“The Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro bridges the gap between the brand’s flagship range and the budget Ray series of smartphones”

Panasonic has been offering affordable smartphones through its Eluga Ray series for a while in India, and recently launched flagships through its Eluga X series. In an attempt to strike the right balance between affordability and a commendable spec sheet, the phonemaker has launched a new series called Eluga Z, with the Eluga Z1 and Eluga Z1 Pro as debut smartphones. The latter recently arrived at our office and we used it for a short time to figure out if it could be a game changer for the brand or not. Stay with us to find out.

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The Panasonic Eluga Z1 Pro comes in a white and blue box with visuals and branding on top, and core specifications listed at the bottom. As you open the box, you are greeted by a holographic leaflet highlighting the AI capabilities of the smartphone and ARBO Hub. Below the leaflet, you will find the Z1 Pro lying atop a cardboard tray that also houses the documentation and transparent screen protector. At the very bottom, you will find two separate boxes containing the earphones (props for that) and a micro-USB cable, and the wall charger respectively.

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Upon picking up the smartphone, there is a sense of deja-vu since the smartphone looks exactly the same as the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 (review) except for the Panasonic branding and loudspeaker grille on the rear panel. The rear dual camera module with LED flash is located in the top left corner, fingerprint scanner with Panasonic branding towards the centre and loudspeaker grille at the bottom. The 3.5mm audio jack and the micro-USB port are located on the top and bottom edge, respectively. Further, you will find the hybrid SIM slot and physical buttons on the left and right edge, respectively.

Coming to the fascia, the Panasonic Z1 Pro looks like the run-of-the-mill affordable smartphone with a display notch featuring next to slim bezels on the sides, a sizeable chin and a notch housing the front camera, earpiece and sensors. The 19:9 display measures 6.29-inch and flaunts a screen resolution of 1,500 x 720 pixels. Panasonic has equipped the handset will all sort of bells and whistles when it comes to the display, including economical backlight to save power, smart eye protection and colour temperature adjustment. There is also a Glove Pattern mode, which lets users operate the phone while wearing gloves.

One interesting addition is the ability to hide the notch with a simple swipe down from the top right corner and repeat the gesture to bring it back. The handset doesn’t utilise the area besides the notch to display the status bar icons and notifications like other phones that allow hiding the notch. Therefore, you either get the 19:9 aspect ratio or a true-blue 18:9 setup, there is no middle ground here. As for the display itself, the viewing angles are good and direct light legibility is also commendable, so we have no qualms when it comes to the visual quality.

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Coming to the performance of the handset, the Eluga Z1 Prime has been equipped with the MediaTek Helio P22 chipset backed by 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. Of the native storage, 48GB storage is available to the user and there is an option to clear the cache and junk files easily from the device. In our brief stint with the handset, Eluga Z1 Prime didn’t stutter or lag even once while multitasking and switching between simple games and video streaming. The handset boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and come with ARBO Hub, which uses AI to suggest actions based on user behaviour. Powering the handset is a beefy 4,000mAh battery with support for power saving modes and reverse charging. For security, there is a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.

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In the imaging department, the Eluga Z1 Prime has been equipped with dual 13MP + 2MP sensors on the rear with LED flash and an 8MP shooter with flash up front for selfies and video calling. Panasonic has equipped the camera app with features like bokeh, time lapse, slow motion, beauty mode, backlight, live photos, auto scene, face beauty, professional mode and more. Both front and rear cameras capture decent images, though we did notice soft edges around the subject while trying out the bokeh mode. There is a Facemoji feature to create your digital emoji with a number of characters pre-loaded. 

It’s clear that Panasonic has managed to pull out all stops with the Eluga Z1 Prime, which offers a commendable industrial design, a futuristic display, a loaded spec sheet and a beefy battery. However, with a price tag of Rs 17,490, it finds itself face-to-face with the likes of the OPPO F9, Realme 2 Pro (review), Xiaomi Mi A2 (review), Nokia 6.1 Plus (review) and Motorola One Power (review), all of which are strong contenders. From our POV, the Panasonic Eluga Z1 Prime faces an uphill task, but might be able to hold its ground because of its offline availability.