Asus Zenfone 5Z Review: Killer Phone To Take On The Flagship Killer

AUS Zenfone 5Z Rear View

ASUS is a brand that has had a great run till the Zenfone 3 series and then there was a lull in the flagship segment from them. They have come back into the flagship category with the Zenfone 5Z which created quite a stir at MWC this year. This device has been positioned to take on  the OnePlus 6 that is currently ruling the charts. I spent time with the device and here is my review of this phone.

Aside from the fact that it looks a lot like the iPhone X, the ZenFone 5Z is very definitely designed to impress, using premium materials and evidently cutting-edge craftsmanship. Its very noticeable edge-to-edge 2.5D-curved screen merges imperceptibly with the delicate body, giving ZenFone 5Z a beautiful seamless appearance and a luxurious feel. This is in line with the way most top end android flagships look today. Having said that, given the unique designs that ASUS has been giving us over the years, I was expecting a little more from them. They seem to have caved in to the current trend in smartphone looks. This is not a complaint, more of a pet peeve from me.  The rear camera bump is a tad bit smaller than the OnePlus6. The fact that a thinner sheet of glass has been used in the back means that it is lighter than the OnePlus 6 and certainly is more comfy to hold. The dual cameras on the rear are positioned exactly like the iPhone X though. Due to the lack of the array of sensors the iPhone X has, the Zenfone 6 still has a fingerprint scanner on the rear side.

So, there’s a 6.2-inch IPS LCD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6 GB RAM for the base model (there are 8 GB variants as well) paired with 64 GB of internal storage (there are also 128 and 256 GB options). I got the 6 GB RAM and 64 GB configuration for review.

Zenfone 5Z bottom

At the heart of ZenFone 5Z is the flagship Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845 Mobile Platform and Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, which combine a very smooth app and AI performance with noticeably longer battery life. The company claims that the ZenFone 5Z is engineered to run cool even when running lots of demanding apps, and there’s plenty of extra power on tap if you need it. It also features all the latest and greatest connectivity options for maximum convenience wherever you are. I tried putting it through a very testing grind with several heavy apps and games running in parallel. At one point, I had Injustice and Mortal combat running together and tried switching, there was absolutely no lag or stutter to be seen. The device takes heavy loads and cuts through it like a hot knife through butter. All that internal optimization using AI works and delivers. A big tick on performance and speed. Totally up there with the OnePlus 6. This is going to be a tight contest.

The Zenfone 5Z has a good and immersive screen.This large screen with a notch is totally immersive and supports the cinema-grade DCI-P3 color space, making photos, videos, movies and games look better and very realistic while giving them a rich sheen. Its AI technology ensures that images always look their best, and it’s even smart enough to keep the screen turned on when you’re looking at it. Translating all that into actual real life usage results, what it means is that the display is very sharp and delivers well fleshed out colors. The phone is also smart enough to figure out when to show and hide the notch. Yes, there is a notch and it is considerably bigger than the OnePlus 6 notch. The notch doesn’t mess with games or videos. Sunlight visibility and overall legibility is very good. The adaptive brightness tries to overcompensate sometimes though.

Zenfone 5Z Side View

The phone comes with a 6.2-inch 1080p+ screen in a compact 5.5-inch form-factor. And the now routine 19:9 aspect ratio that can be changed to 18:9 and 16:9  through settings for specific apps . The screen’s not an OLED one though, it’s an IPS panel. But hey, I am not complaining here at all. It punches way above it’s weight. Long hours on video streaming and gaming are peachy and like cakewalk. Full marks in this department. It gets tighter and tighter with the OnePlus 6 as we go further here. The ability to just tap the status bar and instantly look at all the notification icons at one glance is very good. Unlike other phones with a notch, there is no need to pull out  the whole notification area to see all of them.

There is evidently a lot of thought that has gone into the camera and photography department. ASUS says that the intelligent dual-camera system in ZenFone 5Z thinks for you, with advanced AI features that can seemingly anticipate your needs and adapt to your preferences, so you can concentrate on the subject, not the camera, and get great looking results every time. ZenFone 5Z  brings embedded AI into mobile photography, giving you a simpler, smarter way to capture and share every important moment. The camera is capable of “seeing” what you are focusing on, understanding what it is and then adjusting settings to give you optimal results when you click the picture. This is actually taking on both the Honor 10 and the OnePlus 6 here.

I put the camera through different scenarios and it was able to auto sense almost all the scenes that I was looking to capture. The AI is apt in that aspect. The bokeh mode works fine with clear sharp outlines and good blurring. The second camera serves well to take wide angle shots  that cover a lot of detail and more area in the images. The ability to manual switch to this mode is a definite plus in practical usage. My peeve with the AI more is that it tends to overcompensate a bit more when enabled and images look over saturated when there are multiple objects with a lot of colors in the foreground and background. Other than that, the camera on the front also delivers a lot of good quality images.  The camera is very close to the OnePlus 6, but I tried the camera without the AI and compared both and the images were very similar. Here are a few sample shots that I took with the phone.

ASUS has done a lot of work on Zen UI. The Software shell that used to be once very heavy and retro is now very light and smooth. They have kept it as close to the stock experience as possible. There is no bloatware ir unwanted stuff that you can see. Although personally, I would have preferred to have the ability to uninstall the facebook family of apps too. There are a lot of nifty additions that are there but stay out of the way.

The most significant feature for me is the stereo sound output and the clear and room filling sound it delivers. The AI in the phone can also figure out the ambient sound levels of the place it is in and then adjust the ringing volume accordingly, this means that the phone is louder in loud places and discreet in quiet places.  And then there is the fact that the ZenFone 5Z introduces AI-powered intelligent charging that maximizes your battery’s lifespan and provides total protection. It does this by dynamically adjusting the charging rate, which slows down the battery ageing process. This means that even when you charge the battery overnight, the charging rate and duration are maintained at a level where the battery is charged well and the battery life is also optimal.

The pricing quite literally takes the cake here and it is here that ASUS has taken on the OnePlus 6 head on here. Here is the pricing for the variants

6GB/64GB  : Rs 29,999
8GB/128GB: Rs 32,999
8GB/256GB: Rs 36,999


The Zenfone 5Z marks the return of ASUS to the flagship segment in a big way. This is a killer phone that is all set to kill the flagship killer. It will be interesting to see how it fares against the OnePlus 6

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.

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