Review: ASUS Zenfone 2. Should you be getting it?

Thanks to ASUS, I managed to get hold of the ASUS Zenfone 2 just before it was officially launched. During my review, I used it as my secondary phone. (Therefore, the usage pattern might be different from my primary phone).

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Left: Front View, Right: Back View

As with all my reviews, I prefer to position myself as a consumer (abet a more aggressive user) in reviewing the phones. From my observation, most consumers would not be bothered with the benchmarking results. There will be none here.

After so many years, I realize that consumers only wanted a reliable phone and their interest span might be just one to two years (at least for Singapore market) before they decide to buy a new one (Thankfully (or not), in Singapore, we have subsidized handset pricing with contract with Telcos).

Back to the review, the ASUS Zenfone 2 that I had for review is the metallic back version ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML).

First look of ASUS Zenfone 2

The ZenFone 2 is the world’s first 4GB RAM smartphone running on a 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel Atom processor (Yes, an Intel processor) with 4G/LTE and fast-charge 3,000mAh battery. It is curvy on the whole and has a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display. Click Here to Check Out the Official Press Release

Here are the different views of the phone.

Top and bottom view

Notice that the Zenfone 2 is very “clean”. It has the minimalist look. The bottom of the phone is the Micro USB port and the top is the headphone jack and Power on/off button.

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Side View

On both of its side, it doesn’t have any button. The volume buttons are on the back of the phone, just below the lens.

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Here is close up of the back view. It has a 13 MPX rear camera with flash. The volume up/down button is at the back. This button also acts as a trigger for the camera.

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As mentioned earlier, it is powered by Intel, which is not common in the current market. The small holes are actually for the phone speaker.

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Don’t be fooled by the back cover. It looks metallic but it is not. It is made of plastic as shown in the picture below.

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Take a look of the phone back without the cover. Notice that although the battery can be seen, it is NOT detachable. I guess when it comes to servicing the phone, it might be easier to access the battery with this design.

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Here is a close look at the slots. It has two Micro SIM card slots. Only one is capable of 4G connectivity. The other Micro SIM (SIM Card 2) is actually on 2G. In the picture, you can also see the Micro SD card slot which I think is very important since the phone has only 32GB of internal memory (or storage, if you like it to be called). The Micro SD card can support up to 64GB.

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A close up of the front. You can see the 5 MPX camera.

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Overall, it is sleek looking and quite heavy (170g) although it is quite ergonomic (can I use this word like this?) when you grab it. When you put inside your trouser (like a pant or jeans for example), it might protrude out. It depends on the cut of your jeans or trouser. I have no problem with it. In fact, I actually had two phones in my trouser almost everyday.

Usage

Software

The Zenfone 2 review phone that I have is running on Android Lollipop with the base software as shown. I did not use the second SIM card in my review.

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Phone responsiveness

As a consumer, I do not like slow responses on my phone. For the ASUS Zenfone 2, it is actually very responsive. There might be a few reasons like it is still ‘new’, it does not have many apps in it and there are a lot of internal storage.

Another reason might be because of the 4GB of RAM (which is a first for me on a phone). RAM is very important. If you notice that the more background apps you run, the lesser RAM you have and eventually, the phone becomes less responsive (until you kill all the apps).

ZenUI

I have no problem with the Zen UI. It has different themes that you can change but I am not a theme guy. I usually stick to the standard theme as I feel that the developer puts in the most effort on the standard theme.

Usually, you update your apps on Playstore. For ASUS Zenfone 2 with ZenUI, you will need to go into “Settings” and click on the ZenUI Updates to update ASUS apps.

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If you have bought the ASUS accessories like the ASUS flip cover, you can enable it in the settings. In the ASUS customized settings, there is even a Glove mode. I forgot to try it. If you have the Zenfone 2, please try it and let me know.

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Overall, I did not feel that ZenUI is bloated or overwhelming on the Zenfone 2.

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Camera

The rear 13 MPX camera with aperture of F2.0 is fast and focusing is good. I like the fact that I can bring it close to the subject to take Macro picture. Some phone cameras have difficulty doing so. In low light, it is a slightly above average performer. Nothing spectacular to shout out.

The front camera is a 5 MPX camera with an aperture of F/2.0 which is currently standard for most phones.

If there is one feature on the camera that I want to mention about the camera,  it would be the Beauty Mode (actually the camera built-in software). It was not mentioned in the official website. I guess maybe it is because it is just software and there are quite a number of such apps around.

I have so much fun with it by putting makeup (software) onto guys and gals. I am not going to show them here but here is one that I done it on myself.

Can you see what I have done? I have smoothened my face, lightened my skin color, enlarged my eyes, sharpened my chin and finally put on blusher (red) on my face. All done in a few seconds with the sliders.

BTW, while adjusting the settings, you can immediately see the effects (to some extend only).

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Here is a “normal” one with some smoothening done.

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Here is how the slider works.

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The detection is quite accurate but I suggest you use a front portrait for adjustment, especially if you want to alter the chin area. If not, it might become distorted. Actually, you can also take a picture and perform this “modification” later.

For other modes, there are the usual modes like HDR mode which I want to mention here. It is quite straight forward to use. Just activate it. There is no settings to adjust the level of HDR but on paper, it has the super HDR mode.

Tame The Brightness with Backlight (Super HDR) Mode

PixelMaster Backlight (Super HDR) mode automatically captures multiple shots of the scene in the viewfinder, and processes these using ASUS Pixel Enhancing technology. This expands the dynamic range by 4 times to give the final picture up to 400% more brightness, along with improved color contrast and detail to ensure the photos you capture in any scene with strong back-lighting look totally natural.

I try to use this feature sparingly as sometimes, the results is not good. This picture was taken in the evening. As you can see, there are some light outlines on the trees and etc. This is due to HDR processing. Some people just hate it. I am ok with it though.

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Battery

Battery is of greatest concern for most consumers. If you look around on trains or buses, you will be able to see people plugging their phones to the portable batteries.

For the ASUS Zenfone 2, the 3000 mAh Li-Polymer (non-removable) battery is average. As mentioned earlier, I used it as a secondary phone, so the usage is not as high. The battery can last me a day with some juice to spare.

For this review unit (2.3GHz/4GB ZenFone 2), it comes with the 18W BoostMaster adapter which can significantly charge up the phone in a short time.

Overall

In summary, the ASUS ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML) model is a reliable phone at a reasonable price (S$349) with that specs. The only “complain” is that it felt a little warm after using for a while. It is very subjective as some phones are warm too.

I love the LTE speed (Cat 4 at 150 Mbps for download). It is fast as compare to my current phone (Of course, I know some phones are already at Cat 6 (300Mbps) which should feel much faster).

The 5.5-inch screen is also very bright and extends to the edge (I like edgeless design). The phone supports Wireless 802.11ac which is definitely a plus.

The downside about this phone is that the second SIM card can only support 2G (Some competitors are already using supporting 4G for both SIM Cards). So, if you need two 4G SIM cards on a dual SIM phone, you might have to reconsider.

That is it for my review. Thank you again ASUS for the review set. Let me know if you have any questions.

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