9.0
Score

Pros

  • Amazing Design
  • Huge leap from it's predecessors
  • Clean and Optimized UI
  • Improved Camera & Performance
  • Reasonable Price Tag

Cons

  • AI Counterpart is not that mature

Final Verdict

For RM 1299, the Asus Zenfone 5 is a no brainer. Especially when you compare the specification with other Chinese Manufacturers. Love it or hate it, the notch is here to stay. At least for now.

With more and more smartphones getting released every single year, it’s super hard for the consumers to keep up with everything. But thanks to huge Tech Shows like the CES and MWC, we get to follow some of the huge companies that makes really great smartphones. Earlier this year, Asus – a technology company that we are no strangers to – unveiled their new lineup. Asus Zenfone 5 is the successor to the Zenfone 4 which we saw last year.

With the Zenfone 5, there’s just so much going around – a new dual camera setup, a display now has a notch and much more. Now that it’s announced for the Malaysian Market and will be sold for RM 1299, it’s time to find out whether the Zenfone we were in love with is finally back in business in this Full Review.

Unboxing

The unboxing is very straight forward. The video above shows the retail package and will give you an idea of what you’ll be getting along with the Zenfone 5.

Design and Build Quality

1/10

 

The Zenfone 5 is covered in glass, both on the front and the back along with the metal rails to the side. It has a design that most of us have seen before, that’s the Zenfone 3 which was released back in 2016. Personally it’s a design language Asus is known for. The device that we received was the Meteor Silver and holy mother of god, it is gorgeous.

Despite the color, the back of the phone has this reflective surface with the signature Zen Spiral design. The chamfered and the sandblasted finish on the rails, gives a bit of a fluidic look where the glass and the metal just sinks in perfectly well. What’s even interesting is that it has a pink-ish tone going on which gives the phone a dual tone finish.

In terms of build quality, the Zenfone 5 screams premium in every single way. With that metal rail on the sides and the glass finish, it does not only look great but feels great as well. The finish of this product is surprisingly good and I am impressed with what it has to offer. Obviously, any glass phone is prone to fingerprint and it’s no surprise with the Zenfone 5. For a phone that sports a huge display, the whole form factor is small, nice and great to hold in the hands. For a 165 gram smartphone, it feels not too heavy and the weight is evenly balanced.

Last year, with the Zenfone 4 – it wasn’t as prominent as we thought. But this year, the design is amazing. It feels like they are back on track.

Specification and Benchmark

For those geeky people out there, the Asus Zenfone 5 has a decent specification going on. Under the hood, it is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, an octa-core processor with a 14nm FinFET architecture. It comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB Internal Storage which can be upgraded with the help of an MicroSD card up to 2TB. As for the GPU counterpart, it has a Qualcomm Adreno 509 for everything gaming and editing, if that’s your kind of thing.

We performed a benchmark on the Asus Zenfone 5 – Antutu, Geekbench and AIDA64. You can find the benchmark scores below. Do take note that the benchmark scores does not add up to day-to-day usage as it may vary accordingly.

1/3

Display

On the front, you’ll find the glorious 6.2” Full HD+ Super IPS+ Display with a 90% screen-to-body ratio. It has 550nits of brightness with a coverage of 96% of the NTSC color gamut. It also supports DCI-P3 color space. The display is protected with a Corning Gorilla Glass to make sure it’s less prone to damages and so on. The bezels on the edges of the screen is very identical to what Apple did with their iPhone X. It doesn’t interrupt the UX in anyway possible.

The moment you look at the display, the very first thing you’ll notice is the notch. Yep, the Asus Zenfone 5 has a notch up top. Compared to other phones in the market which boasts a notch, the Zenfone 5’s isn’t that bad at all. It’s small and for me, I am totally cool with the notch. It does have a chin at the bottom but it isn’t disturbingly obvious as the Oppo F7.

Other than the notch, there’s the display. (duh.) The moment you lay you lay your eyes on those display, it’s a feast to the eyes. It really has a great color production. There’s no color change when tilting the display. It has a cooler color calibration but you can adjust it to your liking in the settings. It isn’t an AMOLED display but honestly, I don’t think you even need one. The blacks look great and doesn’t have this washed out shade. The pixel per inch count is relatively high. Which means, you won’t see any obvious pixels on the device itself.

One thing I personally love doing is watching contents on iflix and Netflix. Thank god, the experience is great and the ZenUI handles the notch so well that it knows that the notch would block the content. So, it alters the app to a 16:9 ratio to give the best experience possible. The response time is fast and quick.

Performance

One of the key highlights of this particular phone is the performance. This is Asus’s second smartphone to power the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636. You might be thinking – “4GB RAM too low lah.”.  For today’s standards, 4GB RAM is very ideal and decent enough. Now, with that out of the way – let’s take a look at the performance.

Under normal usage, jumping between application like Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp and Chrome was quick, snappy and just nice. No lag right there. I use dedicated applications for post editing content on the phone because there’s not a lot of options out there in the Play Store. So, using the camera then jumping over to VSCO, Snapseed and so on still handled pretty well. I have seen a lot of phones glitch the moment VSCO is launched. But there was just a 1-2 second delay which is completely alright.

Now, onto the intense part. I am no gamer but I do have my fair share of games on the Smartphone. So, I played Need for Speed: No Limits, Tekken, Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition and a bit of Arena of Valor. There was a very minimal frame drop but other than that no games crashed or lagged.

One thing Asus emphasized on the performance is the AI Boost. During my test, I noticed that the AI Boost gives the phone a bit of adrenaline to boost the processor. Meaning it makes it a bit faster. This is helpful, especially when you have applications like Photoshop Lightroom for instance. There’s no dramatic change but does have a bit of a difference.

The only weird thing is that the notification toggle gets a bit cranky. Other than that, it’s pretty good.

Battery & Charging

Under the hood, the Zenfone 5 packs a 3300mAh battery with Fast Charging enabled. In the box, the phone comes with a 5V 2A 10W Adapter. Charging this battery is really quick and fast, thanks to the Fast Charging capabilities. It roughly takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours for a complete charge.

What makes this charging interesting is that, the adaptive AI counterpart helps a lot as well. Adaptive charge saves the battery from unwanted cell depletion – especially when you like to connect it overnight. It analyses the pattern and makes sure that you get the right amount of battery before you head out.

Now moving on to the battery test. During my time using the device – I did a moderate and heavy test. During the moderate test, with a lot of standby mode – the phone lasted for about 11 Hours with a Screen on Time of 3 Hours 7 Minutes. Under heavy usage, where I constantly was using it –  the phone lasted for 8 Hours – with a screen on time of 3 Hours 49 Minutes.

1/2

I would say, for a 3300 mAh battery – this is decent enough and you can still walk out of your home without carrying any Battery Pack. But if you are one heavy user, just bring a small battery pack that can get your juice up in no time. Comparing with phones that I’ve tried previously which had a similar capacity, this battery consumption is a lot efficient. This is due to the new FinFET Architecture under the hood.

Camera

Front Facing Camera

Let’s talk about the front facing camera. It houses an 8MP front facing camera with an aperture of f/2.0. What makes this camera even more interesting, is the fact that it has an 84 degree field of view.

I am no huge fan of selfies but I do take once in a while, especially when I am with my friends. There are times the camera has the tendency to overexpose especially with my skin tone. So, everytime I have to tap somewhere else and make that as a focus to get the right exposure. When it comes out – it comes out as a really decent selfie. One to keep and not delete.

Rear Facing Camera

On the back, the Zenfone 5 features a dual camera setup. The primary sensor is a Sony IMX363 sensor, which has a 12MP dual pixel image capability. It has an aperture of f/1.8 with a 6p lens. The secondary sensor is an 8MP Wide-angle camera with an aperture of f/2.0 that captures more of the surroundings.

The phone again emphasizes on the AI capabilities. For instance, it does 16 types of Scene Detection and learns over time from taking many pictures. It also does AI Photo Learning where the phone learns from the picture you’ve taken and improve over time. No data or images of yours is being shared with Asus as it is securely stored in your phone.

1/13

The colors are decent and pleasant to the eyes. The Dynamic Range for the colors are amazing and I have to say, it’s very impressive. When you zoom into the pictures that was taken using the Primary sensor, the details are intact and it captures the colors close to what I saw. The secondary sensor does a bit of softening but in a whole, it’s a good image that you can share on your social network.

Low light on the other hand could be a bit tricky. Initially it did blew the exposure to the max. But after a firmware update, this problem was fixed and the pictures turned out fine. It may not have been the best low light shots but it is definitely a good one that’s useable and to show it or even upload it on your Instagram.

Finally we have the bokeh – depth effect where it blurs the background and keeps the subject in focus. I am never a huge fan of this fokeh (fake bokeh). On the Asus, you can adjust on how blur you want your background, so it makes the whole lot less fake and acceptable. The exposure blowing out of proportion is a simple matter and I hope Asus can fix it with a firmware update. But other than that, well done Asus. I am impressed.

Speakers & Audio Capabilities

Asus emphasizes in the audio department. In this case, they have opted in for a 5-magnet speakers with dual NXP Smart AMP. What this does is allow is – it enhances the sound to make it loud and deeper. The speaker also has an AI feature called AI Ringtone. It analyzes your surroundings – if its loud, the phone gets louder and if the room is quiet, the phone rings quietly.

As for those audiophiles out there, you are in for a big treat. The Zenfone 5 has the support for Hi-Res audio – 192Khz/24-bit Standard. It also has support for DTS 7.1 virtual Surround sound for headphones. Good thing is that, Asus includes a Hi Res certified ZenEar Pro to make sure that you get the best experience possible. During my time testing, I enjoyed the sound profile and the DAC produces good sound quality.

I use Bluetooth earphones very extensively. Pairing my Sennheiser CX 7.00 allows me to listen music with no loss of quality – thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm AptX HD. For those who want to record videos on it, it comes with a dual internal microphones with their in-house Noise Reduction Technology. Oh and yes, it has an FM radio.

Connectivity

The Asus Zenfone 5 has the support for 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi for great connection all the time. They have stepped the game with the Bluetooth 5.0, which I personally love. Finally, pairing all my devices and peripherals that has a built-in NFC now can be paired with just a single tap.

Face Unlock & Fingerprint Sensor

 

The fingerprint sensor is located on the back of the device. Setting it up is relatively is easy and quick. No hiccups. Unlocking the device with the fingerprint sensor is very fast and there’s no lag. The device has a Face unlock feature. So when you look at it, the phone unlocks. All I can for the face unlock is that – it works. That’s all.

UI & OS

Ever since last year with the Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro, they have finally improved their ZenUI. With the Zenfone 5, you get few quirks that makes using the phone a lot easier. The whole UI runs on top of Android Oreo, 8.0. The ZenUI has a lot more lighter UI, now has a gesture based drawer where you swipe up to access your application. The notification toggle looks cleaner than ever and the whole app animation is fluidic and smooth.

What’s even best is that the device does not have a lot of bloatware that could just take up unnecessary space. I like the current ZenUI with has a peppy feel and maintain a smooth and clean UI. You have a bunch of interesting features. Page Marker, Twin Apps, Game Genie, ZeniMoji, OptiFlex and more.

Like I have mentioned earlier, this phone has a notch up top. Most of the smartphones I’ve tried or reviewed in the past does not optimize or work really well with the presence of that notch. Asus threw in a bit of effort where the application works in a smart way where it could adjust and toggle itself. Making sure that there isn’t any interruption. Now this is what I call a fully baked UI. Other Chinese companies should maybe take a look at this and learn a thing or two.

Conclusion

Honestly, using the Zenfone 5 was one great experience. In fact, there was barely any flaws to comment on. There might be a bit of small glitches here and there but it can be fixed with a simple update and it’s as easy as that. Of all the Android Smartphone manufacturers, Asus did a great job with the notch and optimizing it with the OS. he build quality is by far the best I’ve come across in a price segment like that and honestly, this time it’s priced just right.

For today’s standards, AI is something that’s very new. This applies all across the board and Asus did emphasize a lot on the AI capabilities. Some of it – like the AI Ringtone works but just like any other phone, it needs a bit of fine tuning. But we might do another article just on that to give a clearer picture on what it does. Giving you guys a deeper dive into the whole AI behind the phone.

Will I recommend this phone? Yes, without a doubt. The sheer effort and dedication in crafting this smartphone shows that Asus is finally back on track with their smartphones and I am confident enough to say that, Asus is back for good with their Zenfone 5. It sure is a notch further with the pricing, build, camera, performance and of course, the notch from the rest of the competitors who offers less for more moola.

Kudos and Welcome Home guys! 🙂

Pricing and Availability

The Asus Zenfone 5 will be available for pre-order starting from 4th June for RM 1299 exclusively on Lazada. It will be available in two different colors- Meteor Silver and Midnight Blue. If you’re planning to own one, click here.

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