The Zenfone 5Z is powered by Snapdragon 845 SoC.
You get up to 8GB RAM and up to 256GB onboard storage.
Available exclusively via Flipkart, price stars at Rs 29,999.
Over the past couple of years, Asus has been struggling in India with its smartphone offering. And with the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo taking the lead in terms of sales numbers, Asus required a change in strategy. The Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with an aggressive pricing that undercuts Xiaomi, while offering similar or better specifications for less. Now, Asus is after OnePlus in the flagship segment, with an aim to dethrone the OnePlus 6 as a flagship killer.
The company’s latest smartphone, the Asus Zenfone 5Z is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, up to 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, and dual-rear cameras. The Zenfone 5C price starts at Rs 26,999 for the 6GB RAM with 64GB storage variant, Rs 32,999 for 8GB RAM with 128GB storage, and Rs 36,999 for 8GB RAM with 256GB storage. It is available to purchase exclusively via Flipkart.
Once again, Asus has managed to undercut the competition, and the Zenfone 5Z costs Rs 3,000 cheaper than the base variant of the OnePlus 6, and Rs 8,000 cheaper than the top end variant. And with ICICI bank credit and debit card offer (valid till August 19), the price is even more lucrative where the top end model costs Rs 11,000 cheaper than OnePlus 6 with 256GB storage. Specifications and pricing aside, does the Zenfone 5Z have what it takes to slay the flagship killer? Read my review to find out.
Watch: Asus Zenfone 5Z first look
Design: Glassy and glossy
Metal unibody is no longer premium, but glass is, and like the competitors, Asus follows the suit. The Zenfone 5Z is a beautifully crafted smartphone with a metal frame, rounded corners and diamond-cut chamfered edges. It comes with a front and back glass design which gives it a premium look and feel. But as in case with other smartphones with glass back, this one is slippery too, and attracts a lot of fingerprint smudges. Thankfully, Asus has bundled a soft case in the box, and I’d recommend using it – after all, safety first.
Talking about buttons and ports placement, you have the volume rocker and power / sleep buttons on the right. The power button is accurately placed, ensuring that it is easily within the reach of your thumb for easy access. The hybrid SIM card tray is on the left, whereas the 3.5mm audio socket and USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer is at the bottom. Lastly, the dual camera modules, and circular fingerprint sensor is placed at the back.
Display: Top notch, like literally
It’s not just the glass design, the infamous ‘notch’ from iPhone X is now widely seen on most smartphones too. The Zenfone 5Z also has one, and it hides the earpiece, front camera and ambient light sensor. Sadly, Apple implemented the notch to do away with the bottom chin, but Android smartphones, including the Zenfone 5Z does have a small chin below the display.
It is a 6.2-inch full HD+ panel with screen to body ratio of 90 percent, resolution of 1080x2246pixels, and an aspect ratio of 19:9. It is an LCD panel, but when you look at the color reproduction, the contrast, and deep blacks, it will give you the AMOLED feeling. The tuning is just perfect and watching movies, videos and playing games is a treat, good job Asus. But there is one thing I miss though – the Always On display.
Software and UI: Clean and functional
The Zenfone 5Z runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with ZenUI skin on top. It’s disappointing that it doesn’t run Android 8.1 OS, but the smartphone does support Project Treble, and Asus did mention that it will be offering Android P update as early as possible. One good thing about the new ZenUI is that it is much lighter than what it used to be a couple of years ago.
You get all Google Apps such as Photos, Sheets, Docs, Chrome, Calendar, Drive and Maps pre-installed, and you can uninstall most of them. Asus apps include the likes of File Manager, Contacts, Clock, Calculator, WebStorage, Selfie Master and ZeniMoji, and you can uninstall some of them. It’s not completely bloatware free, but not as bad.
Now, let’s talk about AI, something that almost every manufacturer likes to talk at length these days. Asus has closely worked with Qualcomm for AI integration, and the Zenfone 5Z brings a bunch of implementations. First one is Suggest Apps, which is similar to what we have seen on Android P Beta on Pixel devices.
It uses machine learning to anticipate what apps you use frequently and at what time. For instance, during the day I use Apple Music, Slack, Instagram and WhatsApp> Towards the night, I’m mostly browsing through Facebook, YouTube and Alarm Clock. AI suggests those apps around the time when I’m more likely to use them.
There is AI charging which looks at user behavior, charging pattern, and motion. So, lets say you often charge your device at night around 10PM, go to sleep around 11:30PM and wake up at 7AM. So, the next time you connect your phone at 11:30PM and keep it on charge overnight, It will charge to 85-90 percent and cut off power, and then again charge around 6:30AM, so by the time you wake up at 7, you’ll get a full charge, damaging battery life from overnight charging.
Besides, there is smartscreen which turns off when you look away from the phone, and AI ringtone that rings aloud when there is ambient noise. Lastly, there is AI gallery as well, which detects faces, places, objects, and more to classify your photos, and sort accordingly.
Performance: Has all the power you need
As mentioned above, the Zenfone 5Z is powered by a Snapdragon 845 SoC with an octa-core CPU clocked at 2.8GHz. It is currently the fastest chipset in the market, and Asus has done a good job in making the most of it, which also includes the multi core AI engine. The chipset is paired with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, and I had the base variant with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage variant for review.
During my two-week usage as a primary device, the Zenfone 5Z did not give me any trouble at all. Its swift, app opening time is fast, which Asus says it achieves with OptiFex feature which optimizes the memory for maximizing the performance. Even with a few apps running in the background, the performance is butter smooth. Even games like PUBG run smoothly without any hiccups. There was one small problem though, after about 25 minutes of continuous gameplay, the phone used to get a little warm, but nothing major concern as such.
Asus has also included Game Genie feature on the phone which lets you record you gameplay in up to full HD (1080p) resolution. What’s more, it also lets you enable ‘No Alerts’ mode where you won’t be disturbed with phone calls or messages while gaming. Lastly, Asus also allows you to live stream your gameplay on YouTube and Twitch platforms.
Cameras: A pleasant surprise
Asus has opted for a dual camera setup at the back, which includes a 12-megapixel primary sensor and an 8-megapixel secondary sensor with wide-angle lens (120-degrees). It is a smart camera with AI scene detection, where it can detect pets, greenery, flowers, sky, among other things and tweak settings accordingly to help you capture better photos. Up front is an 8-megapixel camera for selfies and video calling.
I have already posted my Zenfone 5Z camera review, and I’m mightily impressed with the camera capabilities. I never expected the camera to be this good, and hats off to Asus for the software optimizations that it has done. Below are some samples.
Audio: Loud and clear
Most smartphones today feature stereo speakers, be it the iPhone, Galaxy S9, LG V30, HTC U12+ and others. While the OnePlus misses out on this feature, Asus Zenfone 5Z does include this feature. The bottom firing one is a 5 magnet speaker, and so is the earpiece, and when listening to music or watching videos, it gives you that stereo surround sound effect. And there is an outdoor more too, which just further amps the output by increasing treble, ideal when listening to music or watching videos where there is a lot of ambient noise.
Asus has bundled ZenEar Pro high-res audio earphones, which are decent to be honest, and not the AKG level. But considering OnePlus, Nokia and others don’t bundle earphones, its good to see Asus doing it. The Zenfone 5Z also supports DTS Headphone-X profile with stereo surround sound, and Hi-Res Audio, allowing you to listen to your high-quality music. Users who have Apple Music, Tidal or Spotify subscription would definitely love listening music on the Zenfone 5Z.
Battery: Gets me through the day
The Zenfone 5Z is armed with a 3,300mAh battery and it supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 feature. Asus has also bundled an 18W charger that outputs current of 2A. I was able to charge the phone from empty to full battery in about 1-hour and 12 minutes, which is pretty quick. It may not be as fast as Dash Charging on OnePlus smartphones, but get way closer to it. In terms of battery life, with two SIM cards, switching between 4G and Wi-Fi, the phone lasts a working day easily.
I have three email accounts in sync, Slack and Discord getting constant notifications, some Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp usage, smartwatch connected via Bluetooth 24 hours a day, some music listening for 2 hours and playing games for half-an-hour. With all of this, the battery offered me a maximum screen-on-time of 4-hours-and-30-minutes with 4 percent battery to spare. This is with performance mode, and with battery saver, I was able to stretch it well above 5 hours. It may not be as impressive as the OnePlus 6, but gives a tough fight there.
Extras: The other stuff
Thanks to Snapdragon 845 SoC, you get dual VoLTE with dual standby, which means you can use two 4G SIM cards, without the second one falling back to 2G. This comes very handy, as I have a Vodafone SIM which has 2G, 3G and 4G, and Reliance Jio SIM, which only supports 4G. Earlier, I had to put Jio in SIM 1 slot to get 4G speed, whereas Vodafone was latched on to 2G network, now both are on 4G.
Besides a fingerprint sensor, the Zenfone 5Z also comes with face unlock. It is fast and mostly accurate, but not always. It does not work well under dim lighting conditions, and sometimes when I wear specs or sunglasses, it struggles to recognize me, something that I found OnePlus and Honor do a good job there.
The smartphone also includes an FM Radio tuner, something that I miss on most phones that I use. Sadly, there is no dedicated app that you will find in the app drawer, instead, the way to access FM Radio is via the drop-down notification panel. For a change, I loved listening to FM after a long time, and I think it is a good addition.
After Apple’s Animoji on the iPhone X, other manufacturers like Samsung, Oppo and Honor were quick to offer their version. Asus is doing the same with its version called Zenimoji. Ok, I get it, you want to offer users with new ways of interaction, but hey, it’s not interesting. More than that, it looks like Zenimoji app was designed by a school going kid. I’m sure third-party apps on the Play Store would have a better implementation.
Verdict: Should you buy the Asus Zenfone 5Z?
Now, I’m sure everyone has that one big question – should you prefer the Asus Zenfone 5Z over OnePlus 6 or Honor 10. Without keeping any suspense, I’d say yes, you probably can’t go wrong with the Zenfone 5Z. It is aggressively priced, comes with good cameras, a vibrant display, and it offers a good battery life. And thanks to top-notch specifications and fine-tuned software, you get the best flagship experience on budget.
The Zenfone 5Z is up to Rs 8,000 cheaper compared to the OnePlus 6. If you have an ICICI bank credit or debit card, you can get it for even cheaper. It is also Rs 3,000 cheaper than the Honor 10. If you are looking for a smartphone that offers power packed performance under Rs 30,000 price point, I’d recommend going for the Zenfone 5Z. It is a beast that heavy on performance, and light on the pocket.