Review: ASUS Zenfone 5Z

Apple just released a bunch of smartphones where it is possible that you could drop as much as $2000 CDN on one of them. Unsurprisingly there are people who don’t want to spend that kind of money, but still want flagship level features. If that’s you then ASUS would like to introduce you to the Zenfone 5Z which they hope will fill that space in the market.

At first glance it looks like an iPhone X right down to the notch (which can be hidden as it is software generated) at the top of the 6.2″ display (which is an IPS LCD display with a very odd 2,246 x 1,080 pixels and an 19:9 aspect ratio that while not the sharpest display around is pretty good and is readable in most lighting conditions). But if you look closer you’ll note that the fingerprint sensor is at the back.  The dual camera sensor sits at the top left, but the flash module is just below instead of inside it which is different. The bottom edge is home to a USB-C port and a headphone jack, while the right edge houses the power button with a volume rocker above it. Both the front and back are made of glass so I would highly recommend a case. One thing that I will note is that despite its size, it’s easy to hold and use one handed. ASUS has dual speakers which are impressively loud for a phone. And ASUS has made the phone Hi-Res Audio (HRA) certified which is pretty impressive as well. Other key specs include 64GB of storage (expandable to 2GB), dual SIM setup, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi with MIMO support, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0,

Under the hood is a  Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM. That combo makes the phone very very quick. Jumping in and out of apps and games was generally smooth and it will handle anything that you decide to throw at it. Though I did note that it got hot while I played PUBG. It runs Android 8 and has ZenUI 5.0 on top. It’s a serviceable launcher, but it would not surprise me if it got replaced with a stock launcher by some owners. There’s also an assortment of utilities that do everything from tweak the phone’s capabilities to enabling a face unlock feature. But some of those apps may annoy owners as a couple of things such as the Page Marker app that comes with the phone are just annoying. At least you can disable and hide apps if they get on your nerves.

ASUS has brought an interesting camera setup to the party. There’s dual-lens main camera that combines a 12-megapixel lens and a wide-angle 8-megapixel lens. The front camera is a 8-megapixel lens. It also apparently has AI to help you to take the best pictures. But if that doesn’t work for you, you have the ability to control everything to a level that will make control freaks overjoyed. To test that, I took a trip to Pearson Airport in Toronto to take these stills starting with portrait mode:

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Then moving on to some shots of planes landing:

 

 

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The phone is quick to snap a picture and get ready for the next one. And it was good at choosing the right settings on its own. Now the videos which were shot in 4K at 60 FPS:

Audio and video quality is quite good. The fact that this phone can do 4K video is pretty impressive.

Battery life was one area that I have to be critical of. When I used it as my daily driver, I got to the end of the day with very little left in the tank. But I am a heavy user when it comes to phones so you may do better on that front. One thing I do note is that there is no provision for wireless charging on the Zenfone 5Z But on the flip side it does support fast charging if you need a quick boost.

At a cost of $799 CDN or less if you look around, the ASUS Zenfone 5Z is a much cheaper option than the iPhone or Samsung flagships of the world, while getting most of the feature set that a flagship provides. If you’re looking for a flagship phone minus spending flagship money, the Zenfone 5Z is totally worth a look.

 

 

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