The Asus Zenfone aimed to disrupt the phone market and I believe they’ve done a sterling job. Here is our full review of the Asus Zenfone 2.
Asus knew what was needed to grab headlines when announcing their new flagship phone. First of all they went and gave their new device a whopping 4GB RAM, then they gave it an affordable price and finally great availability with the device already on sale, or launching soon, in markets around the world.
For us at GizChina.com we were excited to get our hands on the Asus Zenfone 2 for a few reasons. We wanted to see what 4GB RAM really means in the real world, and we wanted to see if Asus had finally produced a phone truly worth getting excited about. Keep reading for full details.
Asus Zenfone 2 – First impressions
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Design
I’m not going to beat around the bush, the Zenfone 2 isn’t the best looking phone on the market today. Going from the luxurious Xiaomi Mi Note to the chunky, plastic Asus certainly felt like a downgrade, but once I got to grips with the device I soon forgot about the looks.
Made of plastic with chunky bezels and a removable rear panel, there is nothing revolutionary about the design of the Zenfone 2. It is clear to me that Asus took inspiration from HTC and LG when designing their device, and while it might not feel as premium as the G3 or M9 it doesn’t feel poorly made either.
There are no creaks or groans from the material when under pressure and everything fits nice and flush.
On the front we have a 5.5-inch FHD display with navigations buttons on a bar above an empty chin area. Removing the chin would greatly reduce the length of the Asus Zenfone 2, and would improve the front end looks no end too, but I suppose these are changes to look forward to in the next-gen model.
An Asus logo on the front isn’t to my taste either and reminds me of phone designs of old, but I suppose Asus are proud of their phone and want to ensure everyone knows who put it together.
The sides are very thin thanks to a generous curve to the removable back panel. Even with it’s wider bezels the smooth rear fits in to your hand easily, although I do struggle now and then when reaching across the screen with my thumb.
As Asus have located the power button at the top in the middle and the volume rocker on the rear there are no buttons on either side. The only details we find are the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack at the very top and USB in the base.
That brushed metal finish isn’t actually metal but a nice pattern on a plastic panel. Starting at the top we have a very bright dual tone LED flash, then 13 mega-pixel main camera, volume control, another Asus logo, an Intel logo then large speaker grill. It sounds rather busy but actually looks pretty good in real life.
Removing the rear panel is harder work than on other phones but that’s fine as it is a nice tight fit. On the inside with have space for dual SIM cards, a micro SD card and we can see the battery but not remove it.
Although I wasn’t taken with the design at first I’ve become quite used to it. It is a well put together phone it feels good in the hand and considering it as a package is a joy to use.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Specifications
Specifications are really what make the Asus shine in comparison to the competition. At the current price of around $322 (Coupon code at the end of the review) through resellers there are very few phone that can touch the Zenfone 2. The version of the Asus Zenfone 2 which I have been testing is the ZE551Ml and has a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 display, 13 mega-pixel PixelMaster main camera, 1.8Ghz Intel processor, 4GB RAM and 3000mAh battery.
Looking at the specifications a little more closely and we find that the main camera has a F2.0 aperture and 178 degree lens plus dual LED flash. The screen is a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 item with IPS, there is a 5 mega-pixel front facing camera, LED notification light, and ZENUI runs on Android 5.0.
Those are some seriously impressive specifications for a phone of this money and means that the Zenfone 2 is a really great performer.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Screen
I’ve been using the Asus Zenfone 2 in some pretty bright outdoor environments and have been pleasantly surprised at just how legible the device is even in intense sunlight. Interestingly, when indoors and turning the screen brightness up the Zenfone 2 isn’t as bright as say the Meizu MX4 Pro, but it is still easy to read in sunny conditions.
In the past I have tested great value flagships, the OnePlus One for example, and have found that overtime the screen can sometimes develop ghost touches. Thankfully this isn’t the case with the Asus Zenfone 2 which remains free of hauntings so far.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Performance and Benchmarks
With a quad-core, 64bit, 1.8Ghz processor and 4GB RAM you expect blazing performance and that is exactly what you get. In real world situations the Zenfone 2 is lightning fast. Applications open in an instant, the system is fluid, everything just works great. 4GB RAM means that you can multitask to your heart’s content. It might not be a good habit but I’ve had upwards of 20 applications/windows (browser tabs are displayed as a separate card in the multi-tasking window) running before the system has shown any signs of slowing.
As usual I ran a number of benchmarking application of the Asus Zenfone 2, but in all honesty the phone needs to be tried to be believed! It really is a powerhouse of a device!
Asus Zenfone 2 benchmarks
- Quadrant: 16,861
- GFXBench Manhattan: 712.0
- GFXBench Manhattan offscreen: 754.9
- GFXBench T-Rex: 1,494
- GFXBench T-Rex offscreen: 1,421
- Vellamo Metal: 1,076
- Vellamo Multicore: 1,335
- Vellamo Browser: 2,645
- Ice Storm Extreme: 18,328
- Geekbench Single-core Score: 744
- Geekbench Multi-core Score: 2,257
- Antutu: 41,077
Asus Zenfone 2 benchmarks screenshots
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Camera
The camera on the Asus Zenfone 2 is a real hit and miss unit. Take the phone out on a sunny day and you can really capture some amazing photos. Go out another day in the same conditions and the camera acts like it has a hangover.
The 13 megapixel PixelMaster sensor has all the makings of a great unit, F2.0 Aperture, 5 element lens and a feature packed camera application, but so far Asus haven’t been able to optimise it as well as we would have hoped. The camera optimisation issues is another area the Zenfone 2 is comparable to the OPO, and I hope that in future updates we are going to see a vast improvement.
Whether the camera performance will bother you though really depends on what you use your camera for. If you just intend to take photos to share through Facebook or Instagram (where their quality will be reduced anyway) the Asus Zenfone 2 is fine. If you want to create larger images to share on your PC then there are certainly better camera phones available, although not at this price.
Personally I love a phone with a great camera, it is a feature that I simply cannot live without. So on the one hand I am sometimes a little disappointed with the photos captured, but on the other hand I love the features on offer in the camera application.
Features I have used the most are Auto, HDR, and Selfie. Auto is obviously the default setting, HDR really needs to be worked on but in the right conditions it works well. Selfie mode actually uses the main camera to detect faces and shoot a group photo with the 13 mega-pixel sensor, great for family photos.
In addition to those settings I have also used Super Resolution mode (similar to HD photo on the Oppo N3), Low Light mode (for use within 3 meters of a subject) and Night Mode. I’ve not used them much though as I have that they need some serious improvement.
Other camera features include Time Lapse, All Smiles, Smart Remove, Time Rewind, Miniature, Panorama, GIF Animation, Effect and Depth of Field. There probably is enough content here for a review of te Zenfone 2 camera application itself, but for I’ll leave it there for now and post a few photo sample taken with the phone in the gallery below.
Asus Zenfone 2 Photo Samples
Asus Zenfone 2 review Low light photo sample
I used the camera in the Auto setting for these low-light test, when using the “low-light” or “night” mode the quality is actually worse.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Audio, Connectivity and Battery
When I first received the Asus Zenfone 2 I had issues with GPS when using Strava, but there have been 2 OTA updates since which have solved the issue. Call reception, LTE, WIFI and Bluetooth have all worked trouble-free from the time of receiving the unit and through the various updates.
The 3000mAh battery in the phone, I feel, is pretty good. Other reports have said that the battery life is poor, but I have not experienced this. Earlier in my time with the phone I managed to get through almost a full day of use with my LG G Watch connected, and WIFI, LTE and GPS on constantly under review conditions. This morning I woke with 15% power left after a full day of use yesterday including over a 2 hour bike ride with Strava running, and music streaming over LTE via Google Music!
Sound quality through the receiver is loud and clear, audio through headphones is very good, but not up to the standard set by Vivo and Oppo, and the rear speaker isn’t bad either too.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – ZenUI
Asus quite simple cannot make a good-looking operating system. ZenUI is easily the ugliest ROM I have ever used in my life! If it hadn’t been so smooth and feature packed I’m sure I would have stopped using the Zenfone 2 way back.
The developers at Asus quite clearly have some amazing ideas and they have stuffed a lot in to the operating system, but where they fail is on presentation. It doesn’t have the nice flat icons of other ROMs, and the UI doesn’t flow from app to app or menu to menu. A cleaner more polished ROM would greatly improve the user experience, however if you can get past the looks the ROM is some really nice features.
Asus Zenfone 2 Review – Conclusion
The Asus Zenfone 2, in my opinion, is the OnePlus One of 2015 (until the OP2 is released). It is a absolute bargain of a phone when you see what the phone has to offer for the money, but has fewer issues than the OnePlus phone.
It might not be the best in terms of looks and camera performance but the building blocks are all there and with continued updates (Asus are rolling them out quite frequently) we are should see improved camera performance and you can always use a launcher if you don’t like the UI.
The only major drawback of the Asus Zenfone 2 I can see is app compatibility. I’ve heard that Here maps won’t work with the Intel chipset for example and never will. This is a downer as I did tend to use Here quite often, but it is the only app that I’ve had to sacrifice so far, and it’s not a huge deal.
Asus were once a brand I simply ignored but after using the Zenfone 2 I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the phone, and what their nex