Asus ZenFone 5

Android Advisor - - Contents -

If the ZenFone 5 sounds fa­mil­iar, it prob­a­bly should – Asus re­leased a phone called the ZenFone 5 way back in 2014. Un­sur­pris­ingly, this lat­est ver­sion has had a few up­grades.

Price

So far we don’t have any of­fi­cial price for the ZenFone 5, or a firm re­lease date. The ZenFone 4 started at £449, so we’d ex­pect to see some­thing sim­i­lar from the 5 though.

It’s worth not­ing that Asus has also an­nounced the ZenFone 5Z and 5 Lite – the 5Z is ex­pected to

come to the UK later this year, but the 5 Lite prob­a­bly won’t. The 5Z is es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal to the 5 though, ex­cept with a faster pro­ces­sor, so all of our hands-on re­ac­tions here will ap­ply to that phone too.

De­sign

No, that isn’t an iPhone X, but you’d be for­given for mak­ing that mis­take. Asus is one of the first of the ma­jor An­droid man­u­fac­tur­ers to in­cor­po­rate that iconic notch into its own dis­play de­sign, al­low­ing the cor­ners of the screen to reach the top of the de­vice.

Un­like the iPhone X, the 6.2in dis­play doesn’t quite reach the very bot­tom of the de­vice, but the bezel is so min­i­mal you’re not likely to mind too much – it’s hard to com­plain about a 90 per­cent screen-to-body ra­tio. Be­yond the dis­play you get a very slim met­al­framed body, and a glass back, all of which looks and feels great – even if it is all-too fa­mil­iar.

Un­like the iPhone X you do get a fin­ger­print sen­sor – here on the back of the phone – though the ver­ti­cally aligned dual cam­eras in the cor­ner are another touch of def­i­nite fa­mil­iar­ity. Still, the ZenFone 5 has one big ad­van­tage over the iPhone: a 3.5mm head­phone jack.

There are other con­ces­sions to bud­get, of course. De­spite the glass back there’s no wire­less charg­ing here, and wa­ter­proof­ing is to­tally ab­sent too.

At launch, the ZenFone 5 will be avail­able in two colours: Mid­night Blue and Me­teor Sil­ver.

Over­all, it’s hard to ar­gue – look­ing an aw­ful lot like Ap­ple’s flag­ship de­vice is no bad thing in a phone that costs less than half the price.

Hard­ware

So, for all that the ZenFone 5 looks like Ap­ple’s lat­est, it’s not pack­ing quite so much power in­side.

First up, the 6.2in dis­play is Full HD+, and IPS-style, in a 19:9 ra­tio that’s even thin­ner than some of its ri­vals. In per­son it looked bright and vivid, with great colour re­pro­duc­tion. Sure, it isn’t OLED, but this is un­de­ni­ably a great-look­ing dis­play for the price – as long as you’re a fan of the notch.

The ZenFone 5 is also one of the first phones to use the Snap­dragon 636, Qual­comm’s new mid-range chip de­signed to of­fer sup­port for FHD+ dis­plays. The 636 will be backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB built-in stor­age, with mi­croSD sup­port as you’d ex­pect. The bat­tery is 3,300mAh, which should be enough for a day or two of typ­i­cal us­age.

It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that later this year the ZenFone 5Z will go on sale, of­fer­ing the ex­act same de­sign but pow­ered by Qual­comm’s lat­est flag­ship chip, the Snap­dragon 845, with more RAM and stor­age. So if you love the look of the ZenFone 5 but want it to come with a lit­tle more power, you might want to hold out for the 5Z.

As for cam­eras, you get dual lens on the back: the main shooter, pow­ered by Sony’s new flag­ship IMX363 sen­sor, is 12Mp with an f/1.8 aper­ture, paired with an 8Mp, f/2.2 wide-an­gle lens. Asus has opted for wide-an­gle this time, af­ter pre­vi­ously us­ing a zoom lens, which it claims al­lows it to take even bet­ter por­trait mode shots in low light. On the front, you get an 8Mp, f/2.0 selfie cam­era. Those cam­eras also of­fer new AI-driven soft­ware to get even more out of your shots – more on that be­low.

Au­dio has been ramped up too. The built-in speak­ers are se­ri­ously pow­er­ful – among the loud­est we’ve ever heard in a smart­phone – while main­tain­ing good tone. Else­where there’s DTS Head­phone:X sup­port for vir­tual 7.1 sur­round sound, along with Blue­tooth 5.0 and aptX HD.

Soft­ware

Be­yond that notched screen, the most ex­cit­ing things about the ZenFone 5 are all about the soft­ware.

An­droid 8.0 Oreo, the most re­cent ver­sion of the OS, is driv­ing ev­ery­thing, with Asus ZenUI 5 on top – and that’s where the real im­prove­ments lie.

For one, there’s that notch. Google is ex­pected to add of­fi­cial sup­port for notches to the next ver­sion of

An­droid, but un­til then Asus has built its own so­lu­tions into ZenUI, claim­ing that the notch will never in­trude on your con­tent or get in the way of apps.

The OS as a whole has also been cleaned up, bring­ing it a bit closer to stock An­droid: there’s Gboard as the de­fault key­board; no du­pli­cate browser, email, or mes­sag­ing apps; and Face­book and In­sta­gram are the only third-party apps that come pre­in­stalled.

You also get the op­tion to un­lock the phone with your face, though as with other An­droid phones this isn’t based on the in­frared TrueDepth cam­era tech in the iPhone X, so don’t ex­pect quite the same level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion or se­cu­rity. One neat touch is that the phone will keep the dis­play on as long as it can de­tect that you’re look­ing at it.

Asus has also bor­rowed An­i­moji, with its own take dubbed ZeniMoji. We weren’t able to test this our­selves, but with­out the TrueDepth cam­era you should prob­a­bly ex­pect some­thing less pol­ished than Ap­ple’s ver­sion – though they do have the ad­van­tage of be­ing us­able in video chats and live streams.

The rest of the big soft­ware fea­tures are, on trend for 2018, all about AI. From the cam­era to the charger, no­ti­fi­ca­tions, and even your ring­tone, Asus thinks it’s cracked how to use ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to im­prove your ex­pe­ri­ence.

The cam­era fol­lows in the foot­steps of the Honor View 10, us­ing AI to rec­og­nize 16 scenes and ob­jects – from sun­sets to dogs – and au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just to the op­ti­mum set­tings on the fly. The gallery app will then also sort those pho­tos by their rec­og­nized scenes to make it as easy as pos­si­ble to find all your pet pics.

More than that, it will also learn from your be­hav­iour. If you rou­tinely go into your pho­tos af­ter tak­ing them to tweak light lev­els or add a fil­ter, the phone will re­mem­ber your choices and do its best to au­to­mat­i­cally edit fu­ture pho­tos to suit your tastes – pre­serv­ing the orig­i­nal photo too, just to be safe.

Else­where, the phone will do its best to al­ter your ring­tone vol­ume to suit am­bi­ent noise – crank­ing it up if you’re in a busy bar, turn­ing it down for a quiet of­fice – tweak the colour tem­per­a­ture of the dis­play based on light lev­els, and even tweak the text colour on no­ti­fi­ca­tions based on your wall­pa­per im­age.

Then there’s AI Boost – es­sen­tially over­clock­ing by another name, let­ting you crank the pro­ces­sor up for in­ten­sive tasks. This will in­crease bat­tery drain, but Asus claims it will give you power equiv­a­lent to a Snap­dragon 660 – still mid-range, but def­i­nitely more pow­er­ful than the 636 nor­mally is.

Fi­nally, there’s AI Charg­ing, which will learn from how you charge your phone to help pre­serve the bat­tery in the long term. For ex­am­ple, if you of­ten keep your phone plugged in overnight, AI Charg­ing will top it up to 80 per­cent and keep it there un­til early in the morn­ing, be­fore bring­ing it all the way to full just be­fore you wake up, which Asus claims could as much as dou­ble the bat­tery’s life­span.

Ver­dict

We’ve only had brief time with the ZenFone 5, and many of its most ex­cit­ing soft­ware fea­tures ei­ther weren’t quite ready to test, or – like the AI stuff – are sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to re­view with­out ex­tended time with the de­vice.

Still, the phone looks beau­ti­ful – even if we mostly have Ap­ple to thank for that – and if it can de­liver

on per­for­mance it could be a very se­ri­ous con­tender in the mid-range mar­ket. Do­minic Pre­ston

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.7in (1440x720, 282ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.0 Oreo • Octa-core CPU • 2/3GB RAM • 16/32GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • Dual rear-fac­ing cam­era: 13- and 5Mp, aut­o­fo­cus,

LED flash • Dual 5Mp front-fac­ing cam­eras • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • A-GPS, GLONASS • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 2,500mAh bat­tery

The ZenFone 5 has a notch at the top that’s rem­i­nis­cent of the iPhone X

The cam­eras have new AI-driven soft­ware to help you get more from your shots

The op­er­at­ing sys­tem has been cleaned up, bring­ing it closer to stock An­droid

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