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Asus Zenfone 2 review with (Camera Review, Gaming Review, Performance Review and Battery Review)


Asus Zenfone 2 review

TOP FEATURES

1. Ultra-smooth performance
2. Good camera
3. Highly customizable


Asus last year surprised the mobile industry with its first-ever smartphone, Zenfone 5. The smartphone was positioned as a rival to the (then newly-launched) first-generation Moto G and had more RAM and a better camera. However, the battery life was its Achilles' heel, and the long-promised Android 4.4 (KitKat) update remains a distant dream even now. Nevertheless, it is a pretty good smartphone, especially at its current price of Rs 7,999.

Now, Asus is back with the follow-up of Zenfone 5, and it comes in not one but three variants. The top model in this series is Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML) with 4GB RAM, the first smartphone in the world to offer so much of memory. As you can expect, the dual-channel RAM will make multitasking and gaming a breeze, and you will never have to worry about lag or stuttering while using the smartphone.

Though the smartphone has been unveiled in India, its price has not been revealed yet. In foreign markets, it has been priced at $395, suggesting a price tag of approximately Rs 25,000 (and definitely under Rs 30,000 even with all the taxes). We review the all-new Zenfone 2 to see what it has to offer and whether it has what it takes to compete against stalwarts like OnePlus One and Huawei Honor 6 Plus, along with Moto X (second-generation) and Oppo Find 7.

Design



Asus has stuck to the design it used in last year's Zenfone 5 with its follow-up devices. So you see the same curved back, plastic body and metal chin, but there are a few tweaks here and there.

First of all, the plastic back panel sports brushed metallic finish; the volume rocker is also on the back this time, the same way it is in LG's top-end G series. We are not fans of the volume key on the back, and stick to the same view in Zenfone 2's case as well.



The smartphone edges are thinner, so your fingers may sometimes creep up on the bezels around the screen (the even the touchscreen itself if you have big hands). Though the rear casing is removable, you cannot replace the battery. Under the flap are the dual micro-sim slots and single microSD card slot.

The metallic Power button is located on the top this time around, flanked by the 3.5mm jack and mic. We found the Power button to be rather stiff, and many a times we had to press the key 2-3 times to turn the screen off.



The front panel has the selfie camera, 5.5-inch screen covered by Gorilla Glass 3, and soft-touch keys. The soft-touch keys are still not backlit, so you will have to rely on the haptic feedback to locate them at night; this is not too big a problem, but we would still prefer to have backlit keys. The metallic chin below the screen has the concentric semi-circles like the ones you have previously seen on Zenfone 5, but this time they are fainter in appearance and you will notice them only when you rub your finger along the metallic surface.

Asus has not changed the overall appearance of Zenfone 2, keeping the basic elements and refining the look to evoke a more premium feel from a tried-and-tested design language.

Display



The new Zenfone 2 has a 5.5-inch Full HD screen, bigger and more pixel-rich than the 5-inch HD panel of the Zenfone 5. The display is rather dim for our liking, but still is usage under direct sunlight if you crank up the brightness to the maximum.

The display panel shows warm and slightly oversaturated colours by default, but you can adjust the colour temperature to suit your eyes in settings. You get Balance, Reading, Vivid and Custom modes (you can set your own saturation level using the last option). Viewing angles that the Zenfone 2's screen offers are pretty good, even at acute angles. So, two people will be able to enjoy watching videos on the smartphone without loss of colours.

Hardware
Asus Zenfone 2 is powered by Intel's quad-core 2.3GHz Atom Z3580 processor, with PowerVR G6430 graphics chip, backed by (of course) 4GB RAM. The review unit we received came with 32GB internal storage and supported microSD cards with capacities up to 64GB. You also get 13MP rear camera with two-tone dual-LED flash and a 5MP selfie snapper.

This dual-sim smartphone supports 2G, 3G and 4G on the first sim, while only 2G networks are supported on the second sim. It also has other standard connectivity features, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB 2.0 and NFC. The Zenfone range has seen a major jump in the battery capacity, from the 2,110mAh juice-pack of Zenfone 5 to the 3,000mAh powerhouse in Zenfone 2.

Software



We were pleasantly surprised by Zen UI, Asus's first attempt at creating a custom Android-based user interface. Zenfone 2 has an updated version of the same Zen UI, based on Android 5.0 (Lollipop).

You will be hard-pressed to find the Material Design influence on the custom skin, as it is visible only in the notifications, toggles and animations on the surface. However, if you head to settings and dig a little deeper, you will notice standard Android Lollipop features like multiple user profiles etc.



While we have discussed the features of Zen UI at length in the review of Zenfone 5, let's discuss some of the new features of the custom UI. The IPS screen also shows time and date in low-power mode when the display is turned off, similar to the Nokia Glance Screen; however, it does not show notification icons. Double tapping on the screen also wakes up the phone.




In multitasking menu, you will notice a Pin button; this button allows you to pin a particular app on the screen. You can navigate within the particular app but not open any other app until you un-pin the app.


You can open apps directly from lockscreen using the gestures above

Apart from the multiple user profile support that Android Lollipop offers, the Zen UI provides options like Kids Mode (through a standalone app) and basic mode that shows only basic apps like calls and text messaging.

Zenfone 2 comes preloaded with as many as 27 Asus and third-party apps, along with the usual set of Google apps. The pre-installed apps cannot be deleted from the smartphone, but you can disable them. Asus also lets you select which apps will be blocked from running automatically when you restart the smartphone.

Performance
The Intel-powered Asus Zenfone 2 isn't trailblazing fast, nor does it have slicker UI animations than the ones we have seen on other models. Nevertheless, it is a pretty good smartphone out and out, and offers consistently good performance, free of any lag or stutter. In fact, we never encountered any instances where the phone exhibited slowness while performing tasks, courtesy the 4 gigs of RAM.

Gaming is where the ample RAM really shines. We played Real Racing 3 for almost an hour on the Zenfone 2 and did not notice any dip in performance throughout.

Zenfone 2, as is the case with most smartphones, heated up quite noticeably during the hour-long gameplay. This happened each time we were testing the gaming performance.

Asus has still not been able to fix the battery life problem of Zenfone series. We have lamented upon the poor battery of Zenfone 5 in the past, and have the same complaint with Zenfone 2. The 3,000mAh battery of the smartphone lasts only a day before draining out, due to the Intel chipset inside.

The saving grace is that you can at least use the phone almost the whole day without heading to the charging station. But that's with moderate usage. If you are a heavy user and start the day with Zenfone 2's battery fully charged at 8am, you will need to charge the handset by 4pm. Gaming, of course, takes the biggest toll on the battery; each hour-long gaming session reduced the battery level by around 20%.

Asus offers an power saving mode to help conserve the Zenfone 2 battery, which helps to an extent but not much if you are a power user. There is another ultra low power mode that you can use to eke out a few extra hours of battery life when the charge is less than 15%.

As a multimedia device, Zenfone 2 is good, though we would like to have louder audio. The rear-facing speaker offers decent sound quality, but falters when it comes to loud music. The smartphone can play all video formats using a good third-party app like MX Player Pro.

Camera



The Asus camera app is one of good ones we have seen so far, user friendly and full of shooting modes. Below is a screenshot of all the shooting modes you can use on this smartphone.



Most of the photos we took using the 13MP rear camera of the smartphone under direct sunlight came out pretty nice, but some were a little overexposed. The subjects in the images we took turned out great, but the surrounding areas were a little underexposed sometimes; we also noticed that colours bleed a little. You can, however, use HDR mode to take better shots.



The field of depth mode of Asus Zenfone 2 is almost as good as the one we have seen on Huawei's Honor 6 Plus, despite the lack of a second camera on the back. Lowlight images have low noise due to the PixelMaster technology, but have a slightly glazed look due to the processing.

The selfie camera comes with a wide-angle lens so you can capture a lot of area in your self-portraits. Like other smartphones, Zenfone 2 has a beauty mode that will reduce the marks and blemishes on your face for better selfies.

Verdict
Asus Zenfone 2 is a pretty fantastic smartphone to own, even though the battery life is just a day at max. If priced around Rs 25,000, it would easily be among the top choices for any buyer, right up there with Huawei Honor 6 Plus; you can also considering purchasing Zenfone 2 over the slightly more expensive Moto X (Gen 2) and Oppo Find 7. It is a mid-range smartphone but offers the performance almost the equivalent of a flagship

Though 4GB of RAM is not really utilized to its full extent on mobile devices now, but with apps designed for 64-bit CPUs on the way, Asus Zenfone 2 is also a future-ready smartphone that will probably serve for quite a long time.
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