Asus announced three devices under the Zenfone series at the CES in January this year. These phones come in screen sizes ranging from 4 to 6 inches. Asus launched Zenfone 5 in 8GB and 16GB variants today in India that starts at Rs. 9,999. We got a chance to experience the ZenFone 5 before the launch today. Our review unit is 8GB gold colour variant.
The Asus Zenfone 5 is encompassed in a plastic body with but has a metal-coloured matte finish to it. Like other Asus trademark devices, the phone has brushed metal that are a bit thick at edges. It has a metallic band below the capacitive buttons at the bottom with some texture that gives a premium look to the phone. Also present at the front of the phone is the LED notification light next to front facing camera. It is 10.3mm thick and weighs 145 grams.
It has 3.5 mm audio jack at the top and a micro USB charging port at the bottom. While the power button and the volume rockers are situated on the right hand side edge of the phone. I personally felt that the volume rocker buttons are not accessed easily as the phone is quite thick sideways and the buttons are very flat and a bit hard.
Although the phone has a removable back cover, the phone’s 2050mAh battery is inbuilt. Being a dual SIM phone, it has two micro SIM card slots that are facing each other and a microSD card. Finally, the back has a 8MP camera and a loudspeaker. The overall design of the phone is attractive and has a tinge of elegant look despite the entire plastic body. However, we think that the phone is bit taller and does not fit comfortably in one hand and will not be easy to handle for those with smaller hands. The phone can be easily handled with one hand as it offers a firm grip. The Zenfone 5 is available in four colours – Charcoal Black, Pearl White, Cherry Red, and Champagne Gold.
The phone has a 5 inch HD display with 720p resolution that comes with Asus TruVivid technology for better color reproduction. In order to protect from scratches the screen has Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display is decent and has natural colours and acceptable brightness. Viewing angles on the phone are also good.We found the phone good for reading and the text is clear and sharp. There is also a reading mode in the device that adjusts the backlight and makes its suitable for reading a book or a digital magazine. This mode can be toggled from the notification panel.
This is one of the best features of the phone that sets it apart from the lot. The UI of the Asus Zenfone 5 is different from the standard stock Android. A new Zen UI that is certainly the most unique and strong point of the phone. It gives the Android a refreshed and stylish look. The lock screen is good and showcases most of the info on the screen itself before you dive in. Asus has also made some major changes to the lock screen which now gives you shortcuts to launch apps like the camera, dialer and messaging.
The notification panel has got various apps that are encompassed in a bubble resembling the chat heads from Facebook Messenger. The bubble like circular tabs can be found in dialer app as well. While you swipe downwards to open the Notifications Bar, a swipe from the left side of the screen opens your notifications whereas the swipe from the right opens all the toggles, just like it happens in tablets nowadays. Flashlight, Memory Booster, Calculator and Quick Memo are permanent in the toggles menu, but you can choose the remaining toggles that show up in Notifications from Settings.
Apps like camera, music, gallery have also received an overhaul. The lockscreen now gets camera, dialer and message shortcuts. It also gives you calendar events, weather and time on the lock screen. Overall the UI is colourful and makes navigation interesting and smooth. The dialer app UI is also attractive and offers built-in feature to record telephone conversations which is not found in most of the Android phones. Moreover, it has PenTouch and GloveTouch tech, which ramps up the screen’s sensitivity, so you can use the smartphone’s screen through a gloved hand or with any stylus, according to Asus.
The Asus Zenfone 5 is powered by a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 clocked at 1.6 GHz with PowerVR SGX 544MP2 GPU and includes 1GB RAM. It runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean along with the Zen UI that we will discuss later. Asus has confirmed that the handset will get the new Android Kit Kat update.
The phone does have some cool built-in apps like Omlet Chat app which is yet another Whatsapp and Mirror which like the name suggests converts the front camera to mirror, but the Indian variant might not come with this app. Also, during our testing period we were unable to download the Facebook App after multiple attempts. Every time we tried to launch the app it crashed. In addition, images and videos that were received on WhatsApp were downloaded only via WiFi and no mobile data connection.
The device has dual-SIM support. Both the SIM slots support 3G, unlike most other phones however, only one SIM can use 3G at any point of time. The phone’s 8GB of internal storage offers 5GB of actual storage space to users. Users can, however, expand its memory as it supports a microSD card of up to 64 GB.
We tried the phone with single sim and did basic activities like music, camera and games along with standard messaging apps and no social media like Facebook and Instagram. This got us through about 7.5 hours without charging. But gaming and music from medium to heavy did result into battery loss and in that case it lasted for about 5 hours.
One of the drawbacks of the Asus Zenfone 5 is its call quality which is poor. The phone’s microphone does not deliver a clear voice call and the sound breaks almost time during call conversations. Although, we did not have any call drop issues, it certainly is not clear and up to the mark. The speaker on the phone is pretty good while on calls.
The Asus Zenfone 5 is great phone considering its for a price tag of Rs 9,999. It scores points when it comes to display and UI, but these are glitches when its comes to performance in case of certain apps. That aside considering the phone specifications and offering, we feel it is a decent mid segment phone with a good price tag.