Asus had a good start with its ZenFone series and even though the second generation had a whole lot of confusing models, it turned out to do well. Since last year the company has been going through a rough patch as it jumped from making budget handsets to mid-range and premium with the ZenFone 3 series.
Asus has started targeting different segments now as it launched the ZenFone AR earlier this year along with the ZenFone 3 Zoom for camera enthusiasts.
With live broadcasting going mainstream on social media and other channels, Asus also launched the ZenFone Live. The smartphone has officially launched in India priced at Rs 9,999. It seems like an ordinary budget smartphone, but is targeted at consumers who like doing live video broadcasts.
I got a chance to check out the smartphone and here is an in-depth look at the smartphone.
Build and design: 6.5/10
The handset has a compact feel to it. It features a 5-inch display and has a plastic unibody finish at the back making it quite light at just 120 gms. The edges and corners are curved offering a nice grip as well.
The unit that I received came with a gold finish at the back with a white bezel on the front. Despite the use of plastic, the smartphone doesn’t look like a cheap phone.
At the front there is a 2.5D curved glass sitting on top of the display. There are three capacitive Android navigation buttons below the display while the earpiece. light sensors, and the front camera with an LED flash are placed on top.
Moving to the back, the primary camera sits on the top left corner with an LED flash and the shiny Asus logo in the middle. Around the edges, the power and volume buttons which are a bit flimsy are placed on the right while the headphone jack is on top. The SIM tray is on the left edge, and at the bottom is the loudspeaker and the microUSB port.
Consumers are spoiled for choices when they go out in the market to buy a smartphone. At this price segment one can easily get a more premium design including a metal chassis. While I liked the overall compact size of the ZenFone Live, I felt that it isn’t as premium as most smartphones falling in the same price bracket.
This one is a budget device and while I was expecting a decent set of features, they are not even close to the competition. Powering the smartphone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 which is now over four years old. It has a quad-core processor clocked at 1.4 GHz and an Adreno 305 GPU. This is paired with 2 GB of RAM while the internal storage is 16 GB which is expandable through the hybrid SIM slot using a microSD card.
The display is a 5-inch IPS LCD panel offering a 1280×720 pixel resolution and is protected with a 2.5D curved glass. The front camera has a 5 MP resolution with an LED flash while the rear camera has a 13 MP resolution with an f/2.0 aperture and an LED flash.
Connectivity features include 4G LTE, dual-SIM, Wi-Fi, GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS, FM Radio, Bluetooth 4.0, and microUSB 2.0. The battery on the smartphone is rated at 2,650 mAh with no mention of fast charging support.
In this age and time, the features list is quite disappointing.
The ZenFone Live uses a 5-inch IPS LCD panel. Offering a resolution of 1280x720 pixels, the pixel density is 294 ppi. The screen to body ratio is about 68 percent, although it doesn’t seem there has been a waste of real-estate.
As I mentioned above, the display has a 2.5D protective glass on top. It gives a nice touch and feel. The panel itself is pretty decent. Its vibrant, bright enough and colors look good. There isn’t much of a color shift when viewed at different angles and even the touch response is pretty good. Sharpness isn't the best, but I honestly think a 720p resolution is the bare minimum requirement for a decent display. The white balance of the display can be fine tuned from the display settings.
The ZenFone Live runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow layered with an older version of ZenUI on top. The UI feels ancient, something which I saw on a ZenFone 2 series smartphone.
It is a bit buggy and comes with a bunch of bloatware, some of which cannot be removed, only disabled in the settings. Apart from a bunch of Asus apps, the smartphone comes pre-loaded with Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Out of the 16 GB of storage, about 6 GB is taken up by the system. The default launcher comes with the option of changing the icons, wallpapers, themes, locking apps and so on, which is nice to see as I like the personalization options.
Then there are system optimization apps running in the background that keep popping up now and then. It gets annoying as it keeps recommending stats that I don't even need.
There is just too much happening in the UI and I wish Asus brings in a quick update to remove some of the unnecessary apps and lighten up the overall interface. I believe the ZenFone 3 series was much better in term of the software experience.
Now with such an old chipset running at its heart, I wasn’t expecting much in the performance department. The least Asus could have done was to bump up the RAM and storage. There are instances when the smartphone runs smooth, without and glitches. But at times I could see slow response.
Multitasking is just about fine, as I managed to open 10-12 apps. It struggles to run high-end games as was evident when I tried playing the new Injustice 2 game. I was met with heavy drops on frame rate, overheating and multiple crashes. Basic and less resource hogging games didn’t show a lot of issue.
I ran multiple benchmark tests and all of them worked perfectly. Of course the scores were highly disappointing.
The ZenFone Live features a 13 MP primary camera with an f/2.0 aperture and an LED flash. The camera is capable of recording 1080p videos at 30 fps. As for the front camera, it has a 5 MP resolution with an f/2.2 aperture, a 1.4 µm pixel size and a dedicated LED flash of its own.
The camera app is the typical one that is seen on most budget ZenFone smartphones. There are filters, some standard modes like panorama, HDR, night mode, a high-resolution mode and so on. The app opens quick but focusing is a big issue. It takes a lot of time for focusing at certain distances and at it keeps jumping which gets annoying.
As for the quality, pictures shot in bright light are good, but not the best. Pictures shot indoors lack quality. Low-light images are grainy and get hazy because of the slow shutter speeds. The HDR mode is a must if you want correct colors and proper exposure as both of them turn out really bad when shot in the auto mode. The front camera can take average selfies but the beautification features let you fine tune your face tone and skin which can useful for certain selfie loving consumers.
As for the highlight of the phone, there is a special app called BeautifyLive. Basically it adds a beauty filter which can be tuned and then within the app one can directly go live on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. One has to be signed in to do a live broadcast.
I did a test live broadcast on Facebook with the ZenFone Live and everything seemed to work good. Asus says that the app also cuts out background noise to provide a better audio experience. Instead of using one, the app utilities both the microphones. In my test live video I couldn't notice a stark difference in the audio though.It's not a path breaking feature, but it is good enough for YouTubers or bloggers who like to do a lot of live videos.
The battery unit on the ZenFone Live is rated at 2,650 mAh. This is a bit less than the standard 3,000 mAh found on most phones. In fact at this budget, Xiaomi is offering smartphones with over 4,000 mAh. The battery does drain quickly, and if you are doing a long live video, make sure you charge it up completely before doing so. On light usage one can manage to use for the whole day, but heavy usage eats in to the battery life real quick. The battery benchmark test on PC Mark somehow didn't give me any results.
Verdict and price in India
The ZenFone Live is a first of its kind smartphone targeting the 'live-generation'. It's a good idea which hasn't been implemented very well. The phone itself cannot match its competition. It is running on buggy software, powered by an old chipset and offers very low-end features. While the dedicated app to make live broadcasts is decent, there isn't much to it apart from adding a filter. A fully loaded app would have made some justice.
I think the handset will be good as a secondary phone dedicated to make live videos for an avid live video broadcaster.
Priced at Rs 9,999 it is an expensive affair. Probably a Rs 6,000 price mark would have made more sense. At this price point, the Xiaomi Redmi 4 is way better option. Even the Redmi 3S Prime and Lenovo K6 Power are excellent recommendations.