Roydon CerejoJun 30, 2014 14:50:15 IST
Asus is about to enter a very crowded mainstream market with their new Zenfone series that’s all set to debut sometime in July. We’ve had a chance to play around with the Asus Zenfone 5, which is the company’s 5-inch model in the series. Based on the specifications, we expect it to be priced around Rs 15,000. Let’s take a look at what we liked and didn’t like about the Zenfone 5.
This mid-ranger in the Asus family inherits the same design philosophy from the Zenbook series of notebooks. A hint of that is present in the form of a brushed metal trim towards the bottom of the phone. Other than that though, the Zenfone 5 looks pretty ordinary. We liked the dual-tone finish and come launch day, we’ll have some more colours to choose from.
The 5-inch HD display is of the IPS variety and also rocks Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The default brightness level makes the screen seen quite dull, which is not the case. It’s not the most vibrant display around but a quick fix to the firmware should right this.
The Zenfone is not particularly slim either. It’s a sizeable phone with a depth of 10.3mm and weighs about 145g. It feels sturdy to hold and Asus has used high quality plastics for the chassis. The matte-back tends to get dirty pretty quickly though, and some stains are tough to get out.
Buttons have a very good tactile feedback and the screen sensitivity and sunlight legibility is pretty good as well. Overall, the Zenfone 5 is not the most striking smartphone but it does have a pleasing design. The build is sturdy and it feels relatively premium.
What’s really going to set the Zenfone apart are not the specifications, but the new Zen UI. Asus has overhauled the skin completely and to no surprise, has chosen to go with a flatter design for the theme. This seems to be the trend this year as everyone from Apple to Samsung, to LG seems to be treading the same path.
The biggest change is in the notification panel, where we have a lot more toggle switches. These can be edited of course. All of Asus’s apps and some of the stock apps have also received a similar overhaul and we’re really digging the new look. The interface is super snappy, clean and very easy to navigate. The redesigned icons for apps like Music, Video, etc have also changed so recognising them at first will take some getting used to.
We get a bunch of useful apps pre-installed by Asus and one of the cool ones we found was PC Link. This lets you instantly mirror your phone on your desktop once connected via USB. You need the PC app installed as well. The cool thing is you can continue using your phone through the PC without actually having to hold it. This includes surfing the web, sending text messages and so on.
Asus has also made some major changes to the lock screen which now gives you shortcuts to launch apps like the camera, dialler and messaging . There are a ton of more additions as well which we’ll look at in the full review.
Asus will be launching the A501CG model in India which has an Intel Atom Z2560 dual-core (with HyperThreading) chipset in lei of a Z2580. This chip runs at 1.6GHz instead of 2GHz but in order to make up for this, the Zenfone 5 will have 2GB RAM rather than the 1GB which debuted earlier this year.
You also get 8GB of onboard storage which is expandable and the rest of the usual suspects like 3G, Dual-SIM, Wi-Fi ‘n’, GPS, GLONASS. The Zenfone 5 will run on Jelly Bean 4.3 at launch with an eventual upgrade to KitKat and hopefully, Android L sometime later.
Finally, the 8MP camera is heavily customised as well but we like what Asus has done with the UI. The sensor isn’t too bad either which can be seen from the sample shot.
Asus Zenfone series phones are reportedly priced under Rs 25,000. As for the Zenfone, a price of around Rs 15,000 would be ideal and while it might not have the best specifications around, we feel the new user interface and bundled apps should be incentive enough to have a second look.
The competition however is getting extremely fierce in this segment and with players like Xiaomi planning to enter the Indian market next month, the Zenfone might have to fight for the limelight. We’ll be bringing you the full review come launch day, so stay tuned for that. You can also check out unboxing video of the Zenfone 5 right here.
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