While CES 2015 is still very much ongoing, it's probably safe to assume that we've seen everything there is to see, at least as far as smartphones go. In other words, Asus' new ZenFone 2 and LG's curved G Flex 2 are likely to be remembered as the two definitive blockbusters of the show.
That's for a good reason. For its part, Asus has put together a device that is both flagship worthy and quite affordable, while LG has improved on its impressive, but comparatively expensive concept of a flexible device with the G Flex 2. How do these two devices stack up when put side-by-side? Let's dig in and re-tell their stories.
Indeed, the vertically-curved G Flex 2 certainly has a hand over the ZenFone 2 in terms of its physical dimensions – the latter is taller, wider, and pudgier, all the while their display sizes are identical. What's even more impressive is that the G Flex 2 can be flexed mercilessly without breaking, and its shell can heal minor scratches thanks to an ingenious mix of materials.
It's also the prettier phone overall. Sure, that's just our opinion, but we won't hide it. This doesn't mean that the ZenFone 2 is at all unattractive – it's pretty fancy, actually – but it doesn't quite measure up. Of course, once the "Transfusion" and "Illusion" editions are in play, we might have to revisit this topic (the former series seamlessly blend two colors together, while the latter offer nifty and eye-catching patterns for the rear shell).
With last year's ZenFones, Asus focused on the low and mid-range market, and that meant decent, but unimpressive resolutions of 720 x 1280 pixels for two out of the three devices in the line-up. With the ZenFone 2, however, Asus is aiming higher, and will ship the device with a 5.5-inch, 1080 x 1920 resolution display, good for a pixel density of 403 ppi. The vendor revealed that the IPS panel in question offers peak brightness levels of up to 400 nits, which is fine, but not excellent.
LG, on the other hand, didn't feel it necessary to talk about nits. We can't say we blame them – after all, everyone was captivated by that flexible, 5.5-inch P-OLED display. And guess what – not only is it smaller than its predecessor's, but it's also much more pixel dense, thanks to its resolution of 1080 x 1920 (403 ppi). While P-OLED panels can be flexed many, many times without risking damage, it's still good to hear that LG has gone for one of Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 protective glasses. In fact, LG claims that it has actually done some further work on it with various chemicals, resulting in a glass that is both flexible and 20% tougher than the conventional GG 3.
It's been a year since Asus introduced ZenUI – its own take on a custom Android skin – and we haven't stopped digging its elegant, lightweight nature since. However, manufacturers often feel compelled to introduce new features for the sake of new features, and some of the new goodies aboard the Android 5.0 Lollipop-touting ZenFone 2 remind us of that. For example, while we applaud Asus' decision to hard-code support for themes and icon packs, and also to introduce its own one-handed mode, we aren't quite sure why it felt the need to continue pushing the idea that tapping or shaking your phone is somehow something we can't do without. But hey, Asus probably knows its demographic better.
As for the G Flex 2, the Android 5.0 Lollipop-based LG UI is virtually untouched from what we have on the now matured LG G3 – it's just as sleek-looking and feature-filled, and it moves around quite well. You still get goodies, such as Dual Window (run two apps simultaneously side-by-side), KnockOn/Knock Code (tap to wake/unlock screen), and the ability to customize the software navigation keys.
Intel has had a pretty hard time getting traction in the smartphone business, but partners such as Asus are here to help. The ZenFone 2 doesn't feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon process. then, but instead makes use of Intel's Atom Z3580. That's a 64-bit, quad-core chipset, with four cores that can go as high as 2.33GHz, paired with a PowerVR G6430 GPU with OpenGL 3.0 support. To our knowledge, the Z3580 is comparable to the Snapdragon 801.
Speaking of Snapdragon chips, the LG G Flex 2 has them – the latest, craziest of them all, actually. We're talking about the 64-bit Snapdragon 810 with two clusters of four cores – one with ARM Cortex-A53 ones, and another with ARM Cortex-A57. The GPU on board is the Adreno 430.
Turning to memory, we've got an interesting situation. The base G Flex 2 model comes with 16GB of storage (expandable via microSD) and 2GB of RAM, while the larger, 32GB storage option is paired with 3 gigs. For its part, the ZenFone 2 will come with 16/32/64GB storage options, but the device will come with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. It's currently unclear which model gets what.
As for the G Flex 2, LG is banking on the G3's camera, though the company stressed over and over that it has improved it in pretty much every possible way. Still, we're again talking about an optically-stabilized (OIS+), 13-megapixel camera with f/2.4 lens, a two-tone LED flash, and a laser auto focusing system.
Up at the front, the ZenFone 2 makes use of a 5-megapixel, wide-angled camera with f/2.0 lens, while the G Flex 2 sticks with a 2.1-megapixel one.
If it was the case that these two devices were priced identically, we'd probably have no problem picking up the LG G Flex 2 over the Asus ZenFone 2, but that's not the case – not at all, actually.
Concrete pricing information regarding the curvy Flex 2 is nowhere to be found, but if its predecessor is any indication, then we'd guess $299 on a 2-year contract is where it'll be at in the US. We expect retail prices for LG's new flagship to be north of $600. And the ZenFone 2? It costs $199, outright – no contracts, no nothing. We suspect that's for the 2GB model since Asus wasn't at all clear on this point, but even if the 4GB version goes as high as $300, we'd still call that a pretty darn good deal. At least on paper.
As for a release date, LG only revealed that the G Flex 2 will be made available in South Korea within the month, while a global roll-out wasn't at all specified. The ZenFone 2, on the other hand, will supposedly be available as soon as March (but where?), though, again, it is unclear if Asus was referring to both the 2GB and 4GB RAM models or not.