Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Asus Zenfone 2 Online Buy

Asus Zenfone 2 is a cheap way to upgrade to an Android 5.0 Lollipop phone, housing a 5.5-inch display and solid specs to boot. But a dull screen, plastic design and poor camera hold this handset back.


Inexpensive Android 5.0 phone
Spacious display
Lots of RAM
Two SIM card slots
Full of customization options


Cheap look and feel
Dull screen brightness
Poor camera quality
Weak power button


The Asus Zenfone 2 fills an appealing niche as an Android phone full of deep customizations, yet one that sells for half the price of similarly sized phablets.

Generally, Android tinkers who want to invest a lot of time into customizing their phone also have to pay full price for a flagship. But Zenfone 2 turns that concept on its meditating head.

At $300 unlocked (about £210, AU$408) and now available in the US, it's a bargain for a 5.5-inch display that's as big as a the LG G4 and iPhone 6 Plus, and specs that include an speedy Intel processor and 4GB of RAM.

There's an even cheaper $200 (about £139, AU$272) model with a slower Intel chip and just 2GB of RAM, but the 4GB version is the one that's going to last you some time – if it holds up.

Where Zenfone 2 makes its compromises to hit that price point is in its build high quality and camera. Its easy to spot the defects of its cheaper plastic construction and poor 13-megapixel camera sensor.

That said, the Zenfone 2 remains to be one of the most inexpensive ways to upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop with enough processing power leftover, as long as you don't care about model or outer quality.


Zenfone 2 is true to its incidental theme of finding internal strength and beauty because, on the outside, this isn't a very pretty or strong phone.

It feels more inexpensively made than it looks. This is thanks to the artfully deceptive, brushed metal design on the back cover and Gorilla Glass 3 with an anti-glare coating on its 5.5-inch display.

But holding the phablet in my extended hand, I could tell the difference between it and the glass-backed Samsung Galaxy S6 and aluminum-backed iPhone 6 right away.

I could also see the difference in the quality as my stretched out hand accidentally dropped the phone and its top-right corner met pavement. Cracks spread across the surface and a frown stretched across my face.

This unintentional drop test was a tumble at 32 inches (81cm), rather than a direct drop, from my pocket. The phone's bulkier-than-normal phone didn't fit in my jeans as well as I had estimated.

While Samsung and HTC upgraded their flagship phones to Gorilla Glass 4, Asus stuck with the previous generation's less durable material. LG G4 kept Gorilla Glass 3 too, but at least it features a slight curve that might have saved this phone from its now unsightly blemish.


In spite of the plastic body and cheaper glass construction, the Zenfone 2's dimensions and weight are less svelte, as expected given its price.

Its curved back gives it a thickness of 10.9mm. By comparison, the Galaxy S6 is 6.8mm, the HTC One M9 is 9.4mm and the LG G4's thickest point is 9.8mm.

The rest of the measurements are actually competitive. It's 152.5mm in length with a 77.2mm width. But, at 170g, it weighs slightly more than everything but the iPhone 6 Plus.

Zenfone 2 also cheaps out on the power button. It sits near the top of the phone, in an odd center location, and has little tactical feedback, almost as if it's damaged. Fortunately, the phone's software makes use of the handy double-tap-to-wake screen feature launched in the LG G2.

While the power button is annoyingly squishy, the volume buttons have the necessary clicky feedback, taking cues from LG with their location on the back.

Three capacitive buttons for back, home and recent line the bottom of the display, but are neither on-screen buttons, like on some Androids; nor do they light up, like on Samsung devices. This makes it difficult if you're moving from a Samsung phone (where the back and recent buttons are swapped), as you may have difficulty getting used to this order during the night.

There's a single loud-sounding speaker, but it stretching out across the back of the phone, which means that calls on speakerphone and music point in the wrong path. Costlier phones like the Galaxy S6 have moved the speaker to the bottom of the phone. Better yet, the HTC One M9 has stereo speakers on the front.



Asus Zenfone 2 can compete on size, especially for the price. Its large 5.5-inch display, which is slowly becoming the norm among Android phones, feels very roomy.

Everything from typing out messages to getting work done on the spacious, LED-backlit LCD is a little bit easier, and this phablet has enterprise-ready specs to back up that work.

But don't expect a super-rich screen for fun multimedia. Its diagonal size matches the 5.5-inch LG G4, but its resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 cannot compare to a quad HD display.

Most of all, while its the same resolution as the 1080p iPhone 6 Plus, the brightness literally pales in comparison to Apple's Retina or Samsung's Super AMOLED displays.

It seems to be half as bright, even at full brightness
I do like how, even when selecting the "auto" ambient light mode, the brightness could be adjusted ever so slightly. But overall, the screen looks half as bright as it needs to be.



This is where the Asus Zenfone 2 shines for its cost. Its specs include an Intel processor, when other major phones boast popular Qualcomm Snapdragon chips at their heart.

The Intel Atom Z3580 quad-core processor is clocked at 2.3GHz, which means that it's fast sufficient to handle games and multitasking alongside its PowerVR Series 6 G6430 GPU.

Asus gave its phone some nice overhead on the subject of memory with 4GB of RAM when almost every other phone tops out at 3GB of memory. The cheaper variant, also a quad-core, is slower at 1.8GHz and 2GB.

Intel's 2.3GHz quad-core chip and 4GB of RAM combination doesn't make the new Asus phone the fastest – far from it. But it's competitive for its mid-range price by beating almost all of last year's top phones.

Its Geekbench 3 multi-core score of 2,851 outpaces the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 and is just shy of the functionality of the Moto X 2014, which hasn't been refreshed yet.

It does trail this year's flagships, however. Google's Nexus 6 averaged a 2,986, HTC One M9 scored a 3,005 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 pulled away from the pack with a 4,100 score.

Zenfone 2's overall performance has been fairly smooth, save for its long 45-second boot up time. And, with 64GB of internal storage (16GB for the cheaper model) and a microSD card slot under the back cover, it's certainly well equipped.

Call quality, likewise, remained excellent, though the speaker phone shouts out of the back of the phone, like too many other smartphones that fail to avoid this pet peeve repeatedly.

Android 5.0 Lollipop and apps

Zenfone 2 is a cheap way to upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop if you're stuck with a phone that hasn't received (or will not get) Google's new operating system update yet.

Upon booting up the phone, you wouldn't really recognize the Material Design theme that the search engine giant made for its Nexus 6 and other stock Android phones. This isn't a pure Android phone.

As an alternative, it has Asus' ZenUI overlay that cranks up the customization for a more complicated layout, but one that people who root Android phones will appreciate.

The quick configurations drop down panel, for example, is chock full of options arranged in a 4 x 4 grid. It's just two swipes down and one button press to turn on the flashlight or airplane mode.

Best of all, the grid of 12 quick settings can be personalized to your liking. Not all Android phones let you tinker with this panel, which is one of many reasons why people end up rooting their phones.

Zenfone 2 gives users control over icon packages, themes, scroll effects between panels, folder icon sizes and styles – heck, even app title font sizes and colors.


There's even an pre-loaded app called Splendid that let's you change the color temperature of the phone display ever so slightly, as if it were a TV screen with personalized controls.

There's an "Easy Mode" within the main settings menu for everyone who doesn't want all of the complexity of ZenUI. But really, that's its killer app – thanks to ZenUI, there's less of a reason to root this phone.

Asus also includes over a dozen homegrown apps along with the more familiar Google apps that it's forced to carry with the Android-based Zenfone 2.

Notably, File Manager provides control over the internal storage and microSD card files, Do It Later supplies an app-integrated task list and flashlight beams out an SOS help signal – just in case.

More fine-tuning on this Android device can be found in Asus' apps like Auto-start Manager, Power Saver and Autowizard.

There are also lots of repeats of what Google already provides: a web browser, gallery app, contacts list, calendar, clock, music, weather, calculator, notes and web storage.


Calls and messages

I usually default to Hangouts and don't mention the phone call app unless there's something truly novel, and on the Zenfone 2, both messages and the dialer are special.

Both incorporate the dual micro SIM cards into their interface, making it easy to switch back and forth between calling and sending messages between phone numbers.

It's relatively seamless to use when traveling abroad. I can easily imagine eating up cheap data with an international number via SIM 1, but keeping my phone number intact for calls and texts via SIM 2, which can only do voice and texts.

While there's no way to seamlessly transition from a phone call to a video call, a feature I do appreciate on the more locked-down operating system of iPhone 6 Plus, you will find some extra buttons when on a call.

Particularly, being able to record a phone call is handy for interviews, or if you're trying to explain horrible customer service to the world. Sending files to the contact while they're on the line is also a button integrated into this screen.



No need to add grain via Instagram with the Zenfone 2. This 13-megapixel camera takes photos that are full of noise, particularly in dimly lit locations.

Its tiny iPhone 5-level 1/3.2-inch sensor size, made by Toshiba, takes plenty of light for passable photos, which only look good when zoomed all of the way out.

Shots in my local bar, for example, were grainy and muddy all around except for brightly lit signs that were completely overexposed. The bright dual LED flash only does a lot.

Who'd thunk the pictures would be worse than my karaoke singing?

Here's the same dimly lit bar, an everyday, but difficult location for photos, from the LG G4
The 5-megapixel camera on the front was no better for selfies, and both cameras take 1080p video at 30 frames per second.


There are some manual controls and modes, from ISO settings (50 to 800) to a selfie mode that takes three photos with the always-superior back camera.

Even in bright light, the camera remains overexposed

Here's the same shot from the iPhone 6. Notice the genuine reds in the overhead lighting?
This mode also lets you add the skin-smoothing beautification effect in post, which is nice because too much of that makes everyone's skin look waxy and fake.

More photos tests are needed in the full hands on, but so far, the camera isn't the reason to buy the Zenfone 2.


Battery life

Zenfone 2 contains a 3,000 mAh battery, which is higher than the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 batteries, and it ties the LG G4 battery size.

I can see the Asus Zenfone 2 battery, but for some reason I can't swap it out?!
But as we have seen from the poor LG G4 battery efficiency, a big capacity doesn't always represent all-day battery life.

More long-term battery tests are needed here as well. The good news is that Asus packs a smart saving mode that balances the device's performance and battery usage.

It also charges more quickly than other economical smartphones out there thanks to Intel's fast-charging functionality, which similar to Qualcomm's QuickCharge 2.0.

Sadly, while I could see the battery by taking off the back cover of the phone, it surely is not user-replaceable. It just peaks out of the back like a big tease.


Early verdict

Asus Zenfone 2 is half of the price of a top-tier smartphone and is, fortunately, nowhere near half the quality. It just finishes behind the current pack.

Its best features are its large 5.5-inch screen, solid specs provided by Intel and 4GB of RAM. The deep ZenUI personalization that sits on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop will be a plus for users that want options but don't know what a ROM is.

Considering this, the screen could be brighter and sharper, the construction could be stable and less cheap, and the camera could use retooling.

If none of these things matter to you – and if you're better at holding onto a 5.5-inch phone than I am – then parting with $300 (about £210, AU$408) puts this big Android phone in your pocket and more money back into your wallet, purse or Google Wallet account. It's that simple.