Asus Zenfone 5 Review : The ultimate budget phone?


Despite trying having a large and popular PC market share, Asus have never really made managed to be known as a ‘great’  Android smartphone handset maker.  This hasn’t stopped them from trying though, and over the past few years we have seen some interesting devices from them, and the latest Zenfone 5 is one of them.

The Zenfone 5 has garnered so much attention that Indian tech outlets are even saying it is a rival to the nightly Xiaomi Mi3!

Is such a comparison fair? Is the Asus Zenfone 5 really that good? Let us tell you in the following review!

Asus Zenfone 5: A beautiful box with “nothing” inside

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Have you ever unboxed a device with a beautiful packaging and found almost nothing inside? Well, in this case you know how we felt when we opened the Zenfone’s packaging! There really isn’t much to see besides the phone, some paperwork, a USB cable and the obligatory wall charger. At least a pair of headphones would have been a nice addition to the package contents, but I suppose no buds are better than dud buds. Still a screen protector, silicone case etc would have been nice additions to the box.

Asus Zenfone 5 review: Didn’t we see that before?

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Takes the the Xiaomi Mi2, Oppo Find 7 and the OnePlus One, whack them all in a blender and out will come the Asus Zenfone 5. The design really is a mashup of styles. While the black Gorilla Glass front does looks a little like the Mi2 but with the Asus logo, status LED and the metal plate at the very bottom, the rear really looks  like a OnePlus One or Oppo Find 7 with its white or black (your choice) polycarbonate cover featuring a slightly curved design. At $160 that is far from a complaint though, this phone is extremely beautiful for the money.  It’s nice to see the hardware buttons are placed just where we prefer, i.e on the right with the power button above the volume rocker.

At 148.2 x 72.8 x 10.3mm the Asus Zenfone 5 isn’t the smallest phone available, in fact it is quite big for a 5-inch phone and is almost the same size as the 5.5-inch OnePlus One.

The rear panel is removable, but the battery is not. This is a trend we have seen a lot of recently and one that might concern some customers. Taking the rear off does have it’s use though and means you can get at the SIM tray.

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Asus Zenfone 5 review : 720p at it’s best

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A 720p display! on a phone featured in a review in late 2014! It seems a little odd we know, but the quality of the 5-inch 1280 x 720 screen on the Asus Zenfone is very good. Visually it won’t let you down and even after using high res phones over the past few months we didn’t feel the Asus was lacking.

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Its colors are really crisp, small details are rendered perfectly sharp and the contrast is also perfectly acceptable.

Lastly, we have to mention the probably most amazing feature of the Asus Zenfone 5. The screen is not only protected by Gorilla Glass but it also features a special nano coating to prevent fingerprints and smudges. A feature we would love to see on other phones.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : The power of x86

Dual-core – once you hear this term you might think back to Chinese phones we had back in 2012: Utterly slow and not even close to anything you would call “good performance”. But wait, we are not talking about some ARM dual-core chipset here! The Asus Zenfone 5 does actually come with an Intel Atom Z2580 processor, which is based on the x86 architecture you know from your computer.

Now there are lots of voices rising up and say that there isn’t any noticeable difference between an ARM chipset and an x86 chipset for mobile applications, but trust us when we say there definitely is! Even though the Z2580 is a dual-core SoC, it features amazing performance, especially when considering the price tag. Benchmark results are quite similar to a Snapdragon 400, yet the performance is a lot better. Everything runs smooth and snappy, which makes using the phone a real pleasure. Only the GPU, which is a PowerVR SGX 544MP manages to let the gaming performance of the phone a little.

This chipset in combination with 2GB of RAM provides a powerful enough set-up for your daily tasks. Anyone not being into mobile high-end gaming will just love the Zenfone 5 for its performance.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : The “no signal” story

So here we come to the most basic feature of any handset: Receiving wireless network signals. Unfortunately, this is where the Asus begins to trip up. During our test we stumbled upon quite a few issues. First of all the signal strength of 3G networks is not that good. We’re not saying unusable, but noticeably worse than with other phones. We had quite a few locations where other phones had a perfect 3G signal, while the Asus Zenfone 5 hadn’t.

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Continuing with Wi-Fi things don’t look much better unfortunately. Moving away from the router results in a fast dropping signal strength. If you live in a building with several floors, this will for sure result in frequent signal losses. Thumbs down for this one, Asus!

GPS is kind of “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Though the first fix is takes a long time, follow-up “connections” are established fast with good signal strength with accuracy of up to 3 meters. It still is not as good as a phone with a Qualcomm processor though and you will loose GPS as soon as you enter a building.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : The wannabe camera phone

The Asus Zenfone 5 comes with a 8 mega pixel rear camera and a 2 mega pixel front one. The Asus camera app provides you with tons of features such as a turbo mode for fast shutter times, HDR mode, panorama mode, low light mode, miniature mode and all that kind of stuff that you usually expect from a higher priced phone. There is even a party camera app that lets you share pictures with nearby devices and a mirror app for the girls among you in need of refreshed makeup.

But you all will probably agree that all such features are nonsense if the camera sensor is not the best one. And exactly this is the case here. It for sure isn’t the worst camera we’ve ever seen in a phone, but it is far away from being amazing. Just have a look at the camera of the Xiaomi Redmi 1S. This phone perfectly shows off how great a camera in a budget phone can be. Cut this quality in half and you get the camera of the Zenfone 5. In short, it is lacking quite some depth of field, the colors aren’t vivid enough and there is a lot of noise as soon when images are snapped in the dark. The same applies to the front camera.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : A beefed up Android 4.3

The Zenfone 5 comes with an Android 4.3 ROM, running a custom UI called Asus ZenUI. During daily use this appears to be quite a nicely done piece of software. It still remains a classic Android, but with a sleeker looking interface and some added features. During our daily usage, it appeared that using a phone with ZenUI is a little more time efficient than a plain stock Android. The whole concept tries to have the most important features handy for you at any time, which really makes life a little easier. Surfing the web and want to create a note about something? Simply swipe down the notification list and hit the appropriate button. It’s things like that, which make this phone a little more unique and set it apart from competitors. Feel free to have a sneak peek using the images below.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : Battery eater

A 2,110mAh battery sounds like quite enough for a dual-core processor, and it basically would be if it would use an ARM chipset. Yet, here we have one disadvantage of the x86 architecture: It takes up more energy! Now in the case of the Asus Zenfone 5 this means that you might get over a day if you don’t use your phone too heavily, but you will need a wall plug-in the evening for sure. And if you are a heavy user: Forget about this phone, it’s not for you. There is no way to get more than 2.5 hours of screen-on time while really using the phone. The fact that the battery can not be replaced is just a thing that makes the situation worse.

Asus Zenfone 5 review : Conclusion

Now that’s the end of this review already. Time to collect all pros and cons and build a solid tower of conclusion out of it. So lets quickly list them!

Pros

  • A nice design and build quality
  • Very good performance except for gaming
  • Good screen
  • Fingerprint and scratch resistance
  • Well done Custom ROM
  • A low price tag

Cons

  • Below average reception quality
  • Bad battery life
  • Bad camera(s)
  • Maybe for some a lack of accessories that come with the phone

So we have more pros than cons, which is good, but sadly the cons are pretty significant. Now it is a fact that some of the cons or more or less important, depending on your needs and where you live. So it is probably safe to say that for the price, you get a solid brand phone. But you should carefully consider if any of these flaws will seriously conflict with your daily life. If this is not the case, you probably won’t regret a purchase. Currently the Asus Zenfone 5 is priced at $160 to $200, depending on where you buy it and which version you buy.

Thanks to electrofame.com for providing us with a review sample.

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30 Comments

  1. mikky
    September 2, 2014

    lol bad signal, bad battery, bad camera, bad price
    what is this phone good for? Redmi 1S at 50% lower price proves better that this wannabe “smart”phone

    • Gabriele Bonomo
      September 12, 2014

      I don’t recommend th redmi 1s (I have it).Zte v5 redbull is a better choice 😉

  2. oc
    September 2, 2014

    Only pro?

    Intel Inside…

    They should better speed down the processor and up the GPU…

    For the price I’m writing from a DG550 with KitKat inside…

    😉

    • September 3, 2014

      Well, you definitely pay the brand name. Those guys who only want brand phones but aren’t willing to pay much or get a used device will get what they are looking for here. Another pro of the Zenfone series is that it is becoming available officially within a lot of countries right now. Here in Germany they launched it as well. Quite expensive though and not worth the money at €250. For this junk of money you get a Meizu MX4 from China.

  3. Guest
    September 2, 2014

    lol bad signal, bad battery, bad camera, bad price
    what is this phone good for? Redmi 1S at 50% lower price proves better that this wannabe “smart”phone

    • Gabriele Bonomo
      September 12, 2014

      I don’t recommend th redmi 1s (I have it).Zte v5 redbull is a better choice 😉

  4. September 2, 2014

    I would like a cell phone with a camera button. But it seems that in the current dual seem breed (Redmi 1S, Asus Zenphone) there is no this alternative.

    • Anon
      September 2, 2014

      Can’t you simply use a volume button?

      • September 2, 2014

        mmm, thanks for the data. I’ve a tablet without camera button and I couldn’t find a parameter to use another button to trigger it. Perhaps do you refer to use another camera app different from the stock one?

        • Anon
          September 4, 2014

          Most stock camera apps should have an option to use volume button as a shutter button, if yours is lacking this option, then try to use an alternative one.
          There are many on GP, however I’ve never used any of them and I cannot recommend any.

  5. Guest
    September 2, 2014

    Only pro?

    Intel Inside…

    They should better speed down the processor and up the GPU…

    For the price I’m writing from a DG550 with KitKat inside…

    😉

    • Christopher Straßer
      September 3, 2014

      Well, you definitely pay the brand name. Those guys who only want brand phones but aren’t willing to pay much or get a used device will get what they are looking for here. Another pro of the Zenfone series is that it is becoming available officially within a lot of countries right now. Here in Germany they launched it as well. Quite expensive though and not worth the money at €250. For this junk of money you get a Meizu MX4 from China.

  6. ReinoldFZ .
    September 2, 2014

    I would like a cell phone with a camera button. But it seems that in the current dual seem breed (Redmi 1S, Asus Zenphone) there is no this alternative.

    • Guest
      September 3, 2014

      Can’t you simply use a volume button?

    • ReinoldFZ .
      September 3, 2014

      mmm, thanks for the data. I’ve a tablet without camera button and I couldn’t find a parameter to use another button to trigger it. Perhaps do you refer to use another camera app different from the stock one?

    • Guest
      September 4, 2014

      Most stock camera apps should have an option to use volume button as a shutter button, if yours is lacking this option, then try to use an alternative one.
      There are many on GP, however I’ve never used any of them and I cannot recommend any.

  7. Alex
    September 2, 2014

    Meh… $50, maybe…but $150-200? LOL!!!! Like others have already said, poor battery life with no chance of removing it (what were they thinking), noisy (mediocre) cameras, not worth the selling price…

    I would rather buy a lightly used Galaxy Note 3 for $200 (which I have ;-p) , never gave me more or less trouble from a brand new one, so there lol…

    Now lets scale things up a bit. Plenty of people around the world buy cars that are approximately 2-3 years old and are perfectly fine with saving thousands on (new car) depreciation values. Also most of those same people buy previously owned homes, meself included. So why do people get their panties in a bunch when the idea of someone else looking at dirty picture on that smart phone before you do causes such an uproar… I really enjoy my Note 3 and I could care less that an X-ray tech had his hands on it before I did….

    Funny part is, after an hour, I took another look at the rear camera shots above, and I’ve seen worse…

  8. Alex
    September 3, 2014

    Meh… $50, maybe…but $150-200? LOL!!!! Like others have already said, poor battery life with no chance of removing it (what were they thinking), noisy (mediocre) cameras, not worth the selling price…

    I would rather buy a lightly used Galaxy Note 3 for $200 (which I have ;-p) , never gave me more or less trouble from a brand new one, so there lol…

    Now lets scale things up a bit. Plenty of people around the world buy cars that are approximately 2-3 years old and are perfectly fine with saving thousands on (new car) depreciation values. Also most of those same people buy previously owned homes, meself included. So why do people get their panties in a bunch when the idea of someone else looking at dirty picture on that smart phone before you do causes such an uproar… I really enjoy my Note 3 and I could care less that an X-ray tech had his hands on it before I did….

    Funny part is, after an hour, I took another look at the rear camera shots above, and I’ve seen worse…

  9. JoeB
    September 4, 2014

    The 1.6 Ghz / 2 GB RAM version has a SERIOUS wi-fi issue….I tried 3 different wi-fi-ports but to no avail. So you should be very aware about this intermittent connection issues

    • Rokib
      September 7, 2014

      itz bcz of cut micro sim use regular microsim not cut micro sim , problem will solve

  10. JoeB
    September 4, 2014

    Folks I own both the Redmi 1s and the Zenfone 5 16gb (1.6 Ghz) …..here’s my take if you are contemplating buying either of these

    ZENFONE 5 – THE BAD : Poor, glitchy wi-fi on 3 different router brands, dim screen, Horrible Battery life
    THE GOOD : Snappy (thx 2 gb RAM!), surprisingly excellent build, games will run smoother than the Redmi 1s

    REDMI 1s – THE BAD : Awful Design, Laggy, Battery life is inconsistent, No install to SD option
    THE GOOD : Better wifi / 3g connectivity vs Zenfone 5, Better customization

    Verdict : The Zenfone 5 would’ve been a runaway winner if not for the wi-fi problems, having said that, I would say the Zenfone 4 outshines the Redmi ever so slightly.

  11. Guest
    September 4, 2014

    The 1.6 Ghz / 2 GB RAM version has a SERIOUS wi-fi issue….I tried 3 different wi-fi-ports but to no avail. So you should be very aware about this intermittent connection issues

    • Rokib
      September 7, 2014

      itz bcz of cut micro sim use regular microsim not cut micro sim , problem will solve

  12. Guest
    September 4, 2014

    Folks I own both the Redmi 1s and the Zenfone 5 16gb (1.6 Ghz) …..here’s my take if you are contemplating buying either of these

    ZENFONE 5 – THE BAD : Poor, glitchy wi-fi on 3 different router brands, dim screen, Horrible Battery life
    THE GOOD : Snappy (thx 2 gb RAM!), surprisingly excellent build, games will run smoother than the Redmi 1s

    REDMI 1s – THE BAD : Awful Design, Laggy, Battery life is inconsistent, No install to SD option
    THE GOOD : Better wifi / 3g connectivity vs Zenfone 5, Better customization

    Verdict : The Zenfone 5 would’ve been a runaway winner if not for the wi-fi problems, having said that, I would say the Zenfone 4 outshines the Redmi ever so slightly.

  13. Tank Abbot
    February 27, 2015

    My wife bought this phone. Signal is perfect, everything works a treat. Camera not going to win any award but then thats par for the course. Batt maybe below average but as non gamer and light user fine for her. Build and style she loves. Bottom line. Damned fine phone for the money

  14. Guest
    February 28, 2015

    My wife bought this phone. Signal is perfect, everything works a treat. Camera not going to win any award but then thats par for the course. Batt maybe below average but as non gamer and light user fine for her. Build and style she loves. Bottom line. Damned fine phone for the money

  15. king david
    March 23, 2015

    I’m curious is this an original AUSU zenfone 5? A the original Zenfone 5 will have a earbuds headfon and the Intel inside logo are printed not paste on the back cover, specification zenfone 5 2GB rom 16GB ram Intel 1.6ghz processor

  16. king david
    March 23, 2015

    I’m curious is this an original AUSU zenfone 5? A the original Zenfone 5 will have a earbuds headfon and the Intel inside logo are printed not paste on the back cover, specification zenfone 5 2GB rom 16GB ram Intel 1.6ghz processor

  17. jammess
    May 29, 2016

    The battery is always as bad as Asus laptop battery.
    This battery bloated after 9 months new phone.
    Service said must call senior engineer inspect if screen bloated by battery and will cost a bomb.
    The phone quad core is slow especially open picture folders. Max 5 external apps in phone and still big empty memory.

    Cannot even compete with Samsung and I rate it 20% against Samsung/Apple,….

  18. Guest
    May 29, 2016

    The battery is always as bad as Asus laptop battery.
    This battery bloated after 9 months new phone.
    Service said must call senior engineer inspect if screen bloated by battery and will cost a bomb.
    The phone quad core is slow especially open picture folders. Max 5 external apps in phone and still big empty memory.

    Cannot even compete with Samsung and I rate it 20% against Samsung/Apple,….