At this point, you can’t call ASUS a newcomer in the smartphone business anymore. And for a brand that can be a good or bad thing. You can’t use excuses for mistakes that can be attributed to being a neophyte anymore. Whatever fumbles happen will be on you. But the great thing is whatever good thing happens can be built on, too. How has ASUS been able to meet these challenges in the ZenFone 4? We find out below.

All too familiar but not really. The ZenFone 4 has a familiar ASUS feel to it. We’ve seen its silhouette in the previous generation and the concentric circle pattern on the back pays homage to the design ASUS has been cultivating throughout the years from across its product lines. At the same time, it feels a bit more refined, too. It feels good and premium in hand. With its aluminum unibody, it screams quality. It’s thin and light but feels solid. The cameras at the back don’t protrude and ASUS was able to hide the antenna bands at the top and bottom of the device. It tapers off gently to the sides, too. But it does feel a bit slippery. If you have butterfingers, use the included jelly case. It’s not the most exciting design but it looks classy and for some, that’s more than enough.

Screen talk. ASUS packs in a 5.5-inch Full HD Super IPS+ display into the ZenFone 4. The size is more than adequate for my average-sized hands. The bezels are nearly borderless to the sides, which is great, but we still get top and bottom bezels as ASUS opted to house the fingerprint sensor in the front of the device this time, doing away with the awkwardly shaped sensors of the previous generation. The screen is exceptionally bright, even under direct sunlight. I’ve had no issue using this outdoors.

Photo love. ASUS has always been proud of the photo-taking capabilities of their devices. They kick it up a notch with the ZenFone 4 line, even using the tagline “We Love Photo” for the new phones. And thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. Photos come out bright and color reproductions pretty decent. Focus is pretty quick, too. The dual-camera setup for the ZenFone 4 combines a 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensor with 5x light sensitivity and an 8-megapixel, 120-degree wide-angle camera. This gives you the option to get more of the background or more people into a photo.

Toggling between the two camera modes can be done easily with a tap of the icon. And you’ll notice a slight difference in quality with the two cameras. The main one obviously having a bit of the upper hand here as expected. Where I feel the cameras play to their strengths is with the boosted light sensitivity in the main shooter. Low light shots can come out fantastic, especially if you work in Pro mode, which is what the company calls its Manual mode. You can achieve some pretty good Portrait shots, too, with the Portrait mode that works for both front and rear cameras.

Taken using the main camera of the ZenFone 4

Taken using the wide-angle camera of the ZenFone 4

Playing around with Portrait mode

The front camera isn’t particularly fantastic but it isn’t bad either. You can get some pretty natural-looking photos without the enhancements. If you are into those enhancements, ASUS has its Selfie Master app built in to let you adjust the “Beauty Level” or how brushed up you’ll look in the shot or video. This actually works for livestreaming on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, too.

Selfie with HDR on

For video, you have the option to record up to 4K UHD, which we’ve come to expect, and with combined optical and electronic image stabilization, you can get some pretty great clips, especially outdoors. You unfortunately can’t toggle between the main and secondary rear cameras when you shoot.

The good things and then some. One of my favorite things on the ZenFone 4 is its great battery life. PCMark rates it at nine hours and 56 minutes. I easily got around 10 hours too with video test. I had the brightness maxed, volume at its highest, and Wi-Fi on. The phone’s general performance is decent, too. I’ve had it freeze up on a couple of times but not enough to cause an alarm. It’s a capable device on its own.

The biggest point of contention with the ZenFone 4, though, is its price. Over the months since it’s been out, people have been talking about its price tag. It’s the company’s biggest hurdle for getting the phone into more hands. But as a believer of getting what you pay for, you do feel like you’re getting a quality product with this device. Some won’t agree as ASUS has been able to make decent phones at a lower price. But for a brand to grow, you would need to expand beyond what you’re currently making. And the ZenFone 4 feels like an evolution in that respect.

VERDICT 
ASUS ZenFone fans looking for better options will appreciate the ZenFone 4. But admittedly the excitement in the sub-P20k smartphone market can detract from it.

Specifications
Display 5.5” Full HD Super IPS+ (1,920 x 1,080 resolution)
SIM Dual nano
Operating System Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 64-bit
GPU Adreno 512
Memory 6GB RAM
Storage 64GB, expandable up to 2TB via microSD (uses SIM 2 slot)
Camera 12MP Sony IMX362 w/ f/1.8 aperture + 8MP 120-degree wide-angle dual rear, OIS 4-axis, dual pixel PDAF w/ dual LED flash; 8MP front w/ f/2.0 aperture
Connectivity & I/O Ports 4G LTE; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0; NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS; USB Type-C
Security Front-mounted fingerprint sensor
Battery 3,300mAh
Dimensions and Weight 155.4 x 75.2 x 7.5mm, 165g
Price P28,995
Test: ASUS ZenFone 4: The evolution
FORM FACTOR9
BUILD QUALITY9.5
EASE OF USE9
PERFORMANCE9
VALUE FOR MONEY8.8
9.1Overall Score