Reviewed by Chester Tan (http://musicphotolife.com/)
ASUS has been making premium Padfone smartphones for the past years. Now, they have introduced a new value-priced smartphone range. The ZenFone series are not only affordable, the user interface has undergone a positive rework to improve usability on the Android OS.
Zenfone comes in 3 sizes: Zenfone 4, Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 6. Currently on hand with me is the Zenfone 6, retailing in Singapore at a mere S$329, and the hardware specs are pretty impressive for the price.
What's With ZenUI
ZenUI is ASUS new UI for Android smartphones. It has claimed to have made over 200 modifications to the basic Android OS, but the fonts and menu designs largely follow Android. What ZenUI offers are:
Now that I have completed describing the ZenUI, let me talk about the Zenfone 6 itself.
Before you continue, this is the first thing I would like to mention. The Zenfone series are competitively priced, and the priciest and largest Zenfone 6 is retailing at only $329. There is no way that ASUS can sell this device with top-grade hardware, but as I use the device, it does not feel like a low-priced low-spec smartphone in most aspects.
Build and Design
The Zenfone 6 feels very well-built and solid, with 6-inch of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 screen and the iconic concentric circle finish at the bottom strip of the front surface. The rear matt plastic cover is removable - with much effort - to reveal slots for 2 micro SIM cards and 1 microSD card. The battery lays hidden beneath the inner casing, a somewhat disappointing move. The volume rocker and power buttons are located on the right which are easily accessible by your index finger when you hold it.
After getting used to Full-HD screens, the Zenfone 6 screen fonts appear soft. While the colour and contrast is good from the front, the colour tones change as you look from different angles.
The camera app is rather intuitive. Sometimes it would detect the scene and recommend the HDR or Low Light mode, which you could otherwise activate it manually. There are 2 separate shutter buttons for still and video capture, as well another button to activate "Turbo" burst shot mode.
ASUS claims its PixelMaster technology with f/2.0 five-element lens helps to capture low light images with good brightness and low grain by downsampling the images. Yes I do find the images are not grainy but I find it overprocessed and lacks details. No matter, you can choose not to enable the low light mode and shoot in normal 13MP size. The auto-mode images may appear conservatively exposed, but zoom-in and you notice sufficient details. With today's photo-editing tools, you would have no trouble enhancing the images before posting.
The camera can be easily activated from standby mode by pressing the volume button, which is good. I like the GIF Animation mode where I can easily capture a 30-frame sequence and save it as GIF easily. I also like that the Gallery app easily displays the EXIF via pop-up menu. Time Rewind also allows you to choose the correct moment to save - 2 seconds before and 1 second - after you press the shutter.
The Zenfone 6 is one of the softest smartphone I have reviewed so far. Turning on the AudioWizard improved the volume but produced compressed and distorted audio. I could barely hear anything for some YouTube videos in a noisy environment.
Battery life is nothing to shout at, despite a large capacity 3300mAh. For my kind of usage, it comfortably lasts through my waking hours of about 18 hours, a little longer than other review phones.
The most apparent difference when I switch from a top-end smartphone like HTC One M8 to the Zenfone 6 is the overall speed, which is understandable due to a relatively slower processor. Despite capable of connecting up to HSPA+ (42Mb/s) network, I seem to have to wait longer for data content to be loaded. After a few days of adjusting my expectations, it feels fine without any stutter. So while overall experience is smooth, it's just a little less snappy than top-end devices.
Another inconvenience is that the permanent soft keys at the bottom of the screen have no backlight. I find myself missing the keys when using in the dark, as the buttons are rather spaced apart.
Conclusion: Great Price, Good Quality
Zenfone 6 is one of the larger smartphones in the market, but somehow I get accustomed to it without major issues. Personally I'm not concerned with weight, and what wins me over is the rock-solid build quality. The removable rear casing is great as I could replace if it gets worn. The ZenUI brings a lot of useful and unique features to the end-user. The processor runs the device smoothly without hint of struggle. Available without contract in Singapore for S$329.
Rating: 3.8 of 5
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.