Samsung Z3 first impressions: the Tizen experience goes mainstream

“The Z1’s successor brings upgrades across all aspects”

Without a doubt, Samsung is the leading Android smartphone manufacturer among the litany of brands using Google’s OS. However, with the search behemoth maintaining a tight control over its platform and offering a set of guidelines that should be followed by phone makers, the numero uno company doesn’t have much freedom, and hence it wanted its own alternative solution. Developed in-house, Tizen OS has been a long time in the making and powers Samsung’s Gear range of wearables. So far, there had been only smartphone powered by the OS, the Z1 (first impressions), which was launched in January this year. While the phone didn’t impress us with its hardware specs, it did manage to garner good sales thanks to its entry-level price point and Samsung’s brand pull.

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Now, the South Korean giant is following up the success of its debut Tizen-based smartphone with the Z3, which seems to be a more mainstream offering, as it packs a decent configuration and is aimed at the budget segment. While there’s no doubt that it’ll be competing against a range of Android devices, which is an uphill task, let’s see what it brings to the table based on our hands-on experience.

Unlike the 4-inch Samsung Z1, its successor is fitted with a 5-inch display, which has become the screen size of choice for most users as it’s large enough for viewing content, yet fits in one hand well. Thanks to the AMOLED technology and 720p resolution, the display panel on the Z3 offers brilliant colours and crisp text. Brightness levels also seemed to be fine indoors, but unfortunately, the smartphone misses out on an ambient light sensor for adjusting it automatically.

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With the display panel being the centerpiece up front, you’ll find familiar Samsung’s design attributes when it comes to other elements. The space above the screen is occupied by an earpiece, a front-facing snapper and a couple of sensors along with company’s branding. Below the display, you’ll find the physical home button flanked by two capacitive keys for menu and return.

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While the Z3 is constructed out of plastic, it features a chrome rim along its edges. The rim holds the power button on the right, and a volume rocker towards the left. The 3.5mm audio socket is available up top, whereas the micro-USB port can be found at the base.

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The removable rear panel features a matte finish and offers a good grip. It features the primary shooter sandwiched between an LED flash and a speaker mesh. There’s also Samsung branding in the middle. The device can be purchased in silver, black or gold options. Prying open the back plate would give you access to the dual-SIM slots, a microSD card slot and the battery unit.

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In terms of handling, the Samsung Z3 offers a good in-hand feel, although it’s quite thick. It tips the scale at 137g, which is decent for a phone of its size.

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The Z3 has got some serious improvements under the hood as well when compared to its predecessor. Instead of a dual-core processor and 768MB of RAM, the handset is provided horsepower by a 1.3GHz quad-core Spreadtrum SC7730S chipset, which is paired with 1GB of RAM. The combination seems decent, though the capacity of RAM might prove to be a bottleneck while multitasking. Of course, it’s true capabilities can only be known once we test it out extensively during our day-to-day usage.

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In terms of storage, the device comes with 8GB memory on board, out of which the end user would be able to access 4.9GB. Further storage of up to 32GB can be added with the use of a microSD card.

The Samsung Z3’s camera department also features much-needed upgrades, with the primary camera now offering a resolution of 8-megapixels, while the secondary shooter is of 5MP quality. The main snapper supports autofocus and gets assistance from an LED flash to shoot in poorly-lit environments. In indoor conditions, the camera seems to do a decent job, however we would refrain from passing any judgments until we test out the camera over different conditions.

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The Samsung Z3 runs the latest version of Tizen, which stands at v2.4. The interface is quite similar to Android, yet it’s quite different in a lot of ways. The home screen has two panes, with the second one allowing you to quickly access websites of popular services such as Twitter, Jabong, etc. The phone also comes preloaded with important apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Truecaller, Ola Cabs and the likes. The app menu can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom, and here you’ll find a couple of games such as Asphalt Nitro and Cricket Champs.

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The Z3 also lets you change the phone’s interface in a jiffy with the Styler functionality. Not only can you change the home screen or colour scheme of the device, but the whole UI as well with Themes. Samsung’s hope that its My Galaxy app would also prove to be a big draw for customers towards the handset. The app offers users deals and offers on various websites and apps such as Bookmyshow, Paytm, Amazon, etc., along with providing info on its service centres.

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The dual-SIM smartphone provides the usual connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. The mobile also features an Ultra Data saving mode, which ensures low usage of cellular data by compressing websites and managing services accessing internet in the background. The Samsung Z3 draws juice from a 2,600mAh battery, and you also get the Ultra power saving mode to extend the battery life further in case of a crunch.

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The Samsung Z3 carries a price tag of Rs 8,490, falling into the affordable segment. It brings better hardware than its predecessor, and should be able to offer a better experience. However, it does face tough competition from Android-based offerings such as the YU Yureka Plus (review) and the newly-launched 4G variant of the Moto G (2nd-gen). Additionally, a lack of 4G makes a difficult case for the smartphone, considering devices priced as low as Rs 5,000 are now offering support for the next-gen cellular network.

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