9.0
Score

Pros

  • Nice Display
  • Flagship Grade Specification
  • Insanely fast performance
  • Revamped UI that's Clean
  • Great Camera Setup and Performance
  • Incredibly Affordable for an 845 Powered Smartphone

Cons

  • Low Light could have been better
  • The Notch may not be for everyone

Asus Mobile division has been playing a really good game since the start of this year. With them back on track and their their prime goal being – offering the best smartphones, just like they did with the very first Zenfone Series. This year they made their debut with one new series – the Max. It’s more like the Asus version of Redmi Series. Then we have the OG, the Zenfone series. This particular series went on a limbo – kinda lost it’s identity but ever since the Zenfone 5, it feels like they are back on track – or they like to say it – #Backto5. We reviewed the Zenfone 5 and we loved it. This time they are bringing their Flagship, the Zenfone 5Z. We have been using it for more than two weeks, thanks to Asus Malaysia. It’s about time for us to share whether the 5Z deserves the spotlight in this Asus Zenfone 5Z Review.

Design & Build Quality

1/9

The moment you lay your eyes on the design, the Asus Zenfone 5Z has a very familiar design language. In fact, it carries the same design cue as the Zenfone 3. The Zenfone 5Z has a gorgeous Midnight Blue finish, that gives a dark grey look to it. But the moment you shine the light, you’ll see the dark shade of blue and I have to say, it is amazing. It’s definitely one of the best looking phones out there.

What makes the Asus Zenfone 5Z a Zenfone is the signature ZenSpiral design on the back on the phone. Shine light on it and you’ll see the whole thing diffracting and wow – it looks gorgeous. It doesn’t end there. The phone has dual-chamfered finish on the metal rail right after the glass slips into the frame. The phone retains its Zen Design throughout the whole phone.

The phone is constructed with metal and glass on both the front and back – giving it a premium look and feel to it. Both on the front and the back, it has a 2.5D Curved glass that actually doesn’t feel like glass in hand at all. That’s because it’s super thin. It is a huge fingerprint magnet and you might be carrying a microfiber cloth with you at all times for sure. Other than that, the metal frame has a fine finish with a soft metal texture to it. The 5Z has a good build quality in a whole. The weight is a bit towards the bottom part but that’s alright as it won’t slip out of the hands or topple the other way and hit the ground. The buttons are clicky and tactile – which is nice.

Specification and Benchmark

Get ready because the 5Z specification is way too powerful. The Zenfone 5Z is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 clocked in at 2.80 GHz. As for the RAM and Internal storage, it comes with two different configurations – 6GB RAM with 128GB Internal and 8GB RAM with 256GB Internal. Reading that, you’d be sure that the phone is on steroids.

Now, on to the benchmark scores. Do take note that the Benchmark scores do not add up to day to day performance as it varies. But it should give you a rough idea on how powerful the phone is.

Display

On the front, it has a 6.2” FHD+ Display in a 19:9 aspect ratio. The screen covers 90% of the body ratio and has the capability to hit 550nits at Maximum brightness. What makes this display special is the fact that it covers 96% of the NTSC Color Gamut and supports DCI-P3 Color Profile. The phone is calibrated to a cool tone by default but if you want to calibrate it – you can do it in the settings.

First thing you will notice is not the colors or anything – it’s the notch (and the chin). The Zenfone 5Z is one of the phones that joins the #TeamNotch. The notch on the top is relatively small and it doesn’t bother me because I personally am cool with notch in general. The displays are curved at the edges to give more of a fluid look I’d say. During my time using it, I was surprised how I wasn’t bothered with the chin at the bottom. It’s all good.

Now, let’s talk about the display. The color on the display pops and it’s very pleasing to the eyes. The whites are sharp and the color that you see is pretty much accurate enough. The blacks are deep and the only thing you’ll see is the backlight. Other than that, the viewing angle on this display is amazing and you won’t have a bad time with it in general. Watching content from Netflix and iflix, it’s pleasing to the eyes.

One thing to note, the moment you start watching a video or consume any content in the horizontal position, it does a wonderful job in not blocking or covering it under the notch. The phone alters the application to an 18:9 aspect ratio and lets you enjoy your videos just like that.

Performance

With great specification like that comes great performance. You get that with the phone and holy mother of god, it flies. Out of the 6GB, it uses almost 85-90 percent of the RAM but doesn’t give any lag while using the phone. As it came with a 128GB Internal, I didn’t even have to worry about anything either because it was just so good. Application launches in a second or two after being force closed.

Gaming on the Zenfone 5Z is phenomenal (Obviously.). Considering the fact that it has a flagship grade specification, it handles most of the games really well. During my time using the phone – I played games like Batman: Telltale, Republique, Need for Speed: No Limits, Tekken and Asphalt 8 as well. It did take that usual time to setup initially – after that everything was just smooth and stutter free. This was completely possible due to the RAM, Processor itself and also the huge storage that won’t get full – unless you install all the big games in your phone – yeah sure.

Other than the performance, the phone didn’t get hot but it did get warm at times – especially after a long hour of play time. This is completely normal.

Battery & Charging

The Zenfone 5Z shares the same battery as the 5. It has a 3300mAh battery with Quick Charge support. During my time using the phone, I did two test – moderate usage and light usage. During the Moderate usage, the hotspot was turned on the whole day and I was using the phone to text, call, watch some content and so on. It gave me an active usage time of 8 Hours 50 Minute with a screen on time of 3 hours 23 minutes. Some phones would have died at a 5-6 hours mark with the hotspot turned on the whole day.

During my light usage, where I didn’t use much but just text, listen to some music and watch content – I got a 13 hours of active usage and a screen on time of 3 hours 42 minutes with 50% battery left. This is extremely efficient. This was possible – thanks to the new 10nm architecture which offers more performance and utilizes the battery in an efficient manner. This means you could even get back home on time without even worrying about carrying a powerbank with you. I would give the battery a solid B-.

Camera

Front Facing Camera

On the front, the Zenfone 5Z packs a 8MP front facing shooter with an aperture of f/2.0. I am not a huge selfie fan myself but I am very happy with the front facing camera. For the first time, it does not have that over exposure the moment it detects a darker skin complexion like mine. The pictures turned out great with the front facing camera – the colors are neutral. It even has HDR mode, so you’d get a good experience with it. There is no dedicated front facing flash but it does use the screen as a flash. I guess that works.

Rear Facing Camera

On the back, the Zenfone 5Z features a dual-camera setup and it’s exactly the same as the Zenfone 5 again. It has a 12MP Primary sensor – a Sony IMX363 with an aperture of f/1.8 and a 1.4um large pixel size. The secondary sensor on the other hand is a 8MP Wide angle sensor with an angle of 120 degrees and an aperture of f/2.0. Let’s talk in depth about the camera. It also has a 4-axis OIS that helps you take photo with no problems.

In this first picture where it was shot with the primary sensor – the 12MP shooter. It was shot on a broad day light in Putrajaya. The phone used the HDR mode to capture the colors and this particular shot has too much greens and I have to say – it did a good job in capturing the right tone of green and it isn’t too saturated. Zooming into the tree on the top right, shows the details are intact and does not have any blurring. The two ballet dancers are a bit overexposed. The sky looks alright. Overall, it’s a shot you won’t have to edit while posting it on Instagram.

Second shot is an indoor shot where both the primary and secondary sensor is used. The detailing on the Gundam packaging is very sharp and well detailed the colors are not accurate as it as a bit of purple hue to it but the realpackaging has a blue tone to it. Moving on to the picture on the right, which was shot on the wide-angle lens. It captures more. Like the corkboard on the wall, a part of my monitor, and the bottom rack. There isn’t any over exposure which is surprising. Since it’s an 8MP sensor, the detailing might miss but overall – it has done a great job. Only downside with the wide-angle is that the object at the edges are a bit blurred out.

1/16

Expect the camera to take good – if not better shots during the day light as it handles exposures really well. Sometimes the HDR mode can be a bit aggressive but you can choose to turn it off – which I did. I am genuinely amazed on how the pictures turned out. Only thing that it doesn’t really excel well is the low light shots – where there is just too much noise but I hope it can be corrected with a help of a firmware update.

Other key highlight of the camera would be it’s AI Scene Detection. The phone knows what it captures and adjusts the picture accordingly. If you were to shoot in low light, it would show an Owl logo and so on. Personally, I didn’t see any change or the AI is working or not. Well, it does take good pictures – so that all it matters.

As for video, you can shoot upto 4K resolution with 3-axis EIS for steady videos.

Speakers

The Zenfone 5Z has a dual speaker setup. Well, kind of. It has a speaker located at the bottom just like usual and the earpiece works as a tweeter. So, yes – it does give you that stereo effect. During my time using the speakers, I used it to listen to songs on Soundcloud, Apple Music and even some of my local file collection. The sound quality is surprisingly decent – at 50-60 percent volume. It’s clear and nice. Taking it up a notch – up to the max volume does lose the detail a bit but the speaker gets loud AF. On top of that, let’s say if you are using your phone in the public and wanna show this video to your friends, the Outdoor Mode is a lifesaver as it boosts the sound a lot.

Under the hood, it also has one nifty trick which I love – the AI Ringtone. What it does is that – it analyses the environment with the microphone and increases the ringtone sound to a volume which you can hear. Nice trick. I have seen this before on my older phone from HTC Desire C.

UI & OS

The Zenfone 5Z runs Android 8.0 with their custom UI on top – the Zen UI. The whole UI has been revamped from the ground up. The User experience has improved and it looks a lot lighter than the Zen UI we knew back in the day. It’s now a lot mature and does offer a lot of customization on top – like Zenmoji, Game Genie and much more. It’s nice that there isn’t any bloatware or unwanted application which is definitely a nice touch.

The whole UI is a lot responsive and snappy. Getting in and out of an app or jumping into the setting is nearly seamless. With a notch up top, this is by far the only UI I have personally seen optimized for it. The UI and UX knows there’s a notch and doesn’t bring anything behind it. Even when you watch videos, it offers the best in class experience without a doubt and nothing gets chopped out. I like this Zen UI a lot.

Conclusion

After using the Asus Zenfone 5Z, I can say – it is definitely one of the best smartphones I have used this year. The 5Z offers good performance, decent battery life and an amazing camera. I said this in my Zenfone 5 Review and the same thing applies here – Asus found their way back and learned their mistakes with the devices in the past and this time, with the 5Z, I don’t see any reason why not to recommend it to anyone as it checks out all the box.

Considering the fact that the Zenfone 5Z is priced at RM 1899 for the 6GB | 128GB and RM 2299 for the 8GB | 256GB variant, this is by far the best phone with top-tier specification right now in the market – no doubt.

We at The Adventures of Vesper give the Asus Zenfone 5Z – the Vesper Choice Award.

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