11 January 2014

Asus Zenfone 5 - First Impressions

What is the Asus Zenfone 5?

The Asus Zenfone 5 is a low-cost Android phone with a large screen. It may not be all that phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 are, but it certainly seems to get you a lot for your money.

UK prices for the Zenfone 5 haven't yet been announced, but as it's set to sell for $200 without a contract in the US, this should prove to be one of the cheapest ways to get a 5-inch screen phone.

Asus Zenfone 5 – Design

As a relative newcomer to phones, it's not surprising that Asus has kept the design of its new Zenfone mobiles pretty simple. The Zenfone 5 is a plastic phone with a single-piece plastic battery cover that comes in five different colours.

The one piece of Asus visual stamping is the texture of concentric circles that you'll see under the screen. It feels a little light and basic compared with something like the HTC One, but the Zenfone 5 should sell for around half the price of our 2013 phone of the year.

It weighs 144g and is 10.3mm thick. It's light enough, but it's not super slim. But again, superlatives are really not what the Asus Zenfone 5 is all about.

Asus Zenfone 5 – Screen and Specs

The screen too lives in a comfortable middle ground. It's five inches across and the resolution is 720p, where other high-end phones this size use 1080p displays. However, given the phone's expected price we're more than happy to live with 720p.

It's sharp and the IPS panel provides respectable image quality. Colour reproduction wasn't quite spot-on, but the phone may ship with Asus Splendid, an app that lets you fine-tune the colour temperature and saturation to your own tastes. Our demo model wasn't loaded with the final software so we can't be sure though.

The Asus Zenfone 5 is a mobile that has sprung from the strong relationship between Intel and Asus. It uses an Intel Atom processor, the dual-core 2GHz Z2580. It's a very capable processor for a budget phone like this.

Asus boasted during the launch of the phone that it could outperform virtually every mobile processor seen in an Android phone. Our experience has been Intel Atom chips are often a little poorer with tasks in which power matters – mostly gaming – due to relative lack of optimisation on the developers' side. However, things like the Zenfone range are out to change that. And the raw power you're getting means the Zenfone 5 is a bit of a bargain.

Asus says the phone will have 4GB, 8GB or 16GB, but this will depend on the demands of the market in question. An 8GB or 16GB model seems likely for the UK. Asus Zenfone 5 1

Asus Zenfone 5 – Cameras

The Zenfone 5 does pretty well in the camera department too. It has an 8-megapixel main camera with a fast f/2.0 lens. This is a great start, but when camera performance relies so much on things like shutter lag and the software image engine, we're not going to praise the phone too much yet. We'll wait for the final review unit.

The main camera does have a LED flash, though, and there's a 2-megapixel front camera for selfies and video chat.

Asus Zenfone 5 – Software

One thing that could trip this phone up is software. We saw the phone running a largely vanilla version of Android 4.3, but it'll launch with a new custom ZenUI. Although it promises plenty of extra features, including a rather interesting camera one that groups sensor pixels in low light to improve performance (i.e. it reduces resolution), it could result in a phone with more lag than we'd hope.

Few custom UIs get their navigation completely right too, and Asus hardly has the most experience in the market in this field.

Early Impressions

If the ZenUI is a moderate success and we get a fair translation of the US selling price, the Asus Zenfone 5 could offer a pretty good larger-screen alternative to the Motorola Moto G.

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