Asus Zenfone 5 First Impression: Notching Up What Matters

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With the new Zenfone 5-series, Asus tries to remain ahead of the current market trends – something which has been a vexing complication for the Taiwanese smartphone maker in the recent past. The new lineup shows that Asus has been heeding to consumer feedback and has sincerely tried to tune its Zenfones according.

The resulting Zenfone 5 models are competitive crowd pleasers. Out of these, the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z are confirmed to launch in India very soon. On the face of it, they are beautiful phones with iPhone X like notch, a few customary AI capabilities, competent chipsets, and a more refined Zen UI experience.

But is Zenfone 5 a phone that we can recommend? We managed to spend some quality time with the new 5 to ascertain just that. And we have gathered our thoughts in the following Zenfone 5 quick review.

Asus Zenfone 5 specifications

Model Asus Zenfone 5 (ZE620KL)
Display 6.2-Inch, Full HD+, 19:9; 500 Nits bright, 90-percent screen-to-body ratio
Processor 1.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 636
RAM up to 6GB
Internal Storage up to 64GB, expandable (Hybrid slot)
Software Android 8.0 Oreo-based Zen UI 5.0
Rear Camera 13MP Sony IMX636, f/1.8 aperture

8MP, f/2.2, 120-degree

Selfie Camera 8MP, f/2.0
Battery 3300mAh battery
Others 4G VoLTE support, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB Type-C, OTG, GPS, NFC, Fingerprint sensor, Face Unlock
Asus Zenfone 5 price To be announced

Also Read: Vivo APEX Concept Phone with Retracting Selfie Camera

Asus Zenfone 5 Design and Build

Apple has decided to stick with the notch and even expand it to all upcoming iPhones in 2018. The screen cut-out was initially viewed as an unnatural anomaly that couldn’t be eliminated, but now it is fast shaping into a trendy design element on the Android side of the table.

With the Zenfone 5-series, Asus becomes the first mainstream Android player to embrace the Notch (i.e. if you don’t count Essential phone which had more of a blotch). Others OEMs including Huawei will soon join the club.

We weren’t particularly happy about the Notch till we had the first-hand experience of the iPhone X and can kind of see where Asus, or other Android OEMs for that matter, are coming from.  It still goes in the guilty pleasure folder, but the notch on the Zenfone 5 kind of works for us.

The fascia is mostly screen and looks beautiful. The back shows Asus signature concentric circle pattern embellished with a glass layer on top. The fingerprint sensor on the rear, and the power button and volume rocker on the right edge are all readily accessible.

  • The Zenfone 5 is a sexy phone. The Notch is something Asus lifts of Apple shelves but it kind of works, in our opinion.
  • You won’t notice the notch within most apps as the entire notch strip is blacked out. What remains is a familiar 18:9 ratio screen.
  • The front of the phone is mostly-display (90% screen-to-body ratio), layered with 2.5D Gorilla Glass on top, and that certainly makes it look and feel premium.
  • The back has glass layer with signature Asus concentric circle pattern underneath. The rear panel reflects light and makes the phone look unique and elegant.
  • The Zenfone 5 is quite comfortable to handle and feels solid.
  • On the bottom edge, you will find speaker grill, USB Type-C port, and the 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • The fingerprint sensor is on the rear. Zenfone 5 also has Face Unlock that can unlock your phone in 0.1 seconds (Asus claims).

Asus Zenfone 5 Display

The display takes center-stage with Zenfone 5 and Asus has ensured that the panel quality is up to the mark. The 19:9 aspect ratio IPS LCD panel has vivid colors and high contrast. The color temperature is on the colder side, but the good thing is Asus has an auto color temperature toggle in quick settings that can adjust the color temperature based on ambient lighting. In indoor lighting,  it made the display warmer with a subtle touch and we preferred to keep it on.

  • Asus is using a 19:9 aspect ratio display panel. If you ignore the notch-strip, the remaining portion is 18:9.
  • Colors are punchy and contrast is high. The display can get 500 nits bright, which sound good enough for comfortable outdoor usage.
  • Zenfone 5 has an AI-powered Auto color temperature toggle in quick settings. When turned on, it can tune the color temperature according to the ambient light. In our brief experience, this did work well.
  • The display will remain on while you are staring at it. AI chops.
  • You can manually adjust color temperature and saturation. Zen UI includes an effective Blue light filter.

Asus Zenfone 5 Performance and software

The Zenfone 5 is powered by Snapdragon 636 octa-core mobile platform paired with up to 6GB RAM and up to 128GB storage. This is the same power-efficient 14nm chip that powers Xiaomi’s recently launched Redmi Note 5 Pro. The SoC employs 8 custom Kryo-Cores, all ticking at 1.8GHz.

The Zenfone 5Z, the high-end model, has Snapdragon 845 chipset paired with up to 8GB storage and up to 256GB storage. Other hardware and design is similar to Zenfone 5

Asus isn’t skimping on performance hardware and chipset feels quite assuring. The Zen UI 5.0 running on the phone (Android-Oreo based) has been upgraded and refined to support it well. It’s a feature loaded skin but Asus has rectified the design and aggressively dialed down on bloatware. We could count only 7 or 8 Asus apps on the phone, most of which were neatly stacked in a folder.  Our major gripes with Asus UI have now been addressed.

The handset has a 3300mAh battery that supports fast charging.

  • The Zenfone 5 is powered by Snapdragon 636 octa-core chipset (the same one as in Redmi Note 5 Pro).
  • The chipset is quite assuring and the interface felt snappy in our initial time with the phone.
  • The SoC is also power efficient and the 3300mAh battery on the phone is expected to comfortably last a day.
  • The phone has smart fast charging that can fast charge your phone rapidly during hours you generally use it more and reduce charging speed otherwise. This helps increase the battery lifespan.
  • The software is Zen UI 5.0 which is based on Android Oreo. Asus has further dialed down on the bloatware.
  • AI featues
  • The fingerprint sensor felt fast. We didn’t get to test Face Unlock during our hands on.
  • Asus bundles Hi-Res audio-capable earbuds in the box. The phone also supports DTS Headphone:X for immersive audio output.

Asus Zenfone 5 Camera

On the rear, you will find a 12MP Sony IMX363 sensor (primary sensor) with f/1.8 aperture lens and 83-degrees field of view. This is paired with an 8MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture, 120-degree wide angle lens.

The second shooter is used to capture a broader view (The LG way). The 5 and 5Z also have OIS, which is still uncommon on affordable and mid-range phones.

On the front, there is an 8MP selfie camera with F/2.0 aperture and 83-degree field of view.

We will still need to test the camera in our own space to formulate any opinions, but the test shots we clicked in low indoor lighting turned out fine. We are adding a few of those below.

  • The Zenfone 5 has dual cameras on the rear. The extra sensor has a wide-angle lens and you can switch to the second shooter for shooting outdoor scenes.
  • The portrait mode works in regular and wide-angle mode. Asus claims some dynamic improvements in this sector, but we will need more time to confirm these claims.
  • The camera is powered by AI. Zenfone 5 can detect 16 scenes (people, food, dog, cat, stage, snow, text, etc.) and fine tune image capture settings accordingly.
  • Another highlighted ZenUI feature is Zenimoji. Yup, these work similar to Apple’s Animoji or AR emojis from Samsung.
  • The phone also has an elaborate Pro mode that you can use to manually toggle camera settings.

Asus Zenfone 5 Quick Review

At the time of writing, we don’t know the exact price of the Zenfone 5 model. We expect the base variant to be priced somewhere around Rs. 20,000. At this price, it will compete with Redmi Note 5 Pro.

The Zenfone 5 looks a lot better than the Note 5 Pro and has a better display. It also includes the same chipset, has a well-optimized software, and competent cameras. Based on our initial impression, the Zenfone 5 feels like a very exciting option for a mid-ranger.

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Deepak SinghDeepak Singh
Deepak has more than 8 years of experience in covering technology for several eminent publications in India. He currently leads an enthusiastic team of young writers at Smartprix and tries to uphold the highest quality standards.

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