A Month with the ASUS Zenfone 2
We’ve been heavily using the ASUS Zenfone 2 (2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage) as our primary device for the last few weeks and we can already say that this is a strong contender for our smartphone of the year award. As of this writing there is nothing in the market that can beat it when it comes to value for money. It delivers rip-roaring performance in a sleek and beautiful body complete with all the bells and whistles that you would expect to get from a premium flagship device twice its price. Perhaps our only major concern is the battery life but we’re hoping that the upcoming Android Lollipop fix by Google for the memory leak will fix that. We also had initial reservations with the camera but in real world day-to-day use the issues we spotted weren’t really as bothersome as we thought they would be.
Before we move on to the actual review, let’s have a quick refresher with the specifications of the ASUS Zenfone 2.
ASUS Zenfone 2 ZE551ML (Top Model) Spec Sheet
- 64-bit Intel Atom 2.3GHz Z3580 quad-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 5.5-inch full HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 64GB of storage, expandable via microSD up to 64GB
- 13-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0-aperture, 5-element, auto-focus lens with dual-color Real Tone flash
- 5-megapixel front camera, f/2.0-aperture, wide-angle 85-degree lens with Selfie Panorama
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
- Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI
- 3000mAh battery
- SRP: Php14,990
Intel’s 64-Bit Atom 2.3GHz Quad-Core Processor is a Beast
If there’s one thing that was consistent throughout the time we’ve been using the ASUS Zenfone 2, it’s how buttery smooth the user experience has been thanks to Intel’s 64-bit Atom 2.3GHz quad-core processor combined with the generous serving of 4GB RAM. All the core services and features had no issues, especially after we ditched the ZenUI and went for our current favourite launcher — Google Now Launcher.
The Zenfone 2 was no slouch in gaming as well. Be it NBA 2K15, Clash of Clans, or Bard’s Tale 2, the ASUS Zenfone 2 gave us a gaming experience that we usually got from smartphones priced at the Php30,000 level. It was really surreal getting this kind of performance in a smartphone that’s just priced at Php14,990.
Multi-tasking was also superb. We had no problems whatsoever jumping from app-to-app. In fact we’ve found ourselves multi-tasking a whole lot more with the ASUS Zenfone 2 thanks to the flawless experience.
So to sum it all up in a sentence — the ASUS Zenfone 2 truly does give you a near flawless Android experience that premium flagship devices offer at half the price.
Body Design: Slim, Sleek and Sezzy
There’s no going around the fact that LG G3 users will probably think that ASUS copied the design of their devices once they see and hold the Zenfone 2. The volume buttons at the back reminds us a lot of the Rear Key technology of LG save for the Power Button (ASUS put theirs at the top).
While there are truly several similarities, ASUS has an upcoming line-up of back cover accessories that they showed during the PH launch that promises to set it apart from LG’s G series. Other than that there’s also “ASUS Zenfone chin”. That’s the strip at the bottom of the front with ASUS’ concentric circles design, hehe.
Ultimately we feel that this was the best design decision ASUS has made lately. The device really feels light and easy to hold. It also looks much more expensive that it actually is which is always a great thing when it comes to gadgets.
Perhaps our only major issue with the design is that the external speakers are relatively weak compared to a lot of other smartphones. You’ll really need to connect this to either speakers or headphones if you want to enjoy music or videos.
Full Connectivity that you Get from Top-tier Flagships
Dual-SIM? Check. NFC? Check. Bluetooth? Check. LTE? Check. Yep, pretty much everything you want is here.
Battery Life is a bit Bothersome
We were expecting the ASUS Zenfone 2 to deliver phenomenal battery life but as it turns out it’s just at par with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. We get roughly 3 hours and a half of screen time with both devices. This is below average as other flagships are easily over 4 hours and can go up to 5 hours screen time.
We reached out to ASUS regarding this and apparently the main culprit is the Android Lollipop memory leak issue. The good news is that this is a software problem. Let’s just hope for now that Google will be able to roll out a fix that ASUS can use and then push out to all Zenfone 2 users so that they battery life will significantly improve. Until then we recommend you guys pack with you a Power Bank or bring the ASUS quick charger with you wherever you go and just top up mid-day.
Another Look at the Camera Capabilities
The camera of the ASUS Zenfone 2 has been hit with a lot of harsh criticisms by the local and international tech community. We agree that the software optimisation features are able to improve visibility in low light conditions and the trade-off is that the camera does have issues with producing really fine photos. If you zoom in very tightly on a photo taken with the Zenfone 2 you’ll notice that the lines blur a bit.
Update: The recent software update was able to minimize the issue we had with the “watercolor” lines when you zoom in. It’s not totally eliminated but it’s bordering on negligible already unless you super love zooming in to all the photos that you take.
Having said that, we still think that this isn’t a deal breaker for the ASUS Zenfone 2 at all. It will really boil down to how a person uses that camera that will determine the beauty of the shot. To prove this point we covered the local launch of the Zenfone 2 using a Zenfone 2 for photos and it turned out pretty okay.
Just the same here are a few new shots we took with the ZF 2 for your reference:
Final Verdict: It’s a Premium Flagship Experience for Half the Price
So what’s our final verdict? The Zenfone 2 is a phenomenal device that delivers exceptional value for money. We regularly review the top tier smartphones from global brands here at Unbox and we can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that we never felt that we were using anything less than a P30k flagship when we were using the Zenfone 2 in the last month. The device gives you almost the same experience and even does better in some aspects like multi-tasking.
The ASUS Zenfone 2 has proven that you don’t need to pay a lot to be able to get a lot. We hope other brands take notice and follow because as of this writing there is no phone that comes close to what the Zenfone 2 is able to give at the price level that it’s currently at.
We highly recommend the ASUS Zenfone 2 to everyone. It’s a sure winner (just don’t forget about the battery thing and the speakers).