Asus launched as many as three variants of the Zenfone2 across storage capacities and price points. The inaugural Zenfone series in India which was launched last year, was a success and Asus managed to sell more phones in the Zenfone series than in its previous avataars. Naming convention of the Zenfones is a bit confusing though. Last year we had the Zenfone 5, Zenfone 6 and Zenfone 4 selling in the market and this year we have Zenfone2.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Asus employs a rounded rear cover design, named Ergonomic Arc, on the Zenfone2 which looks quite similar to what we have seen with LG phones for a while now. The brush metal plastic back, volume rocker on the rear side just below the camera section are design elements that remind one of LG G3 family. At the base of the rear side you have the speaker grill section above which you have the Zenfone and Intel branding.
The location of the power button on the top in the centre is quite odd, and makes things more annoying because is it almost flush with the top edge. Because of this, you need to press hard onto it to activate it, which will irritate you soon. They only way out is to activate double tapping on the display to wake it up, instead of going for the power button.
Display comes with the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and it does not attract smudges or fingerprints. That goes for the brush metal finished rear cover as well. The rear cover is removable, but the battery is not.
The idea to have thinner edges by using this design element is understandable, but I noticed that when placed on a flat surface, the Zenfone2 is thick enough to rise above the OnePlus One. While the thinnest edges are around 3.9mm, if you place it on a flat surface it rises to around 10.9mm thick and weighs around 170 grams. On its product page Asus says, “ZenFone 2 is a 5.5-inch smartphone with a body that’s as small as that of a traditional 5-inch device,” which actually dosen’t make much sense.
On the front face at the top, the bezel is thin with just enough space to include the branding, earpiece speaker section and the front camera. But when you come to the base, you feel like the chin is a waste of space. Below the soft buttons for home/back/menu, the chin does not serve any purpose apart from adding an artistic touch to the phone, which could have been avoided to get a larger screen to body ratio.
Asus has gone all out on the features front with the Zenfone2 and along with the 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor it has paired the phone with 4GB of RAM, making it the first smartphone to do so. The Atom Z3580 is a quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz. It also houses the PowerVR 6430 GPU. Android 5.0 Lollipop OS on the Zenfone 2 gets the ZenUI skin atop it.
The 5.5-inch full HD display gives a 401 ppi. It comes with 32GB storage capacity with around 25.53GB available to the user. You can also add in a microSD card to expand the storage space to around 64GB.
On the camera front you get a 13MP rear camera with Asus’ proprietary PixelMaster 2.0 technology and on the front you have a 5MP camera for the selfie enthusiasts. The phone supports Wi-fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.
Asus Zenfones come with the ZenUI skin atop the operating system. The look of the ZenUI hasn’t changed much from what we had seen from the previous generation. The Android 5.0 Lollipop OS gives additional features such as floating notifications, modified notification pull down animation, option to add in a guest mode and so on. Majority of the other features have been carried forward.
There’s the usual app drawer for apps and widgets, long pressing the homescreen pulls out settings for changing the homescreen, and homescreen widgets and shortcuts can be removed by long-pressing and then dragging them to the Remove button.
There’s lock-screen shortcuts for quickly accessing important functions such as the camera, phone and messages. All you need to do is swipe the locked-screen icon across the screen and the phone immediately unlocks the screen and puts you through the selected app.
Thanks to the ZenUI, the phone comes pre-loaded with a LOT of apps, most of them unnecessary. There are over 20 pre-loaded apps on the Zenfone2 most of them being Asus’s proprietary apps. With such apps, you can only uninstall updates. While the app drawer does give you a search bar to search for apps, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the unnecessary bloatware. Apart from the plethora of Asus proprietary apps, you also get apps such as Zinio, Amazon Kindle, Clean Master, Omlet Chat, Party link and so on. You can change the view mode to include Folder viewing inside the app-drawer.
Asus Zenfone 2 comes with a 5.5-inch full HD display which gives it a pixel density of 401ppi. The display is bright and text and images appear crisp. Thanks to the IPS panel, you get good viewing angles. Black levels are decent, but you will notice some amount of backlight bleeding around the edges in extremely dark scenes. Text readability and sunlight legibility are both good.
The quad-core Atom processor paired with 4GB of RAM ensures that things run quite smoothly on the device. There was barely any lag or slowing down of the phone, despite the heavy skin and so many pre-loaded apps on the Zenfone2. Animations are also smooth. All in all, a speedy device.
Call quality is quite good with loud earpiece speakers. The dialler is divided into five tabs to help you quickly reach the intended numbers to call.
Gaming on the phone is fun and we faced no issues with high end games such as Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8 on low and medium settings. On the highest settings you will notice some amount of lag. But casual games such as Fruit Ninja, Subway Surfer and its ilk run smoothly.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Zenfone2 gives performance that is comparable to Snapdragon 801 SoC sporting phones such as OnePlus One, Xiaomi Mi4, Sony Xperia Z3 and it is higher than the Snapdragon 615 SoC sporting mid-range phones. The 4GB RAM helps the Zenfone 2 get good numbers on the benchmark scores. While the phone does get warm when you run high end games or resource intensive applications, at no point did we face any freezing of the device or unnatural heating up. Even when using the phone outdoors, the phone did not get hot, a feature which we have seen on some phones off late.
The Asus Zenfone 2 comes with a 13MP PixelMaster 2.0 rear camera and a 5MP front-camera both having an f/2.0 aperture. The camera interface looks like a mid-range compact digital cameras. There are various modes to play around with including HDR mode, Timelapse mode, Panorama mode, Miniature mode, Manual mode and so on. It also has a Super resolution mode which combines four 13MP images to form one high resolution image.
According to Asus, the PixelMaster technology helps the phone boost up the light by 400% in the low light mode. But the images we got in the low light mode, were packed with noise. Moreover, in low light mode, the resolution is brought down to 3MP, which makes it usable only in emergency situations.
Image quality in the daylight photographs is quite average. Sharpness levels aren’t great and on pixel peeping, you will notice that the images lack fine details. The HDR mode does not work as well as one expects and in indoors situation, you just get a patchy output. Even low light image quality is poor with lot of noise. Thanks to the many modes, one can exercise ones creativity in various ways. But as compared to its peers such as OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi 4, the camera performance is surely lacking. It supports full HD video shooting, the quality of which is quite average. It offers time-lapse mode as well.
Note: Photos below have been resized. In case you want to see high resolution images, click on the image. You can also check out our Asus Zenfone 2 album on Flickr.
Battery life: 7.5/10
The Asus Zenfone 2 houses a 3,000 mAh battery. For a full HD flagship device, the battery life on the Zenfone 2 isn’t really impressive. While moderate usage will let you pull in 10 hours easily, if you are a heavy user you will need to charge the phone once a day. On many days, after being fully charged in the morning at 9am, I found the phone to be reaching sub 10 per cent battery levels even before 4pm, which isn’t good news. PC Mark for Android gave around 7 hours and 31 mins. Even on regular use, you are left with single digit battery figures when going to bed. Coming from a flagship device, that's not appealing. Sure, there is a smart saving mode, where you can select the apps that you want to wake up your phone. You can also select the Ultra saving mode to automatically kick in after the battery level reaches 15% or 5% and so on.
Verdict and Price in India
Asus Zenfone2 presents a good overall package with high performance numbers. But the excessive bloatware can be a concern for many buyers. While Asus may think it is adding value for its users, not everyone likes unnecessary software shoved down their throats. The least Asus can do is give the option to uninstall unwanted apps. We all know how Samsung has cut down on its bloatware significantly in recent times. The good thing though is that despite the heavy skinning the responsiveness of the phone isn't affected thanks to 4GB of RAM.
The camera and battery life on the Zenfone2 couldn't really stand apart from competition, which is a major concern. At Rs 19,999, the Asus Zenfone2 is priced decently, but there are competitors around it such as the Xiaomi Mi 4, OnePlus One, Huawei Honor 6 and HTC Desire 820S. OnePlus One with its customisable Cyanogen ROM is specially a big thorn in Zenfone2's path. Plus it offers a much better camera and battery life as compared to the Zenfone2.
The 4GB RAM specification while sounding good on paper, may be an overkill for regular users, as even heavy multi-tasking does not slow down the phone. If you are not a power user having multiple apps open at the same time, save some money and instead consider the Rs 14,999 variant which is similar in all aspects to the Zenfone2 other than processor, RAM and storage space. At Rs 12,999 you will get an HD variant as well of the Zenfone2.
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