The ASUS Zenfone 5 is the middle child of ASUS’ low cost line of smartphones but for being a budget phone it comes packed with some very respectable hardware and specifications. The design is very simplistic with rounded corners, flat sides, and a curved back with a matte finish allowing the phone to sit very comfortably in the hand. It’s made entirely of plastic with the exception of the metal band along the bottom chin to give the phone a slightly more premium look. The 5 inch display coming in a 720p resolution pales in comparison to the 1080p panels on high end flagships but it’s still nothing to scoff at. Colors are accurate, viewing angles are great, and graphics and text still look very sharp making this an overall enjoyable display.
Inside, the Zenfone 5 is being powered by a a dual-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 2 GHz backed by 2 GB of RAM instead of the usual ARM processors that can be found in virtually every android phone. Performance through general day to day tasks such as swiping through home screens and opening up apps are smooth but the phone suffers from stability issues with certain apps and gaming is very choppy and sluggish making games difficult to enjoy. These issues could most likely be alleviated with a software update but this is how it stands for now.
Around back is an 8 megapixel camera with ASUS’ PixelMaster technology and an aperture of f/2.0 making it great in low light. The camera app itself while not the most simplistic comes a lot a manual controls for serious smartphone photography and a slew of different shooting modes like panorama, HDR, depth of field, and a dedicated selfie mode. All of these features make the camera very fun to play with but the actual picture quality is decent at best. Colors are very accurate and you can snap some great looking shots provided the lighting conditions are right but the camera suffers from poor dynamic range creating some overexposed lights and underexposed darks.
Battery life also leaves a lot to be desire as the 2,110 mAh battery isn’t enough to make this phone last throughout a full day without carefully monitoring your usage. Luckily, ASUS has included some power management options to help you get the most out of the battery should you go for an extended period of time without a charger.
On the software side the Zenfone 5 comes with Android 4.3 Jellybean with a promise of being updated to KitKat by ASUS but no word on when that will happen. On top of Android is ASUS’s Zen UI that is very clean, flat, and colorful. It comes packed with a lot of extra functionality without being gimmicky and adds to the Android experience without taking away the core features of Android.
ASUS announced the Zenfone 5 with a price tag of $149.99 but if you’re inside the United States you’ll be hard pressed to find it for this price as it’s not officially available in the U.S. as of right now meaning you’ll have to pay a slight premium to import it. Connectivity wise there is no LTE but it does support 3g on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States should you decide to pick one up. For a budget smartphone it’s got a lot of good things going for it like the solid build quality, a decent looking display, and a handful of very useful software features. It does fall short in some areas like the performance and battery life which could potentially be improved with software updates but you can’t expect to win them all especially at this particular price point.