Asus Zenfone 5 review

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Asus has a decent share of the tablet and laptop markets in India and now Asus is about to enter a very crowded mainstream market with their new Zenfone series. We’ve had a chance to play around with the Asus Zenfone 5, which is the company’s 5-inch model in the series. Asus packs a lot of features in these devices like an Intel CPU, a new user interface and a proprietary camera technology. The ZenFones are also offered in three sizes – 4-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch.

TECH SPECS

  • Model name: A501CG
  • Display: 5″ 1280*720 IPS+ Panel, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • CPU: Intel Atom Dual-Core Z2560 1.6GHz
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB & 8GB
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 2MP front, 8MP rear
  • Battery: 2110 mAh
  • OS: Android JellyBean 4.3 (will update to 4.4 KitKat)
  • Memory Slot: MicroSD card (up to 64 GB)
  • SIM: Micro Dual-SIM card

BOX CONTENT

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  • Asus ZenFone 5
  • MicroUSB Charger
  • USB cable
  • Earphones
  • User manual

BUILD & DESIGN

The Zenfone 5 looks and feels extremely premium, even for a smartphone priced at Rs 15,000. The back is made of a matte finish polycarbonate plastic with subtle curves that make the phone feel good to hold. The front is dominated by the 5-inch HD display and rocks Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The design has the Asus trademark with brushed metal at the bottom and sharp edges. You will like the feel of this phone with the matte finish rear flap and metallic buttons.

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The phone does have thick bezels on the sides of the display, which stick out a bit considering the trend these days is to have ultra-thin bezels. Rather than having onscreen menu buttons, the designers have opted for capacitive buttons below the display. For some reason, these buttons are not backlit and hitting them in the dark becomes guesswork. The Asus Zenfone 5 is not particularly slim either. It’s a sizeable phone with a depth of 10.3mm and weighs about 145g. It feels sturdy to hold and Asus has used high quality plastics for the chassis.

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On the right edge houses the volume and power/lock key which have a metal finish. The top has the 3.5mm audio jack while the bottom has the microUSB port. The handset also has two microphones, each of them housed on the top and bottom edges.

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At the back you will find the 8MP camera with an LED flash, the loudspeaker and a couple of Asus and Intel logos, it also appears that the phone have a uni-body chassis, but in reality, the back can be removed revealing the microSD card slot and dual-SIM slots. The battery is non-user replaceable so in case you have any issues, you will have to head to the service centre.

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CAMERA

Another great aspect of the phone is its new PixelMaster camera. As our video shows it is in the top draw when it comes to low-light photography. Not many flagships phones can claim this kind of picture quality. But it also means, you dont get a lot of subtle night shows. Everything is so perfectly bright. The camera also gives you a lot of options in modes and adjustments. The camera sensor has larger photoreceptors and an f/2.0 lens to get in more light. Plus, the five-lens combination removes distortions.

The Zenfone 5 comes with an 8MP camera with an f/2 aperture, an LED flash and also a front 2MP camera. Another great aspect of the phone is its new PixelMaster camera technology. In the video department you can shoot full HD videos at 30fps. The camera app UI is fairly simple and includes your usual set of settings, filters and effects.

UI & PERFORMANCE

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One of the major talking points for Asus in the Zenfones is the UI, which it calls the Zen UI. The smartphone runs on Android 4.3 JellyBean. What we like the most in the UI are the lock screen widgets that let you access certain apps directly without having to first unlock the phone and then finding the app. Asus has also give a “what’s next” widget on the lock screen as well as one of the home screens that show you your agenda for the day.

Asus has overhauled the skin completely and to no surprise, has chosen to go with a flatter design for the theme. This seems to be the trend this year as everyone from Apple, Google to Samsung, to LG seems to be treading the same path. The Zen UI has round icons in the notification centre, which reminded us of Samsung’s latest iteration of TouchWiz, which too has round icons and a flatter look. Talking about the notification centre, it is a bit strange that swiping it down takes users to shortcuts for various settings and to check out the notification you have to hit a tab on the top.

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The phone comes pre-loaded with a bunch of apps, but this is nowhere near the intense app duplication one can find on a Samsung smartphone. Apps work smoothly and are responsive and even multitasking is done efficiently thanks to the 2GB of RAM. Day to day usage is fairly good and we didn’t notice any app crashes or anything out of the ordinary. Asus also offers its own web storage. As for software updates, the ZenFone is currently running on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but Asus is promising an update to KitKat, but there is no word on Android L.

VERDIT

It does offer an appealing design and sturdy build quality. As for the Zenfone, a price of around Rs 10,000 would be ideal and while it might not have the best specifications around, we feel the new user interface and bundled apps should be incentive enough to have a second look.

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