ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser unboxing and first impressions: a budget-friendly photography-centric smartphone

“With its expected price point of below Rs 10,000, the ZenFone 2 Laser could be the most affordable offering with laser-assisted autofocus”

With the ZenFone series that released last year, Taiwanese brand ASUS became a formidable name in the smartphone space. But this year, the manufacturer is pulling out all stops to take its range of phones to the next level. The ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs), unveiled at CES 2015,  holds the title of world’s first mobile with 4GB RAM and thanks to its attractive pricing, it’s among the top five most popular phones in India since the past few months as per our top 20 lists.

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But now, ASUS is aiming to target all kind of users with its devices, and hence it has now branched out the ZenFone 2 with several new offerings – the ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenFone 2 Deluxe and ZenFone Selfie (there’s ZenFone Zoom too, but it may not come to India soon). The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser (model number ZE500KL), as the name indicates, is targeted at photography enthusiasts, and will officially be launched in India this week. We have got the handset in our labs, and as usual, we’re welcoming it with an unboxing, succeeded by our initial impressions.

A compact box hides the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, with cut-outs on its right side to highlight the key specs of the phone. Sliding out the box from the cover brings up the phone, dressed in black. Below the tray holding the phone, you’ll find a charging adapter rated at 1A along with a micro-USB cable.

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That’s all you get as the box contents of the ZenFone 2 Laser and now let’s take a closer look at the device.

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The ZenFone 2 Laser brings the familiar design attributes found in its sibling. The fascia is dominated by a display panel, which is flanked by an earpiece, sensors and secondary camera above along with brand’s logo and a three-row capacitive navigation keys below. Just like the ZenFone 2, the device features buttons in the reverse, with the first key being used to return to the previous screen, while the last one used to check the recently-opened apps. The chin of the phone has a metallic bar with concentric circles which adds to phone’s personality and also looks quite pleasing as it bounces back the light.

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You’ll not find any controls on the edges of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, and the volume rocker is placed at the rear. This key is available below the camera, which is sandwiched between the dual-tone LED flash and laser sensor. Towards the middle, there’s the company’s logo with a speaker grille present further below. Unlike the metallic-finish smooth back plate available on the ZenFone 2, this phone has a rubberised rear panel. Peeling off the cover will give you access to the pair of micro-SIM slots as well as a microSD card slot. Not only that, you can also remove the 2,070mAh Li-ion battery.

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Similar to the ZenFone 2, the power button lies up top along with the headphone socket, while the base hosts the micro-USB port. As we’ve said before, the placement of the power key isn’t ideal since it requires hand gymnastics every time to awake the mobile or put it to sleep, but thanks to double-tap-to-wake and double-tap-to-sleep capability, you won’t need to do that.

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While the ASUS ZenFone 2 is a capable smartphone, it’s not meant for people who want a compact handset as it’s fitted with a large 5.5-inch display. That’s where the ZenFone 2 Laser could be a worthy option, as it’s available in two variants – one with a 5-inch display panel, while the other one is built around a 5.5-inch screen. We have the 5-inch model of the phone with us, and it features vibrant visuals and crisp text thanks to IPS display tech and pixel density of 294ppi (with resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels).

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Barring the laser autofocus and removable battery, most of the aspects of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser look similar to the original ZenFone 2, but the biggest difference comes when we talk about its internals. Instead of an Intel CPU, the ZenFone 2 comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 inside, which offers four Cortex-A53 cores humming at 1.2GHz. The chipset is paired with 2 gigs of RAM and ensures speedy performance. During our brief usage, the handset fared smoothly while moving between screens or launching apps.

If you think that you can keep a track of different models of ASUS ZenFone 2, then complicating the matters further are two storage versions of the ZenFone 2 Laser. You can purchase the phone with 8GB or 16GB of storage on board, with the latter offering a little less than 9GB for use. To top up the storage, you can make use of a microSD card.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser screenshots (20)

The phone comes with ASUS’ proprietary ZenUI running atop Android 5.0 Lollipop. However, as we’ve shared during our review of its sibling, the UI somehow spoils the essence of Material Design with its colour scheme. There are a lot of preinstalled apps on the device as well, and many of them comes from ASUS itself such as Do-it-Later.

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The USP of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is its photographic capabilities. The phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel sensor at the back, while at the front, it has a 5MP shooter. If our review of the ZenFone 2 camera is anything to go by, we believe that this device should offer good images too. Adding to the experience further is the ability to focus on the subjects quickly, thanks to the laser-assisted autofocus. To shoot in low light, there’s also a two-tone LED flash.

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The dual-SIM smartphone comes with 4G support on its first slot, along with the usual connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

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While ASUS hasn’t revealed the pricing or availability details of the ZenFone 2 Laser yet, it’s expected to be priced below the Rs 10,000 mark. This makes it the most affordable offering featured Laser-guided autofocus, and hence it could be a worthy option for shutterbugs looking for an affordably-priced daily driver.

Photos by Raj Rout