GOING BEYOND THE PADFONE
ASUS ZenFone 5
CONCLUSION It’s a shame that the great design is let down by hardware and software optimization.
From an ergonomic point of view, there’s little to criticize about the design and build quality of the ZenFone 5. Its slightly curved, soft-touch rear feels great in the palm and the matte texture gives a better grip of the device.
The rear shell is removable, so you can switch to other colored options, like red, purple, white or black. Similar to the Xiaomi Redmi, there is a slit at the bottom corner where you can easily slide your fingernail in to pry it open.
With the rear shell off, you will see two SIM card slots (yes, the ZenFone 5 is a dual-SIM phone) and a microSD slot. Like the Motorola Moto G and Oppo Find 5 Mini, both SIM card slots support 3G network speeds of up to 42Mbps. The microSD card will come in handy for consumers who find the 4.33GB of available storage (out of the box) paltry; it supports memory cards up to 64GB.
The front panel is dominated by a 5-inch 720p IPS+ display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for extra protection against scratches. We find the display to be splendid with lively colors and excellent viewing angles.
Below the display are three capacitive navigation buttons. ASUS has replaced the Menu key with Recent Apps. A tap will bring up the multitasking menu while pressing and holding the same key will give an overview of the home screen panels. As there is no backlight for the buttons, your thumb may have to wander around the deck to find the correct key in dark environments.
ASUS finally took the leap and developed a customized interface, ZenUI. It has a
modernized interface with “flat” icons, vivid color themes, animations and a cleaner layout for displaying information clearly.
One of the key features of ZenUI is What’s Next, which syncs with Google Calendar and manages your schedule. It can be accessed through a standalone app, on the notification bar, and a widget on the home screen and/or lock screen. We think the countdown timer to the next event will be well-liked by consumers who are too busy to take note of the time.
Do It Later is another main feature of ZenUI. It acts like a personal digital secretary by helping you to remember the important tasks. Missed calls, unread text messages and emails can be sent to Do It Later, where there is an option to respond to the particular item without having to jump between apps. It has its limitations though; only certain apps are supported such as the stock browser, email app and text message.
Imaging technology has been a key selling feature for some phone brands and ASUS also has one of its own called PixelMaster that combines hardware, software and optical design to deliver better quality images. It was first introduced in the PadFone Infinity, but ASUS has improved it for the ZenFone 5.
One particular feature of PixelMaster that deserves a shout out is the Low Light mode. By combining four adjacent pixels into one and applying image processing algorithms to increase the light sensitivity and color contrast, the ZenFone 5 could take quite impressive low light shots although details are lacking due to the downsizing of the resolution to 2-megapixel. Under normal lighting conditions, photos taken with the 8-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture have a good amount of details and pleasing colors.
In our video looping battery test, the ZenFone 5 lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes with its 2,110mAh battery, an hour short of the Moto G. On an average day of usage, it managed to get us through about 10 hours and 30 minutes before the battery level hit 10%.
Retailing at $249, the ZenFone 5 tries to strike a middle ground between the Redmi and Moto G, and would have succeeded if more time was spent to make sure user experience was smoother.
This is the first time that ASUS has a customized interface for its devices.
The concentric circle finish has a fine texture and premium look.