Asus Zenfone 2 Laser ZE550KL

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review: decent specs and affordably priced, but fails to impress as a whole

|September 14, 2015 |Android Phones, Android, Reviews, Asus

Expert Rating
3.5/5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • Good build quality
  • Laser autofocus
  • Impressive battery backup
Cons
  • Average hardware
  • ZenUI is crippled with bloatware
The final rating may or may not be the average of sectional sub-scores as it's a reflection of our overall experience of using the device.

“While the device might share its name with the ZenFone 2, there are quite a few differences between the two smartphones”

The ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs) has turned out to be an extremely-popular smartphone for the Taiwanese brand ASUS, so much so that it sits at the top as the most-searched device in H1 2015. Now, the manufacturer is looking to extend the popularity of the phone with new models under the series. Interestingly, all these new offerings focus on different segments – which is apparent from their names – the ZenFone 2 Laser (first impressions), the ZenFone Selfie (first impressions), etc. The device we’ll be talking about today is the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser. While its name mainly points towards strong camera capabilities, which we have already checked out, it’s time to take a comprehensive look at all its aspects. Let’s begin.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 01

Specs at a glance

  • Measures 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.8mm
  • Weighs 170g
  • 5.5-inch IPS display, 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory, expandable up to 32GB
  • 13MP camera with dual-tone LED flash
  • 5MP front shooter
  • Dual-SIM, 4G support in the primary SIM
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS
  • 3,000mAh battery
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI

Inspired by the ZenFone 2, but not as classy

Dimensions: 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.8 mm
Weight: 170 grams

Carrying the same model name, the ZenFone 2 Laser seems extremely familiar to its progenitor. You’ll find similar design ethos in both the smartphones, however the former isn’t as premium-looking as the original ASUS ZenFone 2. Though both phones are constructed out of plastic, the ZenFone 2 had a metallic finish, which lent it exquisiteness. In comparison, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser features a rubberised body, though that does add to the grip.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 02 ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 03

Apart from design elements, the phones are similar in terms of their dimensions and heft too, since they are built around large 5.5-inch display panels. The ZenFone 2 Laser features a thick frame of 10.8mm, but since it’s curved, it compensates for the thickness and makes it ergonomic to hold. However, it feels quite heavy at 170g.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 12

The fascia holds the display panel, with the space above featuring an earpiece, a couple of sensors, secondary camera and ASUS logo. Below the display, you’ll find the row of capacitive navigation keys, which aren’t backlit. While plastic is used for the construction of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, it’s chin features a metallic bar which has concentric circles embossed on it. This results in some interesting effects since it reflects light.

Just like the ZenFone 2, both the left and right edges of the ZenFone 2 Laser are completely barren. The power button is available on the top along with the headphone socket and a noise-cancellation mic, while bottom is home to the micro-USB port and a primary microphone. It goes without saying that the placement of the power button makes it difficult to reach with a single hand.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 17 ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 16

At the back of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, you’ll find the primary camera module sandwiched between the dual-tone LED flash and a laser module, which is how the smartphone gets its name. Below these elements, the volume rocker is available as a vertical strip, followed by ASUS branding. Towards the bottom, there’s a ZenFone imprint and a speaker mesh.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 26

The rear cover is removable, which was the case with the ZenFone 2 as well, but ASUS has taken care of one of the biggest complaints many prospective consumers had against it – non-removable battery. The ZenFone 2 Laser offers a user-replaceable battery, along with slots for inserting a pair of micro-SIM cards as well as a microSD card.

Sharp visuals, but low on brightness

Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: HD (720 x 1280 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 267 ppi

While the ASUS ZenFone model reviewed by us sported a 1080p display, the device also has variants that feature a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. The ZenFone 2 Laser too – being a mid-range affair – bears an HD resolution. Combined with a 5.5-inch display, it equals a pixel density of 267ppi. Unless you’re nit-picking, the display reproduces decent amount of details and there’s no pixelation. It also offers impressive colour fidelity. However, brightness levels seemed to be a bit low, which made it difficult to read it outdoors.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 20

The screen on the phablet is protected with a layer of the latest fourth-gen Corning Gorilla Glass. There’s also a high-sensitive mode for the display, which can detect touches even when one is wearing gloves.

ZenUI is feature-rich, but full of bloatware

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.0, Lollipop

ASUS’ had dubbed its custom skin as ZenUI, which runs atop Android Lollipop, just like its progenitor. In fact, there are hardly any changes between the two devices as far as UI is concerned. While we have taken a deep-dive look at the UI in our ZenFone 2 review, let’s take a quick look again for the ZenFone 2 Laser.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (9) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (3) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (4)

The lock screen allows you to access calls, messages or camera, while the homescreen offers two screens with apps and widgets. Unlike the popular trend of unifying the homescreen and app launcher, the interface has a dedicated app menu, which allows you to sort all the apps automatically in separate folders.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (11) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (39)

Talking about features, the interface allows various off-screen gestures such as the ability to awake the display with a double tap or open some apps quickly by drawing a certain character. In case you find the device to be too big for using it with a single hand, you can double tap the home button to enable the one-hand mode. The good part is that you can resize the screen and change its position.

Sadly, as much as we like these features, the amount of bloatware slows down the UI. What’s infuriating even further is that you can’t uninstall many of the preinstalled apps.

Focusses and shoots in a jiffy

Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP

It was LG which pioneered a laser-aided focus mechanism for its flagship G3 back in 2013. The laser focus helps the phone to focus on the subject quickly and accurately, even if there isn’t enough light. Since LG, many other brands have launched devices with laser-guided autofocus, but mostly, this feature has been out of reach for masses as the offerings are priced in the premium segment. However, with the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, the Taiwanese smartphone maker is aiming to change that, since the handset is priced in the mid-range segment. The laser-guided mechanism complements the 13-megapixel sensor and for providing illumination in low-light conditions, it comes with a dual-tone LED flash.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 10

We’ve already taken a detailed tour of ASUS’ custom camera app during the review of the ASUS ZenFone 2 and the same interface can be found on this smartphone as well. We specifically like the fact that the app understands the ambient conditions and suggests a suitable mode accordingly. To recap, the phone supports all sorts of modes ranging from manual, super resolution, and depth of field, among many more.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (12) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (13)

With its 13-megapixel snapper, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser does a good job in capturing details, just like the ZenFone 2 (camera review). However, we didn’t find the sharpness to be very good and it’s apparent as soon as you start zooming in to the image. The colours also seem to be on the dull side. Although, we liked the HDR mode and found the dual-tone LED flash also effective for poorly-lit conditions. There’s also a dedicated low-light mode, which works with ASUS’ proprietary pixel-merging technology to combine multiple pixels and thus offer more light, although the trade-off being that the image is only captured in 3MP resolution.

Of course, the highlight of the ZenFone 2 Laser is its laser mechanism, which works as promised. The device can focus lock on the subject almost instantly, and it also has a fast shutter speed. Although, the laser focus works only in case of the close up images and not for long shots. Embedded below are a few images taken through the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser for your viewing pleasure.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser camera review - long shot ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser camera performance - close up shot ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser camera test - HDR off

Want to know more about the imaging prowess of the phone? Read our camera review of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser

The 5MP camera at the front also supports various modes and effects. It captures decent images, that seem to offer a good level of details and colour fidelity. Both the cameras are capable of recording videos in full HD resolution.

Overall, the camera quality offered by the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is decent, but apart from the laser-guided focus, it isn’t able to better the quality offered by options like the Lenovo K3 Note and YU Yureka Plus (camera review).

A true performer

CPU: Quad core, 1.2 GHz, Snapdragon 410
GPU: Adreno 306
RAM: 2 GB
Memory: 16 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM

Intel might be a dominating chipset manufacturer for desktops and laptops, but it hasn’t been able to make much headway in the world of portable mobile devices. However, partnering with ASUS for its ZenFone  and its successor, the ZenFone 2 showed that Intel processors are as good as the competition, if not better. But it seems that the exclusivity between the two brands was a short-term one as for the latest variants of the ZenFone 2, the Taiwanese manufacturer turned to Qualcomm.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 23

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 ticks under the hood of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, with its four cores humming at 1.2GHz. Complementing the processor is an Adreno 306 graphics processor and 2GB of RAM. The combination is available in most mid-budget offerings, and has proven to be quite capable for handling all kind of apps as well as multitasking. The same experience continues with the ZenFone 2 Laser as it was able to run everything smoothly, be it basic apps or heavy games. It worked like a charm while playing 3D games such as Leo’s Fortune. Running multiple apps together wasn’t an issue either, though the custom ZenUI consumes a considerable amount of RAM.

A 16GB of flash memory takes care of your storage needs, which offers about 10.5GB for you to use after discounting the space consumed by OS and its various resources. You can also extend the storage with a microSD card of up to 32GB. The phone also supports USB OTG capabilities.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (1)

The connectivity options on offer are dual-SIM support (4G compatibility in the first SIM slot), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 28

Similar to the ASUS ZenFone 2, the Laser draws juice from a 3,000mAh battery. However, the similarities end right there since the battery life offered by both the devices is starkly different. While the ZenFone 2 hardly lasts a day of use, the ZenFone 2 Laser can easily go on even the second day. In fact, in our video loop test, the phablet was able to play back a 720p video for more than 12 hours – which is among the highest we have come across in the recent times.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (42) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (43) ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshot (44)

Furthermore, you can extend the battery life by enabling one out of numerous available battery-saving  modes such as Balanced, Smart-saving and Ultra-saving. The last mode disables all the extra functionality and lets you only do basic things such as making or receiving calls or sending messages. 

Verdict

ASUS seems to be following Samsung’s footsteps by introducing several variants to ensure that it has an entire portfolio of devices to cater to the needs of the users. While the ZenFone 2 still remains its high-end offering, it’s targeting the photography enthusiasts on a budget with the ZenFone 2 Laser. Priced at Rs 9,999, the handset is the most affordable device with laser-aided focus, and as per our experience, it works very well. The device sports decent specs in other departments as well, since it has a sharp display, good internals and long-lasting battery.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser review 07

However, minus its USP, the phone isn’t able to stand out amidst the high-intensity competition in this segment. Devices like the YU Yureka Plus (review), Lenovo K3 Note (review | FAQs) and MEIZU m2 note (review) offer a better configuration in terms of higher resolution displays, powerful processors and better camera quality.

Editor’s rating: 7 / 10

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Laser autofocus
  • Impressive battery backup

Cons

  • Average hardware
  • ZenUI is crippled with bloatware

Photos by Raj Rout

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Rs. 8,999.00
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Rs. 10,699.00
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