Monthly Archives: August 2014

Asus Zenfone 5 – The Rebrander Killer

ASUS ZENFONE 5

THE REBRANDER KILLER 

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Most, if not all Filipinos, are easily impressed by specs. Barring build quality and other factors, as soon as we see high-end specs on paper on any rebranded phone, most will drool and marvel at it and some end up impulsively buying it. I would not blame my fellow countrymen as I too am a sucker for such phones and with the steep price of high-end phones, this addiction is understandable.

As Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the high-end smartphone battleground, one international brand has slowly but surely been making its way up by going down. Let’s face it, anyone who dares to compete with monotonous looking Samsung and size growing Apple would probably end up losing in the long run.

So instead of taking a dip in the high-end wars, Asus is taking its talent through the budget-phone arena. Announced last January 2014 and released a few weeks ago in the Philippine Market. Asus Zenfone 5 has become a phenomenal hit that its Philippine Facebook pages has grown to a full thousand and more in a short span of time.

Priced at a very competitive P6, 495, Asus Zenfone 5 Sports a 5-Inch HD Display protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and encased beautifully. Will the Zenfone 5 punch a hole big enough to scar the rebranded market? Does it live up to the tremendous hype? Read on and find out! 

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  1. BOX AND CONTENTS

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Asus Zenfone 5’s box looks like any other you have seen.  It contains the standard package consisting of Manuals, USB Cable, charger and a relatively good headset. Nothing special.

  1. Design and Build

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Asus Zenfone 5 is undoubtedly one of the best looking budget phone to date. It is so good it can even pass as a high-end smartphone. The front houses a 2MP camera, capacitive touch buttons and good, but not quite thin, bezels. The lower part of the front adds to the high end appeal as it does look like last year’s HTC One. The volume rocker and power button are silver   and gorgeous. The back is protected by a plastic matte-back with the 8MP Camera, ASUS, Intel, Zenfone logo, and speakers.

Overall, the Phone feels and looks expensive and high class. It definitely screams PREMIUM.

  1. Display

display

Zenfone 5 sports a 5-inch 1280×720 HD display. As far as displays goes today, 720p displays feels a bit dated but looking at its price point, and from a trusted brander, it still can be categorized as a win.

Looking at the screen, it’s actually nice to look at, it is has the right amount of brightness, the text is sharp and crisp, and it has good viewing angles. Pic browsing and movie playback will definitely be and enjoyable experience with this phone.

One complaint I have would be why is there no backlight in the capacitive touch buttons? Sure you can easily memorize 3 keys but I Zenfone 5 actually sports a different button layout. For the past 3 years I have been using Android, I have always had Menu-Home-Back format. Now I am treated into a Back-Home-Recent buttons. The former configuration has been in my heart with me too much, I constantly make the same mistake especially when I am on a dimly lit room.

  1. Entertainment

One of the most important factor for a phone today is to function as your daily multimedia driver. For Zenfone 5, it functions amazingly well in that aspect.

On loudspeaker, Zenfone 5 sits with those in the poor category as it has a very disappointing loudspeaker. As far as listening with headsets go, it jumps as one of the best performers. It has clean audio output, respectable bass and right amount of loudness. To standardize my review, and for the upcoming reviews I will be using JVC FX3X (Review coming soon).

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Another minor disappointment is the device limited codec. You wouldn’t be able to play all your videos out of the box. But as soon as you download a reliable video player, MX Player (recommended), you can fully enjoy your movies with this beautiful 5-Inch 720p device. Also, Zenfone 5 can play 1080p videos (tested 2GB movies).

games

For Gaming, Asus was able to play all non-HD mainstream games. However playing games such as NBA 2k14, Dead Trigger, Dark Knight, it has shown some stutter and lags.

Browsing

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Web Browsing and YouTube streaming is another strong suit of Zenfone. I have had no problems in opening web pages and streaming videos.

  1. Camera

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Asus Zenfone 5 sports an 8MP Main Camera and a 2MP front camera. As far as smartphone imaging is concerned, Asus does not have a good and strong reputation. As for this one, though, it has a good Main Camera which has TONS of features including the Famous Selfie Mode. Modes include Time Rewind, HDR, Panorama, Night etc. There is too much modes here I will make a separate review for it. So stay tuned! For Selfie addicts, the front-facing camera is not much to be excited about, it is a standard 2MP camera good enough for video calling, but it is nothing special.  See the pictures and judge for yourself.

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  1. Software

Asus Zenfone 5 is powered by a Dual Core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2560 Processor. I have to admit, this is my first Intel device, I was sceptical at first seeing, as I was one of those who thought cores are everything, but when I tried it, it was actually amazingly quick and responsive. Swiping between screens showed no significant lags and partner it with a 2GB Ram, opening apps and multi-tasking feels breezy. The device has an 8GB Internal memory 5GB useable. It is good enough for all your apps and one or two HD games.

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The phone also sports ZenUI, a custom skin from Asus. Android lovers have always loved the stock Android experience and ZenUI tries to mimic the simplicity of stock while adding some niche features and Asus’ own personality. The interface feels like stock and it is snappy, unlike other brand’s skin (ehem TouchWiz). A feature which is kind of cool is when you are on your lockscreen and your finger on it, a spotlight appears. Cool but pointless. It also has a Smartcover notification screen which is a useful one.

Functioning as a phone, Zenfone 5 has a clean stock SMS and a custom Asus Keyboard which looks and feels like a lovechild of Swiftkey and Android’s stock keyboard. It functions very similarly to Android’s stock rather than Swiftkey, though. Call quality both as a receiver and transmitter, is good.

Features

As far as being an international Brand, Zenfone 5 also has preinstalled apps, bloatware to some, these apps include:

  • Amazon Kindle Fire – EBook Reader
  • Audio Wizard – Adjusts your audio depending on what you want to use your device (Bluetooth not supported)
  • Do It Later – To do task bar
  • Mirror – Basically a front cam without shutter
  • MyASUS – Asus tech support and self-promotion app
  • Omlet Chat – Viber-ish app, stick to your preferred social messaging app
  • Party Link – Connects and shares pictures automatically to nearby devices. Security!
  • PC Link – Connects to your PC
  • Quick Memo – Kind of like Do it Later
  • Remote Link – Bluetooth remote
  • Share Link – Shares files between two Share Link enabled devices
  • Splendid – Changes the colour of your phone (actually cool)
  • Sound Recorder – Good voice recorder
  • Super Note – Like Galaxy Note’s Note minus the SPen
  • What’s Next – I don’t know

Some of the aforementioned apps are actually quite useful.

  1. Battery

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Battery is probably the lowest point of Zenfone 5. I am a medium-heavy battery user and this one is just not made for a full day at the office. On a day, I average about two hours of video, 15-30 minutes of games and about 3 hours of music. I also enable Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Mobile Data all the time. By the time its 6pm (5AM-2PM Work shift), I will have only about 10-15% battery life and I would have had to turn off everything except my 2G function to avoid full discharge. Also, I have noticed that the device starts to heats up while playing after 10 minutes. If you will look at the battery life when the device starts to heat up and you keep on playing, it burns through it like a hot knife through butter. A sad fact for Gamers. Well this device is not made for gaming anyway.

Executive Summary

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CONS:

  • No Capacitive Touch Button Back Light
  • Crappy out of the box video codec
  • Soft Loudspeakers
  • Lags and stuttering on HD Games
  • Some Bloatwares
  • Disappointing Battery Life
  • Narrow Bezel

PROS:

  • As beautiful as that hot officemate/classmate from the other class
  • 5 Inch Vivid, Crisp HD Display
  • Great headset audio output
  • Smooth and Fast response even with a custom Skin
  • Good camera with shitloads of features
  • Gorilla Glass 3
  • CHEAPER THAN REBRANDED FLAGSHITS ehem FLAGSHIPS
  • Did I mention how beautiful this device looks?

Scores

As much cons as Zenfone 5 has, some of them can easily be fixed by third party apps. No Capacitive Touch Backlight? Install a menu bar (probably needs root). Bad codec? Download MX Player Pro. Soft loudspeakers? Why will you use a smartphone on loudspeaker? Bloatwares? Root and remove. That leaves only HD Game stutter, battery life and narrow bezel but these are things you need to compromise for the competitive price tag.

Zenfone 5 is an amazing phone to have, I would recommend this phone for those curious and for those looking at a budget phone. Asus is a far better choice than rebranders. I don’t hate rebranders, I actually had fun reviewing them some 2 years ago. But as I started to work and value money more, I don’t think it is wise to spend cash on a device you know will inevitably break and have to endure garbage after sales or inability to receive software updates. Granted that rebranders have consistently tried to make better built devices, it’s just not the same comfort you have with a branded one.

Steering into the budget-minded market, Asus has made a premium device well worth over the hype and maybe made a device which gives rebranders a run for their money. Priced at P6, 495, this is very competitively priced and brings competitive pleasure to any user who will have it.

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