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ASUS ZenFone 2 first impressions: bringing out the big guns

|March 11 2015 |Android Phones, Asus, First impressions

“While the earlier ZenFones have been primarily budget devices, the latest ZenFone comes with loaded specs”

ASUS almost came out of nowhere to take the Indian smartphone industry by storm when it launched its ZenFone range of smartphones last year. The range included smartphones with different screen sizes ranging from 4-inches to 6-inches, giving prospective buyers enough choice. The combination of smooth performance, loaded software features and capable snappers, all offered at reasonable prices made them very compelling options indeed, and made sure they became quite popular in a very short span of time. Skip to 2015, and the brand unveiled the much awaited successor in the form of the ZenFone 2 at CES. With the new device, ASUS has brought out the big guns and it seems it’s not content with staying in the shadows anymore. The ZenFone Zoom (first look) that was announced alongside is a good example of this too. The ZenFone 2 isn’t just a powerful device, it’s actually the world’s first smartphone to come with, hold your breath… a whopping 4GB of RAM. LTE support has been thrown into the mix as well, and that’ll definitely add to its pull factor.

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Our MWC tryst got rather exciting when we came face to face with the device at the ASUS booth, and we made full use of the opportunity at hand to bring you our first impressions. Read on.

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Thanks to its 5.5-inch display, the ZenFone 2 is understandably large, but not as large as say, the ZenFone 6 (review). The screen is built using IPS technology, and offers full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 403ppi. A layer of Corning Gorilla Glass is there for protection.

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The plastic body is curved at the rear, but the front still carries the understated ZenFone design with the chin below the display, sporting the signature concentric circle pattern. It’s not much of a looker overall… at least from the front. The usual capacitive navigation keys are placed between the screen and the aforementioned chin, while the top holds the earpiece, ASUS branding, front shooter, sensors and the notification LED as usual. Courtesy the curved rear that tapers towards the sides, the edges of the device are quite slim (a mere 3.9mm in fact), making it comfortable to hold.

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The top is home to the 3.5mm audio socket and the power key, while the micro-USB port is at the bottom… exactly where it should be. There’s nothing to be found on the sides, and a look at the rear reveals why. It seems ASUS has pulled an LG and placed the volume rocker at the back panel, just below the primary camera lens. The back sports a brushed metal finish, and comes in a variety of hues including black, white, red, grey and gold. You’ll also find a true-tone flash and another ASUS logo. Intel Inside and ZenFone branding is placed closer to the bottom, just above the speaker grille. We couldn’t open the rear panel without the alarms going off (bringing in the cavalry as a result, no doubt), but we know that it should pry open to reveal a pair of micro-SIM slots and the microSD card slot. The 3,000mAh battery is non removable though.

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Inside ticks a 64-bit Intel Atom quad-core Z3580 processor clocked at 2.3GHz, but there’ll also be a cheaper variant that utilises a quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 chip running at 1.8GHz and offering 2GB of RAM. The internal storage ranges between 16GB to 64GB, though that might also differ depending on the variant you choose. MicroSD card slots are present on all variants, and can accept cards up to 64GB in capacity. Connectivity options are crammed in too, and apart from 4G LTE, also include Wi-Fi 802.11 ac. Then there other useful features too, such as support for fast charging that can juice up the battery to 60% levels in 39 minutes. Notably, the ZenFone 2 is a dual-SIM, dual active device, which means that you can still receive calls on one number even if the other is in use.

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ASUS’ ZenUI is the skin of choice, as expected… and it brings with it the same loaded feature set we’ve seen on the earlier ZenFones. Built-in call recording, access to ASUS WebStorage (5GB offered for free) and a host of other useful apps such as Do It Later are just some of the goodies on offer. There’s one significant difference between the ZenFone 2 and the older models though – the latest device uses Android 5.0 Lollipop as base.

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The ZenFone 2 offers a 13-megapixel Pixelmaster camera, boasting f/2.0 aperture and a 5-element lens. The front shooter offers a resolution of 5-megapixels and uses an 85-degree wide-angle lens.We checked out the camera interface as well, and found it similar to the existing ZenFone range, complete with modes like depth of field, GIF Animation, Time Rewind etc. There are some new features too – a Super Resolution mode for instance. This mode captures four 13MP images and combines them to generate a single high-resolution image… possibly similar to the Ultra HD mode used by OPPO in its Find 7 (review) and the R5. Snapping a quick test image with the ZenFone 2 pointed towards strong shooting capabilities, though we’d only be able to verify that properly once this baby lands in our labs for a full-flown review.

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Needless to add, the smartphone seemed to fly through whatever we tried on it… though again, it could be a tad early to comment about real-life usage and other things like battery life. The ASUS ZenFone 2 is expected to be launched in India in the beginning of the second quarter this year, and going by our initial impressions, is definitely a smartphone worth waiting for.



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