Asus launches 5.5-in ZenFone 2 and ZenFone Zoom, featuring 3X optical zoom

by: Gary SimsJanuary 5, 2015
3.2K
ASUS ZenFone 2 zenfone zoom

So CES is underway and the announcements are coming thick and fast. If you remember back to just before the holidays, Asus released some teaser videos about its new flagship device. It teased us with pictures of a phone with some special optics and tagged the videos with the slogan, “See what others can’t see.” Now Asus has officially released the ZenFone 2, and the surprise ZenFone Zoom, a camera-centric device featuring optical zoom!

Before we look at the ZenFone 2, let’s deal with the whole “see what others can’t see” thing. Actually it is nothing more than the “see what others can’t see” thing from last year’s ZenFone 5, in other words a PixelMaster camera with a Low Light mode.

However, the rest of the phone certainly does seem to live up to the hype.

This mode, which “gives your phone a nightlife,” uses “pixel-merging technology” to capture photos at night or in low light, and are up to 400-percent brighter, without the need for a flash. Probably Asus has improved the tech since the ZenFone 5, but personally I was expecting more.

ASUS ZenFone 2 Exquisite ZenUI design

However, the rest of the phone certainly does seem to live up to the hype. There are several key features to this phone that make it quite interesting. The first is its ergonomically-curved design with ultra-slim edges, which taper down to just 3.9mm. Related to this are the ultra-narrow 3.3mm bezels, which give the ZenFone 2 a 72% screen-to-body ratio. Third is the price. The version with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage costs just $199. That is a great price for a 4G LTE, 64-bit device with a 5.5 inch Full HD display that runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.

There is also a model with 4GB of RAM.

The reason I mentioned the 2GB/16GB model is because there is also a model with 4GB of RAM and a choice of either 32 or 64GB of internal storage. And if 64GB isn’t enough, all the models support micro SD cards.

So here are the full specs:

Display5.5-inch IPS display with 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution. Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3.
Processor64-bit Quad Core Intel® Atom™ Z3560/Z3580 processor (running at 1.8 or 2.3GHz).
GPUPowerVR G6430 from Imagination
RAM2GB or 4GB.
Storage16GB/32GB/64GB, microSD card slot, up to 64GB.
CameraRear: 13MP, f/2.0-aperture, 5-element, auto-focus lens with dual-color Real Tone flash. Front: 5MP, f/2.0-aperture, wide-angle 85-degree lens with Selfie Panorama.
Battery3000mAh lithium-polymer with fast-charge technology.
Connectivity802.11ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS
NetworksGSM, 3G, 4G LTE
SoftwareAndroid 5.0 Lollipop
Dimensions152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9-3.9mm, 170g

As you can see from the table, the GPU built into the SoC is the PowerVR G6430 from Imagination. I spoke with Alexandru Voica, a technology PR specialist with the GPU maker, about Imagination’s relationship with ASUS and Intel. “Our long-standing strategic relationship with ASUS and Intel has resulted in a series of amazing products that offer leading graphics and GPU compute performance,” he said. “The choice of a fully-featured PowerVR G6430 GPU enables ASUS to deliver a truly outstanding platform for Android.”

To date the ZenFone range has proven to be a success for Asus. The company sold 1,500,000 units per month during the fourth quarter of 2014. That is 4.5 million units for the quarter or 18 million units per year. Asus wants to build on the success of the other handsets in the ZenFone range with the ZenFone 2, the first ZenFone with a new version of ASUS ZenUI for Android 5.0 Lollipop. The phone also includes Trend Micro security software for safe web browsing.

[quote qtext=”The passion behind the design of ZenFone 2 is our never-ending desire to empower luxury for everyone. We have drawn on our considerable engineering expertise and experience with our popular ZenFone to create a smartphone that embodies this ambition. That device is the incredible new ZenFone 2 — luxury that everyone can enjoy. ” qperson=”Jonney Shih – ASUS Chairman.” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]

The 5.5 inch Full HD IPS display, which has a pixel density of 403-ppi and a viewing angle of 178 degrees, is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 along with an anti-fingerprint coating that Asus says reduces friction by 30-percent. Also, Asus has followed LG’s lead and placed the volume control key on the rear of the phone, “within reach of the user’s index finger.”

ASUS ZenFone 2 color line up

As for the battery, the ZenFone 2 has a 3000mAh unit that Asus says is enough to provide “more than a full day of use on a single charge.” Since it is a 3000mAh unit, that sounds highly probable. However what is more interesting is the bundled fast-charge technology which can quickly recharge the ZenFone 2 to 60% battery capacity in only 39 minutes!

asus zenfone 2

See what others can’t see

Although I feel that Asus has over-hyped the PixelMaster camera on the ZenFone 2, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile addition to the device. The ZenFone 2 comes with a 13MP sensor and a wide F/2.0 aperture lens. It is also equipped with a Real Tone flash which is designed “to ensure warm skin tones and accurate color when a flash is needed.”

For those into selfies, the ZenFone 2 comes with a 5MP front-facing camera with a wide, 85-degree field of view.

The included dynamic Backlight (HDR) mode allows the device to capture photos where the foreground subjects stand out clearly and free of shadows. It seems that Asus’ HDR solution is more than just your run-of-the-mill software HDR as the company says that the HDR shots use the same “pixel-enhancing technology,” with the corresponding increase in contrast, as the Low Light mode. For camera buffs, Asus has also included a fully manual mode which allows you to fully control the camera settings, including ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

For those into selfies, the ZenFone 2 comes with a 5MP front-facing camera with a wide, 85-degree field of view. There is also the ZenUI Selfie Panorama mode, which captures panoramic selfies with up to a 140-degree field of view. This can be used when taking group selfies or when you want to include lots of scenic background in the shot.

ZenUI

The ZenFone 2 will come with Android 5.0 Lollipop and a new version of ASUS ZenUI. According to Asus, the new version “offers a simpler and smarter user experience with a stylish new layout that utilizes white space for a cleaner design and places information front and center for a simpler and smarter user experience.”

Brand New ZenUI

Included in ZenUI are a number of new features including ZenMotion and SnapView. The former is a set of touch gestures that provide easy access to frequently-used features such as One Hand mode or Do It Later.  While the latter is a security feature that ensures privacy for apps, photos and files.

ZenFone Zoom and wrap up

The ZenFone 2 isn’t the only ZenFone that ASUS is launching. There is another – the ZenFone Zoom. Details about the actual phone specifications are scarce at the moment, except for details of its optics. The ZenFone Zoom has a 3X optical zoom camera, along with optical image stabilization and laser auto-focus. The 10-element lens design also allows for 12X digital zoom. There is also a full manual mode which allows “professional-grade manual control of ISO settings, shutter speed and more.” I guess the ZenFone Zoom matches better the “see what others can’t see” slogan!

ASUS ZenFone Zoom

To wrap up, personally I would prefer a device with an ARM based processor rather than an Intel one, but there is no denying that the ZenFone 2 offers a lot of features, processing power, and a good camera package, for very little money. If the actual device holds true to what Asus has written in the release information then the ZenFone 2 looks like a guaranteed winner.

  • Nik

    I think it mimics LG too much, back mounted buttons, laser focus, and front of the phone looks just like new LG phones, oh and the back has metal look-alike cover

    • Mischievous Tay

      For metal look-alike cover, HTC was the 1st to do that.

      • ThunderCrackR

        Or Samsung in 2012 on the S3.

        • Mischievous Tay

          True

  • Carlos Romero

    I have my hopes up high for Asus. Waiting to hear more on the camera performance

  • IronHeart

    hope they have improved the build quality this time..the quality of first gen was strictly below average…they did a lot of cost cutting for better specs in paper….anyway, mobile phones are getting cheaper…my two month old phone feel very old now….

  • KIODAMAGE

    One question: 200$ for contract or unlocked version?

    • Histi

      200 $ without taxes, support and no contract. In germany it will be around 300€.

  • vince1228

    If that 200 price is no contact…..
    Thats a steal and a deal.
    Which im sure it is bc who has Asus on contract?

  • MasterMuffin

    They took some design cues from LG and Nokia :) This just makes me think: where the f is Lumia 1030?

    • Mischievous Tay

      More like HTC and Nokia. HTC came up with the brushed metal look first.

      • MasterMuffin

        But the brushed metal look with those back buttons screams LG. The front is completely LG G3 too.

        • Mischievous Tay

          G3 do not have captivate buttons, nor does it have Asus’s Zen Circular Texture. It’s just some minor resemblance.

          • MasterMuffin

            Isn’t the circular texture found in G3 too? And adding capacitive buttons hardly makes a difference. There’s more to it than just minor resemblance

          • Mischievous Tay

            Asus started using circular texture for Zen series long ago, starting with the ZenBook. If you think adding capacitive buttons don’t make a difference, then I will say both look like HTC’s One, which in turn looks like RIM’s BB Z10.

  • dafuq

    I think that it was supposed to be the Nexus 6 but something went wrong.

    • The Calm Critic

      Thanks. I was gonna post “This should have been shamu” but yeah.

  • deltatux

    In response to a preference for ARM devices over Intel x86 ones, I can see why but Intel has done a phenomenal job at lowering the power consumption while maintaining top of the line speed on their processors that there should not be any problems with using Intel processors. The beauty of Android is that it works with several architecture families, it’s the strength of what Android is good at and Android and its apps run amazingly on Intel processor. I bought a Dell Venue 7 (first generation) for my parents and it runs wonderfully. Even with the previous gen Atom they are great processors and I have yet run into any issues running apps due to the different architecture family.

    • Exactly, Intel has to work to lower the power consumption of its devices to fit into mobiles… ARM doesn’t need to do that. Please read http://www.androidauthority.com/arm-vs-x86-key-differences-explained-568718/ for more info.

      • deltatux

        Yes but thing is that Intel has already reached similar power efficiency when compared to ARM based designs. The days when Intel chips had crappy power consumption is gone and in the market, no one really cares about that it used to have shifty consumption as evident in the rise of more Intel powered tablets and smartphones.

        There are several things missing in your article like for instance the whole CISC vs. RISC is pretty much null since all processors are RISC based these days, x86 processors now take the CISC instructions and convert them into an instruction set that the internal architecture understands through the decoder.

        Also, your article seems to be missing the fact that Intel and ARM take different approaches based on their respective history. Intel has the need to scale downwards in terms of power but have much better performance whereas ARM has to scale their designs up from power efficiency in order to have better performance without breaking power efficiency.

        • I think you need to re-read the article, because almost all the points you make are exactly the points I make in the text. For example, I talk about how both RISC and CISC processor covert instructions into micro-code. But, and this is important, the CISC instruction decoder is more complex and hence uses more power.

          However I don’t agree when you say that Intel has reached parity with ARM. Intel doesn’t have a heterogeneous solution and nor does it have the flexibility to build chips with both in-order and out-of-order pipelines. But I cover all that in the article. Intel is basically relying on being able to keep making chips on smaller and small die processes, that isn’t a solution, it is a fudge which can’t fix the fundamental problem.

          As for “your article seems to be missing the fact that Intel and ARM take different approaches based on their respective history,” again all I can do is urge you to re-read the article. Here is a direct quote which deals with this point: “The next major difference between an ARM processor and an Intel processor is that ARM has only ever designed power efficient processors. Its raison d’être is to design low-power usage processors. That is its expertise. However Intel’s expertise is to design super high performance desktop and server processors.”

          • deltatux

            The big.LITTLE architecture so far has only been better on paper, when you look in real world performance in terms of battery life, processors with a big.LITTLE architecture barely eeks out better battery efficiency than say a Qualcomm processor using the Krait microarchitecture or Apple’s Ax processor (both don’t use big.LITTLE). There’s more to processor design than throwing in low performing, low power consumption cores into the mix, the switching logic that handles the big.LITTLE architecture also draws power as well. By how much, I don’t know but I don’t really see much a difference between the two. Same goes for NVIDIA’s “5th core” methodology, great on paper but has never really materialize any significant battery savings. big.LITTLE is one of many ways to reduce power consumption but the lack of it doesn’t seem to affect real world performance as evident that the equivalent Krait-based Snapdragon draws about the same power. It really boils down to microarchitecture refinement.

            Personally using x86 powered Android devices vs. ARM powered Android devices, I fail to see a difference in power consumption. They both offer similar power draws and they last about the same. So when I said that Intel has similar power draws, I was talking about real world experience, not the numbers written on a piece of paper.

            I do however agree with you that Intel has always chased for smaller processing nodes (which there’s gonna be a limit eventually) but that’s also the product of the fact that Intel’s expertise is also in their foundries. Intel is a huge corporation where they are great at many things and not just processor design. They focus on both processor refinement and getting to the smaller node. At the time of the 28nm/22nm cycle, no other foundries could do anything smaller than 28nm, only Intel was able to break this barrier. Same goes for 16nm where TSMC, Samsung and GlobalFoundries are at 20nm. It’s also because Intel has always stuck to full nodes whereas its competitors have switched to half nodes, which is why there’s this difference as well.

  • Gideon Waxfarb

    Was kind of hoping we’d see a return to sanity this year with some regular sized, high end phones. So far, it looks like this won’t be the case. I guess 5.5″ is the new normal :(

  • abqnm

    Here is to hoping it is sold in the US so we don’t have to import it at a ridiculous premium. I’m actually quite intrigued by these.

  • Josh Gilman

    I just got the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – 83% screen to body ratio – fastest (and most accurate) camera I’ve ever had on an Android phone. Love it.

  • Mischievous Tay

    Personally I feel ARM Chips are garbage, x86/x64 chips are far superior to ARM. RISC is incomplete nonsense compared to CISC. There should be more phones and Tablets with Intel inside.

    • I don’t think you are right. All modern CISC chips have a complex instruction decoder which converts the CISC operations into RISC instructions. Even Intel doesn’t like CISC, but it is stuck with it. Please read my piece here: http://www.androidauthority.com/arm-vs-x86-key-differences-explained-568718/

      • Mischievous Tay

        I am right, your article is BS. Complex stuffs are good, it rules, it rocks and is perfect.

        • MasterMuffin

          Trololo :D

  • Ryan-Dirrty Rodriguez

    When will this be available in saudi arabia?

  • HotnCool

    ZENFONE 2 sounds promising… waiting in Indonesia

  • crutchcorn

    :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O

  • John Zakaria

    Why use an arm based processor instead of Intel?
    I mean hey its Intel!

  • Imran

    I have the ASUS ZENFONE 6 not even a month old. For the price I was like best deal ever… then I just discovered intel and the performance is surreal 50fps ULTRA on epic citadel I was like holy s***… MORE POWER TO ASUS AND INTEL. GOD BLESS YOU for pricing this at affordable price even MY PC mobo is ASUS and CPU is intel

  • I have owned the ZENPHONE 5 for over 2 months now. Before that I was a samsung fanboy owning most of the flagship devices. S2, s3, note 1, note 2, all of which except the note 2 had problems with the USB port which had to be replaced, I also had major problems with the s2 rebooting. In addition I still own the note 10.1. I broke the screen on the s3 twice costing more than one of these ZENPHONEs. After using the ZENPHONE 5 for more than 2 months, testing everything I can on it, and selling over 5 people on the idea of ASUS ZENPHONE 5 as the phone to buy instead of the SAMSUNG OVER PRICED phones. I am sold that ASUS is the only option that makes sense. THE ZENUI is beautiful and is far Superior to Samsung cluttered bloated software. ASUS Support is amazing. plus there own apps like my asus which allows you to submit tech questions directly from the phone has sold me in my opinion. There are a couple of things Asus could have done better. lighted buttons. The contacts app could use some improvement. Saying that – Asus is constantly improving the software. with valid updates to only the apps and no stupid samsung store to deal with. Samsung here is my suggestion. Stop putting bloatware on your devices. Also improve customer service. But to be honest after giving Samsung over 100,000 Thai Baht for my devices I am not coming back. ASUS Keep up the good work. I will continue to recomend Asus and the phones for a long time.

  • see toh

    Regret buying asus padfone s which cost twice the cost of this phone 1 month ago