Asus ZenFone 2 vs Note 4: first look


Phablet against phablet, or that's how we would tag a ZenFone 2 versus Note 4 comparison just a year ago. Seeing that today's flagships are already bordering on the 5.5" screen diagonal mark, it might only be the Note 4 that will fit in the phablet category these days.

Nevertheless, the Asus ZenFone 2 is still a big-screen handset, especially with its about average screen-to-body ratio, warranting a close look at what you can get for $200-$250, and what you can get for almost three times that, in the case of Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 phablet.

Design


Both the Note 4 and ZenFone 2 have largely similar dimensions, with the exception of the thicker chassis that Asus brings to the table. Taking a little cue from LG, the ZenFone 2 sports a volume rocker placed fair and square on the back of the phone, while the Note 4 sports a more orthodox key placement, though we'd have to admit that the keys-on-the-rear approach is more suitable for phablets. By the company's own calculations, the ZenFone 2 has a screen-to-body ratio of 72%, which falls in the middle as far as 2014 devices are concerned, and offers the passable dimensions of 6 x 3.03 x 0.43 in (152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm), while the Note 4 fares a bit better. 

Both are rather large to carry and operate with one hand, and are nothing like the compact LG G3, for instance. Being a part of the Note line, Samsung's phablet, naturally, carries a stylus advantage, with the S Pen tucked neatly in its lower right corner, ready for doodling or handwriting on the largish panel.

Display 


The ZenFone 2 display is a Gorilla Glass 3-protected, 5.5-inch panel with a flagship-standard resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, returning an excellent 403 pixels per inch count, and offering 400 nits of brightness. There's really nothing to stand out in the screen specs department here, but for this starting price Asus's offering is more than generous, and will fit most everyone's needs. Note 4, however, one-ups it significantly here, providing a 5.5" Quad HD panel with the breathtaking 515ppi pixel density and accurate color presentation in standard mode.

Processor and memory


Asus has a long history with Intel's mobile processors, and the ZenFone 2 isn't breaking that trend, though it is now a trailblazer for the new 64-bit frugal Atom silicon. Namely, it sticks with the LTE-enabled Intel Atom Z3580 processor with four cores that can reach frequencies of up to 2.33 GHz. The company's biggest surprise with the handset is left for the memory department, though. The ZenFone 2 might start you off with 2 GB of RAM in the basic version, but the more expensive ones will come with 4 GB of RAM, making it the first smartphone announced with more than 3 GB of RAM, which the native 64-bit Android support, and the new 64-bit processors make possible now. Asus claims seven times faster gaming performance than the previous ZenFone edition, which has to count for something. This Atom silicon actually goes neck-and-neck with Snapdragon 805 or Exynos 7 Octa chipsets in the Note 4, except in the graphics department, and is as frugal as them, so the ZenFone with 4 GB RAM can really give the Note 4 a run for its money as far as processing power is concerned.

Interface


On the software side of things, the ZenFone 2 is making use of Asus' proprietary ZenUI, slapped on top of the latest update to Android – 5.0 Lollipop. The company has worked a few new tricks into the OS, including actions and app shortcuts tied to gestures, special one-handed and "Kids" modes, and even support for custom themes and icon packs. ZenUI has a variety of new features, including ZenMotion, SnapView, Trend Micro Security and ZenUI Instant Updates, which it now claims are part of life for 15 million users of Asus mobile devices around the globe. 

Still, this is no match for the Note 4's TouchWiz interface, which is arguably the most feature-rich one in the Android universe, bloated or not, and when you add the extra input capabilities brought on by the S Pen, we'd have to give the interface round to Samsung here.

Camera


The camera at the back of the ZenFone 2 is a 13-megapixel unit with 5-element, f/2.0 aperture lens, complemented by a dual-color "Real Tone" LED flash. At the front, we're looking at a respectable, 5-megapixel selfie snapper with wide-angle (85-degree) lens, and an option to shoot selfie panoramas. The Note 4 features a superior 16 MP snapper with optical image stabilization, whose performance is stellar both indoors and out. 

We snapped a few sample shots with both, however, and were pleasantly surprised that the Asus claims of 400% more light coming in to its PixelMaster camera in complete darkness turned out true, beating the Note 4 in that respect - check out the camera comparison gallery below as proof, but be patient, as these are the full-size shots we took.



Battery


Note 4 might have a slightly higher battery capacity - 3220 mAh vs 3000 mAh for the ZenFone 2 - but it also sports a hungry Quad HD display, so we'd have to run our battery benchmark on the Asus phone to determine if it will give away to Samsung's finest in the endurance department. Both handsets feature rapid charging technologies that juice them up quickly when the need arises.




Expectations


It's hard to fathom that a $200 phone will give the Note 4 a run for its money, and the Asus ZenFone 2 doesn't exactly scale up to the Samsung phablet's screen technology, S Pen input functionality, audio recording and OIS camera tech. If those advantages aren't tipping the scale for you, though, you might be perfectly fine spending a third of the Note 4's price for an only slightly inferior experience, and we can think of a lot of folks that might be willing to do just that.

Related phones

ZenFone 2
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Intel Atom, Quad-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh
Galaxy Note 4
  • Display 5.7" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 3.7 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, Octa-core, 1900 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3220 mAh(20h 3G talk time)

FEATURED VIDEO

26 Comments

1. bigmaster

Posts: 198; Member since: Sep 05, 2014

"Note 4, however, one-ups it significantly here, providing a 5.5" Quad HD panel" It's 5.7"

2. Cheezwiz

Posts: 500; Member since: Dec 29, 2014

Reality check for Samsung in 3, 2, 1... All I can say is that I hope consumers can begin to realize the amount of value that exists in some such offerings. Good stuff!

3. Phonejunkie

Posts: 12; Member since: Aug 27, 2014

Any news on the release date for Asus with 4GB of ram? Do they have one at the show?

26. haydeezz

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

androidcentral.com/asus-zenfone-2-4gb-ram-now-avai​lable-taiwan-220

4. 777light777

Posts: 63; Member since: Aug 14, 2013

Zenfone 2 wins! Even if the 4GB version is $500! :D

7. Chuck007

Posts: 1410; Member since: Mar 02, 2014

Exactly what I wanted to say. Never thought I'd ever prefer an ASUS Zenfone over a Galaxy Note lol

5. ruwie

Posts: 103; Member since: Sep 25, 2014

benchmark please. :)

6. iPhoneboy597

Posts: 13; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

I'm sorry but why are you comparing a midrange phone to an upper range phone?

8. guest

Posts: 372; Member since: Jun 13, 2012

Because they are actually really close in spec except in the price dept. The Atom processor is pretty on par with the 805 except you can have 4 GB of ram which I would much rather have than a higher ppi.

24. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

Because the so called midrange phone u talk about is head on head with the high range phones.

9. UNC_BOOYAH

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 06, 2015

So the Asus ZenFone 2 will be available March 2015, with the 16GB models starting at $199 USD. Kind of excited to get my hands on one.

10. greenelektron

Posts: 537; Member since: Sep 10, 2014

"Still, this (Zen UI) is no match for the Note 4's TouchWiz interface, which is arguably the most feature-rich one in the Android universe, bloated or not, ..." -OMG i am laughing really hard to this statement. I will get the note 4 if its selling at $300 rigth now. On the other hand i am sitting here with my $250 ready for the zenfone2 anyday.

11. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Impressive ASUS, nice camera and great price.

12. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Sadly Note 4 Picture Stabilization mode(Night Mode) wasnt turned on.

13. TAMARETTE

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 15, 2014

This comparison leaves a lot of questions. Firstly, was the Zenphone in the comparison using 4 or 2 gb? It seems to be using 2. If that's the case then it's no match for the Note's 3 gb. Secondly, the Zenphone starts at 16gb storage and the Note starts at 32. The Note has amazing battery life and still manages the superior display. It is also thinner and has a removable battery. And frankly it's a lot better looking. The Zenphone is god-awful ugly and plastic to boot. Not one word of the Note's Gorilla Glass 4 or metal bezel. Let's put that sucker against an iPhone with a lousy1 gb memory and even larger frame (and to be fair, just ignore design as you did in this comparison). Then the iPhone would be destroyed in every category.

14. poddey

Posts: 77; Member since: Mar 22, 2012

Ummm... the Zenfone is less than half the price of the Note 4.

15. TAMARETTE

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 15, 2014

I know. And I applaud any manufacturer that wants to lower the cost of smartphones. But the thing isn't for sale yet and this isn't a price comparison. Heck, there can be no price comparison until the thing is for sale someplace. So if we are basing this on quality, form factor, screen, camera, memory and everything else, the Note 4 blows this thing away. The only thing that is for sure is that the Atom Z3580 has been around a year now and does well against the 801 and 805 even in many cases. But against the 810 I'm not so sure. The Atom's memory bandwidth is about half the bandwidth of the 810. It also uses LPDDR3 as opposed to LPDDR4 on the Qualcomm 810 and new Exynos. Is this an end of life component? Surely Intel have other tricks up their sleeves for 2015? If so, the zenphone 2 will not be part of the new generation but a very good effort using 2014 technology. Yes, it's cheaper. And an examination of just how Asus managed it is in order. But for now, as my da says "You get what you pay for".

16. Mike_W

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

Wow, sounds like someone bought a Note 4 and is trying hard to defend it. Buyers remorse?? Either way, here are some things to keep in mind. The ZenFone 2 is not cheap plastic, it's made of brushed aluminum, not just a metal chassis with a plastic back like the Note 4. Sure, the ZenFone 2 ships with 16GB of Storage, but for $200 for the whole phone, I'd gladly spend the additional $14 on eBay and by a 64GB micro SD card and bump it up, that makes the $214 ZenFone 2 with 85GB of Storage (including the lifetime 5GB of online storage) an amazing value. As for the Atom processor being considered dated, you speak of the 810 which hasn't even shipped in a phone yet. The Atom will power this phone fine for quite a while, at least for a year or more, and for $200 it's not a big deal if it becomes outdated, unlike the Note 4 which will be outdated by March and will cost a user over $850 (off contract and more than $850 over the course of a 2-year agreement), in terms of new available processors. That's not even taking into account the Atom is a 64-bit chip, whereas the 805, which is in the Note 4, is not. Sure the ZenFone 2 has a 13MP camera, while the Samsung has 16MP camera, but Megapixels don't mean better photos, they mean larger picture sizes in output. The low light test shown on the ZP2 is impressive, especially in a $200 phone and way better than the Note 4. As for Gorilla Glass 3 compared to 4, 3 isn't anything to scoff at and with a nice, crisp 5.5 1080p it is perfectly clear. The display will also run apps smoother and more battery efficient, as well as be more compliant with existing apps. On top of that, the ZenFone 2 will come running Android 5.0 right out of the box, and while it's not stock Android, ASUS's ZenUI is absolutely a better experience than Samsung's bloated TouchWiz, which has been shown time and time again as slowing down even their fastest, most powerful devices. So from a consumer standpoint, minus a Stylus and some horrible gimmicky software, they can buy a 5.5-inch smartphone, with the latest OS, plenty of storage, with quick and snappy performance and a great low-light performing camera all for $214 (including that extra storage of ebay, since that seems to be a dealbreaker for you). Overall, I think we'll start to see better smartphones from smaller companies at a better price. OnePlus and Oppo changed the game, now we have a proven OEM delivering the goods at an amazing price. Samsung will fill the hurt. In fact, they already are, according to their latest earnings report that clearly shows declining sales over the past year and half. So you can try to defend the Note 4 as a the "superior" device and while on paper that may be true, but when it comes down to price, consumer experience and value, the ZenFone beats the Note 4, hands down.

18. TAMARETTE

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 15, 2014

Where did you read that the Zenphone was made of brushed aluminum? Everyone is talking about it's "metallic finish" and saying it's just like the LG G3. The LG G3 is PLASTIC with a "metallic finish" which according to LG’s chief designer Chul Bae Lee is " It’s still plastic, only now it’s mixed with an added layer of anti-scratch and fingerprint-resistant material". So you FAIL honey. The Note 4 at least has real metal in it's design. The Note 4 camera has been conceded by a number of publications to be the best smartphone camera around, period. Zenphone's low light software is remarkable, but the camera itself is nothing to write home about. Plus it only records 1080p video. Whether you like it or not, the fact remains that the Atom processor featured in the Zenphone 2 was released in April of 2014. It also has half the memory bandwidth and only uses LPDDR3 memory. As far as your remark that there is no 810 phone out yet, well there are a few of them announced at CES just like the Zenphone 2, and the Zenphone isn't for sale any more than they are. Your nasty remarks about gimmicks and touchwiz serve only to identify YOU as the fanboy. Good lord, the Note 4 has absolutely drool worthy ratings across the board. As for the lagginess of touchwiz, there you have a point. But you must also be aware of the new Touchwiz Lollipop builds which have eliminated lag and are actually more responsive and fluid than vanilla Lollipop. The Zenphone 2 "Zen" interface has been given a pass because nobody has seen it run in the wild. Unlike you, I will reserve comment on it until I have seen an actual Asus Zenphone 2 phone running in the real world. And for your final charge, no I do not own a Note 4, but I am still planning to purchase one in the next few weeks, after I see what the Galaxy S6 has in store. Your only valid point, and one which I made myself, is that yes it's great to see the hardware and software priced so low. This is nothing new and every smartphone manufacturer knows that low end and especially middle market phones are getting closer and closer to top-end and it's harder and harder to justify the price gap. But if any phone does not deserve such censure, it's the Note 4 line. Reserve those attacks for phones such as the IPhone 6 and 6 + which still use 1 gb of memory and whose cameras and displays lag behind Android competitors.

19. Mike_W

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

Here's your link - androidpolice .com/2015/01/05/asus-rocks-ces-with-the-low-price-​high-spec-zenfone-2-4gb-ram-lollipop-and-flagship-​looks-starting-at-199/ (close the gap between the . com) While it says a brushed metal finish, I have yet to see anyone label it as plastic. If you have proof, please show me. I'm willing to admit I'm wrong if I see it. Secondly, as I said before, the Note 4 may be the best Android phone on paper, but when it comes to a consumer standpoint, when they hold both devices in their hand and see a display roughly the same size, that to the naked eye, appears to both be crisp in terms of visuals and the fact they both allow for expandable storage, they are going to see a massive price difference. Both offer Android, both by March will offer Lollipop, both offer smooth performance, both take great images, even if the Note 4 is slightly better. They also have big batteries for long life. The only thing that lacks for the ZF2 is there's no stylus, thus no gimmicky features. Having owned a Note 3, the only time I used the stylus was when I used Sketchbook, that's it. Most people really don't use it to draw on their photos or all the silly things we see in promos. My father, who owns a Note 4 (for the past week) says he got it because he liked the big screen (he previously owned a Nexus 5, which died), but has no use for the stylus, so he took it out and put in the box so if he sells it, he won't have lost it. I've had other friends who all, like me, have used the stylus for the first two weeks, only to find that taking it out every time becomes a chore and with a large screen, it's just easier to use a finger. So in those terms, yes, the stylus and its software are gimmicks. Minus those gimmicks, a consumer needs to say, can I get the same or similar experience from both of these devices? If so, why does the Note 4 cost $450 more? They can buy a ZenFone 2 for $200 with NO contract, that's $50 cheaper than a Note ON contract. As for the iPhone 6/6+, unless you truly understand hardware and software integration, please don't spew your words of "only 1GB of RAM" to me. What Apple does with their integration is untouchable by other OEM's. They've proven time and time again that their software, when paired with specific hardware, can outperform Android's top devices. Case in point, the game Vain Glory, look it up, that game is running on iOS 8, with 1GB RAM and is flawless, no stutter, no lag, just fluid 60 FPS action with beautiful real-time lighting and partical effects. iOS continues to be the benchmark for any mobile OS when it comes to user experience and fluidity. That is not opinion, that is fact. You're comparing Apple's to Oranges (no pun intended). That is the oldest argument that has never held water. As for the camera on the 6+ vs the Note 4, very close, but the iPhone still wins, when it comes to pictures. Video, I'll tip my hat to the Note 4.

20. TAMARETTE

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 15, 2014

I cannot post hyperlinks but google this: vrworld: CES2015 Asus Unveils Zenphone 2: Last two sentences in second pargraph: The power button has been moved up top, which may be a concern for some given the size of the handset. The finish at the back looks like it is brushed metal, but is in fact textured plastic.

21. Mike_W

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

Point taken, I stand corrected. That being said, the success of Samsung apparently wasn't hampered because of plastic backs, nor was the LG G2/G3. But metal certainly does feel more premium, it also costs more too, Hence the $850 off-contract asking price. I still say the ASUS ZenFone 2 is a better value and probably experience for many consumers, certainly not all.

22. TAMARETTE

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 15, 2014

Well done. You are a gentleman and man of your word. We will agree to disagree (and I hope mutually respect) with one another. I myself have no love for metal. I prefer plastic especially when it's done so well as on the Zenfone 2 that people are actually taking it for metal: including it seems, some websites that should know better. As far as the iPhone, again, we will just agree to disagree. My pov on the iPhone is that yes it runs well on 1 gb of Ram. But to me that is because it is missing a lot of higher level features (not every Samsung feature is a gimmick and a lot of them have been incorporated into Android itself).. The iPhone does what it does quite well (at least until 8.0) but compared to Android, it doesn't do a lot. As for customer satisfaction, Samsung has the best customer satisfaction in the market today, including the iPhone.

23. Mike_W

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

We can certainly agree to disagree, that's what makes the world go round. Difference of opinions and personal choice is a great thing. I've enjoyed our little debate. No hard feelings I hope, as I've taken nothing personally. Do you have a Twitter? Mine's @MikeWewerka - it's be fun to follow you who knows, maybe we will agree one day. :)

25. haydeezz

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

true you can`t compare them.. and yes.. there is allready a 4gb ram phone.. but who cares? i mean from my point of view., samsung good part is putting a lot of sensors on phones..that`s why is a big price.! anyway as a normal user let`s face it.. most of people use "facebook.. some photos from time to timee some selfie... some upload viodeo.. youtube.. surfing the internet.. send email.. sms .. calls... and at the end if a phone do thos thins perfectly with no lag that`s just fine.! i guess asus is about that thing.. makeing the daily normal rutine phone use working just fine and there will be no need to pay extra money for more sensors or things like that.. is for people who do normal things with the phone for me personaly i`ll go for 2gb ram cose i don`t see the point of 4 bg... i`ll not play 3 games in same time.! all i care is normal applications to work just fine with no lag.! and for that all u need is some rams and a decent proccesor. i bet most of apps maybe 80% of play store apps works just fine with even lower stats on a phone. so the diference betwen thos 2 phones is the sensors.. samsung have more sensors.. as proccesor i don`t care what proccesors they have as long as whatever i open on my phone it open preaty fast. about ugly ? hmm samsung is ugly as hell same as asus, so the comparation.. "camera for sure samsung is better.. but i`m just fine with a asus camera too .. i`ll not go for "oh look what a cool photo i done.. is just a photo done with a phone.. even 8mp camera is fine.. as display i`ll prefer the ips more then superamoled.. as design.. i like none.. as performance.. they both have more power then is needed for what most of the people use the phone in 80% of the time as battery .. i guess whatever phone u have if it hold 1 day is ok... no matter too much u can always charge phone when ur sleeping or whatever u can use external usb battery if u know u have problems.. so is about money ... i`ll go for asus.. is cheaper and satisfy me ... i`ll not need more power.! anyway i`ll like if u will be able to tell me someting that this asus will have dificult todo/run? or to show me a way where u gona say "look how bad is doing in comparation with whatever samsung iphone top phones do.. and is a normal user experience that you doing it every day ? thank you

17. Niva.

Posts: 440; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

I would entertain this device, or the LG flex 2, if they came with pure Google software. I'm not sure why these manufacturers insist on skinning Android, slowing it down in the process, and making upgrades to the OS a painful process to the end users. If they really believe their skins add something to Android why not make Touchwiz, Sense, Zen and etc apps that the users can download through Google Play? Because we all know what the result will be, very few people would use them, basically ones who care to customize their phones. Impressive work by Asus though, neat device at a good price.

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