Four months on, the Zenfone 2 remains a great option for the budget conscious, especially as prices have came down to around $380. I had a good impression of the phone at the launch event, and my original thoughts / comments still stand, I took it for a spin the last week or so and here’s an updated impression of the phone.
As a quick recap, the ZE551ML is powered by an Intel 2.3 GHz Quad-core processor, with 4GB of RAM, a 5.5″ Full HD display, a non-removable battery, and a micro SD expansion card. There are other versions of the Zenfone 2 as well, and more recently, ASUS announced in Brazil a Zenfone 2 Deluxe edition with a whopping 256GB of internal storage. It’s for those who want to carry around their entire digital library with them.
What I like
It remains a powerful smartphone that punches above it’s price category. The 4GB ram helps significantly when multitasking. I was able to switch smoothly between multiple apps and games, which can all be retained in memory. It’s no slouch when it comes to gaming too. Games like NBA Jam which had a tendency to heat up on a Snapdragon 810 (no issues on performance, just uncomfortably warm), ran smooth and cool on the Zenfone 2. I tried out other more demanding 3D shooters like Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8 and the framerate, gaming performance was good.
While the Zenfone 2 eschews premium components like metal and glass in favour of the plastic back, the casing is replaceable and the accessories from ASUS are decent and good quality. The original ASUS casing resembles a brushed aluminum back that looks the part, but is obvious when you touch it. There’s a pseudo leather casing, which resembles the LG cases, but ASUS did pay quite a bit of attention to the circle window apps, which are polished and functional. You have access to a circle clock, and also grants quick access to the calendar, flashlight, and camera. The phone automatically locks when you close the case, and turns on when you flip it open, useful if you like that sort of thing.
View Cover Features
- Weather View: See current weather conditions
- Camera Controls: Take photos without having to open your cover
- Music Controls: Play your music
- Flashlight: Turn on and off your camera flashlight
- Change Modes: change the phone modes to Airplane, Do Not Disturb, Vibrate, and Silent
- Check notifications
It’s a pseudo leather case, and while a combination of fabric and plastic, it has a nice tactile feel to it. Overall, it feels sufficiently rugged and grippy to ensure that the phone wouldn’t accidentally slip off your table.
What I didn’t Like
The phone speaker is really tinny sounding. There’s a tiny rear facing speaker, which is OK for basic listening but that’s about it. You are better off using a pair of headphones.
One other irritating point when using the phone is the lack of backlit buttons. ASUS has retained stand alone hardware buttons and at night, they become invisible. While there’s only 3 buttons and it’s pretty easy to remember where each key is, it is a minor annoyance for a phone that considers itself on par to other flagships. It could be a cost cutting step, but one that should not have carried forward into the flagship model.
As with other ASUS devices, there’s a bunch of pre-installed applications that you would not really be using. Things like Omlet Chat, KKBox would never be used. They tend to add clutter and hog up memory. ASUS should really leave it to the user to install 3rd party apps instead of bundling them. Thankfully, the Zenfone 2 bootloader can be unlocked, and there are third party clean ROMs available, as well as versions such as Paranoid Android which runs on the latest android 5.1.1. The Zenfone 2 original OS is updated to only Android 5.0 at this moment.
My original review highlighted that the Zenfone 2 was great value for money, and that’s still true, but since then, there are other options for consideration such as the Mi 4i and even the OnePlus 2. Like the others in the same range, there are some apparent cost cutting measures when compared to the top flagships such as the S6, G4, Xperia Z3+, but the budget price point helps make up for it. The Zenfone 2 is a great performing phone at only $380 (Qoo10), has a decent 1080p 5.5″ screen, micro SD expansion, built in storage of 32 GB and you can also pair it with the reasonably priced ASUS accessories like the view cover above and flash accessories. Well, the next upgrade to the Zenfone 2 is about 8 months away, and on such a good effort from ASUS, I am definitely looking forward to the next version.