In the year 2014, ASUS ZenFone was definitely one of the devices that impressed me highly. It packed within itself good specifications, useful features and excellent camera and came at a very competitive price. At that time, ASUS had launched four variants of ZenFone. These differed in screen sizes and other vital specifications.
Now, their successors are here too. However, unlike the old ZenFones, ZenFone 2 variants have the same screen size. They all have 5.5 inch display which brings them in the Phablet range. However, they do differ in terms of RAM and Processor and of course the price. Starting from Rs. 12,999, the four variants of the ZenFone 2 go upto Rs. 22,999.
Offering such variety and choices to consumers is great move by ASUS. However, I do wish they had given these models more easy to remember names. Because remembering the model numbers like ZE550ML, ZE551ML is really tough. And do three of the variants really bear the same model name or I’m getting something wrong? Still not quite sure! Anyway, the older ZenFones were conveniently named as ZenFone 4, ZenFone 5 etc and it was easier to remember which model had what specifications.
Anyway, what makes me happy is that the ZenFone 2 has all the features that I liked in the first ZenFone. These include useful note taking features like SuperNote and QuickNote and various camera modes and power and sound modes. What makes me happier is that ZenFone 2 has excellent specifications and some more new and interesting features. The flagship models especially bring along one of the best set of specifications in a smartphone yet.
However, I was not quite so happy when I noticed a bunch of third-party apps installed in the device. They take up too much space and can’t be removed from the device without rooting.
Well, I’ll give you more details about the device if I get the chance to try it out for a longer time. For now, here’s what I consider the highlights of the device.
The design of ZenFone 2 seems to be a crossbreed of several devices. Its front is similar to the first ZenFone. But ZenFone 2 has the Volume Rocker at the back, instead of on the sides. This is very similar to LG’s well-known Rear Key design. Some may like this change but some might find it inconvenient. Camera can also be operated using these rear keys. The Power Key of ZenFone 2 is at the top, which also appears to be a little inconvenient to use. However, this does leave the sides plain. . Also, as ZenFone 2 is equipped with Gesture Commands, one doesn’t need the Power Key to lock or unlock the screen. Being a phablet device, the phone is large. It has a slim profile but can feel a little bulky.
ZenFone 2 is the winner of 2015 iF Design Award and looks quite nice. It has a ergonomically curved back with metallic hairline finish and measures only 3.9 mm at its thinnest edge. It has 72% screen to body ratio.
To enhance the looks, ASUS offers variety of back covers or cases with different colours, feel and textures.
One of the highlights of ZenFone 2 is that its flagship models are world’s first smartphone with 4GB RAM. Yes. 4 GB RAM! And that means a super fast device that does not lag even if you have multiple apps running simultaneously. The cheaper two models with 16 GB internal storage have 2 GB RAM.
Here’s a quick comparison of the specifications of the four variants:
|INR 12,999||5.5 HD Display with 1280 x 720 resolution, 268 ppi||.8 GHz Z3560 Processors||2 GB RAM||16 GB MLC Storage|
|ZE551ML:||INR 14,999||5.5 with 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution and 403ppi pixel density||1.8 GHz Z3560 Processor||2 GB RAM||16 GB MLC ROM|
|INR 19,999||5.5 with 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution and 403ppi pixel density||2.3 GHz Z2580||4 GB RAM||32 GB MLC ROM|
|INR 22,999||5.5 with 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution and 403ppi pixel density||2.3 GHz Z3580||4 GB RAM||64 GB MLC ROM|
The above chart will make it clear that the model costing 22,999 has the most impressive specifications. The specifications of ZE440ML are good too but not extraordinary considering its price.
The display of all the variants is HD or FHD, but not superAMOLED. I wish at least the flagship model could have superAMOLED.
Anyway, the display of the ZenFone 2 looked nice enough. But I have seen some reviewers mention that it is not very impressive in bright sunshine.
The prices of ZenFone 2 are higher than the original ZenFone variants which all had very competitive price. In fact, their low prices was one of their main attraction. But prices of ZenFone 2 ranging from 12,999 to 22,999 don’t fall in the budget category.
As for other specifications, all the variants have Android 5.0 Lollipop, with the ZenUI. All have 64-bit Quad Core Intel Atom processor. The display of all the variants is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and 20nm Olephobic anti-fingerprient coating.
All the variants have 13MP rear and 5 MP front camera with several PixelMaster camera features like Low Light Mode, Backlight (HDR) Mode, Real Time Beautification Mode, Manual (DSLR/Professional) mode and zero shutter lag.
While ZenFone 2 has all the useful features of the original ZenFone, its new features are quite interesting too. One feature that I liked the best is called ZenMotion. It is a gesture recognition feature which allows the user to use some pre-set or customizable gestures to access favourite apps more easily. These gesture include the Double Tap. When the Lockscreen is off, double tap anywhere on the screen and the phone wakes up. Similarly, double tap anywhere on the Home Screen and the screen switches off.
Other gestures allow accessing favourite apps just by drawing a letter on the screen when the screen is off. Yes, when the screen is black, just draw a letter and the phone wakes up and the app is launched. For example, if you want to access the camera, just draw a C on the screen. The screen lights up and the camera app is launched. However, launching apps using the gesture on a sleeping screen does cause a delay of one or two seconds for the app to launch. But the fast processor and good RAM helps in not letting the delay be too long.
Kids Mode is another new feature of ZenFone 2. It allows the user to protect the data and sensitive features of the smartphone from being mishandled by children. When the phone is in Kids Mode, the child can access only the features and apps that have been allowed in the Kids Mode. And the child can use the phone only for the pre-specified duration.
However, unlike the Kids Mode of Samsung devices, there are no pre-installed games or activities for kids on ZenFone 2. But one can install games and apps one likes from the Play Store and allow them in the Kids Mode, while locking away other apps.
Camera was one of the highlights of the original ZenFone and the result produced using its Low Light Mode were really impressive. The Camera is a highlight of ZenFone 2 as well and has all the modes and features of the original ZenFone, and some new ones. All the variants of ZenFone 2 have 13 MP primary and 5 MP secondary camera. The camera of ZenFone 2 is equipped with PixelMaster 2.0 technology and its Low Light Mode claims to be able to capture upto 400% brighter photos and videos at night or in poor light conditions. The phone is equipped with Real Tone Dual LED Flash to help in producing more natural colours even in pictures with the flash light. Its enhanced HDR mode and blue glass infrared filter claims to be able to capture backlit scenes better .And its 5 MP front camera is capable of capturing 85 degree field of view and can click pictures using real-time beautification mode and panorama Mode which can capture upto 140 degree field of view.
The ZenUi interface has nice colour tone and convenient and intuitive user interface. I quite liked it actually. It offers users lots of customization, including changing themes, icons and fonts etc.
To add to the fun of using ZenFone 2, ASUS has launched several accessories. These include covers and cases that can totally alter the look of the device. These covers and cases come in different colours and textures. The ZenFone View Flip Cover Deluxe, costing INR 1,599, allows access to 7 functions of the phone like receiving or rejecting calls, checkout messages, access flashlight etc. without opening the cover. Other accessories launched by ASUS include the ZenEar bluetooth headset costing INR 599, ZenPower portable charger costing INR 1,499, Lolliflash costing INR 799 and Zenflash which costs INR 1,599.
Many were waiting eagerly for the ZenFone 2 to arrive in India. And when people got to know that ZenFone 2 is equipped with 4 GB RAM, the excitement for its arrival increased. Finally ZenFone 2 is here and it is definitely bigger and better than ZenFone in terms of specifications. However, the original ZenFone variants were better priced and surely better named.
The new features of ZenFone 2 like ZenMotion and Kids Mode are very nice. The customization options of the ZenUI are fun to have. And the variety of covers and cases will make it easy for the users to alter the appearance of their smartphonen as per their choice. I do wish that there were fewer third-party and unwanted apps bundled into the phone. The Rear Key design might please some and might act as a tun-off for others. But overall, ZenFone 2 does have a premium feel to it. And although it has no variant for entry level segment, it makes available good choices for mid-range buyers. However, this is actually the segment where the competition by rival smartphone makes is quite tough. It would be interesting to see whether ZenFone 2 manages to bring the same kind of success and popularity to ASUS that the first ZenFone won last year.
Note: You can check out my post about the original ZenFone to know about other features.