Before the launch of Zenfone 5 at the Mobile World Congress 2018, Asus organized a press conference to inform us about their new phone and directly address the familiar notch on top of the device. "Some people will say they're copying Apple," said Marcel Campos, global marketing director at Asus, "but we can not get away from what users want." You have to follow the trends. "So everything is solved: the level of iPhone seems to be fashionable and we're all going to have to marvel at it through a variety of Android devices, including the new Asus Zenfone.
If you've been able to track all the Zenfone Asus releases so far, you're ahead of me, because I've missed out on the cornucopia of slightly different models that the company has issued in its brief history as a phone maker. Fortunately, the Zenfone 5 family is relatively simple: there is the 6.2-inch Zenfone 5 itself, it is the flagship Zenfone 5Z, which looks the same but amplifies the internal specifications, and there is the Zenfone 5 Lite (qualified as the Zenfone 5Q in the US), which has a completely different design.
Compared with its previous hardware, Asus has taken a great leap in design. The Zenfone 5 fits a 6.2-inch screen within the same physical surface as the 5.5-inch Zenfone 4. That's because of a slim bevel design that results in a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. In his effort to appear more advanced, Asus accompanies the screen with some spurious claims of AI. The company has an automatic adjustment for color temperature, just like Apple's True Tone on the iPhone X, and a sensor to keep the screen on while watching it, which is collectively called the AI screen. When I asked Asus what "AI" is about those functions, which already exist in other phones, I was told that the company is "adopting a broad definition of AI."
The new Zenfone does not feel too light or heavy, weighs 155 grams and remains easily usable with one hand despite its large screen. With an aspect ratio of 19: 9, the Zenfone 5 is very similar to the Plus models of the Galaxy S8 and S9. Like those phones, the new Asus phone has glass on both the front and rear, however, Asus is satisfied with an LCD screen, less sophisticated than the excellent panel OLED Samsung. Still, the resolution of the Zenfone 5 is perfectly reasonable, 2246 x 1080, and the performance of the screen does not seem to be far behind.
Like Apple's iPhone X, Asus has a Face Unlock option in Zenfone 5, but do not move to see something as sophisticated as the Face ID system that resides inside the iPhone. Face Unlock is there to satisfy the user's demand, and Asus says that his new phone still has a fingerprint sensor as backup.
Asus opts for a less than flagship specification in the Zenfone 5 processor, using Snapdragon 636 from Qualcomm, and onboard storage is limited to 64 GB with a choice of 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The Zenfone 5Z advances to a Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip, and has a maximum of 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. The regular Zenfone 5 is obviously designed to try to achieve a more affordable price, the 5Z will start at $ 499 / € 479, although it still has dual cameras in the back and another batch of big Asus AI claims.
The highlight of the Zenfone camera specification is the 1.4-micron pixel size in the 12-megapixel main image sensor. That's equivalent to HTC's U11 and not too far from Google Pixel, and in a couple of sample shots I took with the phone, it looked promising, much more promising than I expected from Asus.
Next to the main sensor, there is an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, which is used for depth detection for vertical mode. That did not work well in my tests: the camera fired a normal photo when I wanted a portrait, and when I produced a portrait, the edges of the subject were quite coarse and obvious. Asus increases all this with what it calls AI scene detection, which optimizes saturation, white balance, exposure, brightness and postprocessing depending on what you are photographing. This is actually the part of the Zenfone 5 that probably deserves the AI label, because all this is based on machine learning. Asus has also incorporated a system that will learn how it processes its images and, over time, begin to suggest similar edits to other photographs that you want to modify.
Asus also claims that he has something called IA boost, which sounds like selective overclocking of applications, and AI loading, which only exceeds your Zenfone at 80 percent at night and then keeps it there until your usual wake-up time approaches and then it goes up to 100. These are all pretty useful features, but maybe the abuse of the AI tag could have been avoided.
A final highlight with the Zenfone 5 is its integrated speaker system, which becomes very loud and clear. Unfortunately, it does not have much to do with the bass or the high end, but if you like your speakers to be Bose-and so, you'll be in luck. For a phone, clarity and volume are often more important than pure audio quality, so I can not blame Asus for its design choice. Compatible with AptX HD and LDAC, for higher quality Bluetooth audio. Asus also includes a headphone jack in both Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5 Lite, which gives it a differentiating feature of the high-end phones that the company obviously tries to emulate.
The Zenfone 5 Lite, pictured above, is a predictably simplified device. It has a small physical resemblance to the most premium phone, but still comes with a 6-inch screen with thin bevels, the same 3,300 mAh battery as in the Zenfone 5 and Android Nougat, not Android Oreo, as the operating system. The 5 Lite also has dual cameras in both the front and back, with additional lenses that provide a wider field of view of 120 degrees for group photography.
Asus will launch the Zenfone Lite in March, followed by the Zenfone 5 in April and then the Zenfone 5Z in June. The exact launch dates have not yet been announced, but we will bring them as soon as they become official.