Asus Zenfone 5: Review

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The Zenfone 5, a different phone but the same name as the 2014 model; then it was a 5-inch screen, now it’s a 6.2 inch upgrade. It’s an interestingly designed device, even if it is slightly derivative.

It has a few bugs and errors, but a really interesting camera and an AI to match. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Asus Zenfone 5 together.

Packaging

The packaging is dark blue with the smartphone outline in the centre of a box, forming a heart.

In the package, we find a power supply with fast charger, 5V / 2A. There is also a Type C USB / USB cable, a pair of in-ear headphones with a jack connection, adapters for different ear sizes and a transparent TPU cover. All the accessories are well-made.

Technical Specifications

ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 636
GPUAdreno 509
Display18.7:9, 6.2″, Display Super IPS Full HD+ (2246 x 1080)
RAM4/6GB
ROM64GB, expandable to 2TB with microSD
OSAndroid Oreo 8.0, Asus ZenUI 5
Front CameraDual 12+8MP cameras; 12MP dual-pixel flagship Sony IMX363, 24mm, f/1.8; 8MP 12mm, 120° wide-angle lens
Rear Camera8MP, f/2.0, 24mm, campo visivo 84°
Sim CardDual Nano SIM, optional micro SIM
Connectivity802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4 & 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS + GLONASS+BDS, NFC
Battery3300mAh, rapid charge
OtherFingerprint Reader, Radio FM
Dimensions and weight153 x 75.7 x 7.9 mm, 155gr
NetworkGSM/GPRS/EDGE; WCDMA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+; TD-SCDMA; CDMA 2000; FDD-LTE; TD-LTE

 

The processor is an excellent chipset for the mid-range, providing a good balance of power with reduced battery consumption. Compared with the 2014 model, this has a 6.2 “diagonal display. The size of the display, even with its very thin edges, still comfortably fits in one hand. There’s 64 GB of ROM – more than enough space, but you can add more. The only issue is a hybrid SIM slot, meaning that you have to choose between using a second SIM or a microSD.

The connections available are up-to-date; Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band WiFi. You’ve also got both FM radio and NFC. There’s a 3.5mm jack too, for the headphones included in the package. The model in our possession is the ZE620KL, with 4 GB of RAM, and the phone should soon be available as a 6 GB model.

Design

The front is glass, with an aluminium frame for the back, making for a very thin phone, with only a slightly protrusion at the rear.

The front part is entirely composed of the display, with an excellent screen-to-body ratio of 90%. There are no keys but there is a “notch” at the top – an increasing trend following the release of the iPhone X, allowing for the display sensors and the receiver to be housed. There is also a very small notification LED; it’s all very comfortable and classy.

The left side is completely key-free, with only the SIM and microSD slot.

The upper part is also bare, except for the environmental mic hole. On the right side, there are the volume keys and the on / off key. You’ll find the 3.5mm Jack, the USB type C port, the call microphone and the loudspeaker at the bottom.

The back is also completely made of glass creating a beautiful circular effect that reflects the light. At the rear there is the double camera, positioned vertically, which protrudes slightly. Below it is the Dual Flash LED.

The overall build quality is very good, using premium materials. The fingerprint reader is also positioned so as to be easily reachable without straining too much.

Perhaps the overall design is not particularly sought-after and is a bit predictable, but it represents the current trend, so Asus can only really follow suit. Overall, I like it, although the back gets dirty easily. I appreciated the compactness of the device though; despite a large display, the sense of solidity is excellent.

Display

Perhaps one of the best displays in this price range. The display, which covers 90% of the body, is 6.2″ with excellent FullHD resolution (2246 x 1080). This resolution is ideal for this size of display, as you can’t see any pixels. The brightness is excellent and even under direct sunlight you can see well. The brightness sensor works well enough, although I did notice a slight lag time on occasion, when passing between areas of shadow and clear light.

I love the option of calibrating the color of the automatic display, depending on the environmental conditions. The viewing angle is excellent so you can always see the display without any problems.

Among the various settings of the display there are a couple which are very good, but some that, at the moment (at least for me), don’t quite work. Here I’m talking about the function for turning the phone on without pressing anything, by “lifting” the phone. The other one is the “tap to reactivate” function, which should allow you to touch the display to turn it on. This doesn’t seem to exist as a setting, but if you type “tap” in the search field, you get an option – although not one that works.

Camera

The device is equipped with a double rear camera. The 12MP main chamber is particularly sensitive to light, with an aperture of f / 1.8 with optical stabilizer. The second 8MP camera, on the other hand, is a 120° wide angle, so even in group photos there are no issues with getting everyone in.

The device is equipped with AI Artificial Intelligence software that analyzes each scenario to automatically detect the type of shot (for example a sunset, the sea or the trees), and will adjust the settings to get the best result. For everything else, the software is very simple and intuitive. Among the possible functions are automatic, manual, super resolution (which takes 48 MP photos), panoramic and portrait modes. In general, the options are simple and easy to use, even in Pro mode (there is still a range of shooting options in manual mode).

The shot itself is always quick. And, generally speaking, the cameras are both pretty good. The colors are generally good and you only get image noise in low light. As far as flaws go, in general the HDR does not work particularly well, and has a tendency to “burn” in bright areas, leaving white spots. The flash is good with good strength to illuminate even the darkest environments.

The Bokeh effect does its job decently too. Unlike low-end devices where the second camera is useless, both cameras are used well here, for the realization of depth. This effect can be realized with the double rear camera or the single front camera, which shows that the AI is effective at deducing contour. It is possible to adjust the blur, although I advise not to set this to maximum to avoid a “fake” effect. Here is a test shot.

Audio

I was really impressed with the audio. You get stereo sound, and the headset input also serves as a second speaker. It’s pretty powerful when set to outdoor mode, which increases the volume, albeit while sacrificing a bit of quality. The audio is not very clean but is well-balanced. On call, however, the sound is good and you don’t have to set the volume to the maximum; 50% is fine. You can hear the voice on the other end of the line clearly all the time.

Battery

The battery is 3300mAh. When using the device fully; social media, photos, phone calls and video streaming, I still never had to resort to charging it during the day. Generally, I ended up with about 20/30% at the end of the day. As for charging, Asus has equipped its Zenfone 5 with intelligent charging management software. In practice, when the device knows that it has many hours of charging ahead of it (for example during the night), it automatically turns off quick charge, ensuring long-term battery preservation.

Software

The Zenfone runs on Android 8.0, alongside the customised ZenUI 5. The software behaves well during everyday use, albeit with a few bugs (such as the “lift” function to display notifications). The charge management is an interesting use of artificial intelligence, as is the camera and the automatic ringtone volume adjustment, which works based on ambient noise. Another interesting option is game mode, in which the device will make the most of the processor and block notifications so as not to distract you during the game session. You can also record the screen while you play or make a live broadcast of your session.

The device has facial unlocking software that easily recognizes your face but doesn’t always work. This happens because the facial recognition system has a short time window for recognition.

On the other hand, the fingerprint reader works really well. The general fluidity does not disappoint, although there are some slight hesitations which show there is still work to be done to truly optimize the experience. There is some slow-down, such as when using the camera or quickly checking a photo that you’ve just taken.

The notch is well-used by Asus. By this I mean that the notifications are not cut off in favour of the notch. If there are notifications waiting in the upper left corner, then you’ll see 3 dots. Pressing on them will reveal a line with the icons of the various apps that have notifications.

Pull down the top menu and you get the settings (like wifi, do not disturb bluetooth etc.) and expanded notifications. With most apps the notch is “blacked out”, showing a black bar with info such as signal strength, remaining battery etc.

Conclusion

The Asus Zenfone 5 is a medium-range smartphone that grabbed me particularly for its build quality and its all-round capabilities. The launch price of €399 in various Chinese stores makes it even more interesting. It’s a device with a good battery, phone signal and camera. It uses AI in an innovative way (such as optimized recharging), has a bright display and the build quality brings the device close to top-of-the-range options. Of course, the design is slightly copied from others, and it would have been nice to have a wireless recharging option, or a certain degree of water resistance. The bugs and the slight uncertainties are easily correctable through the software. But I wasn’t impressed by the inability to activate the screen by lifting the device (this software issue ought to have been resolved).

Last updated on 21/01/2019 10:42
81%
Perhaps the best mid-range phone around

Not a particularly original design, but good cameras, a great display and good build quality. The launch price is attractive too, and a good opportunity to get a bargain.

  • Packaging
  • Technical Specifications
  • Design
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Audio
  • Battery
  • Software

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