Asus ZenFone 5 hands-on


Asus surprised us with the unveiling of a new line of affordable smartphones for the wider public today, at CES2014, and in a good way. The new series will be called ZenFone and they offer a pretty decent bang for your buck, should you ever find yourself looking for a deal, as opposed to the very latest in tech. The ZenFone 5, is, without a doubt, the more interesting of the trio of new budget phones, if only because it's diagonal measures at 5-inches -- the current Android sweet spot. But does a $149 price tag manage as much? Let's have a quick, cursory look.


Design


The design of the Asus ZenFone 5 is quite simplistic, but that actually won it extra points with us, and we sure liked the way the Taiwanese company styled this one. It's got a slightly curved, but ergonomic soft-touch rear casing that comes in a truly rich palette of colors -- from black, through white down to yellow, red and blue, with a number of extra options available, making this a truly customizable phone. It features capacitive buttons over at the bottom bezel, right underneath which, you'll find a metalic strip that adds just enough character to the ZenFone 5. This, in addition to the wide array of color options, helps the phone to stand out from the crowd. 

This is not an award-winning design, folks, but it's pretty darn sexy, all things considered.

Display


The ZenFone 5 features a 5-inch, 720x1280 pixel resolution IPS display. As with most such panels, we're treated to a sufficiently crisp viewing experience, life-like colors and relatively decent viewing angles. Asus has managed to strike a balance with the amount of bezels, too -- there's some extra fatty plastic on the bottom, but the sides are perfectly adequate for this price range. Overall, while this 5-inch panel won't wow anybody, we found it more than appropriate.

Interface


Another fairly important announcement that Asus made today is the introduction of a new custom UI that it cooked in-house. Called ZenUI, the new interface is built on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and seeks to simplify the user experience, and it really feels quite pleasant. On a first look, it proved responsive and snappy, and a good effort overall -- we do know how paradoxically complicated it is to simplify things without butchering the entire experience in the process.

Best of all, Asus is promising some serious software support, as an Android 4.4 KitKat is apparently not too far off.

Processor and memory


Powering the Asus ZenFone 5 is an 2GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2580 chipset. Now, dual-cores have definitely lost their appeal as we're bombarded with as many as eight-core chips, yet Intel's little warrior has proven that it's not to be underestimated. In other words, while it won't bring you Snapdragon 800-class performance, it is perfectly capable of operating the ZenFone 5 without any noticeable stutters.

Memory is at about the same level -- 1GB. So, spacious enough for the most common set of task, but not exactly high-end. This, of course, makes sense, as we can't help but stress the low price point.

Camera


An 8-megapixel shooter is what you'll find on the soft-touch, plasticky rear of the ZenFone 5. With an aperture of f/2.0, we're actually hoping that Asus' new phone won't end up on our list of camera units that show great discrepancies between performance on paper and in real life, and the company surely suggests as much. We're speaking, of course, of its new PixelMaster software that it seems fairly proud with. Whether this will prove to be yet another marketing tool, however, remains to be seen

Expectations


There are no two ways about it -- this is one aggressively-priced phone. What's even better is the fact that we actually found the ZenFone 5 to be pleasing in terms of looks -- a rarity among budget handsets nowadays. Depending on when and where Asus markets this 5-incher, we could definitely see the company moving a bunch of units. Unfortunately, this won't hold nearly as much truth if Asus targets these at the massively price-conscious Chinese market, where incumbents are already offering more for less.

Related phones

ZenFone 5 (A502CG)
  • Display 5.0" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Intel Atom, Dual-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 8 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2110 mAh

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15 Comments

1. DanielWalsh1294

Posts: 18; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

Awesome phone for the price.

2. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

Looks like the Moto G actually has competition at this price point now, impressive.

3. hurrycanger

Posts: 1775; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

The Moto G just got MotoGed again.

4. DanielWalsh1294

Posts: 18; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

I'm excited that cheap Android phones are much better now and they are worth it.

5. Spikes9s

Posts: 52; Member since: Aug 09, 2013

Best value for money smartphone right here:) and from and trusted company with reliable, fast updating software/firmware and great track record! Intel is the underdog and often overlooked (I have the Asus Fonepad 3G 7" with intel 1.6GHz and is already runnning the KK 4.4) this one is one phone to be watched in the value segment, beats the Moto G in almost all specs, faster CPU, bigger front and rear cameras, + microSD slot, bigger screen etc., all for awesome price point of under 150 bucs.... Who gives more????

7. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

I dont think you can count the big screen as a plus or negative, that is simply a preference. Due to its size it has a lower pixel density though, not that it is much of a difference. CPU is better than the one in the G, the rear camera should be better. Although, one thing the G has that this doesn't is the nano-coating that gives it a water resistance, which should be standard on all phones. And it seems to have worse connectivity than the G, not much though. Curious about the review and how the software on it is. It is an excellent value for the price.

8. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I personally think this is better than the Moto G in every aspect besides PPI.

11. Spikes9s

Posts: 52; Member since: Aug 09, 2013

You got it wrong: the Moto G is NOT WATER RESISTENT it might have a water repellent coating but no resistence.... connectivity is on par if not superior with the Moto G it only lacs the LTE from what I can gather...

12. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

What do you think that nano-coating is? It is water resistant, it is the same stuff this site was reporting about years ago, like liquipel or the P2i. That "repellent" coating is what makes it more resistant to damage from unintended drops in water or in the rain than a regular phone. It provides some protection from water damage, but nothing that should make you actively try to submerge it. There is a reason I said water resistant and not waterproof, because the two things dont mean the same. http://www.phonearena.com/news/P2i-liquid-repellent-nano-coating-demo_id29922http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-wzY4v1a0c&nofeather=True Look at the pages for the two phones and you can see what type of connectivity they both have. The Moto G has CDMA technology and 1 more gsm band than the ZenFone 5 and the ZenFone has the faster HSDPA+ (42.2 Mbps) standard while the G only has the 21.1 Mbps standard. The G also has Glonass in addition to the usual GPS, though that really isnt very important since I have never worried about not connecting to the the GPS system.

6. fireblade

Posts: 717; Member since: Dec 27, 2013

I'm waiting for this phone. I hope it won't disappoint me

9. kurdt

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

many are saying that this cpu is better than moto G, it is true in terms clock speed, but are we not going to consider the dual core vs quad core? Doesn't that affect much the performance of the phone?

10. Spikes9s

Posts: 52; Member since: Aug 09, 2013

It is a Intel Atom Z2580 dual core clocked at 2GHz with Quad-Thread Hyper-Threading technology meaning that is can still do 4 processes each clock cycle!!! Real life performance this CPU goes toe to toe with the likes of Samsung Exynos 5 Octa and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU's and will beat the crap out (well over 25K points in ANTUTU benchmark) of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2GHz !!! Soo just relax the only missing info is about the graphics part used in this ZenFone...

13. moh72

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 09, 2014

i'm not an iphone fan but i really like how they don't give a sh** about this core hype and stick to real performance and user exprience not number of cores

14. Ananthu

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

In ur face Moto G ..... Dunno whats going 2 be its price in India ...

15. clayton

Posts: 17; Member since: Jun 15, 2012

Well done Asus! A good phone for real people. Thank you.

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