ASUS Zenfone 2 : Dynamite in your pocket!

ASUS has made a habit of surprising us with well thought out and designed phones! They started catching our eye with the Zenfone 5 and impressed us with the Zenfone 6. The latest from their stable is the Zenfone 2. And this time they deliver a punch in your pocket. Let us review this phone today!

Zenfone 2 family

 

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch IPS display with 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution. Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3.
Processor 64-bit Quad Core Intel® Atom™ Z3560/Z3580 processor (running at 1.8 or 2.3GHz).
GPU PowerVR G6430 from Imagination
RAM 2GB or 4GB.
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB, microSD card slot, up to 64GB.
Camera Rear: 13MP, f/2.0-aperture, 5-element, auto-focus lens with dual-color Real Tone flash. Front: 5MP, f/2.0-aperture, wide-angle 85-degree lens with Selfie Panorama.
Battery 3000mAh lithium-polymer with fast-charge technology.
Connectivity 802.11ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS
Networks GSM, 3G, 4G LTE
Software Android 5.0 Lollipop
Dimensions 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9-3.9mm, 170g

 

Build and Design

IMG_20150523_135551

The Asus Zenfone 2  is a mid-range smartphone if you look at it strictly, but it certainly feels and works like a premium top range phone that can give serious blushes to most flagship premium models today. The build quality is definitely solid and a lot of thought has gone into it. It’s made of plastic like its predecessors, but the phone doesn’t feel cheap in the hand and is very well put together. The idea of having the power button at the top and the volume rocker right below the camera is a bit quirky. One is always scrambling to find the rocker and switching the phone on/off takes some getting used to. A double tap to wake and sleep gesture is available though, which luckily means that you won’t find yourself reaching for the power button all that often.

IMG_20150523_142253

The device comes with rounded corners, and the back has a significant curve to it that tapers down towards the edges, making for a very comfortable feel in the hand. The plastic back features a “false” metallic coating, which results in not only a great look, but also good grip, and effectively preventing the back from collecting fingerprints. The back cover is removable, there are the two SIM slots and the microSD card slot. Despite that, the battery is  sealed and non-removable.

IMG_20150523_142105

The device is fairly manageable when it comes to one-handed use, but not as easy as what Asus claims, and it  has a lot of the girth due to the somewhat thick bezels along the sides of the display, and the chin below it that houses the capacitive keys. Even then, the Zenfone 2 is still a very sleek looking device overall, even if we wish it was slightly smaller for an easier handling experience. Asus states that the Zenfone 2 is a 5.5-inch smartphone in the body of 5-inch smartphone. That is a bit exaggerated.

Display

The Asus Zenfone 2 comes with a large 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, giving a pixel density of 403 ppi. The Full HD is certainly impressive given the budget-friendly nature of this device.

The display is impressive. The screen is sharp, vivid, and bright enough in broad daylight, and offers great viewing angles. 5.5-inches is a good size for media consumption, and watching videos or playing games on this display is a pleasant experience. The default settings in terms of color calibration are OK, but we have the option to tweak the settings more to our liking, with a reading mode that is better on the eyes, a vivid mode that drastically increases the saturation, and  a manual mode for more granular controls over the display settings.

Hardware

The Asus Zenfone 2 packs a 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, backed by the PowerVR G6430 GPU, and is also the first smartphone to come with an impresive 4 GB of RAM. Remember that the other versions of the device that come with 2 GB of RAM and feature the 1.8 GHz Intel Atom Z3560 processor, so the performance may change depending on which variant you choose. When it comes to the performance of the 4 GB version, the device feels every bit like a high-end flagship. Animations are smooth, applications open quickly, it handles gaming extremely well, and with this much RAM on-board, multi-tasking is brilliant.

The device comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including support for 4G LTE and we had no issues with getting high-speed internet on the Aitel network. 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB of on-board storage is available, with further expansion via microSD possible up to 64 GB. The speaker has a very large grill that gives the notion of the phone having a powerful speaker. That is unfortunately not true,it has just a small single driver placed on the left side of the grill. The sound quality is OK, but it doesn’t get very loud when compared to some other phones with similar speakers.

The phone comes with a non-removable 3,000 mAh battery, and runs on the the power efficient Intel Atom chip, and hence it has a great battery life. It is possible to get a full day of use out of the device with around 4 hours of screen-on time. The phone does come with fast-charging technology, which supposedly will restore 60% of battery life in a little more than half an hour.

Camera

The Zenfone 2 comes with a 13 MP rear camera, with a dual tone LED flash, and a decent and effective aperture of f/2.0. This device also features ASUS’ Pixelmaster technology that is supposed to provide better shots and video in low light conditions. The camera application is fairly straightforward and easy to use, and has all the usual settings, bells and whistles that you would expect, such as white balance, exposure, ISO, and 1080p video capture, and some typical shooting modes are also available, including manual, HDR, and panorama.

The camera of the Zenfone 2 does very well in good lighting conditions, with the f/2.0 aperture allowing for some nice depth of field in shots. The biggest issue with this camera is the lack of dynamic range. While it is capable taking a decent shot, sometimes highlights were completely blown out and overexposed, or at the other end of the spectrum with images coming out too dark and underexposed. HDR mode proves to be useful and is the savior here, and works quite well to even out the images.

Software

The Asus Zenfone 2 comes with Lollipop out of the box. On top is the Asus Zen UI, the UI does retain some of the material design elements of Lollipop, clearly seen and noticeable in the notification shade and the Recent Apps screen.

There is a bunch  of bloatware applications on-board the device, but there are a handful of features that do add to the overall experience, like an Easy Mode that creates a simplified interface, and a one-handed mode, which, helps to have comfortable one-handed use, and can be enabled by a double tap of the home button. There are also a few gestures that can be used while the screen is off, known as ZenMotion, which includes the double tap to wake feature and also allows you to draw different characters to launch different applications. The Zenfone 2 also eliminates the need for carrying two separate work and personal devices for people who value their data and privacy, with the  Snapview feature allowing users to create completely separate and secure profiles to store work-related or personal data that only you can access.

Like all decent smartphones that are released now, you can customize every aspect of the theme and the launcher. The best part about this launcher is the fact that the user can use third party icon packs from the Google Play Store, something that is otherwise only possible with a third party launcher.

Verdict 

To put it in a single sentence – “Go and Buy it Now!”

Given the specs and the hardware inside the device with the price that it is available for, it is a no brainer. Just the ZenUI and ZenMotion is enough to make life easy. There are some issues with the battery and sheer amount of bloatware, but I am sure that for an average user looking to buy a value for money handset, this is a brilliant option. A small secret – I used it as a substitute for my laptop for three whole days and never lost productivity! Go get it!

 

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

View all posts by Shakthi →