Review by Chester Tan (http://musicphotolife.com)
When ASUS launched the Zenfone series last year, I could not believe the price. The first-generation Zenfone were well built, value for money, and a feature-packed new UI.
Zenfone 2 series continue with the value-priced proposition, and to delight the power users, ASUS has extended the product range with premium specs but still priced below S$500. This strategy has worked: I have never seen such high take-up rate among my peers and colleagues other than iPhones and Samsungs.
In this post, I am going to share with you the many features which led to consumers – myself included – choosing the Zenfone 2 to upgrade instead of the other brands.
Zenfone 2 ZE551ML
I always prefer higher-spec smartphones due to my usage demands. Speed of the UI, long battery life, massive storage are my criteria. Good pre-installed apps are also in my consideration, because pre-installed apps work better than third party. After reviewing the top-model Zenfone 2 ZE551ML, I am convinced that my next premium-spec smartphone need not be premium-priced.
There are so many reasons why Zenfone 2 could be my next smartphone. Pardon my long posts, because there are simply too many features to share (which is a good thing).
The Zenfone 2 might not use premium metal for the body, but your hand will love how the curved back contours with your palm comfortably. The review unit has a brushed silver plastic rear cover to mimic a metal look. The interchangeable rear casing negates the need to over-protect your rear phone, since you can easily replace it. Having said that, the front edges are easily bruised and scratched. ASUS should have used a more rigid material.
The 5.5-inch screen might be slightly large for most consumers, but having a larger screen means you can see more clearly, and 5.5-inch is still a good size to manage. Besides, ASUS has the one-hand operation feature to improve usability.
Snappy and Responsive ZenUI
I cannot stand laggy UI, which is why I favour HTC Sense UI. But Zenfone 2’s improved ZenUI seems just as good! After 2 weeks of review, the UI remains smooth, apps open fast, tap actions are responsive. The generous 4GB dual-channel DDR3 RAM is probably a huge contributing factor. You might think that 4GB is an overkill, but as I was regularly monitoring the RAM usage, I am surprised that the Zenfone 2 is often using more than 3GB, which is a good sign of maximising the RAM for performance.
Customisable ZenUI Launcher
As I mentioned, I prefer pre-installed apps. While savvy users may swear by third party launcher, I always make the best out of the brand’s launcher. The ZenUI personalised features beats most of the brands’ launchers. No longer do you need to run third-party launchers to personalise your phone:
– define app drawer grid size (3×3 to 5×5)
– install icon packs and themes easily from Google Play Store
– adjust font size and colour
– set background transparency easily without editing on third party image apps
– able to lock apps without using third party apps
– set folder style to appear as grid, or stack, or card
Touch Gesture and Shortcuts
Zenfone 2 comes with preset gestures which you can enable individually or assign to launch a different app. Double-tap the screen to wake up or sleep. Draw a “C” on the blank screen to start the camera. Double-tap the home button for one-hand operation. I do find sometimes the gesture does not work, perhaps because the ambient sensor did not detect sufficient light and thinks the phone is in your pocket, in which case the gesture is disabled.
Customisable Battery Saving Modes
Zenfone 2 is fitted with 3000mAh battery, and if you enable aggressive battery saving, the phone can last beyond one day. When I choose Balanced Mode, the battery life is no different from HTC One M9. While it is possible to achieve a slower battery drain by reducing background apps during standby, you will not receive notifications in real time. In that aspect, Zenfone 2 provides settings to let you pick the apps that you will allow background tasking.
Fast Charge with ASUS BoostMaster
I can charge the Zenfone 2 to 60% in 39 minutes. Only the higher-end Zenfone 2 models come with the fast charger, but you can also use Samsung or Qualcomm Quick Chargers.
Like the original Zenfone, the new Zenfone 2 comes with 4 useful apps that interacts with other devices easily. PC Link allows you to mirror the Zenfone 2 on your PC via USB or WiFi (the refresh speed depends on your connectivity). Remote Link pairs to your PC via Bluetooth of Wi-Fi, and once you pair it, you can type and control the mouse and music player using your Zenfone 2, as well as your slide presentation. Share Link is an app that lets you send and receive files over-the-air without having to do longwinded pairing. Party Link is similar to Share Link but allows you to send files to a group of people at the same time.
PC Link is very useful if you are constantly on your computer so you can interact with your Zenfone 2 using keyboard and mouse without touching your phone. Remote Link is also great especially with Windows tablets, it is easier to type from your smartphone than the on-screen keyboard.
Camera and Quality
Zenfone 2 has a loads of camera modes, some of which are rather useful. Interestingly, some of these modes are also available for front-facing camera.
ASUS is careful in not over-processing the images in Auto mode. As a result, images appear rather noisy, but I like that it retains image and colour details even in low light. Exposure is on the conservative side, resulting in slightly underexposed images. You can override the output by increasing the exposure value (EV).
This is one killer feature that multiple phone users will love. No longer do you need to carry 2 phones because Zenfone 2 supports dual SIM cards. A small issue though: the second SIM slot only supports 2G, which is a pity. OPPO R5 actually supports 4G on both SIM slots, although you can only use one SIM for active data connection at any one time, but that is more convenient than having to swap SIMs.
ZenTalk: ASUS Software Update
ASUS is very aggressive in releasing software updates. During my short 2 week review period, I already received 2 updates. There is also an active online community forum where users share feedback and issues, many of them are promptly resolved with regular firmware releases.
When you fit an ASUS Cover, you can interact with the round cover screen when you enable apps like calendar, clock, camera, flashlight, weather, music. You can read message and emails via the window. It is largely functional at this point, without much bells and whistles, but hopefully future updates will beef up the capabilities.
Verdict: A Great Value Buy
I have reviewed multiple ASUS smartphone devices over the years. And too often I find their devices lack the competitive edge. When they announced the first Zenfone series, I thought they stood a good chance with the attractive price. Now with Zenfone 2, I am very pleased with the performance and features. At a price below S$500, the decision is easy on the pocket.
Once again, here are the reasons why Zenfone 2 is a better choice against the competitors’ pricier flagship phones:
– Fast and responsive UI: no more irritating lag
– Highly personalised home screen: easily change the way your Zenfone 2 looks
– Useful pre-installed apps: I like What’s Next, PC Link, Mini Movie
– Interchangeable rear casing: no need to be too worried about protecting your phone from scratches
– Gesture actions: run your apps quickly from blank screen
– Fast charging: Zenfone 2 charges quickly
– Large Battery: Zenfone 2 lasts longer
– Expandable storage: no worries about limited storage
– Dual SIM: no need to carry 2 phones
– Price: the most expensive Zenfone 2 is only S$499
Rating: 4.2 of 5
This article was originally published on Music.Photo.Life.
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