At the CES 2014, ASUS unveiled its Android powered new Zenfone smartphone line-up – the Zenfone 4, Zenfone 5, and Zenfone 6, where the numeric value indicates their exact screen size, making it easier to choose one that fits you best. We got to review the Asus Zenfone 5, which is the final Indian retail unit with a couple of changes since it was initially announced. The Indian variant of Zenfone 5 is powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Z2560 processor (with Intel Hyper-Threading technology) instead of Z2580 at 2GHz, so that’s not a major concern. Asus has also upgraded the device with 2GB RAM and increased 2110 mAh battery. Asus Zenfone 5 is a budget smartphone with good specifications, scheduled to launch on July 9th in India.
What’s In the box?
Build and Design –
The Zenfone 5 feels perfect in hand with its right size, serving a mixed flavour of a 4’’ phone and 6” phablet – not too small and not too large! The handset design is slightly inspired by HTC One with a curved back that makes it comfortable to hold and appear slimmer. The back is made of fine polycarbonate material with a premium matte finish that looks beautiful and isn’t prone to fingerprints though it’s a bit slippery. In terms of thickness, it measures 10.34 mm at the center and 5.5 mm at the adjoining edges, but still, the device feels a bit heavy at 145g. On the front are 3 non-illuminated hardware capacitive keys for Home, back, and multitasking. Just beneath the keys, brushed aluminium with a fine circle pattern inspired by the Asus ZenBook design is wrapped at the bottom that’s appealing enough. The top front equips proximity and ambient light sensors, plus a LED notification light.
The metallic power button and volume rocker feel sturdy and offer nice tactile feedback. The main microphone and micro USB port are located at the bottom while the 3.5mm jack and the secondary noise-cancelling microphone are placed at the top. A groove at the bottom left corner side makes it really easy to pull off the back cover that can be interchanged if provided. On opening the back panel, you will find two slots for a micro SIM card and a micro SD card slot. The device has a great build quality, looks durable and the back cover fits snugly in place.
Asus Zenfone 5 Photo Gallery – (Click on the images to view them in full size.)
Zenfone 5 sports a 5” Super IPS HD display with a screen resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 294 ppi. The display is scratch-resistant with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The 720p 5-inch display is at par with sharp and bright picture quality. The viewing angles are very good as well and the presence of GloveTouch lets you operate the phone while wearing gloves. Overall, the IPS display is impressive and is one of the best things about this phone.
The Zenfone 5 packs an 8MP rear camera with Asus PixelMaster technology, autofocus, LED flash, F2.0 wide-aperture lens, and BSI sensor. There is a 2MP front-facing camera with an F2.4 aperture for selfie and video calls. The main camera is capable of capturing quality photo shots in daylight and low light conditions as well. That’s possible with its PixelMaster camera that promises to deliver brighter photos and videos, enhanced low-light performance, and steady shots with image stabilization technology, and includes advanced camera features and effects. PixelMaster’s low-light mode allows you to capture clear and bright shots in poorly lit areas by increasing the light sensitivity by up to 400% and contrast up to 200%.
The camera comes with interesting shooting modes like – Time Rewind, Panorama, HDR mode, Selfie mode, Night mode, Miniature, Depth of field, Smart remove, GIF animation, etc. The Miniature effect lets you focus on a specific object and defocuses the rest of the background. Also, there are built-in camera effects like Sepia, negative, grayscale, of which the Photo sketch is really good. One can instantly power up the camera by double-tapping the volume key which acts as the shutter key as well. The rear camera supports video recording up to 1080p @30fps. Overall, the device camera performs really well and doesn’t fail to impress.
Camera Samples –
Software, UI, and Features –
The Zenfone 5 currently runs on Android 4.3 Jellybean (will update to Android 4.4 KitKat) and features the brand new custom Asus ZenUI. The user interface looks fresh, sleek, and beautiful; that’s functional and very responsive without any lags. The UI is indeed one of the best features of this smartphone and we personally loved it. With ZenUI, you’ll visually notice multi-color themes and an intuitive design with flat icons, a clean layout, and newly added features – What’s Next and Do It Later. What’s Next keeps a track of your important tasks such as appointments, emails, missed calls, weather updates and shows this information on the lock screen and the home screen. Do It Later allows you to take a note of all the important tasks that you prefer to do sometime later.
Other software features include – Easy Mode (provides a simple and bold layout with access to your favorite apps and core functions), support for Wireless display (Miracast), Reading mode (for a comfortable reading experience), smart dialer, enhanced Quick settings, etc.
The Asus customized settings let you configure several settings. You can change the screenshot file format to either PNG or JPEG which is something new. The items and their position in quick settings can be edited, and users also have the ability to change the default App installation settings. You have the option to choose a preferred installation directory either as internal or external storage, or just set it to Auto if internal storage isn’t a concern.
It has in-built Call Recording functionality which is one of its kind and the recording is saved in AMR, AAC, and PCM format. The app drawer lists the apps as downloaded and frequent so that one can sort them easily. The interface lets you hide unused apps and the built-in App Lock allows you to lock the desired apps with a PIN password, with great ease.
Battery Life, Storage, and Connectivity –
Battery – The phone comes with a 2110 mAh non-removable battery that drains faster than expected and is certainly the most disappointing thing about it. The battery runs out of power quickly even on moderate usage and perhaps that’s because of the Intel Inside SoC that powers it up. In our test, the battery lasted for 9h 44m at 5% with a screen on time of 4h 19m after being drained quickly from 34% down to 5% in exactly 1h 45m. To conserve power, it has a couple of power-saving modes – Ultra-saving mode and Optimized mode. It comes with a 1.35A detachable USB charger and the supplied USB cable is a quality one.
Storage – Includes 8GB of internal storage of which the user available is 4.89GB. The storage is expandable up to 64GB via a microSD card and ‘Apps can be moved to SD card’ without the need to root the device or use any 3rd party app. Users also have the option to change the app installation location from the settings and choose either of the storage.
Connectivity – Zenfone 5 supports Dual-SIM, both of which are micro SIM with a dual-standby mode that means both the SIMs work simultaneously. Connectivity options include: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP + EDR, HSPA+, micro USB 2.0, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. As per the user manual, both micro SIM card slots support 3G (WCDMA) band but only one can connect to 3G at a time. In Dual SIM settings, you can choose the preferred SIM card for voice calls and can also enable/ disable either of the SIM cards.
The device is powered by an Intel Atom Dual-Core Z2560 (2×2 processor) clocked at 1.6GHz with Intel Hyper-Threading technology that delivers a good performance but seems power-hungry, resulting in low battery backup. The phone packs 2 cores (4 CPUs), 2GB RAM, and the GPU is PowerVR SGX544 MP that is capable of producing decent graphics. Asus has done a remarkable job with the software optimization on Zenfone 5 running ZenUI, which is clean, snappy, and pretty responsive. During our test, the device firmware updated OTA a couple of times so updates shouldn’t be an issue. The official Facebook app tends to close unexpectedly every time which is a known issue and might be fixed in the next update. The voice call quality is average. Overall, the phone offers a satisfactory and good user experience.
Our Verdict –
Asus Zenfone 5 is set to launch in India in early July and hence its pricing hasn’t been revealed yet. Considering its $150 retail price in the US, the handset should be priced somewhere between Rs. 13,000 to Rs. 15,000 that should make it a worthy buy in this range. We recommend it for users looking for a phone with a bigger and bright display, good build quality and design, a decent camera for everyday life photos, and Dual-SIM capability.
Comes in 5 vibrant colours – Charcoal Black, Pearl White, Cherry Red, Twilight Purple, and Champagne Gold.
Do share your views about the device!
UPDATE (July 9) – The Asus Zenfone phone series has been officially launched in India at an affordable and competitive price.
- Zenfone 4 starts at Rs. 5,999
- Zenfone 5 starts at Rs. 9,999
- Zenfone 6 starts at Rs. 16,999