I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would not want a flagship smartphone at a very affordable price right? With the GST being set as 0% in our country, certain prices went down while some went up and some remained unchanged. How did this effect the prices of electronic devices? Well, as far as I know ASUS have been remarkably reducing their prices especially on their smartphone ranges drastically. As you might have already owned one now, the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro(M1) is probably the hottest phone in the market now where you can get it at an extremely low price of just RM599.

Sorry for going a little off-topic but I guess that was a pretty solid beginning towards my review on the ASUS Zenfone 5z. A really powerful beast which is capable of beating most highly-priced smartphones out there. This review is going to be focused towards camera capabilities as the ASUS Zenfone 5z managed to get a score of 93 on DXO Mark. I am sure you guys are eager to know what contributed to the score as it is not really easy to be highly ranked without having a good hardware and software combination. As usual, I will kick-start this review category by category.

Introduction

ASUS Zenfone 5z is designed to include all the trending needs within a single smartphone without hurting your pocket. Having said that, this smartphone features AI(Artificial Intelligence) in most part of the operating system. This includes the camera, usage pattern, security, battery life and the list goes on. The full view display with top notch is included as well. Dual camera lens appears to be included here as well and lastly the processor is the latest, AI-enabled – commonly used on flagship smartphones till date. There’s also ZeniMoji which was trending on the iPhone X which is not forgotten and a feature that is still trending.

Design

ASUS’s premium design I must say. This design language started back then on the ASUS Zenfone 3. The glass back finish while the rest of them being high-quality aluminum. In terms of build quality, the ASUS Zenfone 5z felt really solid and you will be confident of the reliability that the brand could provide since it has been doing well in Malaysia for quite some time.  It is surely risky to try a brand that is really new especially when there are issues such as battery exploding and so on. The phone weighs at just 155g while the slimmest point will be 7.7mm. The volume rockers and power button are placed at the right side of the phone and being easily reachable since the phone isn’t really large at size for me. For those who have a smaller palm would find it hard though. The card tray is placed on the left side, dual Nano-SIMs with micro SD card slot made available. You do not get a triple card tray like the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro(M1) unfortunately. If you still require to use a microSD card, there is a need to sacrifice one of the Nano-SIM card slot. The ear-piece acts as a speaker too while the main speakers are placed on the bottom of the phone. USB Type-C charging port can be found on the bottom as well. The front and back glass are said to be powered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with 2.5D contoured edges.

Display

There you go guys, there’s a notch display finally on a ASUS branded smartphone. ASUS Zenfone 5 series being the first of many to come. The display size is set at 6.2-inches with a full view design which makes the screen to body ratio to a staggering 90%!  Less scrolling guys. Plus, sized at only 5.5-inch in shape, having a bigger display is indeed a great step towards better technology. Resolution of the display is Full HD+ (1080×2246) with IPS LCD technology. The viewing ratio is set at 19:9 rather than common ones such as 16:9. The display quality is good and during outdoors, the auto-brightness manage to cope almost perfect in most situations. Since this is a flagship device, expect serious hardware applied to most areas. During video playback, the display automatically scales and excludes the notch. The key status icons will be placed in the spaces beside the notch freeing up display. This is indeed a smart move from ASUS to ensure there are no unnecessary disturbance or clutters to distract while watching your favorite videos.

Camera and AI Photography

The ASUS Zenfone 5z comes with dual rear cameras. Each has its own values with the main one being a 12MP shooter that comes with f1.8 aperture. The additional camera lens works as a wide angle lens and takes wide landscape photos. It is capped at 8MP with f2.2 aperture. They’re paired with a single LED flash that also comes with color correction sensor. Each photo shots are powered by Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) while video recording is supported by Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS). The front selfie camera comes with a 8MP sensor and f2.0 aperture.

Since this smartphone is powered by AI technology, photos are much better and one of the main reason for its high ranking. AI will pick up from the Cloud server which is powered by ASUS that will ensure the algorithm is learned accurately. This allows the camera to automatically detect scenes such as for example: taking a photo of a burger will be detected as food while taking a photo of a cat will be classified as cat. To put it into simple words, the AI will enhance and correct the color temperature, saturation, contrast, brightness, shutter speed and exposure time. Of course this will result in a great looking photo therefore there won’t be a need to edit it later on.

Don’t be afraid as ASUS has mentioned that no user data or photos will be uploaded to the ASUS servers due to privacy issues. The photos used by ASUS will be stock photos purchased from third parties or contributed by ASUS ambassador photographers. Once the data models get more improved reference models, there will be an update pushed directly via firmware update accordingly. So far there are 16 preset scenes that will be updated from time to time basis.

There’s also a feature known as AI Photo Learning. This simply means that it allows to learn from your preferred editing of images. Some supported scenes will indicate that there’s option for you to edit via AI Photo Learning. When you decide to tap on the photo and apply the suggested effect, it will ask if you liked the effect and if you do so – it will be saved as your preferred image effect while you take similar scene photos in the future.

Another additional feature that the Zenfone 5z has will be its Real-time beautification. This will use the AI to detect the gender of the subject and apply beautification accordingly. The system will be referring over 2 million of different races, skin colors, skin tones, ages and genders o find the perfect beautification that should be applied to the subject. The facial detection takes about 0.03 seconds to determine and even apply the beautification effects in video for livestreaming over popular social media platforms.

The portrait shot is enabled on both front and rear cameras. The portrait mode on the rear cameras work with both lenses. It enhances the bokeh effect and therefore results in a stunning looking photo compared to a single lens portrait shot. Other modes such as HDR, Beauty, Super resolution, Panorama and Pro  are still there on ASUS’s Zen UI 5.0.

As for the video recording, the main camera can shoot up to 4K resolution (30fps) and supports slow mo as well (120fps). There’s also time lapse mode with power saving mode. This is important as time lapse videos can consume a lot of battery power to shoot. This mode saves power by lowering the screen brightness and putting the phone into flight mode allowing the shooting of longer time lapse videos. The ASUS Zenfone 5z supports RAW photo taking mode as well. This only works on Pro mode where you have to choose the camera resolution as RAW+JPG(4:3) option. RAW photos are identified by a circular “RAW JPG” tag when viewed in the Gallery.

Other AI related features

AI Boost

Perhaps the most anticipated feature of the ZenFone 5z is AI Boost. It provides an instant performance boost when needed to run graphically demanding applications as well as high-definition videos. It automatically detects if demanding apps have been launched, and gives the user an option for it to be turned on. When activated, it provides an increased level of performance without effecting the phones general stability and health.

Face Unlock

Although this is a common feature these days, but then the accuracy has increased whereby the AI technology will enable a much accurate facial detection resulting in a faster face unlock as well.

AI Charging

The phone detects the user’s daily charging patterns and estimates the periods when the user lets it charge for longer amounts of time. It then varies its charging pattern to reduce heat or speed up charging when needed. (for example, it will apply a slower charge when it is connected to power after 10pm, but apply a faster charge if connected during the day). This also ensures the battery life span to be much longer and therefore the need to change the battery after few years will not be necessary.

AI Gallery

Recognizes individual human subjects and scenes and groups them for easy sorting and selection. This requires user’s extra effort as well to sort out and categorize properly in the beginning and therefore the AI will pick it up later on. Benefit of this feature will be the speed to find a particular photo that will be sorted by individuals or scenes.

ZeniMoji

This is something fun to use as not many phones have this feature and can be found on the iPhone X.  You can find this feature within SelfieMaster app which grants users to turn their faces into animated characters that resembles their expressions in real time. This feature can also be used during live video streaming or even video calls. This is also a solid proof that the AI technology is actually working to recognize human’s gesture and behaviors.

Additional Features on Zen UI 5.0

Smart Screen On

This ensures that the display does not turn off while you’re viewing the screen. The camera recognizes that you are looking at it and therefore will ensure the screen remains on. This feature is useful when you are reading an article for a longer period.

Auto Color Temperature/Bluelight Filter

Another must have feature in most phone these days. This will protect your eyes by giving comfort. The ASUS Zenfone 5z will automatically adjust the color and brightness accordingly when you’re at dark or extremely bright environment. Bluelight filter will also take place the very moment you’re in a dark environment.

AI Ringtone

Another smart move by ASUS is by including the feature of AI Ringtone. This is a feature where the ringtone will be automatically adjusted based on the environment. If the surrounding is quiet and your ringtone is set to max, it will not go ahead with super loud ringtone ringing around and surprising people. It will adjust to a decent amount of volume output whereby you will still realize incoming calls.

Audio Improvements

The audio department on ASUS Zenfone 5z is pretty impressive I must say.  There’s now dual speakers with dual amplifier. Audio quality definitely got better if you ask me compared to the previous gens. There’s also aptX which allows HD quality audio output while connected to Bluetooth. Since there are two amplifiers, there’s Hi-Res Audio available on the Zenfone 5z whereby rated at a max of 24-bit/192kH. If you have a 7.1 enabled home theater, you’ll be experiencing similar situation while connected to the earphones on the Zenfone 5z. This is because the availability of DTS Headphone X 7.1 Virtual Surround. There’s also a latest version of AudioWizard which allows you to tweak the audio output which also includes changing the bass and treble manually. Not to forget the preset equalizer profiles which are probably good enough to suit your preference or rather ear buds.

Processing Power & Storage

There’s not much to speak about the processing power actually. Snapdragon 845 Octa core processor is currently the hottest processor available in the market. Hottest here meaning the most highly-rated processor. Overall real life performance was real good with no serious issues. Stability of the device is good and there are no lags at all during my time of usage. The variant that I used came with 128GB of internal storage, which is pretty much a lot for me already. On top of that, the Zenfone 5z came with 6GB of RAM and therefore that also plays a major role on how stable this smartphone can be and how future proof it is. By default the storage available without any additional apps installed will be 113GB.

Network

Both the SIM card slots supports 4G LTE and both being dual standby on 4G LTE. Call quality was very good I must say during outdoor calls, though I do realize that Digi’s network has been pretty bad these days. Otherwise all was good including the WiFi reception and no frequent disconnect/connect issue which I do face at times due to the weak signal. The Zenfone 5z of course supports CAT 18 LTE which can go up to 1.2Gbps, sadly, we do not have any cellular network provider with that speed in Malaysia. Do take note that there are 3 noise-cancelling mics on the ASUS Zenfone 5z which results in the real good call quality on both ends.

Battery

Of course, coming from ASUS Zenfone Max Pro(M1), the battery life is far apart because of the capacity obviously. The ASUS Zenfone 5z comes with 3300mAh with BoostMaster technology. You can get your device charged slightly past an hour while the overall battery life can last you the entire day with above average usage. I managed to sneak up to 3.5hours of Screen On Time with mainly spent on social media accounts. The bundled charger is an 18W adapter which contributes to the fast charging capability.

Comparison between near competitors

Take a look at the below comparison sheet and you’ll probably know what I mean by a well-balanced smartphone. The Mi Mix 2S and One Plus 6 are my favorites too but it is a proven fact that Zenfone 5z has the edge over everything.

Conclusion

Despite all the flagship war going on lately with which is being the best, I would definitely look at the price that I am going to pay. This phone is literally cheap compared to what the rest of its competitor has to offer. Pretty much an all-round balanced smartphone and future proof, the ASUS Zenfone 5z is a must buy smartphone of 2018. Knowing the fact that DXO Mark usually ranks the phones quite accurately when it comes to camera performance, the ASUS Zenfone 5z managed to grab a score of 93 and it doesn’t cost you as much as a kidney.

Pricing & Availability

The ASUS Zenfone 5z is priced at just RM1899 and comes with a standard 1 year Warranty from ASUS Malaysia. It is available in two color choices – Midnight Blue and Meteor Silver. You may opt to purchase from LAZADA where a pre-order price(RM1699!) will be made available .

ASUS Zenfone 5z Review - The most affordable flagship smartphone
Cheapest flagship in the market.Most AI features are available in this phoneCamera is a beast!Display is extremely good in all conditions.Audio output is really loud & clearHD streaming via Bluetooth is available.NFC is available too.
Battery life could be better, might improve time to time due to AI learning maybe.
9.1Overall Score
Display9
Design9
Audio9
Camera9.5
Features9.5
Battery8.5
Reader Rating 4 Votes
9.8