We just looked at the entry-level Zenfone 4, and now it’s time for the tweener in the family, the Asus Zenfone 5. While the four-inch Zenfone 4 can seem a bit strange if you’re used with the typically large Android devices that launch these days, the Zenfone 5 is back into familiar territory, both in terms of dimensions and feature set.

In our hands-on preview of the Zenfone 5, Josh looks at the strengths and weaknesses of this interesting device, though, we have to say, the $150 starting point of the phone puts all inconveniences in a more positive light.

Asus Zenfone 5 specifications

  • Dimensions: 148.2 x 72.8 x 10.3 mm, 144 grams
  • CPU: Intel Atom Z2580, dual-core, 2GHz
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX 544MP2
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Internal storage: 4GB, 8GB or 16GB, expandable with up to 64GB
  • Display: 5-inch IPS LCD, 720 x 1280 pixels, 294ppi
  • Cameras: 8MP rear, 2MP front, LED flash
  • Battery: 2050 mAh
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g/n, USB 2.0, A-GPS
  • Networks: GSM, HSDPA+
  • Operating system: Android 4.3

Like the Z4, the Zenfone 5 features a dual-core Intel processor, but a faster 2GHz model that should handle a little more stress. The display is miles ahead, hitting the threshold that many customers demand today, which is HD resolution. At 5-inch, that translates to 294 ppi, which isn’t far from say, the iPhone 5S. There’s also one gig of RAM, the typical amount for new mid-rangers these days.

One cool trick that the Zenfone 5 is capable off is recognizing any old pen or pencil as a stylus. Sure, you won’t get the software capabilities of an S Pen, but for taking notes or doodling on the train, it should be good enough. You can also use the display with gloves on.

The device feels nice in hand, with its reasonable thickness and choice of materials. The back is covered in a soft-but-not-quite plastic that reminded us a bit of the Nexus 7, and it’s clear that Asus wanted to avoid overdesigning this device. For the most part, the design is a success.

The starting model has just 4GB of storage, insufficient for any serious smartphone user, but the good news is the microSD card can let you add up to 64 GB. The 8MP camera can combine several virtual pixels into one virtual one, to create higher quality, albeit lower resolution images, especially in low light. Finally, the battery can be described as average, at best.

Running everything is Asus’ new tweaked version of Android, which sports a few stylistic updates and comes with a re-done notification and settings dropdown. It’s a clean UI, and Asus assured us that the final version of the software will be more polished and feature-rich.

The Asus Zenfone will sell for $149 when it goes on sale, and we will definitely be keeping an eye out for when that happens.

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