Asus Zenfone 2 full review – mainstream flagship bargain
Asus came on the phone scene with the Zenfone 4, 5 and 6 about a year back. It wasn’t overly popular with the China phone crowd, but they have something that many China brands do not — a global retail presence.
A little history regarding Asus. Originally Asus manufactured boards and components for name brand computer manufacturers such as Dell and Gateway. In a nutshell, after seeing these companies making huge profits off of their technology, they decided to get in on the pie by creating their own full computers and laptops.
Fast-forward to today and Asus is an internationally known brand, always pushing the edge and innovating with products such as the Asus Transformer Pad and ultra-thin Asus U36 notebook.
Thus it comes as no surprise that they’re now pushing in on the smart phone tech game. Their 2015 release is the Asus Zenfone 2. Simplifying their phone line in terms of size, they’ve done away with the diminutive Zenfone 4 size, and are focusing on what seems to be the sweet spot for consumers these days with a 5.5″ display.
Zenfone 2 review highlights
There are several different versions available of the Zenfone 2. A WW (WorldWide), a CN version for China/India, US version for the Americas, and a TW version for Taiwan. The reason for producing a WW version as well as versions for various regions are buried in bureaucracy and international regulations.
The Asus Zenfone 2 details:
- Models: ZE500CL, ZE550ML, ZE551ML
- Intel® Atom™ Quad Core [email protected] / [email protected]
- PowerVR G6430 GPU
- 2GB / 4GB RAM
- 1080P HD IPS/OGS display
- 16/32/64/128 GB eMMC ROM/storage
- External TF-card SD expandable (up to 64GB)
- Color choices of Black/White/Red/Gray/Gold and Transfusion / Illusion special editions
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
- Worldwide GSM
- 5MP front camera
- f/2.0 13MP rear camera w/dual-LED flash
- G-Sensor/E-Compass/Gyroscope/Proximity/Ambient Light Sensor
- 3000mAh non-removable battery
- Worldwide 3G/WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100 (all versions) TD-SCDMA 1900/2100 (CN/IN only)
- 4G / FDD-LTE: (TW)
The version used in this review is the 2GB/16GB CN/IN version which has been flashed over to the latest WW ROM. Note, regardless of which firmware you use, you will not be able to change the available LTE/4G frequencies. Some developers are working on changing this situation, but I believe it unlikely to succeed.
Zenfone 2 review style and build
The physical build of the Asus Zenfone 2 is quite good. It feels solid in the hand and has some heft to it.
When I first removed the back piece and took a look inside, I thought “Terminator”.
The battery is encased by the top layer of internal plastic and looks like there will need to be some minor surgery performed to swap out the battery.
Both SIM-slots are micro-sized and spring loaded similar to how a TF-card slot works in a notebook. Also notable are the NFC prongs and the SD slot which allows for SD TF cards up to 64GB.
The back piece snaps on sure and there are no creeks or loose spots. It’s done up in a brushed aluminum style, but upon touching or examining closely becomes evidently plastic. There are five colors available, as well as the Transfusion/Illusion styled back pieces. There should also be some true aluminum back pieces made available in the near future.
Two features of the phone which make it stand out from the crowd are the rear volume button and the bottom portion of the front. Both of these parts are made to catch and show off light. Asus placed the volume rocker in a manner which does not interfere with phone use. Both the power button and the volume rocker require a bit of pressure to activate and give off a tactile click when pressed.
I like what Asus has done with they styling of the Zenfone 2. It doesn’t wow you, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has class, and enough unique form to set it apart.
Zenfone 2 review vibrator, speaker, mic, earpiece
This might be the first time I’ve discussed the vibrator on a phone. The reason I bring it up here is because at least in comparison to previously reviewed phones, it’s exceptionally strong — like you can hear it from the next room. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your taste. For myself it’s too strong and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s adjustments made in future custom ROMs. Whatever the case, you won’t be missing any calls, but if you’re in a meeting or trying to hide calls coming through otherwise, you’ll be found out with the Zenfone 2 if the vibrator is on.
The speaker is excellent. The loudest I’ve heard, and along with the high volume on the Zenfone 2 comes sound quality as well. You can tell they’ve used a nice signal processor and are making a decent chunk of juice available for the speaker to pull.
Phone calls go off without a hitch with loudness and clarity being beyond adequate. In a conversation while I stood near a busy highway it was no problem hearing or being heard.
Zenfone 2 review components
GPS on the Zenfone 2 is excellent, with a couple satellites reaching into 40 and several staying in the mid-30’s. Satellite locks were achieved across the board according to GPS test. The cold lock was achieved within three seconds (connected to net at the time). It’s worth noting that the phone uses standard GPS as well as GLONASS, QZSS, SBAS and BDS technologies.
The light sensor is operating properly, and the OS is adjusting brightness appropriately and smoothly in accordance with the sensor. Checking Z Device Tester shows that there a vast number of brightness points detected by the sensor. With most MTK devices the sensor reads back 6-8 levels of brightness, while with the Zenfone 2 returns far more than this.
WiFi strength is excellent, maintaining a strong, fast connection up to 175ft / 53m.
OTG is working no problem. There’s no fuss involved with using USB devices on the Zenfone 2. Plug the mouse/keyboard/USB memory/gamepad in and you’re ready to go.
Bluetooth works great with my smartwatch, laptop and THL 4000 MT6582 phone.
In addition to the standard array of sensors, there are also sensors for linear acceleration, gravity, rotation vector, gyroscope, steps and a compass. All are working without issue and according to Z Device Tester are PCH by Intel.
Zenfone 2 review battery life and charging
The battery charges to a solid 4300mV, indicating a very strong charging system.
Using 97% of the charge over 24 hours gave me 5.20 onscreen. The usage was mainly WiFi surfing and flipping around, along with a few pictures taken, little time watching videos and several 3DMark and Antutu runs. All of this on low brightness.
It should be mentioned that the phone sat overnight charging to 100% (thus not deep sleeping) and I have yet to test whether the phone is trickle charging, so further battery life may possibly be obtained by removing the phone from the charger when reaching 100%.
The test also shows that the percentage is properly calibrated to voltage, as at 3%, voltage reads 3.55. Most Li-ion batteries should be considered depleted and placed on the charger at 3.5V to maintain best possible battery life.
Battery life can be considered good and it should get most users through 24 hours without issue. While 5.20 isn’t a great result, keep in mind this is over 24 hours. Through a regular 12 hour day, the result should be substantially longer.
Charging took about 3 hours using the supplied 1.2 Amp charger. There were no jumps and the charging arc is smooth. What the phone is actually taking in is difficult to determine, but being that Asus is an international brand, we’ll take them at their word that the battery is 3000mAh.
Zenfone 2 review OS
The Zenfone 2 Android 5.0 Lollipop OS is very smooth and bug free. Flipping around the phone presents no transition hiccups. The Intel/PowerVR combo is a brute and bullies 1080P around butter smooth.
All apps which I tested the Zenfone 2 with ran flawlessly. Play Store is working great, downloading and updating apps without any problems. The phone is deep sleeping without issue.
There are a few unique features on the Zenfone 2 I’d like to give special mention to:
- multiuser capable with guest mode capability. Could be good to be used as a family phone/lending your phone out.
- one-hand operation mode which resizes the screen to your choosing so you don’t have to reach and risk a tumble.
- easy mode which dumbs down the OS on the homescreen and in settings for not so technologically inclined persons.
- quick settings which can be one-finger pulled down along with notifications. The standard two-finger method also works to pull quick settings down. Quick settings can easily be customized to show what you want.
- interruption settings which allow you to selectively choose what will show in notifications. This is quite customizable, allowing you to snooze multiple phone calls within two minutes of each other, helping to keep stalkers at bay, as well as allowing/disallowing notifications during specific times, and the notification interruption settings of categories of events (alarms/calls/messages).
Asus Zenfone 2 review performance
The power on the Zenfone 2 is excellent. Total Antutu with the 2GB [email protected] scores 40k, 3D scores an excellent 12k (1080P).
3DMark Ice Storm is maxed out with the 720P test and scores between 8400-9400 on the 1080P Extreme test. To see how the Intel/PowerVR combo stacks up against MTK SoC, take a look at this post (opens in new tab).
Zenfone 2 review camera images photographs
The images from the Zenfone 2 camera are good. Not stunning given the other premium specs of the phone, but nonetheless are beyond adequate for social sharing. Color is rich and dynamic range is decent. Sharpness isn’t overdone. They’re fine for smallish prints and even the 100% crops are often usable for digital sharing.
I’ve made a small gallery here to give an idea of what the camera is capable of.
The full gallery is posted in our Facebook group along with a few night snapshots and a link to 13MP full resolution images for pixel peepers. (opens in new tab). Note all pictures are 100% unedited and taken with Google Camera from Play.
Zenfone 2 review LCD display
The display on the Zenfone 2 is excellent. The 1080P display gives us a PPI of 400, making it retina when viewing normally. The display maintains color and contrast at extreme angles. Brightness is very good and the phone can easily be used in sunlight. There is zero light bleed in the corners.
$245 w/Coupon Code ASUSZ2GB
$245 w/Coupon Code ASUS2GB
Zenfone 2 review closing comments
The review model here is the Z3560 1.8GHz/2GB RAM version. The low-version you might call it, but truly there’s nothing low about it.
The OS is as fluid and as smooth as they come and the display is very good. The camera, GPS, WiFi, OTG, compass, sound and all components are strong and working with zero issues.
The big bonus here is that given the Asus Zenfone 2 is an international retail model, there is great development support. Asus is releasing firmware updates every couple of weeks and the mod community should be putting out some custom ROMs soon. I think we’ll see a big cult following behind the Asus Zenfone 2 — Even more so due to it’s low price compared to Samsung flagship models.
The full source kernel being released by Asus makes it possible to do tweaking we normally wouldn’t be able to accomplish. Fully rooted stock ROMs able to accept the OTA updates from Asus have already been released and I expect a Cyanogenmod ROM to come along shortly.
If you factor the cost of $245 for the 1.8GHz/2GB/16GB version (coupon price as of the time of this review), the Asus Zenfone 2 is a no-brainer. This low version should be enough to satisfy nearly everyone power and RAM wise and given that it can accept 64GB SD TF, storage shouldn’t be an issue either.
I would have no problem using this as my main mobile or recommending it to a friend or family member in the market for a $200-250 mobile. Do be aware that there are multiple versions of the Zenfone 2 and if you require 4G/LTE, as always, make sure you choose the correct model for your carrier/region.
See all the pictures from the Asus Zenfone 2 camera along with 100% crops. (opens in new tab)https://gizbeat.com/7449/asus-zenfone-2-full-review-mainstream-flagship-bargain/https://gizbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/zenfone-2-review-IMG_5991-450x326.jpghttps://gizbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/zenfone-2-review-IMG_5991-150x150.jpgAsusChina phone reviewFeaturedAsus came on the phone scene with the Zenfone 4, 5 and 6 about a year back. It wasn't overly popular with the China phone crowd, but they have something that many China brands do not -- a global retail presence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q08m00w0QkA A little history regarding Asus. Originally Asus manufactured boards...Damian Parsonshttps://plus.google.com/107879368390224447304 [email protected]AdministratorHi, I'm Damian Parsons. I've been working with Android phones since the first Droid came out. I'm fascinated by computers and technology. My first BBS were ran on an old Apple IIc and Commodore 64. I work hard to bring the latest updates to you every day - without all the boring fluff. Please subscribe to keep up on the newest China tech. See our forum -> www.chinaphonearena.comGizBeat