Asus is not done competing with the low-end smartphone market, as they have a ZenFone family recently announced poised to take over in 4, 5 and 6. What we have here now is the Asus ZenFone 5, the middle-child of the family, not too big, not too small – packing decent specs, good software, a great design and a polishing in almost all places – paired with a really affordable price tag. Does it have what it takes? Read on our full review and find out!
Design and Construction
We let a few people hold the phone and give their impressions on it, and so far, everybody liked it and no bad comment was given about the design. Asus took a lot of work into refining every detail with the ZenFone 5; from the buttons on the left side & the circular design on the bottom bezel of the screen to the curved back, we have no complaints.
As for attracting dirt and debris, Asus has done good as well. The back cover is entirely removable, and everything was easy to wipe off.
Although its body is mostly made of plastic, the handset still looks classy and sophisticated. Despite of being a little thick and bit hefty, it didn’t diminish the overall premium feel of the smartphone.
The display of the ZenFone 5 is, well, 5-inches in size and it’s of the IPS LCD kind. Sadly, we did notice that the ZenFone’s screen still has a few bad angles – but not a serious dealbreaker from what we’ve seen.
At first look, we really thought the panel here is full HD – as colors are bright, vibrant and well-contrasted, but it’s actually just 720 x 1280. Nevertheless, text produced still looked sharp, and we’d like to give it to Asus for having a reading mode setting as it helped not straining my eyes using the phone in total darkness.
OS, Apps and UI
Android 4.3 powers the ZenFone, and we’ve received a few updates since we powered up the device already. None of them brought the device to KitKat yet, but we will probably see it in the future.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – Asus has done a good job with their skinning here – the Zen UI, It adds lots of features and apps that you’d actually use, and they all look so clean without being too in-your-face all the time. You have organized apps for display and audio settings, and a great set of widgets and apps such as SuperNote. From here, we wish all other manufacturers would take note as this is one of Asus’ big strengths right now in our opinion.
Multimedia & Camera
If you check out the lower back portion of the device, you’ll see a strip of holes dedicated for the speaker, but we find this rather deceptive. Pull off the cover or cover just a specific part of the strip and you’ll find that the speaker is only a small square. Nevertheless, it performs slightly better compared to average phone speakers out there, producing loud and quality audio, but it surely won’t blow anyone away.
The 8 megapixel camera here works great, especially for its caliber. It’s fast and it gives timely suggestions on what photo mode to use in a specific situation, and the modes themselves are really good just like the rest of the software in the ZenFone.
What blows us away is what Asus calls Pixelmaster, a combination of software and hardware that allows you to take bright 2 megapixel photos even in almost no lighting – and it works! We have a gallery of pictures down below covering depth of field, low-light & auto shots, so check those all out for yourself.
Following up the bright and sharp photos taken by the device, video works well too. We were tapping to focus in the sample video down below, but other than that, we’re contented with what we got:
Performance & Benchmarks
Asus has stuffed an Intel Atom inside this device. And while the chipset didn’t blow us away, we’re thankful that it’s not one of those processors that showboats the number of processors to woo consumers. In fact, despite being a dual-core CPU, it does more than okay and we didn’t encounter any problems with navigation and the like.
What we did encounter, however, are few crashes from opening up games when power saver mode was on. The handset froze on few occassions and when we had to turn off the screen, the whole device shut down as well. It’s probably some GPU related problem, but it didn’t occur that frequently as we were able to play a few graphic intensive games at normal settings (it starts to lag when it gets heavier).
Call Quality & Battery Life
With connectivity in mind, we did not have anything deviating from the usual. There is dual SIM support here, the earpiece is okay, and from places where we usually test our gadgets, it manages to capture our WiFi connection easily.
On standby, the Asus ZenFone 5 did really well lasting us days, but after putting it through our battery test, draining the battery with 50% brightness and 50% audio volume on video playback, we managed to drain the battery in around five hours and 10 minutes, which is to say it’s not bad, but it’s not that impressive either.
Charging the battery takes the usual time here, maybe even slower, but we’ve noted that as we tried using the bundled charger on other phones and it will take so long before we even get to half a charge.
With almost nothing to complain about, the ZenFone 5 is one of those phones that say “premium but affordable devices are possible”. Hardware and software combined, the ZenFone is very polished. However, we do have a few gripes with the overall performance, and we’re hoping an update comes to fix that, but apart from what we mentioned, this is one affordable smartphone that’s greatly put together.
The local pricing of the Asus ZenFone 5, as of the time of writing, is still not set. But it’s already available in some parts of the world for USD149 or estimated 6,500 in our local currency, making it a very interesting proposition for the budget-conscious crowd. Let’s just hope that the local SRP will be somewhere close to what we’re expecting.
ASUS ZenFone 5 specs:
5-inch IPS LCD display, 1280 x 720 @294ppi
Intel Atom Z2580 2GHz dual-core processor
PowerVR SGX 544 MP2
16GB internal storage
64GB via microSD
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
8MP BSI rear camera w/ LED flash
1080p video recording @30fps
2MP front-facing camera
148.2 x 72.8 x 10.3 mm
Colors: Charcoal Black, Pearl White, Cherry Red, and Champagne Gold
What we liked about it:
What we didn’t like about it: