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ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Review: A New (Selfie) Challenger Appears

We review the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie!

The selfie smartphone space is a competitive one, currently dominated by Chinese players Vivo and OPPO. These two companies have built their current roster around taking advantage of the selfie trend, and has largely reaped the benefits this year with impressive jumps in marketshare. ASUS isn’t blind to this fact, and has decided to revive their ZenFone Selfie SKU that first debuted two years ago just for that purpose.

The new ZenFone 4 Selfie rides on the dual-camera trend that’s present on all of ASUS’ current phones, but instead of dual cameras on the rear, they’re putting them on the front. It’s the same strategy that their competitors are employing, but ASUS is banking on the phone’s lower price point and richer feature set to offset their competitor’s edge in marketing presence. Does the ZenFone 4 Selfie pose a legitimate challenge to the reigning selfie kings?

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie

  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.5-inch HD IPS display, 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD slot up to 128GB
  • 16-megapixel rear camera with LED Flash
  • 20-megapixel main front camera, 8-megapixel secondary front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G. LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Fingerprint Scanner
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with ZenUI
  • 3000mAh battery

Design isn’t as original as we’d like, but it is well built

ASUS has made it a point to have their three main SKUs – the Max, Selfie and ZF4 – have their own, distinct design language relative to each other, even if that means taking generous liberties from the offerings of other companies. And anyone who is familiar with the site would have already noticed the resemblance of the Selfie’s overall design to Samsung’s C9 Pro, which is probably not a coincidence.

Despite that the design is solid, and the ZF4 Selfie feels well built. The ZF4 Selfie uses a plastic body that’s been treated to look like metal, and as far as treatments go it’s pretty good since we couldn’t tell at first glance if the phone was made from metal or not. The 16-megapixel rear camera with LED Flash sits right above ASUS’ logo.

The phone has a slight curve on its sides and rounded corners to make it easier to handle one handed. The power button and volume rocker are on the right, while the SIM/microSD slot is on the left side. Potential buyers will be happy to note that the SIM/microSD slot can accommodate two SIMs and a microSD expansion card, so you’re not forced to choose between the two. The USB port and 3.5mm jack are on the bottom, along with the speaker grille.

ASUS has moved the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on all of their new phones to the front, making it pull double duty as the home button. That’s flanked by Android navigation keys on either side.

The display is a 5.5-inch HD panel with 2.5D glass layered on top. Right above that is the two front-facing cameras that is in the heart of the phone, one primary shooter taking 20-megapixel main shots and one 8-megapixel secondary that takes wider angle photos.

The HD resolution panel may not impress more discerning users when it comes to pixel-pushing, but for a majority of users, it’ll be good enough. Viewing angles are good until you view the phone from extreme angles, it’s sufficiently bright at 400 nits, and has good color quality and accuracy. The HD resolution panel also does wonders for the phone’s overall battery life, as you’ll see later.

Snapdragon 430 is good enough for most tasks, but isn’t a screamer

Just like the ZF4 Max, the ZF4 Selfie is armed with a Snapdragon 430 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. That hardware configuration is very similar to the ZF4 Max, and it isn’t surprising that the ZF4 Selfie performs much like it’s big batteried brother: it feels fast and fluid with the HD display, and the SoC can handle most Android games without any issues. Graphically intense games like NBA 2K17 will need their graphical settings set to low for them to run smoothly though.

Just like the ZF4 Max, the ZF4 Selfie sports ASUS’ new, improved (and toned down) ZenUI interface. ZenUI’s overall look still feels a little cartoony and childish to us and desperately needs a refresh, though we love the fact it’s no longer a bloatware ridden mess like last time. There are very few pre-installed apps this time around, which means the phone feels faster and sleeker than ever before.

The speakers are pretty loud on the ZF4 Selfie, though audio gets a little distorted at higher volumes. Call quality is good, without any dropped calls whatsoever. We’ve never had any kind of issues with wireless connectivity as well with the Selfie.

Can do artificial bokeh and wide-angle shots

Dual selfie cameras aren’t new. In fact, their main competition already have their own dual-camera offerings that have a secondary camera that supplements the main front-facing shooter. The concept of the dual-front camera is the same as their rear-mounted brethren – a second camera allows the phone to pull off additional tricks that the single rear camera can’t achieve, like taking wider angle shots as well as adding software bokeh to blur out the background.

ASUS’ ZF4 Selfie does both: the primary 20-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture shooter takes regular selfies while the secondary 8-megapixel camera takes wide angle shots thanks to its 120° wide-angle lens. It also acts as the depth sensor that adds artificial bokeh to your shots.

While the selfie camera generally takes good photos all around, we did notice that it was susceptible to blown-out highlights as evidenced in the photos that we took. The secondary camera also has trouble capturing images even in relatively good light, resulting in photos that have muted colors.

We’re not really that satisfied with the photos that the ZenFone 4 Selfie produced, and ASUS isn’t as well – they’ve reached out to us and said they’ll be pushing a software update to rectify some of the issues of the camera that we saw with our review. We’ll be updating this section with new photos once they send us the fix.

Battery life is great

While the ZF4 Selfie only has a 3000mAh battery, its power-efficient Snapdragon 430 processor plus HD display doesn’t consume a lot of power, and our battery benchmark confirms it. At 9 hours and 23 minutes, it’s one of the longer-lasting phones we’ve tested that doesn’t have a massive battery. That gives you more than enough juice for a day’s worth of use, with a little left over the next day. If nothing else, the ZF4 Selfie can withstand even the most abusive of battery hogs.

Verdict: It’s a solid competitor to the selfie phones in the market today

ASUS made a mistake by not continuing their original ZenFone Selfie when they launched it two years ago. That was an oversight on their part, just as the market for selfie phones exploded thanks to their rivals. ASUS has rectified that mistake, offering an extremely solid selfie offering at Php 13,995. The biggest challenge right now is trying to convince users to shy away from their competitors and see value in the products that they’re offering.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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  1. Asus does it again. Super overpriced phone with a budget processor. That’s what happens when you get an endorser (gong yoo). You pass along the costs to the customer. blech.

    1. couldn’t agree more. 14k with SD430 and only HD screen? for 2k less i can have the GR5 2017, which is miles better than this. no one need dual-front cam anyway, software can do the trick easy.

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