TECNO Phantom Z review: Going for gold

TECNO Phantom Z in hand

The TECNO Phantom Z is here and looking good. Everything screams premium. TECNO is going for gold. How well did they achieve that with the Z? I have taken it for a spin over a period of one week and have my review ready. But before we delve into the stories, here is a quick run-down of specs:

SIM type: Dual SIM, Micro-SIM
Network data: GPRS/EDGE/3G/3.75G
Released: July, 2014
Dimension: 71.9 x 144.5 x 7.8 mm
Display: 5.2-inch, 1920 × 1080 pixels (424 PPI), AMOLED display, with Gorilla Glass
Memory: 32GB internal. No microSD slot
Camera: 16MP back with LED flash, 8MP front-facing camera with LED light.
OS: Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
Chipset: MediaTek MT6592
CPU: Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A7
GPU: Mali 450-MP4
RAM: 2GB
Radio: Yes
Battery: 3030 mAh
Price: N58,000

You can get the full specs here.

QUICK SUMMARY

Here is a quick summary for those who are not interested in reading the full review:

What’s Good
– Gorgeous AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass protection
– Very good build quality
– Fast and smooth in use
– Good battery life

What’s Ugly
– Camera results not outstanding

What’s Bad
– Still searching. Please hold….

TECNO Phantom Z Unboxing

The Phantom Z comes in a nice cream case that is really of good quality, and for a limited number of units, there is a Smart Cover and power bank bundled.The sales pack includes a headset, USb cable and charging point.

HARDWARE AND DESIGN

TECNO Phantom Z thickness
The Phantom Z has a finely crafted unibody, meaning the back does not open and the battery cannot be removed. The quality of plastic is quite good. True to the form of AMOLED displays, the 5.2-inch, 1080 by 1920 pixel resolution display is super clear and has deep contrasts. Black is really black here. This is a brilliant display, and it has Gorilla Glass for some level of protection.

The device is comfortable in the hand, not just because 5.2 inches is a sweet spot, but also because it is just 7.8mm thin. That is thinner than the HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z2, Samsung Galaxy S5, and Lumia 930, and is just 0.02mm thicker than the iPhone 5S. That’s no easy achievement. But in all, the Z feels fine in use with one hand, though it is in phablet territory.

TECNO Phantom Z

The back cover is a nice faux leather texture. The high quality plastic casing feels like a finely-crafted job. In all, this is the best hardware ever on a TECNO phone, and it brings the brand into the league of OEMs that make phones with style.

There’s 32GB of internal storage and no micro SD card slot. That will certainly be an issue for some users. However, in my experience with smartphones, lack of an expandable memory slot isn’t that big a deal in everyday use, especially since there’s 32GB storage built in. Still, different strokes for different folks.

SOFTWARE

The TECNO Phantom Z runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat with minor modifications to the UI, as is TECNO’s style. The modifications show up mostly in the Settings and Drop-down menus, but you can tell immediately that app icons are different from stock Android. It looks all nice.

CAMERA

PhantomZ-camera-landscape
Camera has not been TECNO’s strong forte, and they seem to try to make up for it with an aggressive megapixel push. The Z has a 16 megapixel rear camera with LED flash and an 8 megapixel front-facing camera with LED light too. Yes; you read that right: the front-facing camera is 8 megapixels and has a light. Now, you can take your selfies even in the dark.

The large megapixel counts do not translate into top rate photographs though. Daylight landscape photos with the main camera do come out well, but the colour rendering isn’t so accurate. Night photos with flash come overexposed and with colours washed. The comparison below shows an indoor scene. I took the same shot with four different smartphones and picked the one that represents the true colours most accurately for this comparison. No flash was used in both photos. The upper image is the true representation of the scene. The lower image is from the Phantom Z, and you can see the washed out colour rendition, the noise, and the lower image resolution:

PhantomZ-camera comparison-below

The front-facing camera lets you take selfies in the dark because it has an LED flash that lights up, but there is so much visible noise in the results. Here is a sample selfie taken in a dark room just before daybreak:
Phantom Z front-facing camera

LED light with the front-facing camera is a great idea. However, TECNO needs to do more to give their users better cameras. It isn’t all about the megapixels. If outstanding photographs with your smartphone means the world to you, I am afraid the Z isn’t what you want. But for everybody else, it is more than adequate.

MULTIMEDIA

Watching videos on that gorgeous display is quite an experience. That is perhaps the highest point of multimedia on the Phantom Z. Music is good too, especially if you use a good quality headset. The mono loudspeaker placed at the back is quite loud and the quality of sound is okay, but I have heard much better loudspeakers.

The Gallery app kept closing when I launch it. Sometimes, it closes after a few swipes through pictures in there. So, I installed a lightweight 3rd party gallery app called QuickPic. For some reason, after that installation, the Gallery app became much more stable and closed less often.

NETWORK, CALLS & INTERNET

The Z is a dual SIM, dual standby smartphone and uses microSIM slots. In-call audio quality is really good. Callers are clear on the earpiece and they respond that audio quality at their end is good too. WiFi is present here, and the Phantom Z can be used as a WiFi hotspot as well. For mobile internet, there is GPRS, EDGE, and 3G up to 3.75G.

PERFORMANCE, APPLICATIONS & GAMING

The TECNO Phantom Z is powered by a 2.0 GHz octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. That sounds more than adequate. In everyday use, it is more than adequate. Apps run smoothly and general use is fluid and snappy. There isn’t anything to worry about in terms of performance. Raw benchmark tests produced the following results:

AnTuTu Benchmark: 31,259
Quadrant Benchmark: 14,788

BATTERY

I really am wondering why TECNO bothered bundling a power bank with the Phantom Z. It has a 3030 mAh battery. That is huge for a 5.2-inch device. By way of comparison, the HTC Desire 816, with a 5.5-inch display, has a 2600mAh battery. With my usage pattern, the Phantom Z is one of those few smartphones that have seen me through a full day without me having to worry about running out of power. Of course, if I stay on my phone all day, I can empty it. But then, I would be jobless or something.

Are you hunting for a handy up-to-date, solid Android phablet with very good battery performance? Get the Phantom Z.

MISCELLANEOUS

The awkward colour choices that TECNO implemented in the TECNO R7 are gone and the user interface looks really well thought out now. The customised drop-down menu has been retained, providing fixed shortcuts to five apps. The drop-down menu and its “Switch” view are both black now and looking more elegant.

TECNO’s usual bundled apps are here as well. Top of the list are Palm Chat and Flash Share.

CONCLUSION

TECNO has pushed hard to change the perception that it is a cheap brand. The Phantom Z is a huge step in that push. Everything about the device screams premium. Plus, looks and feel aside, it is a very good performer. Photography is perhaps its weakest point – and it isn’t that it is horrible in that area. It just doesn’t rank among the best. Some users will frown at the lack of a memory card slot, but it wasn’t a problem for me.

But think of the premium build, beautiful display, snappy performance on Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, very good battery life, and yes, the front-facing camera with LED light, and there is very little to dislike about the Phantom Z. TECNO went for gold, and it is my opinion that they succeeded with the Phantom Z.

The Phantom Z costs about N58,000 in the market.

TECNO Phantom Z review: Going for gold
TECNO Phantom Z review: Going for gold 7

The TECNO Phantom Z is here and looking good. Everything screams premium. TECNO is going for gold. How well did they achieve that with the Z? I have taken

Editor's Rating:
4
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31 comments

  1. Nothing Depreciates A Car Faster Than Having Your Neighbour Buy A Brand New Car.

    Feeling Like Drowning My Present (Two Generations Back) Tecno Phantom A Iii In Hot Water.

    Good Job, Tecno.

    The Question…With The Lingering Perception That Tecno Is A Cheap Brand, Would Most People Buy This Device For N58k When A Samsung Galaxy Grands Of This World Would Be About The Same Price?

    I Would, Though…..

    If They Keep Producing Winners Like The Tecno Phantom A III, R7 And This Z, Am Sure The Brand Perception Would Gradually Vanish mm

  2. Great review Mr. MO!
    But…gripe.

    I’ve asked twice before now and no cigar so I’ll ask again….APPLICATION MEMORY SIZE?

    Less than 1GB standard?

    If I know Tecno phones (alongside rivals like Gionee, Infinix, Innjoo, Be, etc), and I know Tecno phones, size of this always partitioned memory is always a MAJOR FAIL.

    Everything else is just eye candy to lead the unwary and uninitiated astray.

  3. Now Mr. Mo. has got me a little “confused”. Just planning on getting the HTC Desire 816 you mentioned in this post. Battery capacity and its non-removable nature not withstanding, which would you recommend I get? I’ve seen the 816 with a friend and I love the look and feel but yet to hold the Z in my hands.

    1. The outstanding features of the Desire 816 are camera and stereo speakers. It also has a memory card slot and LTE.

      The Phantom Z beats it in display quality, processing power, battery life and apps management.

      Your call….

    2. @Moverick You mean the Desire 816 dual has LTE capability? If yes, can the people at Smile be kind enough to let us know if it is compatible with their LTE network. If it is, I won’t need to ask further questions on which to go for.

  4. I got mine from Superphone shop at Uyo, for 54,900. A friend also got another one from a different shop in Uyo for 55,000.

    Very solid phone. Very impressive. Happy with my purchase 🙂

  5. “TECNO has pushed hard to change the perception that it is a cheap brand. The Phantom Z is a huge step in that push.”

    Good review. And great effort from TECNO with the Phantom Z. But the perception that TECNO is a cheap brand might not go away soon.

    It will take a combined strategy of smart relentless perception-busting marketing/advertising and premium pricing to shift entrenched perceptions. New improved excellent hardware alone as embodied in the Phantom Z won’t do.

    This is Nigeria. Although the real measure of a premium value in a brand needs not be by pricing alone, consumer psychology is that the more expensive a brand is, the more valuable it is. And vice-verse. This is true of the high-end segment of the Nigerian consumer market.

    So, if TECNO products like the new Phantom Z would command attention as a premium brand, the pricing must start shifting higher steadily as they gain acceptance. Or else, the class-conscious, high-taste, trend-savvy market segment will continue to go for the flagship iPhones, Galaxies, HTCs and Lumias that scream high price tags.

    Perhaps, TECNO could consider creating a unique premium flagship series that would command competitive premium pricing. Its current product line is just a ragtag crowd of smartphones with haphazard naming and without a clear FLAGSHIP SERIES with which it can compete with the global leaders.

    But if all that TECNO cares for is just to continue capturing market share with cheap pricing as local champions without global ambitions, it will be capturing only low-end, budget-conscious, middle-class consumers. Its perception as another cheap Chinese brand alternative won’t likely fade away soon, no matter how outstanding its new products are.

  6. another step in the right direction. as for TECNO’s brand perception, it’ll take time, better hardware, software optimization and some marketing to fix that. LG used to have a similar problem IIRC

  7. careful when buying phones from these new entrants o! i bought an infinix alpha marvel few months ago and the screen cracked in a fall. I take it to the infinix+tecno service centre (carlcare) and they say they dont have the replacement screen but they can do a policy replacement.

    i was thrilled until they valued the alpha marvel i bought for 42k few months ago at 10k and asked me to bring almost 30k so they can give me a tecno h7 or r7 or something. what type of 419 warranty is that? oh and i forgot to mention i have to wait 2 weeks for the replacement.

    arrant nonsense!

    i should have bought a samsung but i was being cheap.

  8. When a caller calls me I don’t see the caller name until I put my look code,do how do I fix it on my new tecno z,also if I make a call I don’t see the number of the person I am calling when it is ringing.

  9. Nice review Mr.Mo, Please I have a question and a request!

    Please is it true that some of Tecno phantom Z have 16gb internal memory and some others have 32gb?! P
    Its really confusing bro.

    My request is please can you make a video review?!
    Many of us look forward to see it!!((winks))

  10. Hello Mobility

    I’m guessing you have used this phone for over one month now, Please can you tell what the pain points and strong points are. I need a more informed opinion before I purchase it. Currently, I am stuck in a 3 – way decision between the Tecno Phantom Z, an Infinix Zero and a HTC Desire 816 with the Tecno Phantom Z narrowly edging the others out. please provide me your perspective on these phones so that I don’t end up buying another phone in the near future.

    Also, it won’t be bad if you do some versus articles e.g. Tecno R7 vs Xiamo Mi3 etc. Such articles would be immensely entertaining and informative at the same time

    1. Vikija,

      Personally, but for its size, I would take the HTC Desire 816 over the other two. The Phantom Z is however a perfect size for me and matches the Desire 816 in many areas. So, it is a call between those two for me.

  11. I currently have a Phantom A+ and Im intending to get the Phantom Z. Im a practical person and I avoid the Samsungs because I need to carry two sims in one phone. My question is this…is the Z NOTICEABLY faster than the A+? My daily bread insists I have internet on both sims, and lots of times the A+ fails me where my old iPhone 5 gets the job done. Will the Z get me internet when the connection is shaky. Im not a computer guru so excuse the plain language.

    1. Piece of Crap phone. Camera was the least of the issues plaguing this frigging device. It’s TECNO of course.

      Chinko bullcrap.

      Used it and tossed it. Wasted my time and money on it. It’s all hype & a total zero. Zero at customer support too.

      Your funeral if you decide to get it.

  12. Pls I got the phantom z but the speaker does not work well. Whenever I pick a call on speaker, the caller keep complaining that they hear some funny background noise which I have also listened to. Also, when making calls on skype, the recipient does not hear anything I say.

  13. Pls I got the phantom Z but the speaker does not work well. I mean I cant pick a call and have a conversation on speaker, I hear the caller clearly on the speaker but the caller on the other end keeps complaining that he cant hear me. this i have tried with other series of calls with the same result. Also, when making calls on skype, the recipient does not hear anything I say. what do I do. do I need to do an upgrade or is there a app I can download to be able to use this facility

  14. The phantom z is good but d camera is 0/100 its in fact d worst camera i have seen in ages pass, they are so foolish and annoying wit their 16 megapixel they made me waste my money on it now I’m stock with it pls i need a buyer of dis trash. That camera should be 1 megapixel instead of 16 megapixel as claimed. Im so so angry.

  15. Hi…i appreciate ur review n find it very informative. My worry however is the app memory allocation in the phantom z. I currently use a phantom a3 n the constant memory full issue is very irritating. Does this problem occur with the phantom z and what is the best dual sim phone that u recommend? Anticipating ur response…. Cheers!

  16. I just got the phantom Z and its one of the best phones ive ever used and the camera is very good and i dont have any problem with it and the internal memory isnt a problem for me

    1. I have been using this phone since July 2014, at first I was impressed by a number of features but now my disappointment have been gradually growing, first I wasn’t happy with the quality of the camera and just when i was staring to get used to it the phone started to over-heat when charging. I also can’t browse in peace because the phone keep on closing the tabs and then this weekend I plugged my phone to the charger only to find it hasn’t charged after 1 hour with charger plugged, Charging the phone has been a problem since Saturday, I have managed to charge it with a PC today but it keep telling me that the USB device cannot be recognized. I’m thinking of flashing it but I want to sleep over the idea….
      DON’T BUY THIS PHONE, SAVE A FEW MORE BUCKS AND BUY A QUALITY WHICH IS NOT TECHNO!!!! I have found from the internet that charging issues are a common problem with techno, wish I had known this before.

  17. Phone review depend how you use it. Even the strongest phone ever “nokia 3310” some say its good some say it bad. Ur phone durability depend how you using it,some don’t know how to use phone or they bought faulty phone.

  18. For me I feel it one of the best and cheap phones ever created.china or no china.all phones are made from a particular region. For those of ya out there that says the camera ain’t cool.may be you need to buy a camera and not a device like the phantom z

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