“The Zenfone series from ASUS is set to rock the smartphone market in India soon”
ASUS is a brand known in India for its stylish laptops and the Transformer series comprising of innovative hybrids. It’s also huge in the motherboards, graphics cards and networking space, and while it does offer tablets like the Nexus 7, the Fonepad and the VivoTab, it’s been a while since it had compelling options in the smartphone arena – a segment which is growing faster than you can utter the word ‘phone’. That changes with its new Zenfone series. The ASUS Zenfone range consists of three smartphone models that were announced first back at CES, and the vendor came out with refreshed versions at Computex. Now, the trio are set to make their appearance in India, slated for an official launch on July 9th.
The Zenfone 4, 5 and 6 are the three members of the family, and the numbers in the model names indicate screen sizes in inches. Worth noting that all three models support dual-SIM connectivity. We have the Zenfone 5 with us for review, and will be taking you through a quick unboxing, followed by our first impressions about the device.
The ASUS Zenfone 5 comes packed inside a compact box. Sliding out the box from its outer cover reveals the smartphone lying on top, wrapped in a plastic cover that highlights a few of its main features.
The usual set of contents can be found underneath – including a two-pin wall charger, a USB cable, a couple of booklets consisting of the user guide and warranty information, and a wired headset along with differently-sized rubber tips that ensure optimum fit according to different ear sizes.
Taking a closer look at the device itself, the first thing we noticed is the concentric circle pattern below the display. The design, which has been borrowed from ASUS’ ZenBook laptops, looks quite stylish when looked upon at close quarters, shimmering as you change the angle. Otherwise clad in matte polycarbonate – our review unit came in black, but it will also be available in white, red or gold – the Zenfone 5 is a good-looking device. Reminiscent of the original HTC One, the black unit we have may look quite staid from a distance, but the concentric circle pattern at the front adds a special something when you hold it in your hands.
The same pattern has also been used on the metal-finished power key and volume rocker placed on the right. The left is barren, while you’ll find the micro-USB port at the bottom, and the headset socket on top.
The 5-inch display on the fascia sports three capacitive touch keys below, and the usual mix of sensors, front camera, notification LED and earpiece on top.
Flip the smartphone over and you’ll be greeted by the camera lens and LED flash, along with ASUS branding in the centre. A speaker mesh is placed closer to the bottom.
At first glance, it looks as if the device features a unibody design, but the rear panel can be pried open. Designed like a shell that hugs the sides partly, it comes off to reveal the pair of micro-SIM slots and a microSD card slot. The 2,110mAh battery is sealed however, and can’t be removed.
In terms of specs, the 5-inch IPS screen is layered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch-protection, and offers a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. Inside purrs a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, mated to 2GB of RAM. The Zenfone 5 will come in two storage variants – 8GB and 16GB, and thanks to the microSD card slot, you can add another 64GB. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support USB OTG. Our 8GB model offers a little over 4.5GB storage available to use. For shooting shenanigans, you get an 8-megapixel primary camera, and a 2MP shooter at front. The primary camera has been dubbed PixelMaster by ASUS, and boasts quite a few features. The company claims superb low-light results, and we’ll be putting it to the test very soon. There’s also a special selfie mode that works with the rear camera. The standard set of connectivity options are on board, including the usual suspects like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and A-GPS. You also get Miracast screen mirroring.
When it comes to software, the Zenfone 5 runs Android 4.3, with a heavily-customised skin labeled the ZenUI. Overall, the UI is quite colourful, and includes a custom lockscreen that displays time and weather, along with a list of due tasks and appointments by means of the What’s Next widget. Shortcuts to the camera, messages and phone are also provided.
The notification bar has been heavily modified too. Apart from hiding or sorting installed apps, you can even password-protect the ones you want safeguarded directly from within the app drawer – quite nifty. The device features a special reading mode, along with a battery saver. ASUS has preloaded a smorgasbord of apps and utilities, including the likes of Do It Later, What’s Next and Omlet Chat.
The AudioWizard and Splendid apps let you tweak sound and screen settings respectively, while a bunch of ‘Link’ apps enable connectivity. The latter include PC Link, Share Link and Remote Link, and while we have yet to try them out properly, the PC Link app lets you control your device when it’s hooked up to a PC. An Easy Mode that offers a simplified launcher is also included. Needless to say, there’s a lot packed in there in terms of UI changes, software features and preloaded apps, and our full review will cover the complete lowdown.
ASUS will also be selling a smart flip cover as an optional accessory, featuring a circular window design that will let you access a few common functions.
We don’t have a price for the ASUS Zenfone 5 yet, and without that, it may be tough to put things into perspective. However, suffice it to say that at first glance, the smartphone looks loaded, and if priced well, could help put ASUS in a strong position as far as the Indian smartphone landscape is concerned. We should have the complete details on the Zenfone range, including pricing and availability, when it launches in about a week’s time.
Photos and videos by Pratik Vyas