ASUS ZenFone 2 Full Review – Taking Flagship To a Whole New Level

It’s approximately 2 weeks since I have got my hands on the ASUS ZenFone 2 review unit from ASUS Malaysia. Before I got this unit, I was excited on which model will I get despite there’s plenty of ZenFone 2 from different range offered in the Malaysian market. I guessed that it would be either the highest ranged or the mid ranged one which resulted in getting the ASUS ZenFone 2 ZE551ML 2GB RAM and 32GB of ROM variant – the mid ranged one.

The notable difference between this variant and the highest variant is the clock speed where the mid range is clocked at 1.8GHz while the highest range is clocked at 2.3GHz. Of course, the most notable one will be the RAM itself which consists of 2GB and 4GB respectively. It is also confirmed that ASUS’s very own BoostMaster charger is only available for the 4GB variants although all of the ZenFone 2 supports this fast charging feature but its just that it doesn’t come bundled with the fast charger and comes with the standard ASUS wall adapter.

Design

The design language of the ASUS ZenFone 2 is pretty classy if you ask me. The low profile black front matched with brushed metal-like plastic at the back. I would say the finish at the back of the phone is similar to the one on HTC One M8’s real back brushed aluminium finish. Not only looking like metal but it feels exactly like metal too when you touch and feel it.

You will also notice the volume up and down rockers placed at the back of the ZenFone 2 as well looking pretty neat and blends nicely on the middle right below the LED flash and the main camera. The speaker grill is placed at the bottom following micro-dotted style which is laser drilled measuring at only 0.4mm.

Moving to the front, everything is black ( blends nicely with the red version that I have ) with the front capacitive keys placed on the bottom which means ASUS remained with having non on-screen navigational buttons. Right below it, you will notice the iconic ASUS concentric circle design which traditionally followed ever since the first ZenFone series.

Display

The ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with a 5.5-inch IPS with a screen to body ratio of 72% which means the the entire display is being utilized rather than having unused areas making the bezel slimmer. With ASUS TRUVIVID technology, the display looks eye-popping with everything being extremely realistic as though you’re having a 3D view. Next, yes it is Full HD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 which results in a pixel density of 403ppi. Of course, not to forget that the ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection to reduce the risk of having your display to be easily scratched or cracked.

To be honest, the display is remarkable and definitely almost as par as the Super AMOLED display that comes in Samsung’s flagship.  The screen is extremely bright and you will never face any issue while out during the hot sun. Auto brightness works as how it should being able to detect and adjust accordingly to lighting condition.

However, I would wish that the brightness can be reduced a little bit more as I tend to use my phone while on the bed ( I know that’s a bad habit ) so I find it to be a little bright and I am pretty sure in the near future some OTA’s will eventually fix this if there’s more people finding this to be an issue.

You have some preset options of the screen color mode where you can choose from such as Balance, Bluelight Filter and Vivid. Color temperature of these modes can be adjusted accordingly as well and if you find all of them to not fit your desire, there’s an option called “Customized” where you can adjust the Hue and Saturation based on your preference. 🙂

Performance

This phone comes with 2GB of RAM which is sufficient enough to handle most of the apps that we commonly use, so I wonder how great the 4GB variant will be. Under the hood, you get a Intel Atom Z3560 Quad core processor clocked at 1.8GHz.  At first, of course being a typical user I always thought the Intel processor doesn’t blend well within a smartphone as there was flaws all over before. But I tried the ZenFone 5 before and trust me it is magnificent and ASUS has done a good job to keep it running extremely smooth and lag-free. Getting back to the ZenFone 2, one word – ASTONISHED!. This phone is extremely smooth with no lag to be detected yet based on my 2 weeks of usage. For the first few days I had terrible lag on the ZenFone 2 and was wondering how to fix it. Fiddling with the phone, I managed to find a quick and efficient way of solving it. Simply uninstall the Clean Master which is pre-installed and you will notice the difference significantly.

When it comes to gaming, I did not notice any frame-drops when I played Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP2. Gameplay was extremely smooth and since the screen is gorgeous, you will eventually enjoy yourself playing via the ZenFone 2. PowerVR G6430 seems to blend and work perfectly alongside Intel’s best ever mobile phone processor till date.

Storage

The phone that  I received comes with 32GB of internal storage which system consumed 6.47GB/32GB. Pretty a lot of space has been taken simply because of it being based on Android Lollipop. Anyway, still plenty of storage space left since its 32GB rather than 8GB or 16GB. For those heavy users who stores plenty of games, movies and songs, don’t have to worry much as there’s an option for you to expand your storage capacity with microSD card up to 64GB.

Camera

Okay. In terms of camera performance, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is very impressive. This outstanding smartphone comes with 13MP f2.0 aperture camera with no OIS. So when I first heard about no OIS, I was pretty upset as for me camera must have OIS otherwise it could be pretty bad. Trust me on the ASUS ZenFone 2, this is the best ever 13MP camera without OIS I have tried so far. The resulting image is sharp, well-detailed and incredibly low-noise especially during the day. ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with dual tone LED flash which tends to work as giving possibly the most natural looking shots ever without over exposing lights which makes the final image to look rather appealing than unrealistic.

There’s plenty of software capabilities and optimization which comes preset with this smartphone. Some of the highlights are Manual, HDR,  Beautification, Super Resolution, Low Light, Depth of Field, Smart Remove and Time Lapse.  Below are sample of images taken via some of the modes mentioned above. I personally enjoy myself taking photos using the Depth of Field feature and the Manual feature for extreme Macro shots. Do take note that the Super Resolution is capable of capturing image of 52MP. Some sample is shown as per below.

Super Resolution mode

Manual – Macro Focus

Manual Mode – Macro Focus + Custom ISO

Manual Focus

Auto Mode

Auto Mode

Manual Focus Mode

Low Light Mode

Front Camera – Wide Angle Selfie 🙂

The front facing selfie camera is pretty sick as well. Carrying 5MP sensor, you would expect some decent looking selfie shots as well. The advantage of the front-facing camera on the ASUS ZenFone 2 is it’s wide angle lens which is capable of capturing more surrounding details rather than  fitting only yourself in it.

Not to forget, the volume rockers placed at the back of the smartphone is capable of capturing photos with a single click. Since it is perfectly placed at the middle, I find this feature to be very useful indeed. Last but not least, the Selfie Panorama is indeed included in the ASUS ZenFone 2 so that you can take “wefie” and “groupfie” as well. 😛

Audio

The speaker which is placed at the back of ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with SonicMaster Audio with ICEpower technology which means you will get rich and detailed sound no matter via the speaker or even via headphones. ASUS claims to have increased the chamber size for the speaker by 25% to provide louder and more powerful audio compared to any other standard back facing speaker smartphones.

As any other brands, ASUS have their very own ASUS AudioWizard which amplifies the sound according to presets and to customize it to your own taste. Some of the presets are Movie Mode, Music Mode, Smart Mode, Gaming Mode and Keynote Mode. The software is claimed to adapt to any scenario automatically by fine tuning the vocal or bass accordingly.

Video

In terms of video recording, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is capable of capturing Full HD videos with up to 30fps. We do miss out on 4K recording. However for the price tag that you’re going to pay and for the limited mobile technology till date, it is not necessary or rather not a priority to have 4K recording at the moment. So far based on my video recording tests, the quality of the footage is very good with the auto focus shifting very fast (almost as similar as LG’s laser focus technology).

4G LTE and Dual Active SIM

The ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with 4G LTE connectivity and Dual SIM with Dual Standby and Dual Active. Since this is a Dual SIM phone, we don’t get Dual 4G as the other slot is only able to provide 2G connectivity. Most of the phones out there comes with only Dual Standby but the ZenFone 2 can receive calls on both SIM at the same time simultaneously. So no more number is engage or voicemails. 🙂

The all new Zen UI and many more Zen-delicious features!

This smartphone comes with the newer version of ASUS’s very own Zen UI which promises to be as close to stock with more features built in. The UI looks very clean and neat. My criteria when it comes to UI, it has to be clean, neat and eye candy so that doesn’t matter what age group you’re from yet you will be able to get used to the ASUS ZenFone 2.  The ASUS Zen UI works perfectly with Android Lollipop and this has overtake my all-time favorite UI which was previously HTC’s very own Sense UI.

On top of that, ASUS included Tap Tap to wake and Tap Tap to lock feature. This is a very convenient method to activate the screen by double tapping the display and at the same time double tapping at any empty space of unlocked screen will proceed to lock the screen. This is useful simply because the placing of the power button which is placed right at the top middle which can be inconvenient to most of users out there especially those with smaller palm. Below are some of the features available on the all new Zen UI.

Battery Juice!

Since ASUS ZenFone 2 comes with 3000mAh non-removable you will assume the battery power to be at least able to last one full day.

The ASUS ZenFone 2 gives me approximately 3 hours of Screen On Time and will last you around 12 hours ( half a day ) based on heavy social network usage. Of course, usage pattern changes day by day and results may differ. The battery life will be better based on upcoming fixes coming from ASUS itself. The Android OS battery usage seems to trigger the wake locks of the phone and being on the top list of most battery hunger process. Some claim that the double tap to on and off the screen feature is the cause of this to happen, but I have tried disabling it and didn’t help much. Both the 2GB and 4GB RAM variants will be having pretty much good battery life once the next software update is pushed. The 2GB variant will have slightly better battery life despite being clocked at only 1.8GHz vs 2.3GHz and with the RAM playing its role.

Also, if you purchase the ASUS ZenFone 2 4GB variants, you will get ASUS super fast charger packaged together in the retail packaging that you purchase. Sadly all the 2GB variants does not come together with the super fast charger. However, the BoostMaster technology comes in all of the variants of the ASUS ZenFone 2 which those who purchased the 2GB variants will have to get the super fast charger separately. BoostMaster technology from ASUS is claimed to supercharge your ASUS ZenFone 2 up to 60% of battery capacity within just 39 minutes! This is useful for those who are heavy user and tend to spend more time on your smartphone.

Final Verdict

This is probably one of the most famous flagship phone of the year 2015 with a very decent price range. I personally love the way it is built, classy and great specification within the ZenFone 2. This smartphone is very smooth and fluid despite how heavy your usage can be. Let’s go on my way since I have the 2GB variant with me, the one with the price tag of RM899 . You get the following:-

– Extraordinary eye-popping screen.

– Fantastic brushed-metal plastic finish.

– Incredible Intel’s quad core processor.

– Great 13MP camera with marvelous software add ons ( probably one of the best smartphone camera software available out there.

– Android Lollipop +  all new ASUS Zen UI is the best combination ever!

– Dual Active SIM – Receive calls on both numbers at the same time is now possible with such price tag.

– Double Tap to wake and sleep and gestures is something that could make your life easier.

– Flagships dumping the Micro SD slot? Fear not as the ASUS ZenFone 2 retains this feature.

– Fast charging is now possible without having to pay big bucks just to get this feature on your phone. Awesome!

– Removable and interchangeable back covers with unique designs to choose from!

– Plenty of accessories to change, accompany and upgrade your ASUS ZenFone 2 such as ZenFlash, Lolliflash, ZenEar, ZenEar S and the most exciting 10050mAh ZenPower!

– More, more and more! You tell me?

So for those considering to get the ASUS ZenFone 2, do not hesitate as you definitely considered and made the right choice. I’ll advise in getting the 4GB variants so that you can get the best out of it, but if budget is an issue feel free to choose the ZE551 2GB variant as you still get the best out of it. I am making this smartphone as my daily driver and will definitely get my hands on the 4GB variant pretty soon as well. 🙂

Prices & Availability

The ASUS ZenFone 2 is widely available in retailing stores near you. Head over to ASUS’s very own online store if you would like to make your shopping life easier by clicking here.