We review the Zenfone 5!
When ASUS launched their Zenfones in multiple SEA territories except ours, we were a bit peeved – the PH is still part of SEA, after all. We shouldn’t have been really, as ASUS PH managed to make up for that little snafu with extremely aggressive pricing for their Zenfone 5. ASUS PH’s Zenfone pricing is by far the lowest in the region, at just Php 6495 for the base 8GB version and Php 6,995 for the 16GB version. This makes the phone an extremely attractive one for people looking for a good deal.
ASUS Zenfone 5 specs
- 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560
- 2GB RAM
- 5-inch HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, 1280 x 720 resolution
- 8GB/16GB storage, expandable via microSD
- 8-megapixel f/2.0 PixelMaster Camera
- 2-megapixel front camera
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- 3G, HSPA+
- 2110mAh, non-removable battery
- Android 4.3 ( will update to 4.4 KitKat ) with ASUS ZenUI
- Php 6495 8GB/ Php 6995 for 16GB
Simple, clean and elegant design
As far as design goes, ASUS has proven itself as a company that can make elegant, beautiful products in any price range. From the beautiful Zen designs of their higher-end products to the simple but elegant approach to their more affordable tablet line, ASUS has shown it certainly has design chops. The Zenfone 5 is no different – the device has rounded edges and a softly curved back, with a nice matte finish in different colors. The Zenfone 5 also has small touches of the company’s Zen design language in the small strip of metal on the bottom of the phone, as well as on the volume rocker and power button located on the right side.
Though it may look not be apparent at first glance, the Zenfone 5 has a removable plastic back that allows you access to the two SIM card slots and the microSD slot, though you’re not going to be able to touch that 2110mAh battery.
For people who have been following the announcement and eventual release of the Zenfone 5, you may have noticed that the internal specs of the device have changed a few times. ASUS actually released a 2GHz version of the Zenfone 5, as well as a model with just 1GB of RAM before finally settling on the model that they’re now selling in the PH market.
A UI that improves on the Android experience
Since it’s an ASUS Android device, the Zenfone 5 has the company’s own Zen UI overlay on top of Android 4.3 (which can be updated to Android 4.4).
The user experience is very good, with the UI sporting a nice, clean flat look, which is a bit similar to what Google is doing with Android L. It also gives you important reminders (like upcoming events) and gives you a heads-up of the weather, important especially if you live in the PH where the weather seems to have bipolar disorder.
Hardware that gets the job done….most of the time
Unlike other manufacturers in the market, ASUS has equipped the Zenfone 5 with Intel’s Atom processor. It only makes sense – Intel has been a long-time partner of the Taiwanese manufacturer, and have been powering many of their tablets for a while now.
Unfortunately, Intel’s Atom SOC has had quite a number of growing pains, as evidenced by our experience with their SOC in other devices. Heat is a number one issue, which, if left unchecked, has a potential to ruin the device’s battery over time. That’s probably the reason why ASUS decided to go with the slower 1.6GHz Atom processor in newer models of the Zenfone 5 instead of the higher 2GHz clockspeed in earlier models. We were pleasantly surprised to note that the heat issues that plagued similar smartphones rocking the 2GHz processor were not present in the Zenfone 5. Yes, the phone still gets warm when it’s running under full load, but it’s not nearly as bad as the heat generated in earlier Intel Atom equipped devices.
While the Zenfone 5 managed to score decently in our synthetic benchmarks, we did notice that the device showed a bit of lag in some of the apps that we regularly use Facebook Messenger being one of them. And while the processor is capable of running intense Android games, it struggles a fair bit when they’re set on high graphical settings. Dead Trigger 2, for example, would lag in random locations once in a while when the graphics were turned up to maximum. We also noticed slower load times for Android games compared to MediaTek and Qualcomm equipped devices.
Impressive camera performance, even in low-light
ASUS’ 8-megapixel camera with Pixel Master technology has been bandied about by the company as one of the best in its class, and we’re inclined to believe them. While the Zenfone 5’s camera performs extremely well in bright, sunny environs (which is the case for most cameras anyway) it truly excels in low-light. All photos taken below were taken in either indoors with only artificial lighting, or in low-light.
Of course there’s a trade-off. In this case – noise. The darker the environment, the greater the noise, which was especially obvious in the night street shot below. But considering that the only light sources were the street lamps, we’d wager most people would rather get a slightly noisy photo over no photo at all.
Meh battery life
The ASUS Zenfone 5 managed to record around a day’s worth of battery with moderate use. During our battery drain test (looping video, sound at 50%) it managed to record a battery life of around 5 hours and 24 minutes – which isn’t bad, though it isn’t great either.
Verdict: Best budget smartphone from an international brand
ASUS definitely has a winner with the Zenfone 5. While it does suffer from its fair share of performance issues, it’s still a great Android smartphone. Starting at Php 6495, it’s definitely “sulit” considering its overall performance, build quality and Pixel Master camera. Well worth the price of admission.