No, you’re not back in 2014. We’re not doing a throwback. What we are doing is seemingly coming into full circle. After changing its name convention for its smartphone, ASUS has made its way back to 5. This time, they’re not referring to the screen size. But there is a similarity to the first ZenFone 5 is to the 2018 model. It provides a capable smartphone at a more attractive price point. Does it hold up this time?

A rework. The ZenFone 4 wasn’t met with as much enthusiasm as its predecessors. And so ASUS set out to rebuild its smartphone brand. It redesigned the ZenFone 5 from the ground up to make it look like a 2018-ready phone. And partly that meant it was going to look like the iPhone X. It is a phone sporting its own notch. It comes with a glass back and front, curved edges, rounded corners, and ASUS’ signature concentric circle design. From the front though, you can certainly mistake it for the Apple flagship and ASUS hasn’t been shy to admit that they have taken inspiration from it.

With the glass sandwiching the device, it’s a guaranteed fingerprint magnet. You won’t keep this pristine unless you wipe profusely. And it’s quite slippery, I’ve had a couple of accidents of this phone slipping out of my hands. You might need to use the plastic case the phone comes with.

All about the screen. Whether you like the notch or not, it’s here to stay. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hide the notch just yet. I personally don’t mind it and with a 6.2-inch Full HD+ screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio, you get a whole lot of screen to work with. But what’s impressive is the actual footprint of the phone is smaller because of this nearly bezel-less approach. It makes handling the phone easier. The screen is crisp and bright with great color reproduction, accuracy, and viewing angles. And with what ASUS claims is artificial intelligence technology, it has auto color temperature adjustment, too, which will adjust depending on the environment you find yourself in.

Power through. Positioned as an upper mid-range device, the ZenFone 5 could easily handle what I threw at it, most of the time. Occasional crashes happened but not enough to be alarming. Lag was kept to a minimum even if I quickly switch between apps. It would let me play Asphalt Xtreme without much of problem. ASUS attributes it to AI again and how the phone’s capacity for deep learning helps the processor handle more demanding tasks with ease. Users will supposedly see the benefits of this in the long run.

Less goes a long way. One great thing about the new ZenFone 5 is the lesser amount of pre-installed apps in the phone. ASUS listened to its users and decided to cull the amount of apps that come with the device.

And how long it can go. The ZenFone 5 has a pretty solid battery life, scoring nine hours and 15 minutes on PCMark’s battery benchmark test. I could easily last through an eight-hour work day and carry that over to a few hours into the next morning.

Serviceable shooter. In general, the photos you can take with the ZenFone 5 are vibrant, sharp, and have great detail. That is, if you’re working with good lighting conditions. The dual rear camera setup you get with this phone has a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 lens to help you out with low-light and portrait shots and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens to get more into a shot. AI makes its appearance here, too, as the phone can supposedly analyze what you’re shooting and adjust the settings accordingly. The wide-angle lens is fun to play around with, and yes, you still get that fish eye effect with it. Its depth mode is a bit of hit or miss but be patient with it and you’ll get some pretty amazing shots.

Low-light images require you have steady hand for it to focus. Hopefully, this is something ASUS can improve on in future iterations. The photos are a bit grainy but they can work. You can add filters to them to make them look intentional. The front camera will let you take portrait shots as well. You get some pretty decent selfies out of this camera.

VERDICT

ASUS is on the right track with the changes it introduced in the ZenFone 5, an updated look, less bloatware, decent performance across the board—all at a more compelling price. It’s not the best in its price range but it won’t disappoint old ZenFone fans looking to upgrade to the latest generation.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 6.2” Full HD+ IPS (2,246 x 1,080 resolution) w/ 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass

SIM: Dual hybrid

Operating system: Android 8.0 Oreo with ASUS ZenUI 5.0

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 1.8GHz octa-core

GPU: Adreno 509

Memory: 4GB RAM

Storage: 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD slot

Cameras: Dual: 12MP (f/1.8, 24mm, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, PDAF) + 8MP (f/2.0, 12mm, 1/4″, 1.12µm) rear w/ phase detection autofocus, gyro EIS, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, up to 2160p@30fps video; 8MP front (f/2.0, 24mm, 1/4″, 1.12µm), gyro EIS, 1080p

Connectivity & I/O ports: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot; Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE; GPS w/ A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS; NFC; USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0

Security: Fingerprint sensor

Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 3,300mAh

Dimensions & weight: 153 x 75.7 x 7.9mm, 155g

Price: P19,995

Test: ASUS ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL)
FORM FACTOR8
BUILD QUALITY8.3
EASE OF USE8.5
PERFORMANCE8.8
VALUE FOR MONEY8.5
8.4Overall Score

About The Author

Nicole Batac
Managing Editor

Nicole calls herself an accidental techie that has learned to love all things consumer tech since she started with this line of work around seven years ago. In her spare time, she devours books, TV shows, movies, and a large amount of Japan-related entertainment.

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