11 January 2014

Asus Zenfone 4 - First Impressions

What is the Asus Zenfone 4?

The Asus Zenfone 4 is Asus's new ultra-budget Android phone. It's not going to blow you away with its packed features list, but if it sells for the right price in the UK, this could certainly be one of the more capable, and desirable, low-end phones.

Asus Zenfone 4 – Design

As you'd expect from a phone set to sell for $99 in the US, the Asus Zenfone 4 is a plastic-bodied phone that doesn't feel particularly fancy or expensive. It's light, it's basic and it's quite small thanks to its 4-inch screen.

However, Asus's simplistic design results in a decent-looking cheap phone. It's not without design tweaks either, as the bottom of the front of the phone bears the concentric circles texture seen in Asus's much more expensive Transformer tablet devices, and its Zenbook Ultrabooks.

It's not a particularly slim phone at 11.2mm, but then cheaper, smaller-screen phones rarely are.

Asus Zenfone 4 – Screen and Features

The one element that really marks the Asus Zenfone 4 as a low-end phone is its screen. It's not the 4-inch size that's the issue, but the resolution.

This is a 800 x 480 pixel display, a resolution that these days is only seen in phones that need to cut a lot of corners in order to keep the price down. It's a TFT screen, but screen quality is fairly good in its class. Colours aren't heinously washed out and while the pixel density is limited, the Zenfone 4 screen does not look truly blocky. Asus Zenfone 4 1

Its processor power is also pretty good among entry-level Androids. Rather than using an basic processor from a big name like Qualcomm or a chip from a company that frequently turns up in low-cost phones like MTK, the Zenfone 4 has an Intel Atom chip, a dual-core 1.2GHz Z2520. We didn't get to spend a great deal of time with the phone, but it seems less laggy than many truly cheap Android phones.

You only get 4GB of internal memory with the Zenfone 4, but there is a microSD memory card slot under the plastic battery cover. The cover comes in five colours too – red, blue and yellow and well as white and black. Connectivity is fairly basic. You get Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi, but miss out on NFC.

The version of the Zenfone 4 we played with ran Android 4.3, which the phone will launch with, but the new ZenUI had not yet been plastered on top. As is generally the case, the ZenUI doesn't look quite as good as standard Android to our eyes, and there's a good chance the custom interface may introduce a bit of lag. Fingers crossed performance will remain sold, though.

The last of the Zenfone 4's features is its array of two cameras, a 5-megapixel one on the back and a basic VGA sensor on the front. There's no flash and we wouldn't advise expecting too much from the phone's image quality, but phones of this price often leave out the front camera as a cost-saving measure. Asus Zenfone 4 2

Early Impressions

Once you get your hands on the Asus Zenfone 4, it's pretty clear that this is a budget phone. However, if it sells for the right price in the UK, this could become one of the most capable ultra-budget phones around thanks to its Intel Atom processor. However, if it gets anywhere near £100, the existence of far more capable phones like the Motorola Moto G could sink it.

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