Asus Zenfone 5 & 6

Intel-powered smartphones at competitive price.

A few years ago, Asus collaborated with Garmin to produce phones for the Indian market. While the partnership didn’t last long, one thing was clear, Asus could make some good looking devices. This was further underscored with the Transformer range and later with the Fonepad tablets.

The Taiwanese company has now announced its Zenfone range of smartphones and unlike a major player that goes for the high-end market, Asus has chosen to compete in the lower and the mid-range spectrum of the market. We’re taking the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 6 for a thorough spin to see if they’re worth our hard-earned money.

Both the Zenfones follow the same design language, which is modest in our opinion. The phones don’t look very premium for the price, say, like Xiaomi Mi3 but they don’t look cheap either. Plastic is the evident material on the Zenfone but the bottom on the front has a metal coloured finish that makes it stand out. The front sports a large display with touch-sensitive buttons beneath it and a front-facing camera with the earpiece at the top while the sides and the back have a matte finish that gives the phone a good grip. The only thing we feel Asus could have improved on the design side is the bezel around the display. Given the current size, the phone is a bit big to hold, which would have been a different case if Asus went with a thin bezel around the display.

Asus has adopted a nomenclature for its Zenfones based on the display size. In short, the Zenfone 5 has a 5-inch display while the Zenfone 6 comes with a 6-incher. The display resolution of both the Zenfones is also the same – 1280×720 pixels that achieves a pixel density of 294 ppi (Zenfone 5) and 245 ppi (Zenfone 6). Needless to say.

Zenfone 5’s display looks better when you compare text and images but the IPS panel results in good viewing angles. The colours could have been better but thankfully. Asus provides a display calibration app that lets you adjust the colour, contrast and the white balance to suit your eyes. The displays have Gorilla Glass 3 for added protection and Glove Touch mode to use the display wearing gloves.

Display resolution is not the only thing that is similar in both the Zenfones. Both phones are powered by Intel’s 1.6GHz dual-core processor and 2GB RAM. In the world of quad-core Androids, the dual-core offering may seem underpowered, but rest assured, the phones are not a slouch. They can handle most tasks thrown at them with ease, but yes. you will feel the lag here and where, which is the case for many other mid-range Androids as well.

The phones support Dual SIM standby support enabling users to keep their personal and office number separate.

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As for the memory, the Zenfone 5 has an 8GB internal memory (16GB also available ) while the Zenfone 6 comes in a single SKU with 16GB of internal memory. The devices also support microSD cards up to 64GB and Asus also offers 5GB of lifetime cloud storage.

Just like most other Android devices. Asus also tries to differentiate its devices with a customised user interface. Asus calls it the ZenUI. The user interface breathes a new life with bright colours into Android that prefers darker shades. The Ul is also equipped with Asus enhancements like What’s Next, Do It Later, Omlet Chat, to name a few. All said and done, the Android version that the Zenfones run on — Android Jelly Bean 4.3 — is dated and we hope Asus releases the KitKat update as soon as possible since Android L is just around the corner.

The Zenfones are also equipped with Asus’ SonicMaster audio technology which is a combination of hardware and software.

SonicMaster helps to deliver a good sound experience and according to Asus. the technlogy has been optimised by the “Asus Golden Ear Team.”

The Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 6 have an 8 megapixel and 13 megapixel cameras respectively and a 2 megapixel snapper on the front. The cameras are powered by the PixelMaster technology, which at first sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it does work. PixelMaster allows the devices to take some good low light photos, which is a considerable advantage over other devices in the same price range.

As for the images in normal daylight, we felt the camera produced mediocre looking images with some noise in the images with an average dynamic range. There are variety of camera modes that can prove in handy while framing a shot.

On the video front, both Zenfones can record in Full HD resolution and showed the same video quality as still pictures.

The Zenfone 5 has a 2110mAh battery that claims a battery life of up to 18 hours but we managed to get about 12-13 hours with a single SIM. The Zenfone 6 with its 3300mAh battery managed to give over a day of run time with moderate use of data, Wi-Fi. GPS and calls.

So which Zenfone one should go for? If price is a major purchasing decision, the Zenfone 5 is a no brainer. The base model goes for Rs. 9,999 and though there are a few compromises on the display size and the battery, the Zenfone 5 is good overall performer and easily beats the Moto G that is priced a little higher. The Zenfone 6 goes for Rs. 16,999 and lurks in the phablet category that offers similar performance to the Zenfone 5 but asks large premium just for the screen size and megapixel count.

VERDICT: Good overall performance with Intel chips but Zenfone 5 wins over due to competitive price Zenfone 5.

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