GadgetsLab: Asus Zenfone 2

After its successful SEA and Philippine launches, we finally got hold of our own Zenfone 2. If you’re in the market for a new phone, you might want to read on.

Specifications:

  • 64-bit Intel Atom 2.3GHz Z3580 quad-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB of storage, with 5GB free lifetime ASUS Web Storage
  • External expandable up to 64GB via microSD
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 13 Mega-Pixel rear camera, Auto Focus, PixelMaster
  • 5 Mega-Pixel front camera, Fix Focus, Wide View, PixelMaster
  • 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9mm (6.00 x 3.04 x 0.43 in)
  • 170g weight
  • Dual SIM (Micro-SIM, dual standby, dual call)
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI
  • 3000mAh battery (non-removable)

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Design: 4.5/5

Box contents include the phone, the manual and warranty cards, headphones and their rubber plugs, the USB cord, and the slightly larger 18W BoostMaster charger that comes with each 2.3GHz/4GB ZenFone 2 package

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In front, the 5.5-inch full HD IPS display is topped with sturdy Corningware Gorilla Glass 3. Located on top is the usual speaker, and beside it is the 5MP, F/2.0, wide angle front camera. Below the display are the permanent android navigation buttons.

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The power button, as well as the 3.5 audio socket, are located on top of the device, while the microUSB port can be found at the bottom. The sides of the device are clean, as the volume rocker is located at the back, right below the dual LED real tone flash and 13MP camera. The plastic back plate has a brushed aluminum finish giving it a premium feel, although it fits pretty snugly and is a bit tricky to remove. I actually scratched the sides of the groove a bit just by using my nails while trying to pry the panel open.

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Inside, you will find the two microSIM slots, the MicroSD card slot, and buried somewhere underneath is the 3000mAh non-removable battery.
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Hardware: 4/5

The 5.5-inch screen and HD resolution makes it big enough to be useful for working on documents or simple graphic work on the go without straining your eyes (that much). As with other devices, screen brightness can be adjusted manually, or can be set to auto-mode which adjusts to ambient lighting. Color display comes with a sub menu where you can adjust temperature, find presents for balance, reading, vivid screen color modes, as well as a customized option which allows you to adjust hue and saturation to your liking.

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The phone comes pre-loaded with quite a number of apps—some useful, some less so—and requires a bit of updating when you’re using it for the first time. I ran the Antutu Benchmark test several times, and results ranged from just below the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 at 45,653, to a low of 37,609, which is still above the Nexus 5 and the last-gen LG flagship G3. I didn’t have any problems with my usual apps crashing after I successfully updated the OS and apps. The 4GB RAM – octa core combo might sound like overkill to some, but with apps needing more and more juice these days, I would rather underutilize my device’s capabilities, than suffer from having an underpowered one. It practically has more RAM than any other phone currently in the market, and that kinda guarantees that it’s going to be in the game much longer.

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The Zenfone 2 comes with ASUS’ proprietary BoostMaster Technology that can charge the device at double the speed. I don’t think I need to explain why zero to 60% in 39 minutes can be a lifesaver. With normal use and a Wi-Fi connection, the battery lasts a whole day, but expect that to decrease dramatically if you are using cellular data, and more so if you use it as a hotspot. (That’s when the 10050mAh ZenPower powerbank comes in handy, but that’s another review.)

User Experience: 4.5/5

I took the device with me on a photowalk at a nearby Sunday market and was quite impressed with the results. I can’t say that the shutter is the fastest out there, but if you take time to properly compose and frame your shots, you won’t be disappointed with the output. I shot in automatic, with all the default settings, because admit it, how often do you really use anything more than that, right? Manual setting is, however, available for when you need it, together with an assortment of settings optimized for different lighting conditions and preferred special effects.

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Value: 4.5/5

The ZE551ML variants of the Zenfone 2 are priced at PHP 9,995 for 16GB, PHP 13,995 for 32 GB, and PHP 14,995 for the 64 GB variant. For just a thousand or two more, I would save up for the highest capacity model offering the best value.

Bottomline:

If you are looking for a truly usable daily driver but don’t want to break bank, the Zenfone 2 might be the one for you. It’s far from perfect, but if its bang for your buck you are looking for, the package can’t get much sweeter than this.

What’s hot:

  • 4GB RAM
  • Attractive Pricing

What’s not:

  • Not the fastest shutter but still very usable
  • No accessories available (YET) (EDIT: We’ve already seen some third-party cases at the tiangges!)
Originally published in Gadgets Magazine July 2015 issue

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