is pretty standard for a phone that’s similarly priced, and in general the panel is pretty excellent.  The high points include overall sharpness of the display, excellent motion resolution, no noticeable ghosting and good color representation.  Viewing angles are mostly great with only a slight black level fading as the screen pans to extreme angles.  Light bleeding is noticeable from most of the sides but really only when the screen is tilted, and even then it’s not overly jarring or obvious.

The digitizer is high quality and responded quickly and accurately to whatever I was doing.  Some phones nowadays still have digitizer issues, especially ones that are in this price range or lower, but the Zopo Magic doesn’t suffer from those issues at all.  Typing was a joy and any other actions requiring multi-touch performed admirably.

Hardware and Build

Zopo-Magic-Z920-01

Hardware build is one of the areas Zopo is differentiating itself within this price range, and it’s obvious from the moment the phone is picked up.  The metal sides give it a nice cold, quality feel and while the phone does feel a bit lighter than I’d like it wasn’t too light to feel overly cheap.  The rest of the phone is plastic, with the back of the phone featuring a rather unique multi-colored feather pattern that’s sure to catch the eyes of many.  It’s this pattern that’s likely going to make or break the look of the phone for you, but can of course be easily fixed by just adding a case.  The back is completely removable as is the battery, so it’s entirely possible the Zopo could release different colors to suit the taste of its users.

Since the sides are metal Zopo has seen fit to include metal buttons that continue the quality feel of the handset.  These metal volume rocker and power buttons, which are located on opposite sides of most Android phones, have a satisfying click to them that’s not always present on phones.  Getting used to the power button on the left and volume rocker on the right takes a little while if you’ve used any Android phone out there for a while, but it’s not a big deal at all, simply worth mentioning.  Three unique looking capacitive keys grace the space below the screen, with a large circular home button flanked by two dots; the left acting as a menu button and the right as a back key.  These were smaller than I would have liked and due to their design I found myself mashing the bezel itself instead of the keys, an annoyance that is likely to go away with regular use.

Performance and Memory

Zopo-Magic-Z920-ui

MediaTek’s latest 64-bit chipsets are nothing to sneeze at, and this phone cuts through anything you can give it thanks to that fact.  This was evident in every app or game I ran on the system, which never struggled to pull off whatever was asked of it.  2GB of RAM means that you’ll essentially never run into issues with apps having to reload while multi-tasking, and thing were zippy in every section of the OS.  Not having a dedicated Recents key means you’ll have to hold down the home button to pull up the multi-tasking screen.  While this takes an extra second or two it’s the difference between wanting to use it regularly and not, and I’ve got to dock points simply for still using a menu button in 2015.  It’s likely that if Zopo provides a Lollipop update this functionality will change, but for the time being it’s a menu button instead.

Battery Life

Zopo-Magic-Z920-battery

2,300mAh isn’t exactly a lot of battery for a 5.2-inch phone, and unfortunately it feels that way if you really push the device.  While Zopo has done things in the OS to help with extending the battery life, including a battery saver mode that turns off a lot of battery draining apps and features when needed, the overall battery life suffers simply because of its anemic size.  2,600mAh is the minimum an Android phone with a 1080p screen needs to get through a full day’s moderate to heavy use and this comes just under that line.  If you aren’t a heavy user you’re not going to worry, but those that constantly stream music, video, talk on the phone or chat will run into issues where they need an extra battery or charger near the end of the afternoon.

Phone Calls and Network

Zopo-Magic-Z920-phone

Like many phones in this price range the Zopo ZP920 Magic supports LTE in China and possibly other countries that support the same spectrum, but users in the US won’t be able to take advantage of the 4G LTE speeds that carriers here use.  You’re still going to get an HSPA+ capable phone and that means plenty of bandwidth for surfing the web, streaming music and videos on a phone.  The Zopo Z920 Magic supports all US GSM bands, so any carrier from T-Mobile to AT&T and any of their MVNOs like Cricket Wireless or Simple Mobile will work with HSPA speeds.  Call quality was excellent and I had no complaints when using the phone to talk.  I found the loudspeaker on the back to be adequate for talking even in a moving car on the highway, which is something not all phones can say.  There’s also dual-SIM capability here for those that require it.

Software

Zopo-Magic-Z920-ui-3

Many Chinese OEMs have gone for a more stock looking version of Android 4.4 KitKat these days, and while Zopo’s Z-UI certainly looks a little different from stock Android it doesn’t feel that different.  What we’re looking at here is mostly just a reskin rather than a full redesign as Huawei’s EMUI or Xiaomi’s MIUI are.  Overall this means a more consistent and what I personally think is a more pleasant experience given how Android is intended to run.  Proper notification support with one-finger extendable notifications are fully present, plenty of quick toggles set to the right of the notification shade and an overall visually pleasing skin all contribute to a great experience.

One of the more unique looking parts of the OS that has been customized is the lockscreen which functions like no other lockscreen I’ve ever used.  Yes you still swipe to unlock as most do, but Zopo has changed it so that swiping up to about half the screen unlocks the device, whereas swiping to the upper half of the lockscreen opens up the camera.  The stock fullscreen lockscreen album art of whatever song is being played is here, but oddly enough lockscreen music control isn’t present.  It can be seen just as the screen unlocks though, making me feel like there’s an overlay on top of the standard lockscreen.  This was a bit strange and I generally can’t stand it when OEMs remove lockscreen music support, as it adds an extra layer of hassle when just wanting to change the song quickly.

Zopo-Magic-Z920-lock

A gesture sensor is present much like there is on many Samsung devices and a scant few Chinese phones which allows the user to hover their hand over the screen to perform certain actions.  Apps supported include the gallery, camera, music and launcher which usually allow you to change the song, swipe between pictures or pages without having to physically touch the device.  This is particularly useful when hands are dirty, say making a recipe in the kitchen or with wet hands, but is only really useful in very specific circumstances.

Smart Wake support is here in full form, with double-tap to wake being the foremost known and likely used feature.  This allows users to wake the phone up by double-tapping on the screen when off so that the power button doesn’t have to be used all the time.  Zopo also gives users the ability to swipe up, down, left, right or draw predetermined letters on the screen to launch any app of their choosing.  Like many OEMs, however, Zopo hasn’t built in the ability to check the proximity sensor before performing these actions, meaning that if you’re used to keeping your phone in your pocket you’ll likely not want to use this feature at all as it often accidentally launches apps since it’s pressing against your leg.  Adding proximity support is crucial for this feature to be useful and we’d like to see that updated by Zopo in the future.

Outside of these features this is a pretty stock experience, meaning there’s little bloat and the phone feels fast and light.  Any additional features wanted can likely be added via third party apps, and it’s always possible that like many Chinese OEMs and recently released phones Zopo will update this to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the near future.

Sound

Zopo-Magic-Z920-sound

Many phones in this category produce good, not great sound, and the Zopo Z920 Magic doesn’t stray from that trend much.  I was pleased with the audio output quality both via the 3.5mm headset jack and via Bluetooth audio, and the phone particularly excels at Bluetooth audio since it has lossless Bluetooth audio support.  This means higher quality audio as well as no crackling or popping the way Bluetooth audio tends to do on many phones.  There’s a built in equalizer that gives good control over the range of music, but the lack of a high-powered DAC means that the more adjustments you make the lower the volume gets.  Still the audio output is generally good and only audiophiles are likely to complain here.

Camera

Zopo-Magic-Z920-camera

As can be expected at this price range the camera performs admirably in bright to moderate lighting conditions, but tends to taper off once the lighting drops below a certain point.  In general it seems that so long as the ISO stays below 800 the shots are full of detail, accurate colors and very little noise.  Because of the low noise level, the noise filter doesn’t go into overdrive, keeping the extra detail a 13-megapixel sensor should produce.  Zopo touts that this camera features a hardware optical image stabilization feature, although I had a difficult time telling in most shots.  One HDR shot in particular of a colony of small spiders came out absolutely perfect, as the OIS held the shot still between exposure brackets and produced a phenomenal shot.  Others came out with slight ghosting thanks to natural hand jitter, and the OIS just didn’t seem to want to do its job.

It feels like a bit of software tweaking needs to be done here to really bring out the best in the camera.  It’s definitely a shame too because the 13-megapixel sensor on the Zopo ZP920 Magic can really produce some phenomenal images when conditions are good.  Low light performance is definitely poor though, with lots of artifacting and discoloration when the ISO cranks up too high.  It feels like Zopo made the right choice in prioritizing shutter speed over ISO, as a faster shutter results in less blurry shots.  The problem though is that the ISO gets pushed higher than the sensor can obviously handle, producing overall poor shots when there just isn’t enough light.

Video quality as a whole is pretty average and produced better video in brighter light.  Lower lighting doesn’t seem to affect video the way it does pictures though, so taking video indoors and in lower light generally produced pretty good results that’ll get you by.  I’ve certainly seen much worse video from phones in this price range and it could be a lot worse, but it’s not going to compare with phones even $100 more expensive.

Check out the gallery below on Flickr for sample shots and individual descriptions of what’s going on with each shot.

zopo review flickr

Conclusion

Zopo-Magic-Z920-06

Overall the Zopo ZP920 Magic is a pretty middle of the road phone with a middle of the road price.  You’re getting Android 4.4 KitKat with a light skin overtop, some additional features that can come in handy in a pinch like hover gestures and off-screen gestures, and an overall non-bloated software experience.  Capacitive buttons grace the front of the phone and feature a menu rather than a recents button, which would be nice to change given the style of the buttons.  Performance is absolutely top notch and the screen is right up there with the best of the other phones at this price, making this a great candidate for those looking for a good performer to use apps or play games on.  The camera is hit or miss and can produce either excellent or poor images depending on lighting conditions, and video performance was pretty middle of the road for this price range too.  The build is certainly quality and features a unique pattern on the back that can be hit or miss.  It’s certainly a great phone for around $250 or less but it doesn’t do much to stand out from the pack, meaning while you’ll nice necessarily be jumping for joy to get the phone as soon as possible it’s not likely to disappoint at the end of the day either.